At the start of this second school term, Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Education paints a picture of the education sector. She discusses the progress of educational reform and certain challenges to be met in the 2nd quarter.

An educational reform was initiated in 2017. Tell us about the progress to date…

The educational reform was extended to all sectors and sub-sectors of education. At pre-school level, a new National Curriculum Framework has been introduced. We have already launched the training of educators in this context. In addition, free pre-primary education was introduced, with now 648 free schools. We have also worked to improve the conditions of teachers, with a salary review which now equalizes salaries in the private and public sectors. Managers have also been given additional resources to improve facilities for children. Note that Mauritius is one of the rare countries to offer two years of preschool for free. Furthermore, managers will benefit from training, and courses are being prepared at the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) to prepare them to provide this training.

What about primary school?

At primary level we have introduced the Communication Skills programme, which is reflected in the ease with which children express themselves. Also, thanks to the Holistic Program, all children can develop their talents and are happy at school. The introduction of the Early Digital Learning Program was also successful, with the distribution of tablets to all children in Grades 1 to 6, ensuring equity and quality of the reform. All resources and books are now available online.
From Grade 4 onwards, a Classroom Management System was put in place, allowing teachers to add programs and make assessments using the equipment received. All children from this class onwards take part in school swimming lessons. Finally, the After School Program offers additional opportunities to students. The 'Early Support Program' plays a crucial role in monitoring students in difficulty, thus helping them get back on the right path. A training program is in place for teachers and school leaders, emphasizing sharing between professionals. It is important to understand that educational reform is not a final destination, but an ongoing process. With today's children being digital natives, the introduction of tablets helps them concentrate more in class.

I'm waiting for the technicians' report, we will make a decision on whether to revise the school calendar or not.''

The 'Early Support Program' plays a crucial role in monitoring students in difficulty.

Secondary school is marked by a lot of criticism at the level of the Extended Program?

The Extended Program replaced the Prevocational. All children have the right to basic education over a period of nine years. Every child who reaches the 9th grade must have the knowledge and skills that will allow them to continue in their lives, to be productive and to contribute according to their abilities in society. This is why at the level of the Ministry of Education and at the level of the government, we think it is important to give more time to the student. We give him time to learn.

One problem, however, is that the focus is on the number of children in the Extended Programme. It is crucial to emphasize that obtaining a certificate is not an end in itself. These children initially encountered difficulties and it was necessary to give them the necessary time to catch up and discover knowledge beyond what they had learned in primary school.

We provide them with the knowledge they need to navigate life and lead a balanced existence. If a young person in the Extended Program decides to open a workshop or shop tomorrow, they must know how to interact with customers, manage their finances, among other essential skills. Even if he does not obtain his NCE, he will still have a certificate attesting to the skills he was able to develop during the course.
of these years.

The latest Audit report, however, points the finger at the Extended Program?

The Audit must certainly verify whether the funds have been used correctly, but can it question the merits of providing basic education over 9 years? If a child doesn't succeed, have we abandoned him? Haven't we set up the Bright Up Program to support these students and ensure follow-up?

We implemented follow-up with MIE managers and facilitators in schools. We were aware that some students would pass the threshold, while others would encounter difficulties, hence the initiative to offer them a 4th year to take the NCE exams. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also posed additional challenges.

What are your plans to help these students?

This year's vintage will be evaluated using another format, including the School-Based Assessment and the Written Paper. If successful, students will be able to either continue in the traditional (mainstream) curriculum or join one of the MITD centers. If they fail, the Bright Up Program is offered to them.

We offer them all the necessary support in terms of resources, texts and values ​​taught, as well as various activities. All children should have the same opportunities. No matter what the Audit says, I'm not talking in terms of money. We cannot afford not to give to each Mauritian child his chance. At the Ministry of Education, we advocate equity and equal opportunities… Secondary school is not limited to the Extended Program. We offer a range of activities and programs for the well-being of all students.

Our goal is to be able to offer KM at 'A Level' level.

Some School Certificate students, who took the Kreol Morisien in 2023, cannot continue at HSC level. Is there no solution for them?

Our aim is to offer Kreol Morisien at 'A Level' level. What is most important to me is that we were able to organize a first exam. This is the first time we have been able to offer an examination questionnaire at the national level. It is crucial to develop this expertise. We have already committed to introducing an Advance Subsidiary in KM and then offering the 'A Level' thereafter. There are some issues to resolve, including the number of teachers. We want to recruit more and give them the necessary time to train. We also need educational resources that can be used for exams. There are many other aspects to take into consideration. This is a commitment that the government has made, and we will deliver on it. Kreol Morisien is not the only subject where students do it up to SC. We are committed to moving forward, but initially with the Advance Subsidiary.

2024 sees the introduction of the Bright Up Program or the Technology Education Scheme. However, these programs did not attract many students. How can we ensure that all these projects can work so that the students concerned come out winners?

This is completely normal. When we launched HSC Pro, there were very few students. Over the years, however, the number has increased. We have 86 students at Technology Education Scheme (TES) level. At the start of the year, there were 80. The TES includes three sectors: Engineering Technology; Computer Technology & Innovation and Health and Hospitality. Students will learn in a more applied way, which will allow them to continue according to their needs. Today, children have a whole range of possibilities before them. He can decide to continue his studies while working. The courses we offer according to the demand of the economy. Reform is a transformation of the system and we were able to do it.

What measures are being taken to attract and retain qualified and competent teachers in the education system?

Demand for teaching positions remains high among young people. However, recent difficulties encountered during the recruitment exercise conducted by the Public Service Commission (PSC), with a high number of applications and interviews, have delayed the process. However, we received more than 525 teachers today and the start of the school year should not be affected. Although there is certainly still a subject for which no teacher has been recruited to date, we have already mobilized 'supply teachers' to fill this gap.

How is the Department of Education integrating technology into the system to improve student learning, especially during inclement weather?

It is important to recognize that every time we have used technology, it has been in response to crisis situations like the COVID-19 pandemic or adverse weather conditions. Even before the pandemic, we introduced the Student Support Portal (SSP), which has proven to be a valuable tool. Currently, we continue to strengthen the study programs at this level, and
the E-learning department launched Google Classroom, a more interactive platform than our previous tools like Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp. We are in the process of training teachers to use this new platform.

Students will receive the missing books at the start of the school year.

The 2nd quarter begins this Monday, April 22. What assurance can you give to students and staff?

I would like to convey to students the message that school is an extraordinary experience. However, to get the most out of this experience, it is essential to invest some effort. Currently, we are entering the second quarter after some disruptions in the first quarter due to the weather. Now is the time to concentrate and redouble our efforts. Parents have their responsibilities, the school has its own, but each student must also make the necessary effort to succeed. I am convinced that everyone has the abilities to achieve this. Despite the difficulties of the first trimester, it is time to pull ourselves together and work with determination.

We still missed 12 days of class in the first term due to bad weather. Is the revision of the school calendar planned?

There is a survey underway at the Ministry of Education among school heads. This survey aims to assess what has been accomplished so far and what remains to be done. I am waiting for the technicians' report, after which we will make a decision regarding a possible revision of the school calendar.

The E-learning department has launched Google Classroom, a more interactive platform than our previous tools.

The first quarter was also marked by the lack of certain manuals…

According to the information I received from my officers, students will receive the missing books at the start of the school year.

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