Dear Editor

Let me share my thoughts on the recent media release by SINU on possible removing Form 7 as entry requirement.

As a new University, SINU is expected to be flexible in some fronts as it transits from SICHE to SINU. It is expected to serve a broad range of mix of students segments school leavers, mature students, and international students through it’s a broad range of disciplines.

However, recent media release announcing plans on potential lowering of entry criteria raises a red flag for me. It is a compelling story which signals the continuance of low entry level policy, instead of cranking up entry requirements to reflect rigours and critical thinking expected at Universities.

What is wrong with a competitive entry criteria? Explain to the country and to parents whose children are at form 7, why achieving a high level pre-requisite to enrol at the University should not be market-driven? I would have thought the University would be pitching for a higher merits as measure of excellence, quality of its programs offerings supported by experienced, highly qualified staff with Masters and PhDs. Regardless of the student target segment rural, urban or international and the pressure of Institutional finances, SINU needs to find ways to maintain academic excellence and deliver quality research.

As SINU is our Asset, an Investment for the Future and a National Treasure it should be known that it is a privilege to study at this fine institution. Secondary Schools,private sectors and government should be made to compete for limited spaces.

Having talented and academically oriented students will increase SINU brand which is the lifeblood of any institution to survive, thrive, compete and evolve. Bright students are ’transformers’ and can uniquely position the credibility of SINU to act as curators of knowledge and content. Conversely, supporting a low entry policy is perceived as a supply- driven ideology merely to achieve maximum enrolments. Instead of educating a smart and bright young workforce capable of replacing the 70% aging workforce population in Government and private sectors, we would perpetuate the chronic problems of creating graduates that roam the streets of Honiara, Auki and Gizo.

Should there be concerns by SINU regarding quality of student coming through Secondary School, the solution is to go and fix it at the source. Let’s think outside the square.

Together with Tertiary Education Board (or similar body), support SINU partnership with Secondary Schools, to offer mandatory review of the curriculum at Form 6 and 7. The partnership would allow selected Secondary Schools (as there are already sunk cost in Schools- where efficient cost structure exists), to prepare students with skills, academic knowledge and competencies up to SINU pre-requisite entry requirement. Other regional institutions, Technical Colleges and Polytechnics would also benefit.

The proposition of an extra Foundation Year at SINU as preparation for students is flawed in three fronts (a) It extends the cost of a degree by one year, (b) evidence points to low success rate due large classes (c) Universities are not known for their pastoral care on one to one basis, or support students who are floundering. I would discourage this option.

As we debate the entry requirement, it is acknowledged that SINU as an independent organisation will continue to grow, maintain its academic integrity and neutrality and not be politicised, bullied by wantoks and families asking for favours.

Charlie Panakera, Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, SINU