Syndicate content

Education in Timor-Leste has grown from the ashes

Joao dos Santos's picture

 


Timor-Leste is making great progress in education, which is considered an important
asset as the country looks to achieve sustainable, long-term development.

 

Eleven years since the restoration of Independence, Timor-Leste has now emerged from the ashes of destruction that devastated the country. During the conflict, most of the country’s infrastructure was demolished with over 95 percent of schools burnt to the ground.

Lack of infrastructure was only one of the many challenges facing Timor-Leste’s education. During the period of occupation most skilled teachers were not native Timorese and at the end of the conflict many evacuated, leaving very few trained teachers. Only a small number stayed on in the hope of driving education out of the darkness.

Recently, I talked with teachers, students, parents, to hear about their experience in the past, their views about the current state of the education system, and their expectations for the future.
Everyone I spoke to was passionate about the need to focus on education for the future of the country. Fr. Plenio dos Reis Martins, the Director for St. Inacio Loiola, a Jesuit private school at Kaisait in Liquica District shared his views on how important education is.

“The aim of education is to help the young Timorese to be ready to bring this country ahead for tomorrow, because if you don’t have good qualified people here, I don’t think this country can move forward. “

I met with Isaura Cardoso, a teacher at Aitutu primary school in Ainaro district, about 70km drive from the capital, Dili. She followed her mother’s footsteps to become a teacher and loves teaching more than any other job. Isaura was recruited to the National Police Force in 2001, but resigned in 2005 and returned to the school where she had been a volunteer teacher.

I was curious to hear about her experience as a volunteer teacher immediately after the conflict when conditions were most difficult, and she has seen momentous changes over the last ten years. 

“In the past we didn’t have any materials. The children had to bring their own mats and sit on the floor, and the teachers had to stand up while teaching because there were no chairs, no table,” Isaura recalls

“We had to teach in very hard and sad times. But it’s our obligation to help build this country, so we had to move forward.”

Now, after a decade things look very different. Access to essential services like health and education has escalated. The number of teachers more than doubled, from 5,700 to over 12,000. Many teachers have been recruited and trained across the country, resulting in better student-teacher ratio from 45:1 to 28:1.

Even with all the progress Timor-Leste has achieved, there are still many challenges. The country has one of the highest rates of population growth in the world, with two thirds of the population currently under the age of 25. This creates a need for more adequately equipped classrooms, better and more teachers and learning materials, and improved access to education across the whole country. Education is an asset as the country looks to diversify its economy away from petroleum and achieve sustainable, long-term development. 

According to Luis Ximenes, from Timorese NGO Belun, it’s necessary to be aware of immediate challenges facing the country in terms of skill gaps. Many young people have dropped out of school and now don’t have adequate skills to fill the gaps in the country’s job market.

"To address these immediate challenges higher education and vocational training will be especially important, to help produce higher quality human resources. Timor-Leste also needs more investment from local and International entrepreneurs to provide more job opportunities for young Timorese."

What do you think of Timor-Leste’s progress in education a decade after the country’s independence? And what else can the country do to continue its education? I’d be most interested to hear your thoughts.

Comments

A major issue for Timor-Leste is the quality of teachers being produced by universities. When I observed classrooms in Dili and Hera, the quality of unqualified teachers was significantly greater than that of qualified ones.

Submitted by Joao on

Dear Trevar,

Thank you for your comments and observations on our education system
I have a few points to add to your observation:
First as you may be aware, we only gained our independence in 2002, during our 1999 referendum and the turmoil that followed during the period, the majority of teachers, who in fact were Indonesians left the country leaving a very small pool of qualified Timorese teachers.
Second, only 10% of the population speaks Portuguese, which is the language taught in schools as one of the official languages chosen by the parliament.
There is currently only one university providing a bachelors degree in teaching which is a privately run university, where the majority of these teachers who graduate are absorbed into private schools (Catholic schools.)
We currently have over 7000 volunteer teachers in the country. The Portuguese cooperation is working with Ministry of Education to provide this cadre of teachers to at least have a level of competency equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
The National Institute for Training of Teachers (INFORDEPE) is currently working with the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL) to provide a master level of qualification for a number of teachers to become master trainers from the district level, down to the village level.
The Ministry of Education along with bilateral and multilateral partners are working hard to address these concerns you have raised. Thank you once again for your interests in the country's education system.
If you have further observation I am happy to clarify any concerns you may have.

