From its inception in 1962 as a humble trainer of English primary teachers, the original Kawenu Teacher Training College has evolved into what is today the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education Could you tell us more about the history of this VITE, and in your opinion, what has made it successful since its inception?
I think at the beginning it started because of the British college where they were use to have a Teacher center near the school. It started with English speaking teachers and then slowly, successfully became duel, and by saying duel I mean French and English. English was located here, but at the beginning French was located elsewhere. So, at the beginning, there were to separate systems and that is due to the condominium government and colonial past. Then, eventually, the two systems started to work together but the French schools were still in different places before become what we have today. Then, there started different projects. Why we can say that it is successful, because we try to manage and to create something together, but we are not really working together, at least in the same location. Nevertheless, each program or each section work with its own programs, so we have certificates in English and in French separately. So we are working currently in four (4) different sections. We have one section in English, and one section in French for the primary and secondary schools. Another successful story is that we’ve tried to harmonize the programs. That is why we wanted to have a similar content in schools for every teacher. Since 2009 to 2012 we have worked on the harmonization program. This harmonization was very successful, simply because it happened at two levels: physically and academically. We were separated physically, different sections in different places, so we were trying to harmonize this. That was very challenging. Another successful story is that we organized VITE departments, so we have now six departments. We have language, education studies, social science, science, mathematics and PMA (plastic, music and art). In each department we have Anglophone and Francophone teachers working together. The one thing that it may be different is the different approach that we are using in English or in French, but at least we have the same content.
Having multicultural and varied teachers mix is of great benefit to an institution. Do you have affluence of foreign teachers?
We have teachers from abroad for special projects, so they are not here for the full time. We have also the volunteers, like Australian volunteers, China and Japan volunteers. We have also Peace Corps. Otherwise with the French government we have people that come here to spend the whole year with us and help us with the capacity building. We have also some partnerships with few universities now, from New Caledonia, Australia. We have managed some partnerships so we can help each other.
How do you enhance the establishment of new international partnerships, so you can attract more international teachers?
Yes, we want to do that, but we need to have some kind of standards, international standards. Being the only one Institution for the Teacher in Vanuatu we want to make sure that we are trying to reach the international standards. We are trying to do that by being the original, national institution. Nevertheless we have already connections with different Universities. Some of our lectors spend time in France during some scholarships, for example in Bordeaux (France- ed.). We have managed to send them abroad, so they can see and learn how it works in other institutions, so they can help us once they are back.
Emerging Markets such us Brazil, China, India and South Africa provide new opportunities for collaboration in areas such as teaching and training. Why should a teacher student looking to training in the Pacific choose VITE?
I think that what we have in Vanuatu is this duel language that we have. Me for example, I can switch from English, to French, and then also to Bishlama. I can teach in those languages and this is what we are looking for here in VITE, to have teachers that can teach in both languages. Actually we are training valuable teachers to have bilingual schools, instead of heaving English speaking and French speaking schools. This is one of the things we are working on. This is huge, it is beyond, but this is what we want. This is our aim for Vanuatu, the bilingualism and the multiculturalism. Our vision is to have bilingual lectors and teach bilingual teachers so they could teach the subject in French or in English. In the end, the product will be: the Vanuatu schools, and no Vanuatu English speaking schools or Vanuatu French speaking schools. And everything has to start in this place.
As you are well aware, the readers of HBR include many of the world’s most influential business and political leaders. Which final message would you like to send them about Vanuatu and the VITE?
We are the only Vanuatu Training Institution and our vision is to become bilingual, not dual and for that we need the help of the other countries. We have both languages, so it should be easier, that for example in Cameroun. They did it there, and they had mostly French speaking people. Of course, we want other countries to help us and to give us the ideas how to work in order to become bilingual, because I think this is the strongest point we have.