Webmaster Note:  I’m not sure when this document was written.  It was passed to me by Perry King in a format that looked like very old standard typewriter.  But, in all honesty, the contents can probably be applied to nearly any time period, including current.

Notes on the Problems and Considerations Involved in Planning the New Educational System  In American Samoa

by Vernon Bronson 

The new educational system in American Samoa today follows very closely the plan that was originally developed during the initial stage of this project in the years 1961 through 1963. The major concept of the present system was planned in great detail during the initial planning period, and the only modifications that have been made are the modifications that are inherent in the system. That is, the system itself requires a continuing day-to-day and week-to-week evaluation and modification of scope and sequence of subject matter, teaching techniques and procedures, and staff organization.

 In 1961, when we were originally confronted with the idea of developing a plan for the complete rehabilitation of the educational system in American Samoa, we found that we had to start with the bare bones of an educational system. We found no acceptable school plant, no acceptable school organization, no acceptable teaching staff, no acceptable administrative structure, no discernible educational goals, and only the vaguest form of curriculum.

The first problem was to determine what would be needed in order to establish an adequate system of public school instruction in American Samoa. Then, we had to determine in what manner these things could be provided and how much they would cost.

It was obvious that there was no teaching talent in, Samoa that could provide the basis for an adequate teaching staff, either in the elementary schools or in a proposed secondary school. We would have to have a first class teaching staff if we were going to bring the elementary schools of American Samoa up to anything approaching American standards. We planned a number of new school buildings or school plants that would be necessary to provide adequate school housing for the children of elementary school age in American Samoa and projected the number of class­rooms and number of teachers and supervisors that would have to be brought from the United States to staff the proposed program. In projecting the cost of staffing the proposed new schools with

American teachers, transporting them and their families from the United States, and providing housing for them, a number of problems were encountered that seemed unsolvable.

In the first place, it seemed unlikely that it would be possible to find and import to the islands some 400 first class American teachers and their families and, repeat this process every two years. We were also confronted with the housing pro­blem. Land is very scarce in Samoa and there is simply no land on which to build any large amount of housing, certainly not enough to accommodate this great number of projected teachers and supervisors. We were also faced with the fact that we had several hundred Samoan teachers, who had devoted their lives to whatever passed for a school system in American Samoa, and that these people were identified with their villages and their culture, and that they could not be just dismissed and discarded. Everything seemed to indicate that whatever else we did it would be necessary to salvage as many of the native Samoan teachers as would be possible. It was also obvious that the amount of money involved in hiring several hundred first class American teachers, transporting them and their families to the islands, building residences and maintaining them in this quantity, would impose a financial burden that was not economically feasible in terms of the resources of American Samoa. Any system devised would have to be viable in terms of the poten­tial of the Samoan economy.

During this period we gave full consideration to the possibi­lity of using television for instruction in the schools. After a great deal of technical study, we determined that it was techni­cally feasible to establish a multiple-channel open-broadcast television system in American Samoa that would serve the main island of Tutuila and the out islands in the Manu’a group and which could also be used by the islands of independent Western Samoa if the occasion ever warranted it.

We equated the cost of building and staffing an educational television system with the cost of providing personnel and housing to staff a traditional system. On the basis of organizational, economic, and academic feasibility there seemed to be no question that, if it could be done, we would have to use a television broad­cast system to establish an effective school program in American Samoa.

The Governor approved the funding of the study, and the planning group began the detailed development of the system. We started with the school plant, and recommended that all village and ele­mentary schools should be consolidated into a minimum of twenty elementary schools or a maximum of twenty-six elementary schools;

and that each school would provide a separate classroom for each grade; and that each elementary school would provide instruction in grades one through eight.

It was determined that the elementary schools must be developed in the new system before we could develop the secondary system. However, it was determined that the new secondary system, which would follow the development of the elementary system, would have to have additional school plants, and would have to provide for all the educational needs on the islands. There was to be a minimum of three high schools in American Samoa and a maximum of four, and, to the extent that it was possible, each high school would be comprehensive in nature and offer a curriculum that could provide for the learning needs of all the children through the twelfth grade.

