At the Chief Executive's Conference which took place in Palikir from January 15th to the 18th, the Department of Education unveiled new plans for a different educational opportunity for at least some of the FSM's students. The Department said that PREL has been developing Career and Technical Education standards for K-12 students, standards that will be pilot tested as early as September of this year.
The Department said that the term Vocational Education has been downgraded in people's minds as a kind of second class education. They said that Vocational Education courses in the High Schools have previously only been offered as electives and that those programs have always taken second place in the education system to the more highly revered academic track. They are proposing to offer two tracks in the future, an Academic track and a Career and Technical Education track.
They said that the CTE programs will involve training in special skills such as carpentry, mechanics, electronics, welding, nursing, home arts, telecommunications, hospitality services, computer technology and many more skills. Language Arts, Math, and Science would also figure heavily in a CTE track.
Creation of a separate track for CTE at all FSM High Schools, would improve the system of vocational educational delivery which would lead to an enhanced quality of education for the students involved. The Department said this would improve the caliber of students exiting directly into the workforce or transitioning into the college CTE programs or apprentice programs.
Students would first be exposed to the CTE track in Early Childhood Education programs. All students from grade school to middle elementary school would be exposed to the general concepts of CTE. They call this the Career Awareness phase of students' education.
From middle elementary school through Junior High School, students would learn basics in various fields through theories and practical education. This is the Career Exploration Phase. By Senior High School the students would select certain fields and concentrate on specialized training in their chosen field, the Career Choice phase. Career counselors would aid students in their selections.
The Department of Education said that they have been asked to spearhead the alignment of public secondary schools CTE curriculum to that of the College of Micronesia FSM in preparation for the Guam Military Expansion. They said that in the past the College and the FSM Department of Education have each done their own separate things so that the educational programs don't mesh well. The new program plan would be more collaborative in nature in order to solve this problem.
The establishment of CTE programs in FSM Educational institutions is Phase 1 of the Department's plans. They said that the closure of Pohnpei Agricultural and Trade School left an educational void that the public schools of the FSM have not been able to fill. The College has said that many students focusing on vocational training in the FSM's schools in recent years have graduated from High School only to find that they have not been prepared sufficiently to enter COM-FSM's programs and to succeed.
The department is proposing as phase 2 of the CTE plan, to reopen the PATS campus as a premiere Career and Technical Education educational center for the FSM's "cream of the crop". They said that the entrance exam to gain admittance to the new school would be highly competitive to ensure that the very best CTE students have their skills fine tuned in the program. They are proposing that students from all over the FSM would study at PATS in their Junior and Senior years if they qualify through testing.
Students who study at the PATS campus would graduate from the program at levels above what the work place currently demands. They said that if the implementation of their plan is properly executed people who graduate from the program would be in demand and would definitely land jobs whether here or abroad stimulating the economy wherever they go. The Department asked the principals of the CEC to consider the possibility of allocating 4% of their annual education budget for the new school. The presenter admitted that he didn't know precisely how much money was needed for the new school or how much 4% of the current educational budget would represent but that anecdotally he thought the amount would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.6 million annually.
Father Hezel told the CEC that the budget when PATS closed was approximately $750,000 per year. New CEC member Pohnpei's newly elected Governor John Ehsa said of the plan, "I hate to say this is just because of the Guam build up. Really, it's for us."
With the unanimous passage of the CEC resolution on the idea of the program, President Mori is charged with establishing a task force to deal with the details of the proposed program including the costs and funding sources to implement it.