Work Ethic – Fiji
Mana Island, Fiji
Where does a good work ethic start? Does a good work ethic start within the student completely on their own, from a good teacher, from home, or from another outside influence?
I had the opportunity to visit the local school on Mana Island in Fiji; it is the only school on Mana Island. The school welcomes tourists because they feel it’s a good learning experience for the students [as well as a good opportunity for collecting donations from tourists].
The school is divided into three classrooms: classes 1 and 2, classes 3 and 4, and classes 5 through 8. Within the classrooms, the students are divided into the appropriate levels.
I noticed that there were two teachers present but the school had three classrooms. The highest level classes didn’t have a teacher. I immediately asked one of the two teachers what was going on there and she answered simply “their teacher isn’t here today.”
So what are the students doing if there’s no teacher?
Again, simply: “their work,” as she looked at me like I was some kind of idiot for even asking.
They know what to do without instruction?
I found this hard to believe so I walked inside to have a closer look but sure enough, all the students were hard at work. Some girls would take a break, walk over to their friends, braid each other’s hair for about a minute, speak in Fijian and giggle… Then, with no instruction, go back to what they were working on. The boys acted the same but would play table football or other games for a minute instead of playing with each other’s hair.
What was their motivation for doing their work? If there was no teacher in the room, why didn’t the students do what they wanted to do all day instead of doing their work?
I asked the other teacher if the students were hard at work because they knew their work would be checked when their teacher returned. She told me that work is checked sometimes, but not necessary to check because the students ALWAYS do their work.
I asked the teacher what would happen if a student didn’t complete a homework assignment and she was confused: “Why wouldn’t they finish it?” She told me that incomplete homework is NEVER a problem.
Never? Oh come on… Never?!!
Nope. Students get help from their parents at home and it’s a family responsibility… a family wouldn’t send a student to school without the necessary work completed – it just doesn’t happen.
Ok well what WOULD happen if one day, the first student ever failed to complete their assignment?
“Well, I guess we would send them to the head teacher… and then you know what happens there,” as she laughed.
Well, actually, I don’t.
…but she just laughed some more and I sensed it was a bit uncomfortable… students do their work, all their work, all the time… period. No further discussion.
Wow… ok… so this reinforces what every teacher already knows: education starts at home with a supportive family.
Ok, so the higher level classes impressed me with their work habits, but since their teacher wasn’t there to talk to to verify, I decided to check out the lower level classes – are they just as hard working?
I observed the lower level classes for the most amount of time and talked with the teacher. I noticed that the walls of the classroom were similar to that of classrooms in the US: mission statements, teaching philosophies, a calendar, and responsibilities assigned to certain students for that week/month.
Not only did each classroom have students help out with classroom responsibilities, but the entire school had chores for each class to complete such as pick up trash from front of school, sweep, pull weeds, clean, etc. (see picture attached).
It seemed to me that a sense of responsibility is established at home and reinforced at school. At home, students do chores and homework. At school, students do chores and class work. There is no complaining or excuses because there is no separation between the rules at home and the rules at school. The family establishes a work ethic and the same work ethic is expected at school with similar chores and academics.
More About Fiji Schools
You might have been wondering “If this is the only school on the island and the highest level class is ‘class 8,’ then what do the students do after completing class 8?”
After finishing class 8, the students then move to the mainland to finish classes 9 through 12; students move out of their small village in which they are so accustomed to and onto the mainland with family, friends, or whomever else in order to complete their schooling. Every student does this; there is no other option.
I know that U.S. public school teachers do their best to instill this type of work ethic in their students but without the proper support from home, this is very challenging. Are there things we can change in the school system in order to make this easier?
Wow, what an eye-opener! Having taught in NY for 35 years, I am absolutely amazed at the Fiji system. You are so right – without a supportive home environment, a student rarely succeeds in school. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
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