Papua New Guinea Education System: A System Battered Since Tuition Free Policy, No Plan Of Action

The National Department of Education has seen many changes. Dr Joseph Pagalio, Dr Musawe Sinebare and Dr Michael Tapo were at the helm and saw the changes through. They can attest to the fact changes are not bad.

But it is ominous PNG’s education system is undergoing four changes since Tuition Free Fee policy was introduced without clear guidelines. This is a recipe for disaster. It is better to avoid repeating mistakes encountered when implementing Outcome Based Education (OBE). This is a generational change. It must be thought through properly.

Lack of planning was obvious before school started. First, Papua New Guinea did not have a 10 year education plan to date. National Education Plan 2005 – 2014 (NEP 2005 – 2014) lapsed last year. If there was a committee working on it, why was it not out?

A 10-year plan is crucial. It puts in perspective a working plan for all stakeholders to follow. It would be better if NEP 2015 – 2024 was made available to everyone sooner rather than later.

The second change is the change is structure, Two-Six-Six: two years of elementary school, six years of primary school and six years of secondary school. I highlighted differences between new and old structures in an earlier post.

The education system is expecting a structural readjustment – just how this will happen is as important as when it will happen. The education minister mentioned that structural change will take effect next year, 2016. However, it would be better if he stated how NDoE would roll it out nationwide.

The third change is the change is curriculum. Make no mistake, reverting to Standard Based Curriculum (from Outcome Based Curriculum) is change in educational curriculum. It is about changing educational instruction – the way works is done. So, what kind of instruction is changing? What unit (or topic, or objective, etc.) is changing? What makes it different to OBE? How can stakeholders, including teachers, compare and contrast OBE to SBE? It is better to give answers to those questions to clarify misunderstanding, is it not?

The final change that needs taking place is implementation of 12 recommendations made by Parliamentary Referral Committee on Education (PRCE) on teachers’ welfare.  Ganim report cannot be left to gather dust. The education minister has to table this report. Parliament must deliberate on it findings. There is never a better time to hear our teachers’ cries than now.

All in all, since the government’s Tuition Free Fee policy started, the education system has got its fair share of battering. It is time to put in motion a clear plan of action and reward our teachers properly.

Education Minister Table Ganim Report, Parliament Must Act on the 12 Recommendations: Why Neglecting Teachers?

Hon Robert Ganim Chariman PRCE | Inset Education Minister Hon Nick Kuman
The Ganim report is what teachers have been waiting for. It has been completed by a committee sanctioned by the national government called the parliamentary referral committed on Education (PRCE). The working committee (WC) was headed my member for Wabag Robert Ganim, a long time educationist. This report was conducted between March-April 2014. It is gathering dust for 10 MONTHS. His frustration is obvious: why hadn’t the education minister table the report in Parliament?

Here is the report from Post Courier newspaper: ''The WC undertook the recommendations of Parliament which resulted in a detail Report that is ready to be presented to PRCE Chairman Ganim who then will present to Parliament for adaptation when it resumes on February 10, 2015 at 2:30 pm.

The WC Report provides specific policy directions, identifies strategic outcomes, provides general guidelines in implementing these policy directions, set out the monitoring and evaluation framework, and provides costing – about K26 million - for its implementation over a five (5) year period (2015-2019). 

According to the WC, the Government has work to do - in the long term - in addressing the teachers’ problems in these key areas:  
  1. Review functions of Teaching Service Commission (TSC) and Department of Education (DoE);  
  2. Review and define teachers’ salaries and allowances;  
  3. Review the teacher appointment process;  
  4. Review the tenure appointment process;  
  5. Review salaries and entitlements of teachers;  
  6. Decentralize ALESCO pay system to provincial education authorities;  
  7. Adopt an effective and efficient teacher leave fare management;  
  8. Create a leave fare data base;  
  9. Make TSC assumes financial autonomy as a separate entity of State;   
  10. Review process of retrenchment, retirement and resignation of teachers;  
  11. Establish a centralised teachers’ information database; and 
  12. Provide manpower and capacity development for teachers.''

Hon Robert Ganim expected the education minister Hon Nick Kuman to table this report in parliament during February sitting. No attempt was made to deliberate on the 12 recommendations by the WC.

