March 30, 2011
It was quiet in the hall as I came in. The National Soroban (We know them better, perhaps, as abacus.) Competition was already in progress and there were only a few students seated at the rows of tables and chairs. It was the end of the class 4 oral competition. Sefo was rattling off numbers almost as fast as he could say them and the remaining few students were mentally arriving at the answers. Soon there was a winner to much applause and congratulations.
This is a competition for class 3, 4, and 5 students from all over Tonga. It is a part of their curriculum. Only the best are competing. Students have come from ‘Eua, Ha’apai, and Va’vau, as well as those from Tongatapu. It had been explained to me by a JICA volunteer at the CDU, Toru, that there would be 3 rounds. One with the soroban (abacus), one would be aural (no soroban), and the third would be visual—numbers flashed on a projection screen. (JICa=Japanese International cooperation agency)
Next the class 5 students took the seats at the tables and had their sorobans with them. After about 5 problems, there were only 20 students left, then 10 (7 girls and 3 boys), then 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). A student from ‘Eua won.
The teachers had a turn, too. Their test was written and timed. (Hey, teachers, that’s some pressure, huh?)
When I left there were students from all 3 classes at the tables and the visual round had begun. After a few problems, I was glad to know I could at least keep up with class 5….