We planned a television system that would consist of six broadcast channels, so designed so that they would reach into the location of every school in American Samoa. This required some innovations in television broadcast technique.

We also designed an educational center that was to provide for the administration of the school program as well as for the development and presentation of all instructional materials. This center is the center now in use in American Samoa and serves the total educational system.

Another problem confronting us was that of an educational policy and a curriculum to support that policy. As indicated previously, we had to start from scratch. The first thing was

to develop an educational policy that could be understood by everyone involved. Up to this time there has been no such policy. In cooperation with the Governor, representatives of the Samoan people, and our growing educational staff, the policies that now generally prevail were developed and served as a guide for the development of curriculum. In order to be better understood by everyone and especially the new people coming into the system, these policies were condensed into outline form and put into the staff and faculty manual.

In developing a curriculum to support the new educational policies approved by the Governor, we gradually recruited and assembled an instructional, supervisory, and administrative staff from the united States. We selected persons from a number of different states and localities in the United States, and each person selected was chosen because of his background and experience in his particular field and because of his attendant experience in using television for basic and direct instruction.

As these experienced and knowledgeable people began to assemble in American Samoa and became acquainted with one another and with the problems with which they were faced, we developed a curriculum planning committee that was composed of the supervisors, the new television teachers, the best of our Samoan teachers and supervisors, and members of our own planning team. As the curriculum planning committee became organized into a working body, the following orientation was given to it as a basis for a two week period of preparation:



The first requisite to the development of a new and more effective program of elementary education in American Samoa is a carefully defined curriculum. Such a curriculum must be based upon a sound philosophy, with established objectives for the total program, and for each area of elementary education.

It is the responsibility of the Administration to establish the goals and objectives of the educational system of American Samoa; it is the responsibility of the Curriculum Planning Committee to determine the content and procedures of the curriculum that will, most nearly and most adequately meet the established objectives.

The planning of curriculum simply means the determination of what is going to be taught at what grade levels and for what purposes. The precise manner of teaching these things is the responsibility of the Instructional, Department, but the Instructional Department cannot function until, definite subject matter at determined grade levels has been established.

It is very easy for any curriculum planning group to generalize, and to say that we are going to teach English and reading and arithmetic and history in our elementary schools. This is not curriculum planning. The professional, teachers must know precisely what is meant by “English” and what is meant by “English” at particular levels of learning. They must know what We mean by history or by social, studies. They must know what particular slices of history are going to be emphasized at what grade levels, and what concepts of history are important in the development of the elementary pupil, in the Samoan schools.

This same kind of considered need exists for every subject area. The teachers who will prepare the lessons and do the day to day teaching must have a set of guide lines which delineate and define the particular areas of broad subject matter which are to be taught and are to be emphasized. These guide lines must also give specific clues to the scope of each selected subject area at each grade level, and to the general sequence in which the subject matter is to be taught.

Educational television is being established in American Samoa as an integral part of the total educational system. It is planned to be the “core” of the instructional effort, that is, all general and major instruction will originate through television, and the classroom and the classroom teacher will supply the supplementary discussion and reinforcement of such instruction.

Basically this means that instruction in the reconstructed Samoan Schools will be conceptual in nature, and will be concerned with ideas, insights, understandings, and attitudes rather than the rote learning of factual matter.

Obviously the instructional department cannot devise courses and lessons, and develop and produce visual and oral presentations that would develop such concepts and understandings unless there is a defined set of goals and. a prescribed area of subject matter from which it can proceed.

Generally speaking, the educational television system of American Samoa will have two major goals: (1) to raise the achievement level of all of the students at each grade level to that equal with the best in the United States; (2) to raise the standards of teaching, and the teaching adequacies of each individual teacher in the schools of American Samoa.

There is a third objective which is collateral with the first two, but in some ways sequential to them. This is to make even­tually Samoan education a Samoan institution with a minimum amount of assistance from the outside.

