Need for English standards in Marshall Islands
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Jun 29 13:39:04 UTC 2005
UNESCO workshop on transparency and good governance generates new
initiatives in Marshall Islands
The third in a series of UNESCO workshops in the Republic of the Marshall
Islands dedicated to the principles of Good Governance and Transparency
has seen the generation of two new initiatives by the staff of the
government radio station, V7AB.
The workshops were held at the Marshall Islands Resort with trainer Peter
May, a journalist with more than 30 years experience, working in
conjunction with V7AB s Manager, Antari Elbon.
One of the two initiatives concerns the need for establishing clear and
concise freedom of news and information policy for government broadcaster.
The other is a plan by V7AB to assist in raising public awareness of
educational standards, especially in English communication, to meet the
current educational crisis facing the island nation.
Establishment of a Written Cornerstone Statement for Freedom and
Transparency in News Policy
Since its inception, the public broadcaster V7AB has operated without any
written or clearly-defined news or information policy. Originally
established under the office of the President of the Republic of Marshall
Islands in the mid-1990s, administration of the radio station was placed
under the Ministry of the Interior and it has been the responsibility of
that department of government ever since. While the Republic of the
Marshall Islands has several privately-licensed radio stations based in
the capital on Majuro, the strong broadcasting power of V7AB generates the
only radio signal which reaches the other 23 major atolls and the smaller
islands, making V7AB the sole national source of news and information for
much of the population.
During the workshop, a primary aim of the participants was to establish a
concise and easy to understand cornerstone for a written news and
information policy for the radio station which, following cabinet
approval, could be instituted for the benefit of all. Since its inception,
the government broadcaster has had no written policy for news and
information. Developing the draft policy involved wide-ranging discussions
on transparency and how it links with good governance, including how the
negative effects of control of information, corruption and cronyism at any
level universally affect everyone in a society.
Also discussed was the news and information history of the radio station
as well as instances of public criticism, and praise, of its news and
information coverage. It was agreed there was a need for a clear, concise,
and transparent written news and information policy able to withstand
public scrutiny which would eliminate the vagaries of operating under
spoken directives and fulfill the right of the people of the RMI to
freedom of information covering all points of view.
Participants noted as well that the new policy would have to cover
traditional and cultural standards and how they might be protected from
erosion by outside influences. By the workshops end, all had agreed to the
content and wording of a proposed basic cornerstone statement for news and
information policy to be submitted to cabinet for approval. It was felt
that this policy, if instituted, would improve the radio stations coverage
of news and events while at the same time eliminating much of the
criticism which had been made in the past.
It is hoped the cornerstone policy statement will be presented to the
cabinet at the first available opportunity.
Public Awareness of Education and its link to Governance and Transparency
in a Democratic Society
The second initiative involved a crisis facing the nations youth in
education, especially English language standards and the possible loss of
accreditation by the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) and recent
evaluations which showed the English language skills of teachers in the
nation were extremely low. While many in the Marshall islands speak
English and it the language of education, most spoken communication is in
the Marshallese language.
Participants felt it was an issue important to transparency and
governance, since at present and in the future better education and better
understanding of national issues hinges on education, an immediate problem
slowing the progress in their democratic society.
In the Marshall Islands, the school drop out rate is over 50%, youth
unemployment above 80%, and the teenage pregnancy rate is the highest in
the Pacific. Workshop participants decided that developing an educational
awareness program designed to keep students in school and raise awareness
of the need for higher English and educational standards would also help
alleviate these problems.
They also recognised the accreditation crisis faced by the College of the
Marshall Islands, which is threatened with loss of its accreditation from
the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in the United
States. Without WASC accreditation, the CMIs marks and diplomas would no
validity outside the island nation leaving students and graduates without
academic credentials for employment or further education abroad. Loss of
accreditation would also mean the loss of millions in educational
Even as the workshop was winding up on June 10th, the College of the
Marshall Islands was due once again to go before the WASC hoping for an
extension of its accreditation.
The workshop participants agreed that they could assist the youth of the
nation with an Educational Awareness Campaign, and at the workshops end
were already in contact with some of the necessary officials in the aim of
having the campaign on-the-air before the end of June.
(Article contributed by Peter May, Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)
UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication
College of the Marshall Islands (CMI)
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