Many teachers will see this as a 'slap in the face' as far as their remuneration and welfare is concerned. Right now, the education department is pushing forward with many changes in both structure and curriculum.

These changes are mounting pressure on teachers to not only implement, but also perform under trying conditions. The report cannot come at a better time than now. So, why are the 'very' people who are supposed to implement the policy neglected for a long time? Why are their welfare ignored? 

Education 'Two-Six-Six' Reform to be Implemented in 2016

Education Minister, Nick Kuman today told parliament that the ‘two-six-six’ reform will be fully implemented next year.

The two-six-six reform decrees two years in elementary, six years in primary, and six years in secondary education.

Once the reform is in effect, a child entering the education system will leave the system after 18 years. However, parliament house was told that the department does not have any plans to change the curriculum.

The matter was brought up, in answer to a question raised by Central Province Governor, Kila Haoda.

Governor Haoda wanted to know the status of national high schools; seeing that the introduction of the 'two-six-six' reform would eventuate in national high schools in Papua New Guinea, becoming obsolete. 

Minister Kuman responded, saying that the status of national high schools are to be reviewed, prior to the two-six-six reform being fully implemented in 2016. Before this policy is implemented, all national high schools will retain their school of excellence statuses.

A supplementary question was raised by the member for Anglimp South Waghi, Komun Joe Koim, on whether the government had any plans to introduce a new curriculum, to accompany the reform.

In response, Minister Kuman asked members of parliament to partner with the department to deliver quality education. He said the new policy is to address the increasing number of dropouts each year.

The minister said, this year there were 19,000 grade 12 dropouts, who did not secure places at tertiary institutions.

EMTV report Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 by Michelle Amba, Port Moresby

Apprenticeship Scheme: Upskill Grades 8, 10 and 12 Dropouts – Government To Fund, Industry Majors to Implement the Scheme

Recent Opposition statement reported in the media about developing skilled workforce in Papua New Guinea cannot come at the right time when over 80% Grade 12 students were unable to secure a place in tertiary institution. 

It is important to note that the K3.7 billion mentioned by the Opposition leader is a lot of money, especially when it is aligned with skill development. Program duration (How long it will take) and checks and balances remains to be seen.

The Opposition said ‘revenue to implement this policy would be sourced from the proceeds of LNG tax, resale of controversial K3 billion UBS loan and the Sovereign Wealth Fund via parliamentary budgetary process.’ [PNG Loop 19/02/2015]

It seems Don Polye, who was once deputy prime minister and treasurer, knows well how much money is floating around in government coffers. This is just politics but there is merit in his statement.

In the early years of our nation (1950s – 1960s) students choices were limited but policy makers can learn from it. Those who continued to be teachers and pastors were able to read and write well.

On the other hand, given the demand for work force, others became mechanics, drivers, operators, labourers and nurses among other skilled jobs. Many of the early schoolers have worked with construction companies like Dillingham Brothers, Department of Works and subcontractors to build the national highway we now called the Okuk Highway. Others started in Bougainville, Port Moresby and Lae during and after independence and eventually settled in various parts of the country.

So, why am I retelling the story of my father? He was a form 2 going onto form 3 but decided to be a mechanic. So he did – he became a Heavy Diesel Fitter Mechanist a few years after leaving school. His was successful in finding a place because there was demand for workers from companies like Bougainville Copper Mine, Dillingham Brothers and subcontractors.

Any government who wishes to develop skills today will have to create a working plan. A plan that would take into consideration the Grades 8, 10 and 12. And, how these young men and woman can be given the change to develop to their full potential. Begin by asking if are there any companies in Papua New Guinea who would want to make space for the 15 – 16 (Grade 8s), or 17 – 18 (Grade 10s) or 19 – 20 (Grade 12s) year olds. 

The key words are vocational training and apprenticeship. How can the Government creative incentives to attract companies to take in dropouts?

The Opposition (an alternative government) must know that with a K3.7 billion skill development plan, they do not have to create lots of vocational schools, or technical colleges of poly technological institutions. It is not only important to expand the facilities and resources, but to secure a working environment where newbies can rub shoulders with experts. This must be done through work placements and apprentice programs.

