Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Natschol in, OBE out


NATIONAL scholarship for tertiary students will be reintroduced by January next year, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said yesterday, The National reports.
Among sweeping changes the government is introducing for the education sector under its free education policy:
  • The controversial outcomes-based education (OBE) would be scrapped by January;
  • Government to pay all tuition fees for students from elementary to Grade 10;
  • Government to subsidise 75% of fees for Grades 11-12;
  • No drop-outs at Grade 8; and
  • Payment of K350 million into a special trust held by the Education Department by November this year for distribution to all schools by January.
O'Neill met with education, finance and treasury executives on Monday to thrash out the finer details of the policy.
He said he was confident that despite "early teething problems", the policy was on secure ground.
He said the OBE had failed and would be scrapped as well as the user-pay and the student loan policies for tertiary students.
"As a person who benefited from Natschol (national scholarship) with the K13 per fortnight allowance, I strongly believe that everybody has to get a chance," O'Neill said.
"The cost estimates that have been given to us for free education are well within our expectation.
"Education have estimated K610 million when we have planned for K700 million."
O'Neill said on Sept 20, the government would bring down a supplementary budget during which K350 million would be allocated and parked in a special trust account held by the Education Department for this purpose.
He said in order to avoid delays in payment, the government would start releasing payments by November and December so that, by Jan 1, all schools would have received their fees.
On school drop-outs, the education officials wanted to maintain a hybrid structure where some drop-outs are allowed at Grade 8 but the prime minister was dead against that.
"We are using the same infrastructure so I cannot see why we cannot accommodate more," he said.
"We have to utilise what we have smartly.
"We have a good environment. We can have classes under coconut trees.
"I do not see why we should not have night classes in places where there is electricity.
"Why should we deny our children the right to education just because we have capacity issues?"
O'Neill said for the first time, the 2011 development budget allocation for education would be fully utilised.
At present, about 20% of the entire recurrent and development budget goes to education.
By the time the free education policy was implemented, it would be closer to 30%, which puts education spending among the highest in the world, he said.
The prime minister assured that such heavy emphasis on education would not take money away from other priority government areas such as health, infrastructure and law and justice.
"We have the money. We just need to spend it right," he said.

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