Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Samoa’s Crowded Classrooms

My son was schooled in Samoa from preschool up until year four.  In Primary School his teachers had always said that my son was uncontrollable and wouldn’t concentrate.  His favourite thing to talk about at school in Samoa was lunch time.  When I asked what he learned at school his response was always “I don’t know”.  He did not excel in school and I thought that he may just be a late bloomer.  At the end of year four my son still couldn’t read.  My son cried often when he had to go to school.

My son began going to school in Australia this year.  In a recent parent teacher interview his teacher said that he was a well mannered child and with the right amount of individual attention he will be able to read quickly.  My son loves school and goes willingly and talks about his sports classes in the gym, reading books in class and choir.  It is nearing the end of the first term and my son has received a certificate for spelling as well as choir.
How is it that there are two completely different pictures of my son with his behavior, his learning ability and his outlook on school in less than three months?

One of the biggest differences that I have noticed is the size of classes.  While in Samoa my son always had more than 50 students in his class, whereas his new class has only 19 students.

Overcrowding of classrooms is an Occupational, Health and Safety hazard for teachers.  The added stress of having to not only control 50 plus students but to try and teach each one is definitely not an inviting working environment.  There is a teacher’s association in place here in Samoa, what are they doing to ensure that the working conditions for their teachers are conducive to them being able to do their jobs well?  If other countries have gone on strike for having 34 students in their classrooms surely there is something our teachers can do to ask for a less stressful working environment.

Each child is an individual and has their own way of learning as well as social circumstances or learning disabilities which may inhibit them from learning.  While we do not expect a teacher to be a social worker we do expect them to take the time to get to know each child, what their learning strengths and weaknesses are and teach the students in a manner that is best suited for them.  We cannot expect teachers to be able to do their jobs well if they have to deal with 50 plus students. 

Overcrowding classrooms defeats the purpose of trying to educate our children.  We cannot expect our children to learn to the best of their ability when they have to compete with 50 other students for the attention of their teacher.  Locking tardy students out of school is one way of cutting down class sizes, but what else are the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture doing to address this issue?

While overcrowding of classrooms is not the sole problem for our education system woes, it certainly is a contributing factor.  It also brings about the question of how many other students fell between the cracks because there were too many students in their classroom?


  1. That's so awesome he's getting the proper educational support he needs in a proper classroom....unlike samora,...if the child doesn't understand he gets a sasa on the backside and told that he is disobedient. Good stuff!!!!

  2. A minister of something or other recently redesigned his office for $600K. If I remember teacher salaries vaguely, that would've been enough to employ between 30 to 60 additional primary school teachers for a year.