In fact, apprenticeship schemes are best programs as students are going to be working with company’s experts and equipment. No doubt, companies will welcome manpower addition to their workforce. But they will not want to pay or accommodate as they are companies wanting to make profit.

If a government comes up with a funded scheme, companies may step in to help. Unlike the early years, today there are World scale extractive, manufacturing, agricultural, building and logging industries in the country. Our current generation can be given the best opportunity if the Government creates are workable platform for companies to take in dropouts.

The opposition have come up with an alternative plan to develop skills. This was a call that came at a time when over 80% of Grades 8, 10 and 12 were dropping out of main stream school. Any government-private partnership for developing skill set in those age groups would be a step in the right direction. 

2015 Tuition Fee Free: Is K605 Million Enough To Complete the Academic Year?

I thought I should clarify some points following my previous post on conflicting information from National Department of Education (NDoE) and schools about project fees for this year. The minister for education and secretary has given a ministerial directive to parents NOT to pay any project fee:

''Schools that impose projects fees on students will not receive their component of the ‘Tuition Free Fee’ (TFF) from the Government.

That was the message from Education Minister Nick Kuman at a media conference today in Port Moresby.

Kuman said project fees should not be imposed as the government was paying the fees of students to attend schools.

He said a circular will be issued  by the Department Secretary to all the schools around the country not to collect project fees.

“Every child is supported by the Government and schools have no choice but to allow them into the classroom.

“Any school that imposes project fees will not be given TFF,” said Kuman.
Education Secretary Michael Tapo said the first component of school fees will be made available in the first two weeks when schools resume this year.

K605 million has been allocated for TFF around the country, with half of that to be paid first.

PNG Loop [19/01/2025]

However, some schools in the country fearing Tuition Fees delay have gone ahead and charged project fees to get started. Local media reports revealed that schools in Bougainville and Morobe have decided to do that. This has resulted is stern warning from NDoE’s recent circular:

''To all Parents and Citizens in Papua New Guinea whom your children are attending Elementary, Primary, Secondary, National High Schools, Vocational centres, Flexible Open and Distance Education and Special Education schools : 

You MUST REPORT IMMEDIATELY to your Regional Directors if you are charged any PROJECT FEES in 2015 academic year, below are the names and contacts of the Regional Directors and their Digicel hotline:

SOUTHERN Paul Ainui 72228304. 
HIGHLANDS. Aloysius Rema 72228266. 
MOMASE Joseph Moide 72228273. 
NGI Henry Vainak 72228280.

National Newspaper. [12/02/2015]

It is ominous that schools will have to refrain from charging any fee. Schools that have incomplete projects or are planning projects are going to have to face the reality. The big question now is whether K605 million is enough to get every school through the end of the year. 

Is this money (K605 million) enough? Take a look at this conservative estimate: if the students’ population is 1 million, that would mean that the government is paying only K605 school fee for every child. If the population is 500 000, then the government is paying K1210 per child. This estimate gives you a perception of what a child would have paid this year, though the fees are different in every school.  

School principals and head teachers - especially those that have incomplete projects (or are planning one) - will have to either beg their provincial governments for funding or use portion of TFF to realise fruit of their project. I am being sceptical but are parents likely to see schools closing prematurely before the year ends?

I am of the view that project fee is an 'access fee' that schools add on to annual school fee and passed onto parents to pay. This is only done when there is need for a school project: for example building new teachers' house, running agricultural or practical skills project, etc.

If NDoE is serious about this directive why don't they make it clear in 2012 when TFF policy started? Many schools collected project fees in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Why the change this year? Does this mean the government has allocation takes into consideration project fees? How did they work that out? What is the actual student population? How much is the government paying per child attending Elementary, Primary, Secondary, NHS, Vocational centres, FODE and Special Education schools?

Another point worth mentioning is the decentralised education system. Provinces like the Autonomous region of Bougainville and Morobe have some powers over internal affairs of their education system. This means that Provincial Education Authorities are in control over teachers' salary, leave fares and Project Fees among others.

