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Part II Analytic Section


6.1 Conventions

Through the commitments the Government has made to international conventions and declarations, in particular those outlined below, the Government has also recognized the following national goals in relation to education.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Papua New Guinea ratified the CRC on 1st March 1993 making commitment to the child’s right to education. Article 28 of CRC establishes that right. Education is recognised to be essential for all children. The article stresses the right must be achieved on the basis of equal opportunity. This in summary includes:

International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)

Papua New Guinea endorsed the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in September 1994. As such, the Government pledged:

Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Papua New Guinea acceded to the CEDAW in 1995. By doing so, the Government acknowledges the strategic objectives contained within CEDAW relating to the elimination of gender discrimination against girls and women. These include:

Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development

Papua News Guinea was a signatory to 1995 Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and thereby, pledged their commitment to the rights and goals relating to education that are contained in this declaration. In summary these are:

6.2 Early Childhood Education

The provision of early childhood education in the past has been left to the private sector in Papua New Guinea. Programs have been run by the international school system since the 1970’s, although relatively small in numbers, and by non-government organisations in the form of a one-year tok ples priskul program since the 1980s

Tok ples priskuls attracted numbers of children. The success of the movement in a sense activated the Department of Education and it introduced a three-year elementary school structure to the public school system in 1993.

Elementary education became a part of the national education system when the Education Act was amended in 1995. It is full time education and involves a one year preparatory program known as Prep followed by a further two years of education known as Elementary 1 and Elementary 2. Children must be six years of age to enrol in Prep and seven years of age to enrol in Elementary 1.

Importantly, instruction is in a language acceptable to the local community and spoken by the students and is aimed at developing literacy and numeracy skills appropriate at the elementary level.

The duration of the school day is four hours and the curriculum is based on needs and appropriateness for each level, the local environment and local culture. The implementation of the program is shared between communities, non-government organisations, provincial education services, and the Department of Education.

The strength of early childhood education

The strength of early childhood education is its positioning within a concept of community. The planning and organisational foundations of elementary education focus strongly on the local community in significant ways.

As a result they are vastly different organisations from that of the established primary and secondary school sectors. It follows that the organisation and management of elementary schools, and matters relating to teachers, require other kinds of solutions rather than simply applying existing practices which have proven to have limited success in the established systems anyway.

In addition, elementary schools are conceived as autonomous institutions. They are not a part of a primary school as many think. Rather they are conceived to have their own head teacher and their own board and management. This is a further strength of this sector of education and is an additional reason for resolving issues through means that are relevant to the community, elementary education and elementary educators.

It is anticipated, in the education reform planning model, that past problems experienced in terms of access, quality, retention and academic achievement of children in community schools will be addressed through the elementary education program.

How many children are engaging with elementary education? The following table refers to Indicator 1 in the Annex papers and indicates the gross enrolment ratio in early childhood development programs.

Table 7: Gross enrolment ratio in early childhood development programs













The data available for private enrolments in tok ples priskuls is not available or incomplete for 1992, 1993 and 1997 which accounts for the extremely low gross enrolment ratios for those years. Estimates have not been provided.

The frequency figures for 1994, 1995 and 1996 are more reliable and point to the fact that there is a large number of children who continue to remain outside of the education system. If there is a trend in these figures it suggests that gross enrolment ratios are improving.

Greater efforts are needed to secure systematic information regarding enrolments in early childhood development programs.

Enrolment figures for elementary education were projected in 1995 and these figures can be re-visited and tested against real enrolment data.

These figures indicate that after a slow start to the reform, which has indeed been documented, the real total enrolment figures for elementary schools exceeded the projected figures by some 4592 students in 1998. In addition, the growth in real enrolments in relation to projected enrolments continues into 1999.

In terms of education for all policy the data indicates better than expected growth in enrolment and it suggests that those students who in the past never commenced schooling are taking the opportunity afforded by the provisions of a public elementary education facility. The following graph illustrates this relationship.

Graph 1

A slight gender bias continues in favour of male enrolments. The Department of Education needs to reflect on its strategies to enhance opportunities for female students at the Prep level.

Graph 2

Significant cultural attitudes against the education of females continue in Papua New Guinea.