Of course this is a large ambition and a large effort, but the entire program is designed to be accomplished gradually, though not slowly. The present schedule ought to see a completely reconstructed curriculum, and a fully integrated educational television instructional program within the next four to six years.

This schedule anticipates that part of the curriculum and part of the teaching program will be underway by September 1964, and that a well organized schedule for schools will be accomplished by the second semester 1965. It will then be a matter of the construction of the additional schools necessary and of the spreading of the television system to all parts of the Islands.

However, the speed and effectiveness by which the new program of elementary education can be accomplished will depend upon the effectiveness of the work of the Curriculum Planning Committee.

In approaching curriculum planning, the Committee has a wide latitude of consideration and of decision. In view of the fact that no effective curriculum now exists and no scientific planning has heretofore been accomplished, and in spite of this potential latitude, the Committee must keep certain things in mind. First, it is not the intent and must not be the result of educational television to in any way destroy the Samoan culture. No doubt the culture must face some modifications as it has already faced in the past.

The first problem of the new curriculum, of necessity, must be concerned with teaching the Samoans to speak and understand and utilize the English language in their day to day business, school, and social relations. The wide spread of English speech may tend to modify certain elements of the Samoan culture, but it will also add considerable measure to the future of their culture.

In planning a curriculum that will introduce English in the first grade of elementary school and carry the development of English as a useful language through the whole school system, it must be remembered that in the television system this effort will be reinforced significantly by the fact that the adults in the village will have the advantages of entertainment television, and adult education television will be made available to them on a daily or nightly basis. In order for them to enjoy such adult programs it will be necessary to develop an understanding of and facility with the English language.

The young children in the village, preschool children, will be exposed to ideas and concepts and areas of understanding which have heretofore been denied even to the adults. Within a period of a few years this kind of exposure will beget a language and a social sophistication that will enhance in no small measure the efforts of the teachers in the schools.

This is one of the significant and earliest outcomes of the ‘television system that must be considered by the Curriculum Committee in determining both subject matter and grade level of subject matter in the schools.

Another thing for the Curriculum Committee to consider is the idea of teaching the Samoan language as a second language, and stressing the correct use of the Samoan language so that it may be equated with English in the early grades of the school, and thus enhance the early comprehension and utilization of English as a working language.

In the present school system, elementary school ends at the sixth grade. In the reconstructed school system, elementary school will consist of grades one through eight. Language will be taught in the first grade with concentration, of course, at this point on oral English. However, a superficial understanding of the Samoan school system indicates that the English language in all of its facets—speaking, reading, writing, and expression, must be taught in all of the elementary grades, one through eight.

In educational television the greater emphasis of the television technique during the next two to three years will be in grades one through six, but this does not mean that grades seven and eight will be neglected. Language arts, and particularly English language arts, will be emphasized in the seventh and eighth grades as well as in the lower six.

In planning the new curriculum, the Committee should give consideration to the fact that we are attempting to bring the Samoan people educationally into the modern world of the last half of the twentieth century, and that this is a constantly changing world in which the total mass of human knowledge is doubling approximately every ten years. There is so much material avail­able to teach in each specific area of knowledge that it becomes an

important function of the Committee to select from this vast mass of knowledge the most significant and most important ideas that must be made available to the Samoan children.

This may seem like an impossible task when the Curriculum Planning Committee first confronts it, but actually if each area of knowledge is analyzed separately and carefully applied to the Samoan environment, the Samoan need, and the Samoan social and economic situation, it will not be too difficult to establish a relationship between these needs and aspirations and the areas of knowledge that ought to be taught.

In assigning or suggesting grade levels at which particular sequence of subject matter ought to be made available, the committee ought to keep in mind the increasing sophistication of the Samoan children and the increasing level of academic achievement.

It is very important that the Curriculum Planning Committee not plan for today nor for tomorrow, but for four, six, and ten years hence.

