MDG 2: INSIGHT ON UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION (UPE) COMPLETION IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1. Background

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) initiated a Global vision for improving standard of living, sustaining natural environment and living coherently in the 2nd Millennium. Papua New Guinea (PNG) as one of 193 Member States of the United Nations (UN) signed up to this union right after the independence on 10th of October 1975. MDGs 2000 to 2015 had eight goals relate to (1) Poverty; (2) Primary Education; (3) Gender Equity; (4) Child Mortality; (5) Maternal Health; (6) HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases; (7) Environmental Sustainability; and (8) Global Partnerships for Development. PNG’s government departments, and donor agencies, were instrumental in developing, assessing and reporting aimed at achieving the MDGs in the last 15 years. The then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, in his remarks on 2004 MDGs report, stated that performance at provincial and local-levels was ‘mixed’ (Undporg, c2004).

1.2. Purpose of the report

There is an urgent need for the National Department of Education (NDoE) to have a centralized data collection mechanism to collect, analyze and present accurate report and or disseminate to Papua New Guinea (PNG) government and stakeholders. Even after 40 years of independence, the NDoE through the Measurement Service Division (MSD), lack the ability to gather accurate data nationwide. This write-up emphasizes the importance of achieving not only Universal Primary Education (UPE) completion, but also proposes a way to improve educational data gathering in PNG. One of the main constraints of achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE)/Universal Basic Education (UBE) is unavailability of accurate data for developing sectorial policies and plans or making realistic future projections. Key indicators for measuring educational achievements like retention rate, enrolment rate and education quality must reflect real situations.

1.3. What is UPE?


UPE is Goal 2 amongst the eight MDGs. The goal emphasized the need for compulsory, free and quality education for both boys and girls of primary school age children. Primary education, especially the education for children seven to fourteen years of age, is seen as a powerful driver for social and economic development and for archiving other MDGs. (Worldbankorg, c2003)

Structural Reform (1993) came into effect in PNG where community schools ‘topped-up’ to primary schools. Instead of Grade 1 to Grade 6 with an examination at the end of year six, the elementary schools had Grade 1 and Grade 2 identified as Elementary 1 and 2. Transition happened at the end of Elementary 2 where pupils move into Grade 3 and continue to Grade 8 without having to sit any national examinations in between. Evidently, the structural adjustment increased the progression rate from 41 percent in 1992 to 73 percent in 2001 (Primary School Age, UNICEF PNG, n.p.).

The diagram illustrates a standard educational structure by considering existing structures in the United Kingdom and International Education Agency (IEA) in PNG. The focus, as far as UPE was concerned in PNG, was geared more towards the seven to fourteen years old and less on preprimary and post primary levels.

2.0 RESEARCH FINDINGS

2.1. Policy targets in Elementary and Primary Schools

Specific Gross Enrolment Rate (GER), Cohort Retention Rate (CRR) and Youth Literacy Rate (YLR) were marked for achieving in 2015. Policies on structural, examination and school fee at primary schools were implemented to achieve GER of 85 percent, CRR at 70 percent and YLR at 70 percent by 2015 (MDGR, 2004). In fact, the rates were set below 100 percent to be more realistic and achievable. For example, expanding access at elementary schools is directly proportional to GER. The understanding was that if the elementary schools were established in each village, enrolment would increase. Also, within the primary schools, the number of students continuing school to Grade 7 is maintained with the phasing-out of examinations at Grade 6.

The NEP 2005 – 2014 identified enrolment age at six years of age. Enrolling students early, at an age of 6 or 7 years, in elementary schools increases their chance of remaining until completing primary education. Cultural obligation (especially on girls) and intrinsic social norms tend to force students out of school, especially when there is a disproportion in age gap within classroom. This is a serious concerned for students who may have been in their late adolescence and early teens and doing Grades 6, 8 or 10. The table show a projection of students’ enrolment age. Over a third of students enrolling at Grade 1 on 1999 were of ages nine and ten. In Grade 10 they would have been in their late adolescent.