The establishment of early childhood schools is proceeding in all provinces though at different rates. In some urban areas, the elementary school is an integral part of a primary school, which is inconsistent with official policy of establishing elementary schools in communities close to where children live. Many are more properly planned in villages in cluster formation around a primary school and most gain support from an education network that includes the local primary school, a locally-based early childhood trainer and a provincial coordinator of elementary education. At times, non-government organisations, such as churches, which established earlier tok ples priskuls, continue to assist with the development of elementary schools. There are some elementary schools that are quite isolated because of the remoteness of their locations but continue on the strength of local community involvement and aspirations.

Early Childhood Teachers

There were 3,182 early childhood teachers employed by the Department of Education in 1998. All of these teachers are in training. The first fully trained elementary teachers will not graduate until the end of 1999 when some 1000 teachers are expected to receive the Certificate in Elementary Teacher Training (CETT) from the PNG Education Institute. An additional 1000 teachers are expected to graduate at the end of Year 2000.

There remains a great deal of expansion to take place within this sector of education. The projected number of elementary teachers needed by 2004 is 15,401 teachers (DOE, 1998b).

Curriculum Development

Elementary teachers are rather specialised teachers in Papua New Guinea. They are heavily involved in the construction of elementary curriculum. The curriculum in elementary schools is made up of three components: Maths, and Culture and Community.

Culture and Community takes up 60 percent of the total elementary curriculum time allocation. In addition to the formal study of culture and community, the teaching area requires a different kind of knowledge from that which is gained in traditional teacher education institutions. Culture and Community requires an understanding and knowledge of a lived culture and the ability to:

Elementary teachers are employed on the basis of their cultural knowledge and community links rather than formal education qualifications. Guy and Tawaiyole (1997) reported that the best elementary teachers are older teachers who have extensive and informed cultural knowledge developed a lengthy period of time.

The figures that are available suggest that large numbers of children are attending tok ples programs. There were some 78,000 children reportedly enrolled in 1994 and 1995 and some 90,000 in 1996. It is difficult to verify these numbers. It is expected that as elementary education programs become established that tok ples enrolments will decline and elementary enrolments will increase substantially. There is some evidence in the following table that this is occurring.

Table 8: Growth in elementary schools and enrolment numbers (1995-1999)





Number of provinces





Number of schools





Number of classes





Number of teachers





Number of students





Source: FMU, Department of Education 1999

Despite these drawbacks, the early evidence indicates that the number of children taking advantage of early childhood education programs has significantly increased during the past ten years.

The effectivenesss of the elementary program is difficult to assess. Early work in the 1980s in relation to the tok ples programs in the North Solomons province suggests that children who become literate in their first language do better in grade 6 exams than those children who did not attend a priskul (Kemelfield 1985). The present elementary program is a recent event and children are only now beginning to move into bridging to English classes. It will be a further four years before they complete the eight-year cycle of basic education.

The tabulated data in relation to Indicator 1 in the Annex papers shows rather high gross enrolment rates. Tok ples priskul staffs take the view that children of any age can attend a priskul. It is not uncommon to find a considerable range of ages in tok ples priskuls from five up to twelve especially in rural areas. The majority of elementary schools are located in rural and semi-rural environments.

The early evidence suggest that elementary schools will take over the good work of the tok ples priskul movement. Elementary student enrolment numbers are increasing rapidly and teachers are in training.

The constraints at this stage remain in:

Elementary education is followed by six years of primary education that provides basic education for all children up to grade 8 within their local communities. The relocation of grades 1 and 2 to the elementary schools and grades 7 and 8 to the primary schools significantly reduces the overall unit costs of education.

6.3 Primary Education

Primary education begins at grade 3 and finishes in grade 8 catering for the 9 to 14 year age group.

The introduction of elementary schools in the village frees classroom space and other facilities within the primary schools. This allows for the relocation of Grades 7 and 8 classes from the high schools. There is no great increase in either in either the enrolments or number of teachers in the primary schools over the plan period. Six years of primary education will be provided through to Grade 8. It is hoped that this will help overcome the problem of the loss of students, particularly girls, from the system after Grade 6. To improve the quality and relevance of education, the primary curriculum will become ore subject-specific and a strong vocational component will be developed for the upper grades as part of a Curriculum Reform Project. A new examination system has been formulated for graduation from Grade 8 that also enables selection for Grades 9 through to 12 to take place. Teachers currently within the system will be offered the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications to diploma level through an in-service program. New graduates from the teachers’ colleges will be diploma holders equipped to teach in the upper primary grades.

