Other schools have attempted to help with distance learning in Pohnpei before and have never followed through. San Diego State University has been doing distance learning in Micronesia in one capacity or another since the 70's during the days of the Trust Territory.
This is no fly by night school and there are currently 22 students actively involved in pursuing a Master's of Arts Degree in Education with an emphasis on Educational Leadership.
Dr. Fred McFarlane and Linda Libsack-Schmalzel were in Pohnpei to meet with the students. Dr. McFarlane said that the program is unlike others because it is designed to be relevant to Micronesia. He said that the educational system in California where the University is located is completely different than the educational systems in Micronesia.
The course utilizes an on island coinstructor. He said that the locals are not merely teacher's assistants but full instructors. For the M.A. program Mr. Reynold Albert is the co-instructor. For the B.A. program the co-instructor is Phyllis Sibillus. They are responsible for helping students to stay on track and meeting with them once a week.
The program is so far successful because of the requirement that students be mid-career professionals already working in the area of education in Micronesia. He said those candidates have already shown a dedication to education and to Micronesia and that this program will aid the students to make the education department the best that it can be.
The Kaselehlie Press spoke with Karlina Henry, currently and educational diagnostician at the Department of Education, SeNelly Singeo, Chief of Elementary Schools for overall curriculum, and Shirley Jano and English teach at the College of Micronesia. The enthusiasm they have for the program is contagious. They said that all of the students have three classes remaining during which time they will write their Master's Thesis. Jano said that the Thesis projects are going to be published and put to use in Micronesia where she says they will matter most.
All of them said that their director's should get credit for supporting the program, especially Education Department Director Cassiano Shoniber and Dr. Steve Spencer. They said that their participation in the program was initiated by Shoniber and facilitated by COM staff members.
Henry said that the program, instead of being formed around some outside structure looks at real educational issues here in Micronesia. When asked what would keep them from leaving the island after they complete their degree and getting work where the salaries are higher each of the participants said that they have a passion for education in Micronesia and for the children. Their families and their lives are all in Micronesia and they will not be leaving.
SeNelly Singeo said "This is something we can do to empower ourselves so that we can help." "To see that our people can benefit from what we know is a comfortable feeling", said Karlina Henry. The students are currently on track for graduation in May 2008