The Curriculum Planning Committee ought to be an active Committee that operates on a more or less permanent basis. It is very possible that the Curriculum Planning Committee may want to change areas of subject matter and assigned grade levels after they have had a chance to see presentation of these on television and in the schools from time to time.

In the United States we have found that many areas within ,the curriculum and many techniques of teaching have been modified after they have been put into practice, and it may well be that the first approach to the development of a new curriculum in Samoa will only be tentative, and that constant changes and modifications may be necessary for several years.

Subject matter and grade level, as well as scope and sequence of teaching, are often modulated by the techniques and methods that are used in teaching. In this matter we feel that the use of television as a core of instruction will have a great bearing upon all of these factors in the Samoan schools, and it will be necessary for the Curriculum Planning Committee to give serious consideration to this.

In the schools of the United States, many modifications of subject matter material and of techniques have taken place because of the tremendous development through the years of sources of learning and of reinforcement of learning outside of the school situation. We feel that with the advent of television in Samoa for adults, as well as for children, and for the village as well as fop the school, these outside factors will have a large bearing upon what we do and how we do it in the schools.

It is important for the Curriculum Planning Committee to realize that because algebra has always been taught in the higher grades, there is no reason to believe that it always has to be. It has already been proved in some instances by the use of television that children in the third grade can learn algebra as easily as they can learn long division or perhaps easier. Because it has been traditional to teach a particular subject, or some segment of a subject, in a particular grade does not mean that we need to teach such subject precisely that way in Samoa. What we teach, in what sequence we teach it, and how we teach it is something to be decided by the Curriculum Planning Committee and the Samoan Department of Education. We can use what has gone before as a guide;

but it is important that we do not use it as a groove or a fence to enclose our thoughts and our imaginations, and our ability to adapt the educational process to the needs of the Samoan children.

It is important for the Curriculum Planning Committee to understand and to remember that the present situation in Samoan education presents the first opportunity in the world for the elementary educational system of an entire nation to be completely reconstructed to meet, realistically and adequately, the needs and aspirations of its people in terms of a changing and dynamic world. What we do here will not only have a tremendous effect upon the future of the Samoan people, but it will also have a tremendous effect upon the education of children all over the world.

There are several ways that the Committee may attack this problem of subject matter, and scope and sequence. It can follow one subject through the first eight grades, or it can reconstruct the entire curriculum of each grade in sequence. This is a matter for the Committee to consider and to decide. However, at the end of its efforts it is extremely important for the Committee to say specifically as soon as it possibly can:

1.     What is to be taught.

2.     What should be the scope and depth of each subject matter in grades 1-8.

3.     In what sequence should the various subject matters be taught.

The philosophy guiding these considerations have been well Laid down by Governor Lee. The first consideration is for the future. We are first concerned with the children who will enter the first grade at six years of age in September, 1964, and then we are increasingly concerned with all the children who enter school in all of the years after that.

We must do the best we can for the children that are now in the advanced grades in the school but we know that no matter what we do these children will not have less education, but will be better off than they are at the present time in terms of learning opportunities and educational development. Knowing this we have to by-pass present levels of achievement, present grades and subject matter considerations, and put all our efforts into planning for the future.

In conclusion, it must be reiterated that the planning of curriculum must be based upon the idea of conceptual teaching rather than factual teaching–upon the development of ideas, understandings, insights, and attitudes, rather than upon factual matter that has a tendency to vary its validity from day to day and from year to year.

The whole concept of the new school program in American Samoa will be based upon a cooperative system of teaching, using the television technique. In this system we know individual teachers cannot do the whole job that has to be done, that there must be a team effort to assemble and prepare and present effective learning materials, and that the teacher in the classroom must be a part of the team that reinforces the learning and helps to identify the ideas with the individual needs and aspirations of the children.

With this understanding in mind, there is no reason why the Curriculum Committee cannot develop the kind of learning program that will make maximum use of the educational facilities which are being made available to the people of Samoa. Simply saying I can’t do a thing in the Curriculum Committee or elsewhere is only an indication that one does not want to do such a thing. As long as we want to develop a new, effective, and adequate system of instruction for the children and the people of Samoa, we can do it.

