Alarming dropout rates and learning gaps revealed

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Ministry of Education PS Selina Kuruleca addresses the inaugural National Education Summit in Nadi. Picture: MOE

Studies have shown rural children are at a greater risk of failing their numeracy and literacy assessments, says Education Ministry permanent secretary Selina Kuruleca.

She said rural students were more likely to drop out of school.

“While overall dropout from Year 8 to 12 was approximated at 20 per cent, the rate for rural children is 39 per cent,” said Ms Kuruleca.

“Thirty-one (31) per cent of boys drop out as opposed to girls with a 9 per cent chance of dropping out.”

Ms Kuruleca said this was the result of the gap that existed between the education systems in the rural and urban areas.

“The dropout among other factors is strongly correlated to the learning gap between the rural and urban students and boys and girls, and most significantly with a higher poverty rate in our rural areas.

“Some of us should be asking the question now. Why is it particularly high in the rural areas? What are our mataqali and our vanua doing? What can they do differently?”

Ms Kuruleca said another implications of poor learning was the gender gap among secondary school students.

“So, at about Year 8, students are more or less the same, boys and girls, and then you see them going off at very different tangents.

“There is also a widening gap or learning gap in STEM subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The percentage fail rate for Year 12, in pure maths is 60 per cent, life maths 47 per cent, biology 62 per cent, chemistry 64 per cent, physics 46 per cent.

“This is from the Year 12 examinations in 2022 analysis, and this is for Fiji.”

Ms Kuruleca said because of such high failure rates or poor learning outcomes, there were implications for continuity in tertiary education.

“What do these students end up taking when they go to tertiary?

“Do they select the right subjects? Are we talking to them too late when they go to school in Year 12 and 13?

“And, of course, if they’re not going to engage in the right or the right combination, then we have challenges in economic growth.

“So, everything is related.”

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