2.2. Pre-reform and post-reform: Comparison of Grade 6 and Grade 8 data

Recent policies, in particular, the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) Policy 2011 has been thought to have positively impacted school enrolment and retention.  However, data from primary schools before and after the reforms have indicated little improvements. The number of Community Schools (now Primary Schools) have increased every five years in hundreds until 1999, but unchanged in 2015: 2224 schools, 1983; 2503 schools, 1998; 2673 schools, 1999; and 2663 schools, 2015. Examination statistics for Grade 6 in 1990 and Grade 8 in 2015 showed 112,763 (NDoE, c1996) students and 120,000 (The National, 6th October 2015) students sat the national exams in Grade 6 and Grade 8, respectively. Projections for Grade 6 population in PNG by 2004 was 151,513, yet population for Grade 8 in 2015 did not reach the target 10 years later.

There is strong indication that after 15 years of MDGs, the numbers of primary schools had remained static, and there was very little increase in number of students taking exams. The country’s inability to maintain and identify the development dilemma in these two key areas could be attributed to several factors amongst them were inaccurate data and lack of policy guides: either way there was gross misinterpretation and representation of data from the start.

2.3 PNG Education Plans and Challenges

PNG government plans on education showed that achieving UPE is a working progress (MDGPR, 2004) and for PNG to achieve UPE it needs careful planning (Richard Bridle, UNICEF, 2007). A holistic approached is required at all levels of education. At elementary levels, the demand for teachers saw untrained teachers, who were educated to either Grade 6, Grade 8 or Grade 10 recruited to teach elementary pupils. Those pupils would have been taught by certificate holders at Grade 1 and Grade 2 were now taught by teachers with very low English and mathematics competencies. Improved training for teachers, particularly in Literacy and Numeracy, at Elementary schools can improve the quality of knowledge and skills (Ivan Ngoboka, c2015) that are being imparted to students early during their education life.

Educational Sectorial Review (ESR) 1991 had recommended the need for PNG to improve access rate, maintain students in school and reform curriculum (A Kukari, c2012, p.3). The report uncovered that ninety percent of school-age students have not attended school, attrition rate at forty five percent and curriculum was long over-due for reform. Several education plans were developed after the review including National Education Plan 1995 – 2014, Universal Basic Education (UBE) Plan 2010 – 2019 and recently PNG Vision 2050. The plans after the 2nd Millennium also took into consideration the MDGs. In particular, UBE was aligned towards achieving compulsory, free and quality education for all young boys and girls - a sectorial policy framework built on MDG Two, the UPE.  The focus of these plans were to increase access, retention and quality by: improving pupils’ indicative rates like the enrolment, retention, attrition and progression rates; improving teachers training and achieving students to teacher ratio of 40:1; improving educational services and procurements; and developing relevant curriculum to be implemented and monitored.

3. ACHIEVEMENTS AND CONSTRAINTS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF RWANDA, PAKISTAN AND PNG

3.1. In Numbers: Rwanda From Civil War To Achieving UPE

Rwanda Civil War ended officially in 2003. Report on Rwanda achievements indicated that they have achieved major UPE milestones under twelve years though they had more to do with reducing high drop-out rate (Ivan Ngoboka, 2015). The numbers indicating their positive story are: 1870 preprimary schools were constructed for three years pre-primary education targeting children between the age of four and six years of age; two institutions offered degree courses for pre-primary teachers, including 13 colleges offering diploma and certificate course in the same field; 9 year free basic education implemented in 2006; number of primary school between 2000 and 2012 increase by 24 percent; in 2013 enrolment figures increased by 68 percent; rate of students who have never been to school halved to 9 percent from a 18 percent; the ratio of boys to girls in school had increased within 12 years from 50.9:49.6 to 49:3: 50.7, shift which saw an increase in girls’ school population.

