Efforts to push back the dates for 2020 National Assessments was to enable the required 40 weeks of teaching and learning to cover the full curriculum, despite the COVID 19 restrictions. 

The most critical priority was the compilation of the SSLC results given the urgency of NUS Foundation and TVET enrolments.  These results were released on the 14 January 2021.  The second priority was the SSC and these results were released on the 22 January 2021.

The Ministry continued to complete the Year 8 SPECA quality assurance for the analyses and verification of results in 7 subjects whereby at least 4,000 students sat per subject.

The SPECA, the final of 2020 national certifications, was released to school principals on Monday 22 February 2021.

The SPECA results indicating a student’s completion of the first 8-years of primary education, has taken a more meaningful and analytical approach to the reporting to schools beyond the Certificates, to also include school trends booklet by subject per school, for the Years 2017-2020[1] as well as national and school assessment maps.  Furthermore, new for Year 8 reporting are student kidmaps that indicate students’ attainment (or not) of learning outcomes. This information is used to provide the diagnostic information needed by principals, teachers, students, and parents, to firstly identify learning gaps and, secondly, to inform key learning interventions. In so doing, principals are empowered to compare and analyse each school’s performance over a period of at least 3 years.

The MESC Teachers Conference held 20 January 2021, was committed to the presentation of national results including SSC and SSLC. Teachers and Principals were given the opportunity to raise issues and questions regarding trends and analyses presented by the Chief Executive Officer.

SPECA Year 8 Attainment Trends

The Year 8 trends from 2017 to 2020 demonstrated improvements across five (5) of the seven (7) subjects as assessed over the last 4 years (Table 1).

Table 1:  Year 8 Trends 2017-2020

SPECA 4-year attainment trends – L3 & L4
Y8  SUBJECT 2017 2018 2019 2020
MATHS 14% 11% 2% 44%
ENGLISH 25% 33% 7% 54%
SAMOAN 18% 36% 19% 43%
SCIENCE 18% 31% 9% 45%
SOCIAL SCIENCE 12% 14% 1% 48%
VSIUAL ARTS 23% 61% 27% 12%
HEALTH & PE 9% 5% 13% 11%

2020 SPECA & 2018 PILNA Cohorts

National assessments for SPELL Years 4 and 6, and SPECA are aligned to skills levels of the Regional PILNA assessments sat by our Year 4 and Year 6 every three years (i.e. 2012, 2015 and 2018 with the next one scheduled for this year 2021).

  • The 2020 Year 8 SPECA cohort is the same cohort that demonstrated a significant growth (more than 1 standard deviation) above that of the Region in 2018 PILNA Year 6 Numeracy and, almost 1 standard deviation for PILNA Year 6 Literacy. 
  • The 2020 SPECA 2020 cohort was part of the first group of recipients (in 2018) for targeted interventions based on robust tool development and reliable analyses from the 2017 plethora of national primary diagnostic assessments (a total of 25 tests).

Secondary Results – SSC and SSLC

Despite a 2.5% decrease of students who “qualified for university” in 2019 compared to 2018, the percentage of students eligible for NUS Foundation increased by nearly 3% in 2020 compared to 2019 despite global pandemics and national SOEs.

Early School Leavers

There is no evidence to support that the delay in students receiving their SPECA results leads to early school leavers and non-acceptance into a college. However, there is evidence from a study conducted by MESC in 2019 to investigate the reasons why students leave school early (MESC, 2019) which found that social-economic issues such as financial hardship, education not a parental priority, broken families, unsupportive home environments, and low parental expectations influence students leaving school early. 

The transition rate from primary to secondary is relatively high (around 90%) especially given that some students repeat Year 8 or leave due to a number of reasons (MESC 2019).

Teacher Shortage

The shortage of teachers is an issue identified and acknowledged by the Ministry since 2015. Strategies were put in place to action and mitigate the problem such as the reemployment of retirees and marketing the teaching profession as an attractive career change.  In 2015, 177 retirees were reemployed and as of February 2021, 274 retirees were reemployed.  

It is important to note that the distribution of teachers is influenced by the following common factors:  (1) location of schools relative to teacher’s residence, (2) supply of qualified teachers (3) transportation costs and availability (4) school compliance with enrolment and student-teacher ratios (5) availability of classrooms, and (6) teacher housing.

In terms of teachers and student ratio, there is a sufficient number of teachers in the country however, the majority of students are concentrated in the urban areas in contrast to attending schools in their villages and districts.

Teacher Quality

In 2014, the government mandated that all teachers be upgraded to a minimum qualification of a degree.  Teacher upgrade programmes were designed and implemented in late 2015 which included the Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP) to address the shortage of maths and science teachers through USP and Bachelor of Education, in other subject areas, at the NUS.  In 2020, the upgrade programme expanded to include ECE teachers.

Of all government teachers, 14% held a degree in 2015 compared to 51% in 2020.  Currently there is 11% of teachers involved in the upgrade programme, 24% yet to be upgraded and 14% are more than 55 years old.  The latter group is engaged in certificated professional development programmes.

The appraisal for teachers based on the Registered Teacher Standards since the establishment of the QAPA system in 2015-2020 is in place.  The three main domains of professional knowledge, professional practice and professional attributes are met to proficiency levels by both primary and secondary teachers.  Trends from the last 5 years indicate growth in the number of teachers meeting minimum professional standards.  Since 2015 -2020 (54%)[1] of primary teachers have met proficiency levels and (79%)[2] of secondary teachers met the standards in this period. This increasing teacher proficiency is a contributing factor to the demonstrated improvement in student results, over the same period. 

The establishment of the Samoa Teachers Council (STC) also emphasise the regulation of teachers’ registration now enforced for all teachers in Samoa inclusive of mission, private and government schools and ECE Centres. 

In 2020, a total of 1,024 teachers are now eligible for full teacher registration status.

The MESC vision is to provide a quality holistic education that realises the spiritual, cultural and physical potential of all participants to make fulfilling life choices.

As a Ministry, we continue to strive amidst all challenges to achieve our vision and mission.  We welcome you to be part of this great endeavour and invite all constructive feedback.

For further information please contact the Deputy CEO by email


1)SPELL 2017-2019 and the SPECA 2017-2020
2)This is based upon the percentage of students who attained a Level 3 Proficient or Level 4 Established
3)Pacific Island Literacy and Numeracy Assessment
4)MESC 2019 Reasons Students in Samoa do not Complete Secondary, Ministry of Education Sports & Culture
5)% of primary teachers appraised only
6)% of secondary teachers appraised only

Afamasaga Dr Karoline Afamasaga-Fuata’i
Chief Executive Officer
Ministry of Education Sports and Culture

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