Perhaps it is important to note that most of the funding comes from the national government. In regard to project fee directive, the national department for education stand is clear. Every stakeholder must obey.

Yes, schools must obey the directive. But, NDoE is not clear on the composition of the tuition fee. Everybody presumes that the fee covers everything. I would be convinced if the education officials and minister give a break-down of a student's school fee for this year. 

Instead of sending out one circular after another, they would do well if they had indicated how much the government was paying per child and what percentage of the school's fee was meant for project.

Misunderstanding Clarified: Project Fees, By Definition, Not Covered Under Tuition Fee Free Policy

There is complete chaos because of misunderstanding. Senior education officials at Waigani and the minister do not know what the word mean or what Tuition Fee Free (TFF) policy was meant for. 

Tuition is often used in connection with 'instruction'. TFF policy would rightly refer to fee the government pays to school to provide a comfortable student learning experience. Tuition Fee  is for funding of staff and up-kept of facilities, including maintaining day to day running of school. 

For example, ancillary staff members are needed to keep schools running. Therefore their wages/salaries are covered in TFF policy. 

However, project fee does not fall under this policy. Project Fee is to be agreed by school board and approved by Provincial Education Board. The NDoE secretary and education minister do not have much say whether it should be either charged or not

In order words, school would continue if a project isn't carried out. But, test would be affected if the typist didn't turn up or A4 papers ran out. Whatever is necessary for daily/weekly/monthly up-kept of school is catered for under TFF. Whatever is not remains the prerogative of the school, school board, parents and PEB. 

Education secretary and the minister can talk about 'not' charging project fee if they are running a school. They are not running schools. In fact, both are running a department  - the National Department of Education. They must refrain from (or withdraw) the directive given about non-payment of Project Fees and let schools decide.

No Chance for Vote of No Confidence? Government Has 54 MPs - Party Leaders, Smaller Parties and Independent MPs Are Devious

Showing Original Party Membership
An attempt for Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) on Peter O’Neill will keep his government on its toes for the remaining half of this political term. Many people think that stability within political parties will have translated to stability for the government. Talks of stability has shifted to a potential VoNC: Is Papua New Guinea likely to see a change of government?

Right now, there is complete breakdown of party membership, especially amongst the three major political parties that came in after 2012 election. More than half of Triumph Heritage Empowerment (THE) party, National Alliance (NA) party and Papua New Guinea (PNG) party members have deserted their party leaders.

Look no further than THE party and PNG party. Their members are everywhere in Parliament from high ranking Government ministers to Opposition, and from Middle Benchers to Back Benchers.

PNG Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (and MPs) Is A Failed Political Reform

Peter O'Neill's People's National Congress has the highest number of MPs (27) followed by Independent MPs (14); Don Polye's  Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party has 12 MPs; Patrick Pruaitch's National Alliance Party has 8 MPs; United Resources Party and Papua New Guinea Party has 7 MPs each. 

It is important to note that the list contained parties and names of MPs who contested under party banners. Many of the MPs who won under sponsored political parties like the THE party have jumped ships. 

Others have joined government or defected to opposition and middle bench or scattered at the back bench, caught between party politics. 

The three convicted MPs are from PNG Party (Francis Potape), PNC party (Havila Kavo) and PUA party (Paul Tiensten). PNG party has also lost Daniel Mona.

THE party leader, Don Polye, is the Opposition leader. His party deputy leader, Leo Dion, is the Deputy Prime Minister. How can a party leader be the leader of the Opposition while his deputy is the Deputy Prime Minister in the government on the other side of the house? 

This simply shows that party politics is fragile and pragmatic with no control measures to strengthen political parties.There is, now, a total collapse in the system and structure of political parties which is a cause for concern. 

Oil Search USD200 million write-down: Will The Company Get Another Cash Injection From PNG Government?

Pic courtesy:
The Financial Review indicated Peter Botten's Oil Search has advised write-down of US$200 million to re-value the company due to the recent dip in oil price. 

This valuation is to position the company strategically as far as assets and equity are concerned. But what needs to be considered is the assessment of government's shareholding on behalf of Papua New Guineans. Is Peter O'Neill misled to borrow and invest heavily? Will the write-down increase share price?

