Showing posts with label 4500 spaces at PNG tertiary institutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4500 spaces at PNG tertiary institutions. Show all posts

Three Key Questions About PNG Universities You Should Ask- By An Academic

Original post by Lawrence Sause


In one of the recent post on good students being shut out of university enrolment, I provide my take (response) by saying this.......

Let's have a long range perspective on this. Too many young PNGeans will fall on the way side because of space, even those with the best grades.

In the long term we must create space in our universities to cater for those who can come. This will require investment in infrastructure  and teaching facilities and aids, academic staff expansionary and expansion of disciplines. In all my years at the UPNG, I've witnessed first hand the severe deterioration of the university teaching, learning and support facilities not only in UPNG, but also in all public universities. In some classes, including mine, students stand even right to the door and outside to attend lectures, to my great disappointment.

The raising of the GPA threshold for enrolment, often at crazy levels, is nothing more than an artificial strategy adopted as a coping mechanism against a perverse lack of capacity to function given the debilitating state of teaching, learning and support facilities. In the long term, curtailing even good students in exchange for coping, must be seriously questioned. Do we want to keep doing this?

If I were to tell you that about 70 percent of the academic disciplines at UPNG do not have an Associate. Prof or a Prof, would that surprise you? Yet that is the situation. In the School of Business and Public Policy for example, there are only two nationals with a PhD and only one Associate Prof who is the Dean, in the entire school. We are not competitive and we cannot attract the best, remuneration wise. However, there is more to this problem. Good academics who can raise the standard of university teaching and the transmission of knowledge want a good place of work that is rewarding and can help develop their own career. UPNG and other PNG Public universities can't offer that. By the best of standards, our infrastructure and learning facilities cannot even match those in some of the  colleges I've seen in NZ and Australia. So, debilitating infrastructure, teaching and learning facilitues not only deters getting young PNGeans but also becomes the key stumbling block for recruiting and retaining quality staff. How much longer can we continue to impose those crazy artificial GPA requirements just to cope against capacity-related problems in our universities? It's crazy.

Government support to universities has drastically fallen commensurate with the demand for space and the need to upscale and modernise our universities to world class standards. Those of you who have been to UNITEC and UPNG, have you seen any significant change in the infrastructure and teaching and learning facilities in your most recent visits? National leaders including our Prime Minister should also be asked the same question. So I am inclined to ask, what do they see now compared to their years at the university? Nothing different really, instead broken-down halls, buildings, labs and libraries, pipes and sewers etc.

Friends, the shutting out of good students on university enrollment is a symptom of a much larger problem, a problem of lack of investment on universities by government,  which is creating capacity-related problems. So GPA requirements and shedding off good students is a mere strategy to cope.

This leads me to pose several big questions about our future and that of our universities:


Access vs Retention: Statistics Favours Improving Vocational Training and Apprenticeship Schemes Than Phasing-out Examinations

Grades 8, 10 and 12 students are on a long Christmas Holiday - three months of rest and respite. Some are heading back to the villages, others to town and cities. Whilst they are enjoying their vocations, they are sure to ask two important questions: How have I performed in the national examinations?;  Will I be selected to continue to the next level?

The first question can only be ascertained by each student depending on how good they were leading up the exams. Students performance in exams can be attributed to several factors such as how well they prepared (were prepared) for the exams as well as Nature and Nurture. May the best students be given one of the limited places they rightfully deserve.

This brings me to the second question.

Based on the proportion of tertiary places available this year and the preceding years,  96% of Grades 8, 92% of Grade 10 and 81% of Grade 12 students will NOT make it to a tertiary institution this year. By this I mean only the select few will end up in Universities, colleges, vocational centres and other higher learning set-ups. 

Those fortunate enough to continue should be congratulated. They have earned the right to proceed. They passed exams - they can enjoy the privileges (pride) and challenges higher educational institutions bring. And deservedly, they should hold their heads up and be proud to continue. 

