Montfort to train more skilled people

Montfort Boys Town (MBT) in Veisari is ready to increase its capacity to train more skilled people.  This was expressed to the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) team, who visited the institution this week for a consultation.

The FHEC is carrying out consultations in secondary schools and Higher Education Institutions to solicit ideas and recommendations for interventions for the exodus of skilled people that the country is facing.

MBT Principal Mr Paul Shaji said the institution is willing to offer its assistance to help address this national issue.

FHEC Chair, Mr Steve Chand, said that the FHEC would undoubtedly support Montfort and other institutions willing to follow suit.

“We can’t stop migration, and the best intervention option is to train more skilled people,” explained Mr Chand.

“ Most of the time, your contributions go unnoticed and unappreciated, but I salute you today  for toiling quietly in training skilled people for Fiji,” the FHEC Chair told the staff.

FHEC is also working with development partners like Australia and New Zealand to address the issue.

Assisting Students Reach Full Potential

Some parents force their expectations on students without accepting and understanding the actual academic ability of their child. This is a common finding from secondary schools by the Fiji Higher Education Commission team, currently conducting consultation in the Central/Eastern division.

The same was raised at Suva Grammar School, and one of the teachers explained that despite the advice from teachers, parents continue to force their children to take up subjects of their choice.

The Chair of the FHEC, Mr Steve Chand explained that the end goal is to help students reach their full potential so all stakeholders should work together to achieve this and there should be systems in place to cater to this need.

FHEC Director, Dr Rohit Kishore further explained a proposition of introducing competency-based lessons as part of the curriculum to provide more choices for students to pursue skills-based qualifications.

Mr Chand also said that the proposition is part of the big plan of addressing the exodus of skills professionals.

“ We have to train our people to cater to both the local and overseas market and we can start at the secondary school level,” continued Mr Chand.

The FHEC has been met with enthusiasm from the school‘s Principal, Mr. Iosefo Masivue, who said the initiative has been long overdue.

Courtesy Visit To The New Zealand High Commission

Taking a courtesy visit to the New Zealand High Commission, FHEC Chair Mr Steve Chand and Director Dr Rohit Kishore presented some initial findings of the FHEC consultation regarding skills training and education.

Key elements included the importance of building teachers’ capacity to accommodate proposed curriculum changes, which would feature choices of competency-based lessons.

Manager of International Development Cooperation Ms Sarah Nisbet acknowledged the approach taken by the FHEC, noting with concern the exodus of skilled professionals from Fiji.

She expressed interest in looking at data on the Fiji people who had moved to New Zealand on work visas and exploring potential solutions to reverse the current trend.

In response, Mr Chand thanked the High Commission for their positive engagement on the matters discussed.

In conclusion, Mr Chand emphasized the need for continued collaboration between development partners to address the exodus of skilled professionals from Fiji effectively.

MSME Fiji to establish relationship with FHEC

The Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Fiji met with the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) to explore the opportunities of working together in terms of education and training related to MSMEs and to establish a professional working relationship.

The discussion of the two parties centre around the standardizing of training and an establishment of an institution to be a focal point for MSME.

“ We want have an organized sector where training programmes are properly accredited and streamlined and have a focal training institution to represent the majority,” described Director MSME Fiji, Mr Faizal Khan.

Mr Khan said MSME in Fiji consists of 3000 enterprises and they develop and deliver own train training which are mostly short courses. MSME can assist FHEC in controlling short courses.

FHEC Chair, Mr Steve Chand thanked the team for reaching out to the FHEC and assured them that the FHEC is always willing to assist with due processes followed.

“ We are glad to work with MSME Fiji to promote the idea and value of entrepreneurship to our learners in Fiji,” stressed the FHEC Chair.

FHEC Director Dr Rohit Kishore said that this relationship is important so that FHEC can access data of skills training provided by MSMEs.

MSMEs contribute over 18% of the GDP and provide employment for approximately 60% of the Fijian labour force.

Radrodro Relies on FHEC for Interventions

The Minister for Education, Hon Aseri Radrodro, is relying on the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) to create and implement the necessary interventions and strategies to tackle some of the challenges faced in the education sector.

“Essential issues needing to be addressed include literacy and numeracy, skills education and training, having the right graduates from our institutions, and an appreciation of Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET),” the Minister pointed out.

At the FHEC Secretariat’s Office, Minister Radrodro received an update from the FHEC Chair, Mr Steve Chand, on the current activities of the Commission. Mr Chand also gave a progress brief on the initial findings from the current consultation with schools and higher education institutions on skills education and training, alongside recommendations of potential policies for realignment and reforms.

“We look forward to presenting our findings at the upcoming Education Summit,” said Mr Chand.

The Minister thanked the FHEC for the hard work done so far in supporting the Education sector, expressing his confidence and belief in their work. He reiterated the importance of the FHEC’s role, stating that their contributions were vital in creating higher-quality access to equitable education and training.

