About FSM Education
Since the inception of the FSM National Government in 1979, the Division of Education was established within the Department of Social Services. In 1986, the Department of Social Services was converted into the Department of Human Resources under the auspices of the third president of the FSM, His Excellency John R. Haglelgam, from Yap. Education remained a division until 1992 at which time the FSM Congress approved PL 7-97, creating the Department of Education during the tenure of the 4th President, His Excellency Bailey Olter of Pohnpei.
The mandates of PL 7-97 created the Department with the Office of the Secretary, Support Staff and four (4) main divisions: Curriculum, Standards, Testing & Evaluation, Postsecondary & Scholarship, Vocational Education’ Manpower Development & Training, and, finally Federal’ Community & Foreign Assistances Program.
The education system of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is based on a United States model. There are four levels: Early Childhood Education (ECE) for ages 3–5, Elementary for ages 6-13 (Grades 1–8), Secondary for ages 14–18 (Grades 9–12) and Post-Secondary.
Although participation rates are relatively high by Pacific standards, enrolment in secondary education is low. This is due to two reasons. The first is that education is compulsory only until Grade 8 or when the student turns 15. The second is that High School entrance tests in Grade 8 push-out a large proportion of the secondary school-aged population.
The FSM National Department of Education (NDOE) sets standards, while the State Departments of Education (SDOEs) are responsible for curriculum and instruction.
a) School Education
Upon establishment of FSM government in 1979 a Division of Education was created as part of the Department of Social Services. In 1992, FSM’s Congress passed PL 7-97, which called for the establishment of a full-fledged Department of Education, complete with four divisions: Curriculum, Standards, Testing, and Evaluation; Vocational Education Manpower Development and Training; Postsecondary and Scholarship; and Federal Community and Foreign Assistance. In 1991, the National Literacy Act was passed which allowed for the creation of the FSM Adult Education Program two years later. The program offers adult education and literacy training to adults in Micronesia.
Micronesia joined UNESCO on October 19, 1999 and is covered by the Organization’s Office in Apia in Samoa. As of September 2006, Micronesia has 3 schools participating in UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet).
Since 2005, the State Departments of Education took effective responsibility for the public-provision of early childhood education. There were 71 early childhood centres in the FSM in 2009.
In 2009, there were 155 elementary schools in the FSM.
There were 28 secondary schools in the FSM in 2009.
Religious schools are an essential part of the country’s education system. The FSM Government partly funds religious schools and exercises overall supervisory control. The main religious providers are the Roman Catholic Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Calvary Baptist Church. A number of Protestant denominations are also active in the field.
A handful of private schools, such as the Pohnpei Agricultural and Trade School (PATS) and the Jesuit-run Xavier High School in Chuuk, have an extremely high reputation. Although both these institutions are four-year High Schools, the former is primarily concerned with vocational education, while the Xavier High School aims to provide an academic education for future leaders of society.
To operate in FSM, a private school must apply for a charter from the Government.
b) Vocational education and training (VET)
The College of the Federated States of Micronesia (COM-FSM) is the major tertiary education provider in the country. COM-FSM has a national campus located on Pohnpei and State Campuses in each of the FSM states. The COM-FSM offers associate degree and certificate-level programs in a range of subjects, as well as short training programs.
The COM-FSM operates a Fisheries and Maritime Institute (FMI) in Yap State. The FMI provides two-year, certificate level vocational courses in navigation, marine engineering and fishing technology. Although the FMI has been in existence since 1999, the demand for its courses is extremely low. Enrolments in 2009 were only 37 students.
The Pohnpei Agricultural and Trade School offers TVET programs in the construction and building trades, mechanics, agricultural science and aquaculture aimed at secondary-aged students.
c) Higher Education (HE)
COM-FSM also offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education in conjunction with the University of Guam.
Overview of Distance Education (DE)
The Federated States of Micronesia have not been a focus for major distance education initiatives. There is no evidence of distance education at the school level. There are no home-grown DE institutions that fulfil the role performed by the University of the South Pacific in its twelve Pacific member-states. However, the satellite-based PEACESAT network has been used for decade to provide professional development courses for health workers, teachers and technicians. The lack of bandwidth limits the feasibility of synchronous delivery of online training over much of the FSM. However, Web-conferencing packages, such as Elluminate, have been used with success on a small scale.
The COM-FSM offers distance education to overcome the distance between islands. This “may include but not restricted to traditional postal airmails, fax, telephone, and newer technologies like, E-mail, Internet, Videoconferencing or even short-wave transmitters. Currently, the College is trying to network all its campus, a further step toward online studies and videoconferencing”. The College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, USA.
A number of US-based universities have provided DE courses in the FSM, often in conjunction with the COM-FSM. Many of these initiatives have been on a pilot basis, but there are a number of more substantial programs. COM-FSM offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education in conjunction with the University of Guam. TheCenter for Pacific Studies at the State University of San Diego also offers special education teacher training through DE for students at COM-FSM.
For a number of years, the University of Hawai‘i has offered Telecommunications and Information Resource Management (TIRM) Graduate Certificate Program in the FSM and other US-aligned states in the Pacific.
The Hawai‘i-based Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) and its partner organizations have delivered a number of short-courses on professional development.
Administration and finance
The main funding for education comes from the United States Government under the provisions of the Compact of Free Association. FSM has free public education from the ages 6 to 15 years or completion of the 8th grade. UNESCO reports that FSM spends more than 6% of their GDP on education (2005).