The Curriculum Planning Committee was firm in its conviction that in order to achieve an adequate program of instruction English would have to be emphasized as the language of instruction. It was obvious that only very elementary instruction could be achieved in the Samoan language, and that, as the children would come to us in the first grade with no knowledge of English at all, it would be necessary to make the teaching of English the prime objective of the elementary schools. The question was, how English was to be taught under the particular circumstances existing in Samoa. The services of Dr. George Pittman of the South Pacific Commission, an expert on the teaching of English as a second language to Polynesian peoples, were obtained, and Dr. Pittman met regularly with the Curriculum Planning Committee.

It was obvious that some modifications had to be made in the procedures used in the traditional classroom by Dr. Pittman, but these modifications were considered to be relatively minor, and were readily accepted by Dr. Pittman. Our television teachers and supervisors were oriented to the adaptation of the Pittman method to television instruction.

Once a definite curriculum was established to support the educational goals and policies, we organized instructional planning committees in each subject-area. By this time our teaching and administrative-supervisory staff were complete, as well as our technical staff. The immediate problem was to weld these groups into a smooth functioning team that would recognize its inter-dependability, and could develop a technique of working together to implement a program of instruction that would be articulated from the first grade through the twelfth.

In the beginning we had thought that we would have a television teacher for each grade level in the elementary grades and make one teacher responsible for the total curriculum in a particular grade 1 but upon further consideration, this did not seem feasible and was modified to make subject-matter teachers responsible for instruction in a particular subject in several grades. It was then definitely determined that subject-matter had to be geared to language proficiency, and that no vocabulary could be used in instruction that was not familiar to the students at the particular grade level. This simply meant that whatever subject was being taught, the first attention must be given to the understanding and use of the English language.

It was determined that all instruction was to be conceptual in nature, and based upon previously demonstrated learning, and that, except for those areas where some memory drill was absolutely necessary, there was to be no rote learning such as had prevailed in the past. It was also determined that every subject-matter teacher would cross-reference material with other disciplines in every way possible at all times.

It was clear that standardized tests, designed for use in the United States, would have little meaning in the Samoan context. Therefore, in the very beginning an effort was made to determine at the school level just exactly how much the children knew in terms of the English language, arithmetic, science, and social studies. After much effort, it became apparent that there was very little difference in the achievement levels of the children in the first and second grades or those in the third and fourth grades, etc. Because of this, it was decided that, for the first year at least and perhaps for the second, instead of having eight grades we could have four levels of instruction in the elementary schools. It was upon this basis that our original instructional program proceeded.

One of the main objectives from the very beginning was to salvage as many of the Samoan teachers as possible, and to prepare as many of the younger people as possible to become adequate teachers. We estimated that we could salvage approximately 50% of the Samoan teachers over a period of time. The instructional program was designed with this in mind and with the thought that the Samoan teachers would be learning along with the children, both in terms of subject-matter content and of teaching techniques. Each of the new consolidated school classrooms was staffed with a Samoan teacher, but each school had an experienced American principal teacher to head the instructional program, and to actively supervise the teaching procedures in the classroom.

In order to really equalize learning opportunities that seemed inherent in our centralized development of instructional material and the presentation of lessons from a central point, we decided it would be necessary to provide daily lesson plans and teaching manuals for each of the Samoan classroom teachers. Each television lesson was prepared in complete detail, with a lesson plan that gave precise instructions to the Samoan classroom teacher as to what to do in order to prepare the Samoan children for the television lesson, what to do during the lesson, and what to do after the television lesson to reinforce the ideas contained in the lesson, and to help the children identify their own needs and problems with the lesson. It was the duty of the American principal-teacher to interpret and relate these precise directions to the Samoan classroom teachers.

In order to improve the English language proficiency of Samoan teachers, and to help them understand the problems that they faced during the day in the classroom an in-service training session was held at the end of each school day. These sessions were conducted by the American principal-teacher and supplemented by broadcasts direct from the educational center.