Professional Career Teachers – A Need

The Principal and teachers of Adi Cakobau School strongly believe that having specialized career teachers in secondary schools is vital. The sentiment is expressed to the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) Consultation team currently visiting secondary schools and higher education institutions in the Central/Eastern division.

Adi Cakobau is the first secondary school to be visited this week, and the participating teachers freely express themselves on skills training and education issues.

FHEC Chair, Mr Steve Chand explained that the same sentiment is received from other secondary schools they had visited and is grateful for the positive contributions from principals and teachers.

“Students are not given justice with the way career advice and education is currently provided,” Mr Chand further described.

FHEC Director, Dr Rohit Kishore agreed that the availability of professional career teachers will provide essential support to the students in their choice of subjects and help them make informed career paths.

Mr Chand said that talking to secondary school teachers provides the platform to hear from the general education practitioners on the ground who sometimes need to be heard. They carry out the hard yards and will be the best ones to identify issues and recommend how to address them.

Mr Chand further described that professional intervention in career education at secondary schools is a thematic area to look at when addressing skills education and training in Fiji.

Steve Sets Eyes on Navuso Agriculture Technical Institute

The new Chair of the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC), Mr Steve Chand, has set eyes on Navuso Agriculture Technical Institute (NATI) and believes that the institution could be empowered to achieve its dream to be the hub of agriculture education in Fiji and the region.

Visiting NATI as part of a consultation programme by the FHEC, Mr Chand expressed his pride in the institute. “You have come a long way and will celebrate your centennial anniversary this year. Hearing your story, many people in Fiji don’t know who you are today as an institution,” Mr Chand explained.

The FHEC Chair received a brief from NATI Principal, Mr Saimoni Waibuta, on current programmes, development, and future plans. The institution is offering an attractive education package with incentives to start off their graduates.

“We train farmers, and we want our graduates to return to a piece of land and be its proud guardian. The number of farmers is decreasing in Fiji, and we want to address that national issue,” described Mr Waibuta.

Mr Waibuta also explained that they vision NATI to be the first choice for young people who wish to pursue agriculture training at this level.

FHEC Director, Dr Rohit Kishore highlighted that the programme at NATI should be more adequately marketed to secondary school students taking agriculture lessons.

In addition, Dr Kishore assured Mr Waibuta and his staff that they will receive the government grant they have applied for.

It’s the first time for NATI to be the recipient of the grant.

Independent Assessment of Higher Education Expatriates

The Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) and the Immigration Department are taking a proactive approach to ensure systems for engaging expatriates coming to serve in the country’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are upheld to the highest standards.

The two parties agreed to explore and implement independent assessments to verify the qualifications of expatriates recruited as lecturers and professors before a work permit is issued.

“We are mandated to protect the interest of higher education in Fiji, so we want to see the reinforcement of recruiting systems on hand,” explained FHEC Chair, Mr Steve Chand.

The Director of Immigration, Mrs Amelia Komaisavai supported the valid observation by the FHEC, noting that the renewal process of these expatriates should also go through the same rigorous process.

Mr Chand also suggested that succession plans should be implemented for reskilling and upgrading the local qualifications of those understudying expatriates. Mrs Komaisavai elaborated that knowledge transfer is a compulsory recruitment criterion but has yet to be effectively assessed.

FHEC Director, Dr Rohit Kishore said that the FHEC is ready to facilitate related activities further to see robust mechanisms to support higher education in Fiji.

The two parties will have further discussions on the topic with the relevant stakeholders.

Cuba to Assist in Sports Education

The Fiji and the Cuban governments are in talks to establish sports education for developing professional sports in Fiji including the regional countries. Anti-doping testing is most critical in maintaining equity in professional sports. An Anti-doping Agency as the initial step in establishing responsible sports education in Fiji.

The concept of the sports academy was also discussed by the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC), Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Fiji Sports Council (FSC) who met with the Ambassador of Cuba to Fiji, His Excellency José Manuel Galego Montano.

The meeting focused on sports development and diplomacy. Mr Montano explained that the Cuban government is ready to assist, respecting the Fiji government’s commitment to further strengthen relations with Cuba on issues of mutual interest.

“Cuba is well known for producing Olympic champions and is keen in sharing its best practices and ideas in sports,” described the Cuban Ambassador.

The FHEC Chair, Mr Steven Chand, suggested that the FHEC and the Ministry of Youth and Sports work together on the initial work relating to the official registration of the academy.

In supporting the academy concept, FSC CEO, Mr Gilbert Vakalalabure, explained that FSC is ready to offer space for the infrastructure.

A delegation from Fiji will be traveling to Cuba in June to explore this bilateral agenda.

Courtesy Visit from Cuban Ambassador

Ambassador of Cuba to Fiji, His Excellency José Manuel Galego Montano, made a courtesy call to the Fiji Higher Education Commission and met with the FHEC Chair, Mr Steve Chand, and Director, Dr Rohit Kishore.

The meeting outlined prospective partnerships in mutual areas of education and training. The Cuban government has been providing initiatives like the provision of medical scholarships, which has empowered Fijian medical students in their career development, and contributes to Fiji’s health sector.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Fiji.