My name is Bwenaata Arakua. I have other known names as Bwenaata Baukin and Bwenaata Kieneene. My patrineal line shows that I am from Abaing and matrineally from Nonouti island. I am learning how to use wikieducator.
I work for the ministry of education youth and sport. My responsibility is to look after Early Childhood Education.
Early Childhood Education in Kiribati
The idea of Early education in Kiribati is not a new phenomena. Early education had been part of the I-Kiribati culture where young children are assisted by their mothers, grandmothers uncles and aunties acting as social agents in the the development life of the young child. These people who are members of the child's extended family interact with the child in different ways by means of talking to the child, singing lullubies to put the child to sleep and tell stories to the young child. However, each family had their own different ways of upbringing their young according to their belief and what they value.
Early education movement commenced in the 1800 years by the coming of the first missionaries. The Catholic Church introduced village schools for children five to eight years. These village schools are often conducted by local catechist in church mwaneaba. The purpose of these village schools is to assistant young children learn about stories from the bible as well as learning how to read and write. Children were allowed to move to church primary schools or government primary schools.
In the 1960s up to the 1970s Kiribati Teachers' College (KTC) established playcentres for Tarawa, especially for the Betio Town Council, Teinaninano Urban Council and another one in KTC for Bikenibeu district. Students teachers from teachers college were routined for the operations of these centres. Although these playcentres were for all children for these districts, they were attended mostly by children whose parents were government emplyees. Later these playcentres were handed over to each different council and to take full responsibility of them.
In the 1980s more individual private preschools were introduced. One was conducted in Temwanoku primary school by the Head teacher Mrs Taraima Lomi. Mrs Taraima was trasferred to work in Dai Nippon Primary school (Takoronga primary when it was first opened) so the preschool moved to Dai Nippon primary school. After few years in Takoronga she was moved to work for Saint John Bosco and the preschool moved to Temakin too. Taraima had so many hopes to establish so many preschools for the country but then later retired and started her own private preschool in her residence in Takoronga.
In the late 1980s Mrs Rereao Tetaake Eria (Member of Parliament 2007) established preschools in most villages in Tarawa. She started off forming a preschool in Tibeti group using Mr Tekaie Tenanora's 's mwaneaba. Then established a preschool in Takoronga, Bwairiki, Teaoraereke and Bikenibeu. She trained young girls who are interested in the field and employed them in these schools. Fortunately, UNICEF in coraboration with the USP supported her program and Mrs Rereao became a preschool trainer. She went to visits islands from Makin to Arorae training and employing young girls as preschool teachers. Preschool training reached every island, so more private preschools started on every island along side the church village schools.
In 1992,Santo Betero preschool started in Temakin by Mrs Kieneene. This is a part time preschool since that Mrs Kieneene is a Rurubao primary school teacher. Mrs Kieneene started off her preschool upon her return from Queesland University of Technology after completing a three year course majoring in Early childhood teaching. Mrs Kieneene started her a small preschool in Temakin for her five year old daughter. She called children from the neighbourhood to join her daughter listen to the story and to play. After few months, more than fifty mothers came to register their children in the small preschool. Mrs Kieneene could take only thirty children aged between four to five years.
More primary teachers were graduated with ECE qualifications returned from Queensland University of Technology in the year 1994. These graduates were posted out to different sections within the ministry of education. One of them was working for the ministry in the Early Childhood Department, a new section which is under the non-formal section. There is also a need for a ECE graduate in the international primary school, Rurubao so one of them was posted in there. Education Department in the Kiribati Teachers' college do need assistance with qualified person to assist with educational psychology so the third person was placed there.
A one year training for Early Childhood teachers commenced in 1995. Candidates were selected from all island councils. The training started with a hope that once these ECE teachers completed their training they would go back to their home islands working with island council preschools or start their own individual private schools. This was a successful course and most of those who enrolled from their island councils returned and work on the outer islands. Those who enrolled from Tarawa, stayed on the mainland running their own private preschools.
The term 'early childhood' refers to the child from conception to eight years of age or children attending any type of preschool and early primary grades. 'Early childhood education' is any programme provided for children from birth to age eight. There are other terms that are used around the world when talking about education of young children:
. 'Playcentre' which operated half day sessions for two to six year old children before enrolment into primary school.
. 'Nursery school is usually a half day educational programme provided for children two and a half to five years of age.
. 'Preschool' is a half day educational programme for children before they enter a kindergarten group.
. 'Kindergarten' is usually a half day educational programme for the five year old children prior to entering primary school.
. 'Child Care Centre' or 'Day Care Centre offers whole day educational programmes and services designed especially for preschool children of single parent families where both parents work or any child needing such types of services. Children that attend these centres have a midday meal and opportunity for sleep in the early afternoon.
