A Year In Review 2015: Education and Politics in Papua New Guinea - The 5 Changes That Never Happened


2015 has been a challenging year for our country, both in education and politics. The political policies on education and how the government is 'setting the course' for the future of young men and women is one area of concern.

The O'Neill-Dion led government's efforts to improve education was, in fact, promoted by the tuition fee free (TFF) policy. Perhaps many people have seen it to be of 'some' double standard. On one hand is aimed to skew parents opinions. On the other, meet the millennium development goals (MDGs). 

The balance between a good government policy on education and one of preserving the interest of government of the day can only determined by the results. 

The government and education leaders should be commended for 'a few' good work they have done in 2015. But, they must be reminded that what they are doing must for the best interest of the country - young people first. 

The new year must bring blessing to our people. This can happen through a good education system, which is the one thing that matters the most. Many parents will agree that not just mass education, but a proper education is the best thing for their children.

A proper education can only be a proper education WHEN policy makers, including well-off parents, START sending their children to a - any - public school in the country. Also, an education system that outsiders would be tempted to send their kids to. This should happen sooner rather than later in our public schools.

One area needed much attention is vocational and technical training colleges. Strengthening manpower and infrastructure development at universities, vocational centres, technical colleges, institutes, seminaries and other  colleges  has to  come first. Focusing on Grades 8, 10 and 12 drop-outs was second to increasing retentions of students at primary and secondary schools this year. This must reverse to cater for the large number of students passing out.

One positive the country can take from here is the implementation the 12/13 recommendations of Ganim's report. Despite government accepting the recommendations in principle, there is more needed to be done in areas of teachers' appointment, salary, leave fares, retrenchment and other benefits. Government must remain true to its promise of funding to make the recommendations of the report come to fruition. 

It is time to leave politics out of education. K605 million allocation for the TFF has not been paid in full to schools. The government paid TFF money in quarterly instalments. TFF funds must be paid in wholesome rather than in parts so that school can continue without the need to remind government to pay up. Last quarter of 2015 - the last payment - was not done on time. 

Some schools prematurely closed for 2015 Christmas holiday, like Lae Secondary School. This must not happen in 2016.

I'll end here by summering the five changes that have been happening (planned to have happened) this year:

1) Policy change - Ganim report and its 12/13 recommendations have been accepted by NEC. Funds promised (and budgeted, if any)  must be released for this to happen. 

2) Curriculum Change - Standard Based Education replaced the controversial outcome based curriculum - change that came after the controversial OB curriculum (1993). A welcome change, but more awareness is required to freshen teachers' skills and ability to deliver revised Standard Based Curriculum. 

3) Structural Change (2-6-6) - this change was hinted to have taken effect in 2016. This change is not necessary, if it goes ahead. It would only complicate the whole system. We are likely to see secondary schools taking in grades 7 and 8.

4)  Phasing-out examinations at grade 8 and grade 10. Again, this change ( if it happens) is unnecessary. The education department would do well if it strengthens the examination processes. Reconsiders function of Measurement Service Division (MSD). Makes examinations at grade 8, 10 and 12  tough and secure. It is better to play it safe then taking a risk. Phasing-out exam is highly risky. There is no proof that letting students through without examinations is a better change.

5) Restructuring school of excellence (the national high schools). There is no clear plan. Little is known about what to do with the national high schools at this stage.

My one wish for next year (as far as educating young people is concerned) is to see the government giving prominence to developing vocational training and technical education, as well as other colleges and institutes in the country. It is time to FOCUS on Grades 8, 10 and 12 school leavers, time to give them a second chance. 


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