The facilities freed up by the relocation of the Grade 7 and 8 classes will be used in one of two ways. In the majority of schools there will be an immediate increase in the number of Grade 9 and 10 places – up to double in most cases. At the same time Grades 11 and 12 will be developed at selected schools. It is a government objective to have one such school in each province. Secondary education will therefore consist of four years – Grades 9 to 12. There will be no great increase in either the enrolments or number of teachers in the secondary schools over the plan period. However, additional teachers will be trained to fully localise the teaching force. The University of Papua New Guinea will be requested to develop programs for the upgrading of existing secondary school teachers.

The curriculum will be broadened to include more technical, agricultural, commercial and scientific content. Vocational centres will become part of the secondary system. Open and distance learning will provide an alternative opportunity for secondary education.

The net effect of all this on schooling will be greatly increased access at all grades. The major expenditures required will be the upgrading of facilities and provision of materials at the primary and secondary levels, and the cost of elementary school teacher salaries. The unit costs of education in Grades 7 through to 12 will be reduced through the increased enrolments utilising facilities at existing primary and provincial high schools. This reduction is further enhanced by the almost complete abolition of boarding students in Grades 7 and 8.

Expansion is designed to avoid mistakes in the critical areas of capital and teacher costs. The long-term sustainability of projects and the absorption of the extra costs into the recurrent budget will be important concerns for government. This plan focuses on the improvement of management of the student flow between grades and includes basic technical education and teacher training, consolidation of facilities through developmental maintenance, and new capital programs.

Assessing primary Education

Improving Access

Graph 3

 The above graph indicates that there were 421,262 children enrolled for eight years of basic education from Elementary 1 to Grade 8 of education in 1991. The figure increased to 600,458 by 1997. The actual enrolment has exceeded the projected target for 1997 which was set at 565,115 (AusAID, 1995).

This represents a larger growth rate in primary school participation than the natural population increase.

Student numbers have increased dramatically and the projected figures from the DOE indicate that this growth will continue. Population growth is increasing at a rate of 2.3 percent per annum in Papua New Guinea. According to Waiko (DOE, 1998a:5), the capacity of the previous education system would only provide school places for 1.3 percent growth a year or some 186,000 students by 2004. The remaining 1 percent of growth in student numbers would be excluded from participating in education. The previous education structures simply could not cope with the projected growth.

Under the reform, however, it is estimated that some 458,000 students will be added to the education system by 2004. This means that almost 300,000 students, who otherwise would not have gone to school, will attend school under the reform process. This represents a significant growth rate of some 7.2 percent per annum in the education sector.

The growth in approved teacher positions since 1994 has been in the order of seven percent consistent with the growth in student numbers.

Despite these gains, a large withdrawal rate at the primary school level continues. Some 57,788 students enrolled in grades 1 to 7 in 1998 did not return to school to enroll in grades 2 to 8 in 1999. This is a significant problem and of concern to the Department of Education. It has commenced an awareness program to inform parents of the value and need for an educated population even if formal sector employment opportunities, so much the expected outcome of education for students and parents, are no longer there.

Implementation Issues

Grades 7 and 8 have been moved from high schools into the primary school structure. In so doing, the grade 6 selection exam loses much of its importance. There will be no need for such an exam before long as provinces intend to enrol all students completing grade 6 and in grade 7. But already the numbers are impressive. Some 34,744 students enrolled in grade 7 in 1997 in comparison to just 17,855 in 1992.

The removal of grades 7 and 8 to the primary sector opens up the capacity of secondary schools to enrol students in grades 9 to 12 with little increased infrastructure development required. It is planned that 50% of students completing grading 8 will continue on to grade 9 in a secondary school. Of those, some 30% completing grade 10 will enrol in grade 11. In 1992, enrolments in grade 12 were 1,005. In 1999, they are expected to be nearly 3,000. These increasing enrolment figures represent significant improvements in the education system.

The implementation of a full primary education program is designed to take 10 years. Grade 7 and 8 children will still be enrolled in existing high schools until full implementation is achieved. Infrastructure development will be required in the early years until the introduction of the elementary sector frees up school facilities for the new Grades 7 and 8 classes.