What about the bulk of students who would not have continued? What will they do? It saddened me to think that the first year out of formal education, little or nothing is available to those students. What can be done now to take them on board the education train?

It is imperative to note that the planned phasing out of examinations at Grades 8 and 10 will NOT improve the number of students entering tertiary institutions. It will further decrease university access rate (ACCESS), but only maintain the number passing through from Grade 8 to 10 to 12 (RETENTION). 

Take for instance, this year (2015) over 120, 000 grade 8 students sat exams. This number as a percentage of 4500 spaces (at tertiary institutions) is 96%. In actual fact, if the government phases out Grades 8 and 10 examinations, about 120, 000 to 150, 000 students are likely to end up completing Grade 12. The problem of retention is addressed, but the problem of access to higher education is not solved. It remains the same. 

Other factors needed thorough consideration before exams are phased out are the availability of resources, number of teachers as well as primary and secondary schools capacity to hold larger students' population. This exercise, if goes ahead, will put huge strain on schools ability to function.

It was good news to have heard that the Minister of higher education has given out cheques to several universities in the country to expand their capacities. This shows that there is likely to be an increase in spaces at tertiary institutions. But, what is the projection - what number are we talking about in 5 - 10 years time? 

A mere 4500 - 10, 000 spaces would not be enough to suffice the appetite for higher education. For the sake of reasoning,  if we put an estimate that in the next 5 years 150, 000 grade 12 students will vie for a tertiary institution space. The spaces increased (from current 4500) to 10, 000. Still there wont be any improvement - nil. 

For it to work, the government needs to improve university/higher education access rate to over 50% of Grade 12 graduating population. The fact now is that this change will make NO difference as far as access is concerned. 

Papua New Guinea will STILL have Grade 12 drop-put rate of over 90% in the next 5 to 10 years with this change- the same as today! 

So the public statements about phasing out examination has to be backed by some foresight. By this I do not mean make examinations history- no. The public examination system has to be strengthened - made rigorous. Address the problem of cheating. Empower Measurement Service Division. Or, come up with alternative measures to overhaul and make examination processes tough - challenging. 

The question of catering for those who have passed (are passing) out of the formal education system can be addressed by focussing on Internship, apprenticeship schemes and vocational training. I will exploit this in the next topic (Give 'Them' A Fish And You Feed 'Them' For A Day - Teach Them How to Fish) on PNG-Insight. 

Meanwhile, here is what I've posted several month ago on the Key To Addressing Skill Shortage and Grades 8, 10 and 12 Pass-outs


The impact of expanding primary and secondary schools in PNG is damning. Students numbers are evidently increasing compounded by government's tuition fee free (TFF) education policy. 

An ABC report revealed that something was finally going to be done about it (increase capacity at higher institutions). Higher education minister, Malakai Tabar, reportedly  said government planned to increase intake at tertiary institution  which is likely to take effect sooner. (Pacific Beat, ABC 19/10/2015). 

Meanwhile, details of how this would happen remained sketchy. A likely avenue to make it work is by expanding existing resources and infrastructure. It is about looking within, utilising what it has and stretching whatever resource it may have to cater for the immediate needs. By this I mean, now - this year's Grade 12. This can be done. It must be done.

Obviously, PNG higher institutions lack the capacity. Numbers released by the Acting Education Secretary indicated a shocking reality. Over 96% of Grade 8,  92% of  Grade 10 and 80% of Grade 12 students do not make to tertiary institutions due to limited space. 

The plan to increase Grade 12 intake from 20% to 50% is a breath of fresh air, in fact an exciting news. 

At 20%, there are just over 4500 spaces at tertiary institution (universities, colleges, vocational centres and other higher learning set-ups). For Mr Tabar's words to come to fruition, PNG government has to ensure half of this year's 23 200 Grade 12 students secure a placing at one of the higher learning institutions. 

That would mean a further 7100 spaces would have to be created to reach the government's promise of over 50% increment in intake. Surely, It is going to be the best thing the government can do right now. And. that is to increase yearly intake from a mere 4500 to 11600 for the academic year 2016.