Submitted by Theo Phylass on

Totally agree, 10 years has bring a lot of changes in the country...but need more attention from government of Timor-Leste and its partners to improve the quality of education...Education is just like a bridge to connect the country and its people towards a brighter future

Submitted by Joao on

Phylass,

It's true that, although there has been significant progress in the education sector in Timor-Leste, the government needs to increase its efforts to improve the quality of education particularly on advancing the availablity as well as the ability of the teachers to teach children who are the future generation of this country.

it is good news..
I am going to add how to get your sample resaerch paper!!!
Thanks so much for suggesting it.

Submitted by Joao on

Many thanks for your interest. Here are some links that you can look up to see more about education in Timor-Leste. And feel free to get back to me if you need more.

http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2004/12/5529362/timor-leste-education-independence-reconstruction-sustainable-improvement

http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/04/bringing-better-education-for-timorese-children

Submitted by Peter on

New York Times in 2011 on World Bank aid to Timor Leste http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/world/asia/22iht-timor22.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

"Efforts to support education were unsatisfactory. On the positive side, the bank helped build and repair schools. But, at the request of the new government, which was trying to dismantle the Indonesian education system, it distributed teaching materials in Portuguese. This had been the main language of instruction before the Indonesian occupation, when Timor was a Portuguese colony, and the new government restored it as an official language along with Tetum, an indigenous language. But Portuguese was spoken by only 5 percent of the population, and few younger teachers could understand the materials.". Is this still a problem?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment. As in many newly independent countries, language instruction has been a challenge in Timor-Leste, and a subject of national debate. The education policy now includes teaching in both Tetun and Portuguese (the country's official languages) and learning materials have been made available in both these languages. The Ministry of Education is further reviewing its primary school curriculum, including how the subjects of both Tetun and Portuguese are taught in schools. Also, as children in Timor-Leste are spread in 13 districts speaking over 20 local languages, the Government is collaborating with UNESCO to pilot  "Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education for Timor Leste" in 3 districts (Lautem, Oecusse and Manatuto). This is to allow early grade students to comfortably learn using their mother-tongue language, before then being introduced to the use of Tetun, and eventually Portuguese. (If you're interested you can see more information about the UNESCO supported pilot here: http://www.mlenetwork.org/content/progress-report-mtb-mle-pilot-program-... )

From my perspective, I do think that Timor-Leste has taken important steps to improve the quality of its education services, as well as access. Total enrollment from basic to secondary education increased from 242,000 to 333,000 between 2002 and 2010, and the number of teachers more than doubled during the same period, from 5,700 to over 12,000. Measures have been taken to implement early grade reading and maths assessments, which are helping monitor children's learning progress in the first years of school; to develop effective curricula; train its teachers and education officials, and disseminate learning materials such as reading aides, in Tetun and Portuguese, to all primary schools.

I hope this helps!

Submitted by David Dippie on

The Rotary Clubs of Keilor and Port Melbourne wish to support schools in the Balibo area. We are trying to get information on the schools and the local contacts so we can establish what sort of help they need. Can you tell me who to contact to get this information?

Regards

David Dippie

Submitted by Emilio on

What you want me to help you? I am willing and happy to do the needs assesment for the schools in Balibo area for you then will back to you when its done!
If you thinks thats helpful. Please don't hasitate to let me know!

Submitted by Emilio Vicente on

As a local partners of the Balibo House Trust _ Balibo House Trust, Timor-Leste Project Manager. Happy to join with all of you.

Hope to be in touch regularly, about every aspect particularly for Balibo, Bobonaro, Timor-Leste

Best regards and many thanks for the generously support of the Rotary within our partnership.

Add new comment