Improving equity

The second objective of the reform is to improve equity in enrolments. Females and children in isolated areas have relatively poor participation rates in education compared to males and urban dwellers. In addition, some provinces have been less successful than others in providing education for a large number of children.

This objective is a little harder to measure. We do know that female participation has improved somewhat although slower than expected. In 1992, for instance, the year before the introduction of the reform, females made up 39.9% of grade 7 enrolments. In 1997, they made up to 42.3% of enrolments in grade 7. This is encouraging but it does not tell the full story. From 1992 to 1997, female enrolments increased by 48.4% whereas male enrolments increased by 53.5%. Female enrolments are increasing but male enrolments continue to grow in larger numbers.

The equity issues in relation to remoteness are difficult to assess. The information is not available to fully understand what is happening in relation to the education choices of people from remote areas of the country.

Improving quality

The third objective of the education reform is to improve the quality of education and what happens within schools. This is a very difficult area to understand without extensive investigation but there is some evidence available that quality improvements can be expected over the next five years.

There are a number of donor assisted projects which target quality in education such as the Elementary Teacher Education Support Project, the Primary and Secondary Teacher Education Project, the Curriculum Reform Implementation Project, the Institutional Strengthening Project all supported by AusAID. The World Bank has continued its long term role in the country and the European Union supports infrastructure development. The Japanese, German and Chinese governments continue to assist with the development of high schools and vocational training throughout the country. The benefits from many of these initiatives will not be fully understood for several years yet.

The Department of Education has developed 34 qualitative indicators to measure the quality of what takes place in schools. There are obvious areas such as providing all students with a complete set of texts for use in the classroom, the development of school library facilities at the primary school level and the availability of advisory visits from inspectors and curriculum officers.

The greatest single factor affecting quality is the teacher. The provision of pre-service and in-service opportunities for teachers are important indicators, but for some children, the presence of a teacher in the classroom would be a welcomed bonus. It is common knowledge that some teachers absent themselves from classrooms regularly and without authority. There were 26,649 Teaching Service Commission approved positions in 1998, but only 21,100 were filled in that year. The Department of Education questions that so many teachers are needed but nonetheless they are approved Teaching Service Commission positions. These figures vary from province to province. For instance, Eng had 542 unfilled teacher positions: there was a shortfall of 713 teachers in the Southern Highlands, 302 in West New Britain, 345 in Madang and 42 teachers in NCD in 1998. All provinces had unfilled positions. One wonders what the improvement in terms of quality might be were all teachers professional in outlook and all positions filled.

The majority of new teachers now possess grade 12 and they still study at a tertiary institution for at least three years. Secondary teachers train for four years. The content and intensity of their courses has recently been upgraded. Teachers spend several hours each night preparing for the following days lessons and have the responsibility of look after several hundred children on a daily basis. They will be expected to participate in in-service activities (although they may not be widely available). The curriculum is expanding. Teacher, more and more, have to take responsibility for curricular decisions and are expected to impose even more stringent assessment activities within the classroom. Teachers in isolated areas are on duty 24 hours of the day. They are more accountable, and the focus is on the performance of the individual teacher and individual students.

The status of teaching is low and there are few incentives for young people to enter teaching or for those in the system to remain within it. They are expected to undertake heavy workloads for the same salary as a public servant, who usually has less responsibility and who may, or may not, have comparable tertiary qualifications.

Allowances are provided for teachers to work in remote schools. The Rural Remote Disadvantaged School Allowance, for instance, was set at K200 per year in 1983 to attract teachers to isolated schools. That was a breakthrough. The only problem for teachers, the education departments, is that the allowance remains at K200 per year in 1999. Similarly, housing allowances, paid to teachers at rates between K1.30 and K7.00 per fortnight provide little incentive to remain within the profession.

An extensive review of teacher salaries and conditions was completed by an independent research organisation on behalf of the Papua New Guinea Teachers’ Association (National Research Institute, 1999). The review provides evidence in relation to the lack of salary relativity for teachers to other occupations, increasing productivity by teachers, and outdated allowances and argues for substantial increases in salaries and allowances in order to attract and retain good teachers.

