Free Education Policy In Papua New Guinea

The Tuition Fee Free (TFF) Education Policy in Papua New Guinea was an attempt to meet children's right to free and compulsory education. These sections are a compilation of the PNG Auditor General’s Report on the effectiveness of the management and payments of the Tuition Fee Free subsidy to schools registered under the national education system from 2012 - 2018.

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Performance Audit Report on Tuition Fee Free Education Policy 2012-2018

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1. The National Department of Education is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the development and functioning of the National Education System as well as national education plans and policies. It also supports the provinces with planning, professional services, developing and monitoring standards, distributing school subsidies, and managing teachers' payroll. 

Provincial and local level governments are responsible for developing and operating schools and most school infrastructure development is carried out at the provincial level.

2. The education sector is funded by a variety of sources, but mostly by the national government through the National Department of Education’s annual budget, which pays teachers’ salaries and sends national subsidy payments directly to schools. These payments are in lieu of tuition fees previously paid by parents, which have been reduced over time, and largely abolished through the implementation of the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) education policy in 2012. 

The policy put into effect the PNG Government’s Universal Basic Education Plan (2010-2019), which aims to ensure that all school-aged children have access to quality basic education. 

The Government contribution per child ranges from K100 per enrolment at elementary school, K297 per enrolment at primary school, and up to K990 per secondary/national high schools and technical and vocational training centres.

3. In 2012, the government allocated a total of K602 million to be distributed to schools (in lieu of fees paid by parents) for elementary school enrolments up to Grade 10. 

In 2013, the TFF subsidy was expanded to reflect the government’s decision to extend the policy to cover grades 11 and 12 and include Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

4. The TFF policy has changed how subsidies are paid to schools. Prior to 2016, subsidies were made available through cheque payments to schools. However, since 2016 funds have been electronically transferred directly to individual school bank accounts. 

This meant that many schools had to open bank accounts and register these with the National Department of Education in order to receive the subsidies. 

The TFF education policy also required that school management, that is the Head Teacher and the Board of Management (BOM), consult with parents to determine the best use of the funds. The TFF subsidy is also subject to monitoring by national, provincial and district-level education authorities.

5. In 2018 and 2019, there were some further changes made to the TFF policy. Following the NEC Decision No.208/2018, which gave approval to the decentralization of the management functions of the TFF policy to the provinces, the National Department of Education has signed a memorandum of agreements (MOAs) with East New Britain, Enga, Milne Bay, Morobe and New Ireland. 

The decentralization reforms were made to allow these provinces the opportunity to co-fund their institutions or schools and manage and report on the implementation of the policy at the provincial level.

6. In late 2019, the government also announced a 37 percent reduction in the funding for the TFF policy based on National Education Board (NEB) approved fee limits effective for the 2020 budget appropriations. This change meant that the Government would pay 63% of each student's TFF subsidy and parents would pay the remaining 37%, to share the cost of children’s education. 

The Government's decision on Tuition Fee reduction allocated K486 million to fund the cost of the TFF policy across the country in 2020. From 2012 to 2019, the Government allocated approximately K602 million per annum to fund the TFF policy.

7. With such large budget appropriations allocated for TFF policy annually this presents the risk of TFF funds may be misused, especially where there is limited monitoring provided by responsible authorities in charge of managing and implementing the policy.

The timely release of TFF funds is also a major concern to all schools in ensuring their smooth operations. The timeliness of funding has attracted a great deal of public interest in the TFF program.

8. In order to address the public interest in the TFF program and concerns raised by schools on the management and untimely release of TFF funds to schools, a performance audit was carried out on the TFF program covering the period 2012–2018.

The objective of the audit is to assess the effectiveness of the management and payments of the TFF subsidy to schools registered under the national education system in PNG with a particular focus on the following criteria:

Do the established policy framework and governance arrangements support and facilitate the implementation and management of the policy?

  • Do the data collection and management systems and financial approval procedures facilitate accurate and timely payments of TFF subsidies to schools?
  • Does the monitoring and reporting of TFF funds provide sufficient information to determine if the policy intent and objectives have been achieved?

Overall Audit Conclusion

9. The overall management and payments of TFF funds to schools for the period under review (2012-2018) was partially effective. 

Despite overarching education plans and key government development plans and legislation that supports the governance of the TFF policy implementation, key players identified under the TFF policy to manage and implement the policy at the national, provincial and district levels were not fulfilling their roles and responsibilities. 

This resulted in a lack of oversight and governance to effectively coordinate, monitor and report on the policy in a timely manner.


The Tuition Fee Free (TFF) Education Policy in Papua New Guinea was an attempt to meet children's right to free and compulsory education - tuition fee

Content layout

Executive Summary and Recommendations


Overall Audit Conclusions and Key Findings

Recommendations & NDoE Responses


  • Recent changes to the TFF policy
  • Audit rational
  • Audit objective and criteria
  • Audit scope and methodology
  • Previous audit coverage


  • Background
  • Applicable legislation and national education plans/policies
  • Alignment of TFF policy to broader education plans and legislation
  • TFF Policy implementation
  • Governance and management arrangements
  • Conclusion


  • School data collection and verification
  • Data management system and enrolment data validation and TFF calculations process
  • Financial management approval process and payments of TFF funds to schools 33
  • Timely payments of TFF funds and impacts on schools
  • TFF funds used to pay for administration expenses
  • Commodity components- Teaching and Learning Materials
  • Approval to withdraw TFF funds at the Provincial level
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendation 3
  • Recommendation 4
  • Recommendation 5
  • Recommendation 6
  • Recommendation 7


  • Background
  • Monitoring arrangements and framework
  • Reporting and acquittals of TFF funds
  • Performance measurement and evaluation
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendation 8


Recommendation 9


Performance Audit Report on Tuition Fee Free Education Policy 2012-2018

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