SOUTH Pacific Form Seven Certificate (SPFSC) students whose families have suffered economic hardship because of COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold will be supported to complete their final year of study.
The assistance is available following an agreement between the Pacific Community’s Educational Quality Assessment Programme (EQAP) and the Australian Government to repurpose earmarked innovation funds under the DFAT-EQAP Partnership. Almost 1500 Form 7 students from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu are enrolled in the regional Year 13 qualification.
EQAP Director Dr Michelle Belisle said this final secondary level qualification holds significant value and every effort must be made to support students to complete it. “When students are prevented from completing a qualification such as the SPFSC, there is a strong likelihood that the impact will be felt for the student’s entire life,” says Dr Belisle. “In the past SPFSC cycles, student withdrawals from exams were mainly because of their inability to pay exam fees. Of those students who withdraw, very few, if any, return in another year to finish the programme.”
DFAT Counsellor (Education) Rochelle White said Australia is “very supportive of this policy pivot”. “The current situation is challenging for students, teachers and their families, and we want to do our part to support students to complete schooling as the benefits are life-long for the student and the region,” says White. “This support means that the exam fees will be significantly reduced which will limit barriers to participation.”
Under the EQAP-DFAT partnership, the annual innovation funding support is worth AUD250,000. The total value of the redirected assistance will be determined when the 18 SPFSC schools confirm their students’ needs. The financial relief adds to the ongoing efforts to support students and teachers.
Presently, EQAP support includes SPFSC study guides and resources, and the creation and maintenance of an online SPFSC learning platform (Moodle) to help students and teachers. EQAP is also working with examiners, moderators and subject area experts to revise the assessment tasks for all of the 14 study subjects.
“The revisions are to accommodate the home-based learning, individual (as opposed to group) assignments and the use of simulations in place of site-based workplace experiences to fulfil course requirements,” says Dr Belisle. The SPFSC programme is fully funded through students’ registration and examination fees. The programme offers 14 subjects of study. The SPFSC exams are scheduled to start on October 26 and conclude on November 6.
EQAP is committed to delivering its mandate of supporting Pacific education systems to deliver quality education. With the support of its development partners - the governments of Australia and New Zealand, EQAP continues to assist the region’s education systems to be more effective, inclusive and resilient.