Despite US financial support, the FSM education system is currently under strain. There is a shortage of trained teachers. In 2009, 36% of teachers were unqualified. Education facilities differ from school to school. Some newer schools are in relatively good condition. Others are in extremely poor repair.
The existence of State-level Departments of Education has a number of implications for the system. The most benign of these are slight differences in the school hierarchy between the States. Elementary Schools in Korsrae State teach grades 1–9. The only secondary school in the State—Kosrae High School—teaches grades 10–12. There are also 8 Middle Schools in Chuuk State teaching grades 1–10. More serious are the differences in schools standards and the conditions of schools in the different states
Higher Education Reforms
The College of Micronesia-FSM is currently on warning from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The ACCJC has requested that the College take a number of steps to improve the College’s institutional effectiveness and governance. These mandated steps include the requirement that the College prepare plans in the areas such as the communication, finance, technology, budget-planning and facilities management. The College of Micronesia-FSM will be subject to a visitation by the ACCJC in April 2011.
Future Direction of Tertiary Education
The future direction of tertiary education in the FSM is uncertain. While the FSM has attempted to establish modern communication technology that can be utilized to offer adult education programs to the outlying areas and some outer islands through the use of distance education, at present distance education can only be achieved in the State centres where electricity and other necessary technologies are available. In some States of the FSM, roads have been built accessing the remote villages, while for others States, lagoon islands in Chuuk and outer islands in Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap continue to require boats and ships for access. Most of the outer islands do not have electricity, making it very difficult to set up technology effectively. Even though they may have electric generators, these are not very reliable. Site band radios (if they are operable) remain the only means of communication to the outer islands other than monthly (and sometimes longer) boat access.
The College of Micronesia-FSM is currently undergoing a process of restructuring which is expected to lead to some loss of staff. In addition, the College is faced with the possibility of losing its WASC accreditation.
The College has been in this situation before. In 2004, the College was given a warning by the WASC, although this warning was removed in 2005. The institutional deficiencies in terms of governance and planning indentified in 2004 do not appear to have been rectified and are the subject of the renewed warning in 2010.
Information and Communications Technology Initiatives
As elsewhere in the Pacific, the FSM has a monopoly provider of telecommunications:
Federated States of Micronesia Telecommunications Corporation (FSMTC). FSMTC is a public corporation and the sole provider of mobile, fixed line and Internet telecommunications. Despite FSMTC’s position, telecommunications infrastructure in the FSM compares well with that in many other Pacific states. In 2010, Pohnpei was connected to the Internet using undersea cable, providing a growing number of businesses and households on the island with high-speed Internet access. FSMTC intends to provide domestic cable networks to connect Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap in the future.
As recently as 2008, it was estimated that only 14% of the population had Internet access in any form. Although the figure is likely to be much higher, Internet access is still a scarce commodity outside the island of Pohnpei. Satellite-based links are still significant, despite the low bandwidth these provide.
The low level of Internet access before 2010 has inhibited the development of ICT-based distance education, with the exception of courses delivered by satellite (see below).
a) Information society strategy
The Division of Communication is responsible to the Permanent Secretary (Minister) for all telecommunications matters, which include administration and management of the radio spectrum (licensing), development of policy, coordination and development of the National ICT Plan. The Assistant Secretary of Communications is responsible for the Division of Communication.
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): January 6, 2010 – The Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure in partnerships with the ITU ICB4PAC Project and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), under its ICT Out Reach Program for the Pacific Region, conducted visits to all FSM states from December 14-21, 2010, to consult with relevant stakeholders on the country’s proposed National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Plan. (http://www.fsmpio.fm/releases.html)
b) Major e-learning initiatives
The Federated States of Micronesia are part of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Oceania initiative. This initiative appears to be in any early stage in the FSM.
c) Benchmarking e-learning
d) Support for OER
e) Government entities
Federated States of Micronesia Department of Education
Chuuk Department of Education
Kosrae Department of Education
Pohnpei Department of Education
Yap Department of Education
f) Associations and networks
Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL)
Pan-Pacific Education and Communication Experiments by Satellite (PEACESAT)
g) Distance Education journals
Interesting Distance Education Initiatives
PREL and the University of Hawai‘i College of Education developed a two-year online distance learning program in the field of educational evaluation: the Regional Education Master’s Online Training in Evaluation (REMOTE). REMOTE is intended to build the capacity of Pacific educators to formally evaluate programs and to apply the results of these evaluations in practice. The program is also designed specifically to meet the needs of evaluators in the Pacific region. REMOTE has been delivered to senior FSM educators and has played an important part of the capacity-building process across the US-affiliated states of the Pacific. REMOTE is funded by a grant from the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
The FSM are one of the Pacific nations which are served by PEACESAT. Based in Hawaii, PEACESAT has been existence since 1971. PEACESAT provides satellite-based video-conferencing to US-affiliated states in the region. In addition, it has conducted ongoing research in policy, planning and technology issues relevant to Pacific nations. Although the PEACESAT network has been used for a number of purposes, including telehealth, one of the major uses of the facility has been for the delivery of DE. Over the last thirty years, PEACESAT has delivered dozens of programs, large and small to the people of the FSM. However, the future of PEACESAT is unclear. The PEACESAT network has limited bandwidth capacity and will eventually be rendered obsolete by the spread of cable and fibre-optic connections in FSM and other US-affiliated states in the Pacific.