(8 September 2015)

The Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva has revealed that recent progressive analysis of quality education in Tonga has shown that the rate of students passing their exams has been declining over the last decade. Since taking office in January, the Hon. Minister of Education has embarked on an audit of results of students passing primary and senior secondary school exams to determine a way forward for the development of education in Tonga.

In his preliminary findings, the Hon. Minister was able to confirm that the pass rate has been declining since 2002 in the Secondary Entrance Examination (SEE).

For the period 2002–2014, the pass rate of the overall students that sat for English and Mathematics in SEE is consistently around 30% or below. This level of performance is disappointingly low. The data shows that there is no consistent improvement in learning achievement over the last 12 years, despite efforts and funding that have been injected into the reformation of the education system. In 2002, 23% of the total students that sat for English passed. This pass rate dropped to 20% in 2014. In Mathematics, only 17% passed in 2014, a marginal drop of 14 percent from 31% in 2002.

There is also a clear indication that popular subjects like Tongan Studies and Environmental Science have been declining in the number of students that passed with 50% raw marks or better.

Revelation of poor performance in raw marks was not known to the public because of the standardization process and how results were reported. The scaling of results has misled the public on student performance against prescribed learning outcomes thus allowing students to enter secondary school ill prepared. It infers that the scaling process has allowed students who actually failed in Mathematics and English to move on to secondary school alongside those who had passed legitimately.

In the same progressive analysis of Form 5 education for the period 2007–2014, the results of students passing their exams in terms of raw marks is disappointing. The pass rate in most subjects averaged below 20%, and is cause for serious concern. Accounting and Economics show pass rate well below 20%. The same goes for Science and Agriculture with pass rate of 15% and lower in the last 5 years. In the case of Mathematics, an average of 200 students passed every year in the last 5 years out of an average enrolment of 1700 per year. The Hon Minister says that the poor results at the Form 5 level reflects the quality of education inherited by students from Primary School level. He believes that the ministry was misled with the fabrication of true achievement through the Standardization Process.

The recent figures being released applies to all schools in Tonga. The Hon. Minister of Education says that another disappointing revelation, is the fact that the Form 7 retention rate in the past decade were around 15% only. Out of 3100 students who sat the class 6 Secondary Entrance Examination in 2006, only 467 made it to Form 7 in 2013. In terms of quality education, out of the 467 students who sat for Form 7 examination in 2013, an average of only 20 percent passed with raw marks of 50% or better.

The Hon. Minister has engaged a team of educational experts from SPC (EQAP) for the implementation of an education system that will address the current problems. He also emphasized that the ministry will strengthen the database system so that analytical reports can be made available in a timely manner to foster more informed decision making and policy direction. It is his vision to put in place a process that can turn around the declining results in the next 4 years.

The Hon. Minister will ensure that detail assessment data would be made available to the public on an annual basis to show the actual impact of the education system on the academic performance of students.