From the beginning it was conceded that it would be practically impossible to devise lessons at the various levels of instruction that would precisely hit the rate of learning and general comprehension level of the Samoan children. Because of this, therefore, it was planned to go slowly during the first school year and have a constant feedback from the American principals to the television center to determine precisely the kind of response that was being given to the lessons by the children and by the Samoan teachers.

On the basis of this feedback information, lessons were to be modified in whatever way seemed indicated and procedures were to be adjusted to the classroom needs. To supplement this kind of daily lesson-by-lesson feedback, there was established a weekly conference between the American principal-teachers, the television teachers, and subject-matter supervisors. At these conferences, instructional problems of every kind were ironed out and plans made for the development of procedures and materials for the ensuing week.

In the beginning, when we attempted to organize a total staff for the educational system, we thought it would be possible to salvage some of the American administrative and secondary teaching personnel that had been temporarily employed on the island. However, the first year’s experience proved that this was a false hope because all of these people seemed to have been well grounded in traditional systems and were extremely reluctant to adapt to any kind of new system. As a matter of fact, in many instances they openly opposed the new system and created considerable dissension.

It became apparent that as rapidly as possible these people would have to be replaced with people who were experienced in the new methodology or who were competent in their particular field and were professionally adaptable to new methods and new problems. As the total administrative, advisory, technical, and instructional staff became integrated into one team totally oriented toward making the new system achieve the desired educational objective, the instructional problems began to resolve themselves, and the morale of the total educational system became much higher.

As soon as the elementary program was well under way we started to develop the secondary program. In order to prepare the Samoan people for the new secondary system of universal education, a program of universal education using traditional methods was put into effect at the same time that the new elementary television system went into effect. American teachers were hired to handle the traditional secondary program until such time that the television system could be developed to cope with it.

At the end of the first year of successful television teaching, the second phase of the television system was installed. The curriculum for the secondary school was developed, and the instructional program was established in much the same way that the elementary programs had been established.

The main differences in the secondary program were that the students were to be taught in large classes, and that the large classes were to be supervised by Samoan teachers who had graduated from college in the United States. The Samoan secondary teachers were to be supervised and coordinated by an American classroom instruction supervisor. Each secondary school lesson was prepared as carefully as the elementary school lessons, and classroom teachers were furnished with lesson plans and teachers’ manuals and instructional procedures. In the beginning it was very difficult for the college-trained Samoan teachers, returning to the islands, to adapt themselves to the television process, be­cause each had been trained extensively in the traditional self-contained classroom system.

Probably the most difficult concept that the new, Samoan secondary teachers, returning from school in the United States, had to learn was that they were now a part of a teaching team, and, unlike the situations they had experienced in their own educational process, they were not totally responsible for the instructional program, or for the work in their own classrooms, that they shared these responsibilities with many other people, and that, while their role as a teacher had changed considerably, their status as a professional was in no way diminished but rather in many ways enlarged and made special.

The development of the total Samoan educational system has followed very closely all of the details of the original planning and the results of that are apparent today in the Samoan schools. Where there has been a slow-down in development or a necessary change in organizational structure, all evidence indicates that these changes were the results of human failure and were not directly assignable to the “cooperative system of instruction making maximum use of television.” Where human failure existed it apparently resulted from two major causes. The first, from the inability of an individual to adapt to a new methodology and to a new context of professional work, and the second from the inability of indivi­duals to adapt to isolated island living.

In summary, when we were assigned the task of rehabilitating the educational system in American Samoa, we were confronted with the problems of developing a school plant, a school organization, a school policy, a system of instruction, a system of television communication, a system of teacher education, a system of American personnel recruitment and training, development of instructional._ materials, and the necessity of overcoming a language barrier. The present system is our answer to the challenge that was proposed to us in 1961. After two years of planning and construction and three years of actual teaching and development, the present system, whatever its many shortcomings may be, represents the development of a complete modern system of education that has in it all the elements of modification and adjustment necessary to the continuing development of the society which it serves.

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