SBE Awareness: English Only - Elementary Schools To Start With Teaching Phonics, Handwriting Ignored Part Two

Commentary - The Education Secretary talked about increasing time allocation to subjects taught at elementary schools. It is achievable if courses taught in Outcome Based Curriculum are slashed, giving enough time to add to Mathematics, for example. The core subjects to be taught at Elementary schools are Language, Mathematics, English and Culture and Community. 

The idea of scripted teachers' lesson plans is ideal during the introduction of SBE. It must be done properly and in detail rather than a brushed work.

Scripted plans must be complimented with worksheets or teaching aids. If the resources are missing, lessons plans are likely to have little or no use.

I like the way Dr Micheal Tapo explained teaching of phonics, though there is not enough detail. How can elementary teachers teach spelling or reading with emphasis on Phonics? Two common  ways to teach early-years pupils 'how' to sound words are either by learning the sound of letters before sounding words; and or memorising sight words. Put together and phonics make sense. 

FOr example, the 'consonant sounds' and 'vowel sounds' have to be taught at stages. By this I mean instead of learning A, B, C, D, E, F, ....X, Y, Z it would be better to sound them as Aaa, baa, caa, dee, eee, faa, gaa..... Xaa, Yaa, Zaa with the emphasis placed on Aaa, Eee, Iii, Ooo and Uuu. 

These are the basic sounds when reinforced properly at an earlier age, established correct pronunciation, eloquence and accentuation. This 'standard' if developed properly and taught rigorously, like in the days our forefathers, will see great results in students' ability to speak, read, write and use proper English.

What I can be critical about is the emphasis on 'writing'. Writing is a skill. It must be developed properly at Elementary school. But, why is not prescribed alongside Phonics?
The NDoE needs to improve on their ability to clearly set out how to teach Handwriting. This is important and must be part of early years learning. I hope the secretary can take this into consideration. 

Another oversight is the assumption that elementary teachers have teaching aid like mobile phones. The NDoE thinks that they can provide teaching resources in SD cards for teachers to use. Using mobile phones as teaching aid has limitations though the intention is good. Some limitations include battery longevity, visibility, audibility and other practical aspects within classroom setting. 

I am for the Standard Based Education. I want to see it taking off. Despite that, I am of the opinion that the change is far from creating an Education revolution in the country. Not because it is a bad idea. It is simply not prepared well - the change must be smart, sharp and efficient.  

I am afraid after 22 years of Outcome Based Education and scrapping of it, Papua New Guinea is likely to have gone down the same path with SBE as far as preparation, awareness and implementation is concerned. 

Read Page 2 of secretary release in line with commentaries in Part One and Part Two (above)


Increase in time allocation

There will also be an increase in the time allocation for teaching of English, language and mathematics. The new time allocation for English is 300 minutes per week and for language it is 300 minutes per week while mathematics has increased from 210 minutes per week to 240 minutes per week, an increase of 30 minutes at the elementary level.

Use of phonics

In the first 10 weeks of the first term (Term 1) in 2015, every elementary pupil will be taught reading and spelling using phonics, a method based on the sounds of letters, groups of letters and syllables.

Elementary pupils will also be prompted to read books that the World Bank-backed READ PNG project has provided for classroom libraries so that every pupil is encouraged to read from the beginning of their school life. 

The DOE has produced new curriculum documents in preparation for the teaching of the elementary SBC in 2015. In OBC, elementary teachers were given samples of big lesson books and asked to develop their own lessons using the language of instruction. Hence, teachers spent too much time developing resources and very little time on high-quality lesson delivery, resulting in poor education at the elementary level.

The DOE’s Curriculum Development and Assessment Division (CDAD) has produced scripted lessons and teacher guides:

• English scripted lessons;
• Mathematics scripted lessons;
• Language scripted lessons; and
• Culture and community teacher guide.

In the SBC scripted lessons, detailed lessons in English have been written by the curriculum writers at CDAD for each elementary subject. What the elementary teacher has to do is simply pick up the lesson plan for each period and teach. 

The teacher will spend less time preparing lessons and consequently will spend more high-quality time with the elementary pupils in the teaching and learning activities. Other resources will also be provided to each elementary teacher and class for effective teaching throughout the year. 

