Redeveloping teacher education in the Solomon Islands

Year: 2013

Author: Sharma, Umesh, Deppeler, Joanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Inclusive education (IE) reform is recognised internationally as a key to providing high quality education to disadvantaged students and those excluded from schooling. A number of countries in the South Pacific region have identified the need for re-development of teacher education programs to ensure consistency with inclusive education policies and to support high quality teaching of the diverse students in their schools. Preliminary evidence suggests that much of the content in teacher education programs in these countries tends to pathologise individual differences. Research from the UK, USA and Canada would suggest that this approach is flawed in preparing teachers to respond to student diversity in their classrooms. Teacher education based on the notion of different provision for different students places emphasis on identifying problems that reside within a student to explain his/her failure rather than a focus on what teachers can do and teaching that supports student learning.This paper presents some lessons learned from a collaborative project between the Monash University, Australia and the Solomon Islands School of Education in the on-going journey to redevelop the teacher education programs to be aligned with educative, democratic and socially just purposes. The countries of the South Pacific including the Solomon Islands are unique in terms of linguistic, political and cultural aspects. Despite "paying lip service to context" much of international reform is decontexualised and as a consequence fails to acknowledge local cultural assets and strengths and to deliver what is promised (Thomson, Lingard and Wrigley, 2012, p. 3). Change driven by external partners and policies was therefore unlikely to be appropriate or successful. We believe that transformational partnerships will be most productive through reciprocal understandings and dialogue (Groundwater-Smith et al, 2013). Understanding local perspectives and building upon intellectual resources was central to our collaborative processes. Key stakeholders took responsibility for identifying contextual issues using these to negotiate what should be done and how to mobilise and build upon resources in their context. A range of data was collected in the project from teacher educators, pre-service teachers, and local policy makers. This data provided the starting point to initiate changes to teacher education programs in the country. Key lessons focusing on the development of a new curriculum in teacher education for inclusive education are discussed. The findings may be useful for the other countries of the Pacific as well as for countries, which are just embarking on the process of teacher education reform.