Last year, for the first time, the Pacific Community (SPC), administered the Francophone version of the South Pacific Form Seven Certificate (SPFSC) programme in 7 schools in Vanuatu. With more than a third of the schools in the country being French-speaking, this is an important milestone on the road towards greater educational quality in Vanuatu and the Pacific.
The SPFSC programme is an accredited qualification currently offered in Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu at the Year-13 level. This qualification serves as a stepping stone for students to enter tertiary studies and/or secure employment. Since its inception in 2004, the programme has been administered only in English.
SPC’s Educational Quality and Assessment Programme’s (EQAP) Curriculum and Assessment Team Leader, Mere Vadei, described the development of the Francophone assessment as a step toward strengthening the quality of education in Vanuatu.
“The SPFSC Francophone programme started as a result of a request from Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education, in its attempt to harmonise the two education systems – Anglophone and Francophone. In years prior to 2021, Anglophone students were taking the SPFSC qualification but not the Francophone students,” said Mere.
Mere added that “a harmonised curriculum for Years 11 – 13 was developed for Vanuatu since 2013. The Francophone version was first offered to Year 11 students in Francophone schools in 2019. These Year 11 students formed the first cohort that took the Francophone SPFSC qualification last year.”
The Francophone assessment was made possible through a collaborative effort between SPC and Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education, which includes the Director of Education Services, Year 13 teachers in Francophone schools, Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) officers, and Examinations and Assessment Unit (EAU) officers.
Prior to the development of the SPFSC assessment, Francophone students were required to study an additional year in high school in order to get entrance into universities in region and abroad.
Maria Yamsiu, EQAP’s in country Programme Assistant, explained that “the main idea behind a Francophone SPFSC Assessment at the Year 13 level in Vanuatu was that it acts as a bridge to University Entrance without going to Year 14. In the Francophone system, students have to do year 14 before going to a university which is so expensive for parents to pay school fees one more year when compared to Anglophone parents.”
The Francophone assessment is supported through the Pacific Schools Information Management System (PacSIMS), one of SPC’s advanced cloud-based system that has managed the SPFSC information since 2017. The information includes student and teacher details, curriculum information, assessment information, and a variety of customised reports.
In addition to serving as a prerequisite to undergraduate studies and increasing chances for employment for Vanuatu’s Year 13 students, the SPFSC aims to provide equal access to quality education for both Anglophone and Francophone students in the country.
The SPFSC programme is also contributing towards improving education quality, accessibility and training for children and young people, which is one of the key priority areas identified by Vanuatu’s government as part of the COVID-19 recovery strategy for 2023.
The SPFSC is supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the New Zealand Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), bolstering the existing partnership with SPC in strengthening the quality of education of the region.
The SPFSC programme has at various points in time, been administered in Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga.