PILNA, being the region’s largest assessment, focusses on the literacy and numeracy proficiency skills of Year 4 and Year 6 students. These are required skills that children need to progress through school and life, including literacy skills in reading and writing and numeracy skills in numbers, operations, measurements and data. The assessment provides a measurement of regional standards based on a common scale. This gives the Pacific valid and reliable results to inform on the improvement of student learning outcomes over time.
Josaia discusses at length his role in administering the assessment in Fiji in 2021.
1. Please describe your experience in facilitating the assessment in your country with the added challenge of COVID-19 restrictions.
My experience with the facilitation of PILNA goes right back to the implementation of the 2018 main study. I had assisted the National Coordinator with a number of tasks which then prepared me to facilitate the 2021 main study. In last year’s main study, I led the selection of the Trial schools, implementation and monitoring of the trials, selection of the 120 PILNA main study schools with the assistance of the Sample Officer based at SPC, compiling the Y4 and Y6 Class List and sending them to SPC for their processing and preparation of a budget for the PILNA administration.
In addition, I was also tasked to notify the 120 School Heads and send invites for the School Coordinators to attend the training at 4 centers around Fiji, facilitate the distribution of the test papers to the schools, monitor the test during its implementation across the nation and was in charge of the collection of the returned papers and their dispatch to SPC Nabua. I was also in charge of assisting the selection team in identifying the coders for the Numeracy and Literacy papers and the data entry officers and identifying a catering group to provide meals to the coders and data officers as coding was done after normal working hours.
When nominated to be the National Coordinator for the 2021 main study, the tasks mentioned above helped me out in the preparation and implementation. The Trial had been successfully completed and the main study schools identified.
With the COVID-19 restrictions in the nation, everything was put on hold until 2022 when the schools reopened.
2. What were some of the challenges you have encountered during the administration / implementation of PILNA in your Country?
One challenge that I had encountered during the administration process was to keep tabs on the number of students who had moved to another school when their parents had lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their names were still registered in the previous school. In addition, some remote schools were not updating their contacts, telephone contacts and email addresses, in the Fiji Management Information System (FEMIS). Other challenges included, the questions surrounding the selection criteria of the students to sit the test and the dispatching of the PILNA papers to the schools as time was not on our side due to the reshuffling of the term dates and the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts (MEHA) approved main study dates.
3. How did you overcome these challenges?
Firstly, the students who had moved were marked absent on the Supervisor’s List. Next, the contacts for these schools were updated from the District Education Office and the network of Head teachers nearer to the PILNA schools. Regarding the selection criteria, the relevant stakeholders were informed of the process involved. If there were many students in a Class level, only 30 students’ names were randomly selected to represent the country for the test. And lastly, the dispatching of papers to the schools the selected Courier Company made a door to door delivery and pick up from the schools once the test was completed. This process was tried out for this main study and it proved a success.
4. How does your country benefit from PILNA?
PILNA provides critical information such as the level of literacy and numeracy skills of the two Class levels, the level of literacy and numeracy skills per gender, the literacy strands that have been poorly attempted and the strands that have been successfully attempted, the numeracy strands that have been poorly attempted and the strands that have been successfully attempted in the country.
At the regional level, PILNA provides information on the level of literacy and numeracy skills, the level of literacy and numeracy skills per gender, the literacy strands that have been poorly attempted and the strands that have been successfully attempted, the numeracy strands that have been poorly attempted, the strands that have been successfully attempted and identification of the literacy and numeracy skills that needs improvement in the country and the region. PILNA is then used to compare the region’s literacy and numeracy skills with the global standards.