BYU–Hawaii Students Work to Strengthen Education in Fiji

  • 26 September 2013

A group of students and professors from BYU–Hawaii traveled to Fiji this summer, hoping to strengthen educational assessments on the Pacific island nation. The team hopes their work will have a direct influence on students during the next decade.  Photo courtesy BYU–Hawaii.

Article Highlights

  • Seven students and three professors traveled to Fiji to develop standardized assessments tailored to the Fijian schools.
  • These diagnostic tests are aimed to improve the standard academic performance of Fijian students.
  • The project was approved by the Fijian minister of education.

“This specific project will have a direct influence on hundreds of thousands of Fijian lives over the next decade.” —Dr. Ronald Miller, psychology professor, BYU–Hawaii 

LAIE, HAWAII

This past summer, a group of students from BYU–Hawaii went to Fiji to make a difference in the educational system of the island nation. The seven students worked under the supervision of Dr. Ronald Miller, BYU–Hawaii psychology professor, and Dr. Frank C. Worrell, graduate professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The goal of this trip was to develop reading and writing mathematic assessments that can be used for diagnostic purposes in the Fijian schools,” said Dr. Worrell. “The benefits of this would be that there would be local norms on curriculum-based assessments that are grounded in Fijian curriculum. … Ultimately, this should increase the standard academic performance of students in Fiji.”

The project was approved by the Fiji Ministry of Education and supported by BYU–Hawaii and UC Berkley. Equipped with training in statistics and cultural affairs, the students went to Fiji with plans to create a standardized testing system that would be tailored specifically to the children of Fiji. “The idea is to create Pacific island solutions to Pacific island problems,” said Dr. Miller. “We have given them tools they can use to continue the project.”

The significance of the project was evident to those participating. Apee Wailo, a Fijian BYU–Hawaii student majoring in social work, stated, “With my knowledge in the social work field, I now understand the critical relationship between child, teacher, and parent and how we can improve education in Fiji. The trip made my wife and me realize why it is important to go back to Fiji and contribute to my home nation.”

“The goal was to allow the students to participate in a real-world, multicultural experience that will have a lasting impact on its recipients,” said Dr. Miller. “This specific project will have a direct influence on hundreds of thousands of Fijian lives over the next decade. How many people can say on their resume that they created a national assessment and met with the ministry?”

Sara Siddoway, a senior from Texas studying international cultural studies-anthropology, felt it a privilege to participate in the project. “It’s not just going to stop here. We are going to see our work continue to help the progress of Fijian education.”

Fiji is part of the Church’s Pacific Area and is one of the countries in the Pacific Rim and Asia that form BYU–Hawaii’s target area for student recruitment.