In Kiribati we have the preschools that cater for children aged two to five years. Korobu preschool, which belong to the Seventh Day Adventist Church has a Nursery school that caters for children two to three years. This group is called the 'beginner group'. One group is operating for half day in the morning and another group proceeds in the afternoon.
The number of early childhood centres in Kiribati increased rapidly, after the training offered by Kiribati Teachers'College in 1995. The training lasted only for six years. According to the Ministry of Education survey of 2005, there are only hundred and eighty six preschools operating in the country. There are twenty eight preschools existing for the central district, eighty seven for the northern district and fifty two for the southern Kiribati. Since that most preschools are privately owned the number could be increased or dropped as time is proceeding.
The community are aware on the importance of early education, but most parents should be aware on the importance of play as a way of learning for young children. Some parents valued writing as important and should be emphasized in the preschool programme. Other parents value English to be used in the preschool as a medium of instruction. Preschool teachers who had been taught in Kiribati Teachers' College had different philosophies on how children learn, with most of the community members. These teachers were encouraged to use play activities as a way to develop the child or young children in all aspects of development. When young children are confident in using their first language, they would easily learn the second language. The idea of play are conflicted with what the community value, so most of the preschools that spent children's time on play are ignored and left attended with only few children.
Community awareness programmes had been implemented to assist with these problems. The ministry of education had conducted ECE training porgrammes to most church groups such as the Bahai Faith, Seventh Day Adventist, Kiribati Protestant Church and Catholic Church. Some of these issues were included as part of the workshop content. These problems were always included in the preschool teacher workshops, which is usually conducted during the term breaks.
Type of preschools in Kiribati
There are twenty islands altogether in Kiribati including Banaba and three islands for the Linnix group. Each island coucil has their own preschools. The number of preschools on each islands depends on the number of villages except for the main island Tarawa. Including these island council schools are church preschools. These island council schools are supported by the council. The preschool teachers are paid by the council. Teachers salary differ from island to island.
The purpose of these island council preschools is to cater for children aged two to five years. These island council schools are supposed to use the Kiribati National curriculum as a guideline. These island council preschools are often conducted in the village mwaneaba or council mwaneaba. Progammes are not stable, since that the mwaneaba is a village or council meeting place. Sometimes when there are village activities or council activities, preschool moved to another venue or could be postponed to other dates. Some of these council schools are conducted at the home of the teachers such as in Tabuaeran and Teeraina in the Linnix group.
Island councils on most islands do need assistance on how to organize these preschools so that children could acquired quality learning. Workshops had been conducted on most islands to assist teachers on how to use the national curriculum. Preschool teachers are left to work on their own, and little supervision is done to assess their work and performance. The council and the ministry of education need to work together to improve the quality of learning provided to these young children of tomorrow.
Different church groups are actively involved in the teaching of young children. Preschools that are usually operated by church groups are often run in church mwaneaba. However, some do have land provided for them with good classrooms and school facilities such as the Bahai preschool in Bikenibeu, Sevenday Adventist preschool in Korobu, Saint Anne Catholic preschool in Bairiki, and Kiribati Protestant Church in Bikenibeu. Preschool teachers acquired training form their own denominations and were allowed as well to attend short trainings run by the ministry of education. Teachers receive payment from their church and others do teaching as a voluntary service. This is part of their contribution to their church.
Church preschools are expected to use the National preschool curriculum to guide their work. The ministry had conducted several trainings on how to use the national early childhood curriculum to different church groups such as Bahai Faith, Kiribati Protestant Church and the Catholic Church. These church preschools are open to all young children to attend, regarding their denominational group. For example, the Kiribati Protestant child could attend the seventh day adventist or catholic preschool. Their is no denominational discriminations or restrictions. All preschools in Kiribati welcome and appreciated young children of who they are.
Most of these private preschools are established by those individuals who had undergone a one year training at Kiribati Teachers College. These qualified ECE teachers had no where to work so they started their own individual preschools. These preschools are often conducted as home based-centres. There are quite many of them on the main island of Tarawa including Betio. Some of these home preschools provided quality care and education. The problem with most of them is space. Activities for young children do need both indoors and outdoors. Some of them do need a fence to protect young children's whereabout at all times.
Retired primary teachers perceive the preschool as a way of earning an income. So more individual private preschools are established. These preschools are often run by well qualified early primary teachers who have the expertize in working with young children. Attending these home based centres are quite expensive. There are four home based centres run by these retired primary teachers. One is in Teaoraereke at the eastern side of USP Centre, the second is situated next to the Church of God, towards Bikenibeu, the third one is at Mackenzie point towards Nawerewere and the fourth one is at the eastern side of Bikenibeu east primary school.