The DOE has re-introduced Shell Books to be used together with School Journals to encourage elementary pupils to learn to read English books at an early age. These are produced by the DOE. Shell books are small readers containing stories, with pictures, from Papua New Guinea. They are written in English and Tok Pisin, with space for teachers to translate the stories into their own languages and with questions for the children. 

These books complement the English and language teaching and can support culture and community and mathematics teaching at the elementary level. There are also DVDs containing dramas, songs and music. There are also SD cards for mobile phones containing songs to accompany elementary scripted lessons so teaching and learning become playful and fun, in order to allow elementary pupils to enjoy their lessons. 

The DOE believes that all elementary teachers have private mobiles phones with slots for SD cards, to be used during lessons as his/her teaching aid. In our next editorial we will elaborate on other resources to support and complement the syllabuses.

Dr. Michael F. Tapo, EdD

Secretary for Education

Standard Based Education Awareness: Analysis of Secretary's Statement On SBE Part One

Commentary - 
Papua New Guinea NDoE secretary, Dr Michael Tapo, promised to update parents, elementary school teachers and the country about developments in Standard Based Education is a step forward. In a first of a series, he has released in a three-page pdf document outlining what is likely to happen and what teachers can do to kick-start teaching. His commitment to 'outline issues and developments twice a week' should be commended.

All elementary school teachers are to check the department's website, as they are checking their bank balance every fortnight, to see whether there is an increment in their pay or any new resource for use when teaching.

Be aware that this change is the start of a complete overhaul in the Education System. A new curriculum (the secretary called Standard Based Curriculum) as well as a new Education Structure (Two-Six-six) are now taking effect, starting at elementary. Eventually Papua New Guineans will have realised 14 years of Elementary to Secondary education, instead of 12 years like in the 2-6-4 structure.

In is reassuring to know that lesson plans have been drafted as guides for teachers at the elementary schools to use. Any experience teacher can attest to the fact that a plan created by someone is helpful, but can not be used strictly in classroom by every teacher.  

As the new trend in our education system is taking effect now, 2015. I am afraid the change takes place with minimal preparation. For the changes - both curriculum and structure - to be successful there has to be proper research and guides.

At the moment we are seeing it developed in parts. It is like, building a house without a plan. 

Here is the NDoE press first release:

The Department of Education (DOE) is now embarking on improving the standards of education from 2015 onwards. This means that standards in the school curriculum, teacher preparation and professional development, examinations, inspections, school governance and restructuring of the school system and structures are some of the many components of education which will be improved by a Standards-Based Curriculum (SBC). 

The department will be outlining here SBC issues and developments twice a week to make the public and teachers aware of the changes.

Various means will be used to improve the awareness of the SBC to be implemented in 2015, including

• Minister for Education and Secretary for Education speeches and presentations;
• DOE officers giving presentations to schools and other stakeholders;
• Presentation of SBC documents to schools and other stakeholders; and
• In-service training of all elementary and junior primary school teachers (Grades 3 and 4)

Structure of School System 

The Government has embarked on free and compulsory education in 2015 and the level of resources will need to complement the school structure to enhance the standards of education and to keep the children in school.

• Two years of Early Childhood Education;
• 6 years of Primary education — Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4 and Grade 5 and Grade 6 and;
• 6 years of High School/Secondary education — Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11 and Grade 12 

Elementary syllabuses

• English 
Elementary teachers will teach English as a subject with the emphasis on teaching phonics through scripted daily lessons. The introduction of English as a subject is to address the low literacy rate in the nation. All teachers will use English as a medium of instruction beginning at this level.

• Language 
This syllabus is important for two reasons. First it will help current elementary teachers to bridge into teaching English. They have been teaching elementary vernacular for many years and the language syllabus will help them to teach English better. Secondly, the elementary pupils will learn English quickly when Language is used to explain different English words or concepts. It is important for the cognitive and literacy skills development of the child, in preparation for reading and writing.

• Mathematics.

• Culture and Community, with science embedded as a subject in this syllabus.

Part two of the commentary will be on use of Phonics in Elementary Schools.