A Year In Review: Education and Politics in Papua New Guinea


Every year 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. 


INSPIRED: Story of a young University student who became a truck driver


Updated 23rd December 2018

This story cuts through the topics I've been contemplating lately, apprenticeship and seeking for jobs in PNG. The story of a first year university student who left his accounting studies because he cannot afford the tuition fees.

Trained by a woman truck driver to be a truckie and find job in PNG trucking industry. I liked the story.

If only we could have a wide range of second chances like this, available to many young Papua New Guineans who are leaving school at Grades 8, 10 and 12.

Here is the story as seen on the Facebook group Humans of Papua New Guinea.

“I went to university to study accounting but ended up becoming a truck driver instead.”“How did that happen?”“After...
PNG needs a good numbers of readies and truckies in the PNG Job seeking area. Many well trained skill Papua New Guineans are in the mining and oil and gas sectors at present. But the country also need a good number of skill people in other areas.

Pathway For Grade 8 and 10: PNG Government To Increase Vocational Training Centres from 141 to 325, One LLG One VTC


Policy and documents on TVET
In 2013 there were 141 provincial vocational centres (up from 132 in 2009) and 9 technical and business colleges in Papua New Guinea. The number of colleges excludes Police College, Bible Institutes and others that have opened recently.

In fact, the need to improve Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) was well documented since 2005, evident in TVET policy 2005 [pdf]. The case study  by a Patrol Maino also provided a great deal of insight on expansion of TVET titled Efforts In Reorienting Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) System In Papua New Guinea (PNG) To The Global Economy [pdf, 2013]. The documents gave depth to developing TVET programs. 

These written documents explicitly echoed the need for government (who is the driving force for change) to invest in training at vocational level for Grade 8 and Grade 10 school leavers. Had the government and TVET division of education had done it right, there would be a good number of skilled workers in the country by now.


This does not mean either the government or the TVET division had done nothing. Actually they have done some fantastic jobs over the years. But, what is needed now is to take into account the HIGH number of students leaving school at the end of Grade 8 and Grade 10.


There is an urgent need to look into expanding capacity, finding avenues for job placements for vocational trainees and helping them to find their place in the society- an attractive package has to be developed for them now. 

There are no more that 150 semi funded vocational centres and technical secondary schools around - not enough to take in a good number of Grade 8 and 10 drop-outs. As a result, the TVET division must realise how important it has become of late.

The course work and curricula, workshop practicals, work placement and continuous training are the main areas needed both the government and TVET division of education (urgent) attention.

Government to put the money where its mouth is

Is it too late for the government to take an interest in this forgotten generation? The answer is no. It is not (never) too late. The need to harness the power of Grades 8 and 10 school-leavers is increasing as the number of these young people leaving school increases. If this population is left to its own, the nation will see a generation of unskilled young people who are good for nothing, but burdensome. 

Skills learnt early is vital. There is nothing wrong with the existing training provided at vocational and technical schools. The problem is that the national and provincial governments have been doing very little to improve vocational training in the country.

In the past, vocational training centres where set up to cater for the then Grade 6 school leavers. However, with the structural change [1993], Grades 8 and 10 school leavers have been competing for a space at vocational centres. Recent figures showed that 96% of Grade 8 and 94% of Grade 10 students drop out of school. These group of kids have little or no chance to enter a college, or institute or university. Many colleges and technical institutions are taking in Grade 12.


The Grades 8 and 10 are the ones who are in desperate need for attention. These are  the youths who between 15 and 18 years of age. We can not neglect them!

There is a genuine need for the government to develop a strong base by focusing on vocational training for students leaving at Grades 8 and 10. There is a difference between building a skilled and knowledgeable generation, and merely educating a population. Unless (and until) the politicians and education leaders see this difference, their attempt to achieve any development goals will be nothing but a wasted opportunity.

Each Local Level Government (LLG) to have a vocational training centre

To make a difference is to invest in those 15 to 18 years old. Is it too much to ask? Why not every Local Level Government is task with building its own vocational training centre? Why shouldn't each LLG have its own technical secondary school? Papua New Guinea has three hundred and twenty five (325) local level governmental boundaries. A government focused on developing its younger generation must also have 325 vocational centres - 141 is not enough. A responsible government must build 184 more vocational training centres. This is the right thing to do if PNG is to harness the power in this forgotten generation.


I would like to take a look at Pathway for Grade 12 – what is available for them and how the school leavers can be seen to have fitted into the system. This will be the next topic Teach Them How To Fish series on PNG Insight.

***Knowing how many of those institutions are available is not easy as no updated data is available online or I may not have seen any relevant data during my Internet search to compile this post. If you are reading this, you can do your part by including the institutions that are not available here – Wikipedia.


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