Education has a significant impact on any human society because its role is to impart knowledge and skills necessary for individuals to survive by making informed and reasonable decisions. Education is considered vital because it is the pathway for a nation’s economic growth and development. Education systems may not be the same in all countries but all try to develop education systems and policies that would meet the needs of their people. Like education to society is SWOT analysis to Educational planning, one cannot function well without the other. SWOT analysis is an effective tool for inspecting of an organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses. It also examines its opportunity for growth and improvement as well as the threats from the external environment to its future. (Thompson et, al.,2007). This paper serves to explain the importance of SWOT analysis, and examine the meaning of each component as applied in the analysis of educational planning. The shift from standardization to raw marks in Tonga, which I will frequently refer to as the “Tonga plan,” is used as an example to stress the significance of SWOT analysis and the consequences of not applying it in planning.
Significance and Anticipated Benefits of the Study
I believe this study is essential for all educational planners and policymakers because, so often, they make mistakes in planning and create chaos due to the absence of SWOT analysis. It is my hope that this study will enlighten the administrators, policymakers and educational planners, especially to those in my country about the need to use SWOT analysis. It is hoped that they can come to the realization that an effective plan for the benefit of the whole country can be achieved by the application of all elements that make up a good plan including SWOT analysis. This study can also equip themselves with SWOT techniques and knowledge to provide successful and effective plans for the benefit of the country as a whole.
Literature Review: (SWOT Analysis)
At present, most organizations involve in strategic planning which is a way to make an organization more productive by guiding the allocation of resources with the target to achieve goals. Those organizations discover the benefits of SWOT analysis and tend to use it as a tool for their strategic planning and strategic management. This review consists of four aspects, the acronym of SWOT. The four components that make up SWOT are; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in which strengths and weaknesses are internal factors and attributes of the organization while opportunities and threats are the external factors and elements of the environment. (Journal of International Social Research, 2017, Vol. 10). Each component is briefly explained below.
Strengths in the context of education refer to those internal positive factors that are within control and are likely to have a positive effect on achieving the goals. It also includes those attributes and resources that support a successful outcome. The policymakers are often guided through such questions as “what are we good at?” and “what advantages we have?” (Jackson, 2018). The strengths need to be identified because they are helpful to achieve the goals. The strengths of the transition from standardization to the raw marks system plan in Tonga can be clearly identified although a SWOT analysis was never conducted thus making it one of the most confused and discussed issues in the country. The change to raw marks required a whole new syllabus for each subject, this new syllabus was more comprehensive and specific and this is one strength of the plan which was to provide quality education for all. There were also highly-skilled and qualified curriculum writers and teachers to draw, write and implement the plan and the government financed the whole plan. A strength in Thompson and Strickland own words is “something an organization is good at doing or a characteristic the organization has that gives it an important capability” (Thompson & Strickland, 1989. Pg109).
These are factors that can be barriers or have negative effect on achieving the goals. Planners need to identify the weaknesses by looking at what they are not good at and where they need improvement (Jackson, 2018). A weakness described by Thompson and Strickland is what an organization lacks or poorly does. It is a situation that places it at a drawback (Thompson & Strickland, 1989). It is as important to identify the weaknesses as its strengths because no plan can be built upon weaknesses. Those weaknesses that can direct the organization to inefficiency and ineffectiveness should be identified and improved in order for the plan to be effective (Journal of International Social Research, 2017, Vol. 10). Such weaknesses, for examples, are limitation in resources, skills, facilities, financial resources and management capabilities (Pearce & Robinson, 1991). There were many unidentified weaknesses of the Tonga plan of the transition from raw marks to standardization that led to its failure. As I see it, the content of the new syllabus was good and culturally inclusive. Most subjects have more than three hundred learning outcomes but the time-frame given to teach all outcomes was absolutely impossible. It was like trying to make the change overnight whereas, for such a change, it requires enough time like a few years. The plan was not put into trial or given enough time for both teachers and students to adapt to the complete and sudden change and as a result, the first year was a disaster when external examination results were out. There were also no continual workshops to train teachers to the new system, the SOLO taxonomy in which the transition to raw marks was based on. The ministry did not dedicate any time to identify factors like time and resource limitation as well as management capabilities prior to the implementation of the plan thus leading to its ineffectiveness. This justifies the idea that solving the current problems that would cause difficulties and limitations for long-term plans, and foreseeing potential problems are required (Journal of International Social Research, 2017, Vol. 10).
All external attractive factors that an organization can benefit from or use to its advantage are referred to as the environmental opportunities. An opportunity is the convenient time or situation presented by the environment to let the organization achieve its goals. According to Journal of International Social Research, opportunities are factors that would produce positive results for the organization, determined as a result of analysing its environment (Journal of International Social Research, 2017, Vol. 10). Studying the Tonga transition plan, I believe there were more threats than opportunities. The timing was inappropriate, the teachers were informed about the change in August 2015, we were trained for a week only then towards the end of August, the new system was implemented and the old syllabus was used, only two months before the external examination in October. The only two opportunities that the plan had was the collaboration between the Tonga ministry of education and the EQAP in Fiji, experts travelled to Tonga and trained the teachers. The other one was the research that was done, the idea of the change came from a research done on the past grading system which was found to be inappropriate according to the researcher. These opportunities could have benefited the ministry and all students if the plan was done in the right way, that is, following the requirements of a good plan like doing a SWOT analysis.
Those uncontrollable external factors that might affect the strengths and opportunities are the threats. They are the elements that make it difficult to achieve the organizational goals. Both external opportunities and external threats refer to such factors as economic, social, cultural, political and governmental trends that could benefit or damage an organization in the future (Journal of International Social Research, 2017, Vol. 10). The threats of the Tonga plan were later identified after its first unsuccessful implementation in 2015. Economically, although the government funded the plan, it was not enough to provide all the resources needed for the change, there were insufficient resources. Socially, many people including some top officials in the ministry and teachers did not support the plan because they believed that it was way too fast to implement and the sudden change would affect the students. In the political field, most people viewed and are still viewing it as a conflict of interest because the researcher who is also the software developer of the new grading system is the closest friend of the prime minister’s son. It was claimed that the prime minister supported the push for the sudden change because his son would benefit from the vast amount of money his best friend would get from selling the software to the government. All these threats had a huge impact on the Tonga plan, as a results of all these threats, the plan in its first implementation was indeed a catastrophe, making it the most debated and criticised issue in the country when external examination results were out in 2015 and it is currently still a major issue. This justifies the notion that SWOT analysis together with all such elements as reliable data, consultative process and stakeholder engagement in planning are required to make a good effective plan.