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Pay rise for teachers, Concerns remain about quality and qualifications

Friday 21 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Education, National, Parliament

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Pay rise for teachers, Concerns remain about quality and qualifications
Minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa during the May, 2024 Parliament Sitting. MELINA ETCHES/24051508

Parliamentarians discussed the Education Ministry’s budget increase, with some welcoming the teacher salary rise but highlighting the need for improved quality and qualified teachers, especially in the outer islands.

The increase in teacher’s salary has been welcomed by Members in Parliament as they discussed and approved the Ministry of Education’s 2024-2025 budget allocation of $20,742,099 yesterday.

With the teacher salary increase, Tingika Elikana, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, expects to see an improvement in teaching quality and educational standards.

Elikana, the MP for Pukapuka/Nassau, expressed concern about the low quality of education in the Pa Enua (outer islands).

“As one who looked after students who come from Pukapuka and spend time speaking with students from the outer island, you can see the difference between students educated in the outer island and those in Rarotonga.”

Elikana said there was a huge gap and when he spoke to the teachers, they said it was because they were not paid well and hence, they do not put in the effort.

“I am happy to see there is an increase in their salary and expect to see an increase in quality and standard of education in outer islands.”

Leader of the Opposition Tina Browne congratulated the Minister for Education Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa on this year’s budget allocation, saying it was a big improvement in comparison to other years.

“Every year when we come to debate the Appropriation Bill, I have always complained about the level of the appropriated amount. I have always argued for more money for education because we all know that education is the future for our children,” Browne said.

While discussing the Ministry of Education’s allocation, Browne highlighted the link between underqualified teachers and poor results. She pointed to Tereora College as an example.

She said Tereora College Year 11 students recently sat for literacy and numeracy exams which they need to pass in order to move forward.

Browne said according to the information she received, and asked the Minister to correct her if she was wrong, only 12 out of 180 students who sat for the exam passed. These students are allowed to retake the exam until they pass.

“Twelve out of 180 gives me great concern,” Browne said. “It tells me that if we want to improve the outcome in education, we must recruit and retain good qualified teachers.”

“We have seen that an underqualified teaching force will not and has not produce good results.”

Browne said qualified teachers are unable to be retained as they seek greener pastures.

“Minister your attempt to increase salary for existing teachers is commendable, but if we want to improve education in the country, we need to pitch higher, look for qualified teachers and pitch salaries to retain them.”

Minister for Education Mokoroa acknowledged the Opposition leader’s comments stating that teachers are not paid what they are worth.

Mokoroa said while they have made progress in recent years, they still have a long way to go.

“So this budget honours the teachers’ remuneration adjustment commenced in September 2021, with the fourth tranche valued at $410,000, rolling out from July 1st this year,” he said.

“This further improves the teachers’ salaries across the salary band.”

Mokoroa said that since 2021, a total of $1.27 million has been allocated to adjust teachers’ salaries, and they will continue working with partner agencies to ensure sustainability in recognising teachers’ qualifications and years of service. 

Parliament also passed the budget allocations for Ministry of Agriculture – $1,485,081, Public Expenditure Review Committee and Audit - $1,293,154, Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB) – $645,056, Cook Islands Investment Corporation – $8,719,099, Ministry of Corrective Services- $1,804,287, Crown Law – $1,250,790, Ministry of Cultural Development - $2,036,361 and National Environment Service – $2,185,572.

Parliament continues today.