3.2 Pakistan’s Constraints

It was indicative that Pakistan was not going to achieve UPE two years before 2015. A report on Pakistan’s constraints and challenges summed that the government needs to show ‘high level of political will’ to achieve UPE (Zakar, Muhammad Zakria et al, 2013). There were significant variation in enrolment rate where some parts of the country have rate at 60 percent whilst one at low 39 percent. A constitutional amendment in 2010 granted sole responsibility on policy reform, implementation programs and monitoring. Decentralization of education functions resulted in complacency in many part of Pakistan. The following are obvious constraints, among many, that hindered achieving UPE: insufficient educational service; untrained teachers usually appointed by political recommendation; lack of community participation; Illiterate parents; lack of political commitments; and Poor infrastructure and learning resources.

3.3. PNG In Perspective

PNG’s government policies on education and challenges are manageable and achievable. Correct data and careful planning are required to achieve educational goals going forward. UNICEF Deputy Director for East-Pacific highlighted that if Cambodia, a poor country, could achieve UPE ‘there was no reason why PNG could not do it’. Figures released by NDoE in 2015 showed that of the 120,000 Grade 8 students, 50.83 percent (61,000 students) do not continue to Grade 9 at lower secondary school. Projected primary school enrolled by 2014 was at 90,703 students (NEP 2005-2014). Indicatively, the number of students sitting exams surpasses the project figure, and physical classroom at lower secondary schools remain very low. There was a glaring disparity between number of primary schools and number of secondary schools. In the same year (2015), there were 2263 primary schools and 256 secondary schools. In view of these figures, it appears that infrastructural development does not catch up with population growth.


To fulfill policies and plans on UPE in the country, both educational and political leaders at national and local levels need to release that there was need to invest time, money and effort in education. In the   research article Challenges for Quality Primary Education in Papua New Guinea—A Case Study the researchers stated that:

… the quality of leadership demonstrated to lead the educational change [in PNG] has been disappointing. Inadequate leadership at the administration and curriculum levels had a negative impact on the quality of education. Achieving quality education has also been hampered by inadequate funding, scarcity of skilled human resources, and inappropriate infrastructure in all educational institutions (Hindawicom, c2011,Volume 2011).

In fact there is a lot similarities between PNG and Pakistan as far as constraints are concerned. It was difficult to identify a developing trend given limited facts and figures. Whereas, Rwanda had presented a clear case. PNG needs to learn from success stories. This means to have strong leadership in education circles who can be the main drivers in achieving the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030 Goal 4 about achieving quality education at early childhood development, care, preprimary education, primary education and secondary education (Wwwunorg, c2016)

4. A PROPOSAL IN BRIEF: KEY FACTOR FOR ACHIEVING UPE, DATA

PNG has many constraints with its growing population. There is a need for collecting and disseminating vital statistical data. This study proposes that a data collection mechanism is established to address the problem of unavailability of reliable data. To create an independent data management organisation, separate of and from the National Planning Department, NDoE and MSU. One way to make it happen is to create a customized website for collecting useful data for measuring key UPE indicators. This exercise has to be negotiated and made mandatory for schools in the country to comply with.

5. CONCLUSION

Though the achievements of MDG was mixed there were strides made in formulation of educational policies and plans aligned to achieving UPE. There are lessons to learn from Rwanda and Pakistan. To achieve the MDG 2, it is recommended that the government of PNG, through NDoE, implement the following strategies: increase number of secondary schools from 256 to 1500; Expand the existing secondary schools by increasing classrooms; promote vocational and technical secondary schools for Grade 8; develop stringent planning, monitoring and management mechanisms; train preprimary teachers up to degree level; increase capacity at teachers training institutions; mandatory Grade 1 school-age at 6 years old; develop data collection and dissemination mechanism; and reduce dropout rate (50.83 percent) at Grade 8, by setting targets for the 8 points.



References


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