Apparent intake rate

The apparent intake rates (Indicator 3) shown in the accompanying Annex papers are rather high which points to two difficulties:

the school entrance age population figures are projections based on the last national census completed in Papua New Guinea in 1990;

the Department of Education continues to enroll many overage children in schools. This is a result of the remoteness of villages and schools and that many primary schools are forced to operate on biennial and triennial intakes because of the low population figures in remote areas; and

the strategy to introduce multigrade teaching to overcome this intake practice has not been effective. Multigrade grouping is viewed more as an expediency to overcome a teacher shortage and as soon as a replacement is found, the school returns to conventional classroom teaching.

Net intake rate

It is not possible to calculate Indicator 4 because of the unavailability of age specific data of children entering grade 1 in Papua New Guinea.

Gross enrolment ratio

The gross enrolment rates (Indicator 5) are much lower than the apparent intake rate and reflect more closely the reality of school participation in Papua New Guinea.

It must be noted that the ratios are calculated on the age group 7-14. This is different to the usual practice of the Department of Education, which calculates gross enrolment ratios on the 6-12 year old age group. This is the age group that represents the pre-reform basic education structure grades 1 to grade 6.

The 7-14 year old age grouping has been used because basic education now extends to grade 8 under the reform and no longer ceases at grade 6.

The current and projected enrolments are impressive for they indicate the substantial increase in student numbers in all grades.

But the enrolment data are also impressive for the number of students who fail to complete a basic education cycle or progress to upper secondary education in Papua New Guinea. For example:

Some 87,495 children withdrew from the education system from 1997 to 1998.

Some 31,427 students withdrew from the three upper primary years of education (grades 6-8) from 1997 to 1998:

Some 110,496 children of the 1994-2004 cohort will withdraw from school; and

Some 100,832 children of the 1995-2005 cohort will withdraw from school.

Net enrolment ratio

Age specific data is unavailable and Indicator 6 in relation to this study could not be calculated as a result.

Teacher qualifications and certification

Indicators 9 and 10 relate to the qualifications and registration requirements for teachers.

The training of primary teachers has been upgraded in Papua New Guinea over the past ten years.

All primary and community teachers have at least a two-year certificate in teaching from a recognized teacher education institution. In 1993, the primary teaching qualification was extended to a three-year diploma qualification and grade 12 is the minimum education entry education requirement for admission to a primary teachers’ college.

The tabulated data in the Annex papers indicate that all primary teachers are qualified and are registered through a systematic inspection system in the first year of teaching.

Staff student ratio

The Department of Education (DOE, 1975a:15) has sought to increase class size as a reform objective because it has held the view that class sizes were in fact too small prior

 to the reform initiative. The effect of this is to reduce teacher numbers and the cost of education. Reform targets indicate that the student-teacher ratio across the country are set at 1:30 in elementary schools, 1:40 in primary and lower secondary schools and 1:30 at upper secondary school level.

Particularly important in this regard has been the recognition of the opportunity to regroup classes at the beginning of Primary Grades 3 and 6. If in 1993, Grade 3 places had been regrouped to average 40, compared with their actual average of 32, then up to 500 teaching positions out of 2,500 (25 percent) could have been saved.

The above graph represents Indicator 11 in this study. The present national teacher student ratio is 1:34.4. The data is presented in the Annex papers.

National averages hide the many variations in student-teacher ratios between provinces and also within provinces. The present situation is characterized by worrying disparities between the provinces. Student-teacher ratios range from the low 20s in Manus to 40 or more in the National Capital District (NCD).

The following data is supplied by the Department of Education and suggests a slightly lower national ratio.

Table 9: Teacher-student ratios 1999

 Province/ Primary (grade 1-8) / Grade 7& 8 Secondary

Western 31.1 20 21.0

Gulf 35.6 37 31.4

NCD 35.7 32 25.5

Central 33.1 25 22.1

Milne Bay 30.3 19 21.4

Oro 37.5 20 28.3

SHP 36.8 18 37.0

EHP 35.6 25 35.3

Simbu 33.2 23 20.5

WHP 34.1 17 24.7

Enga 38.3 30 26.7

Morobe 34.2 19 28.3

Madang 34.3 36 20.8

Sandaun 27.6 N/A 23.0

ESP 34.6 24 29.0

Manus 24.2 21 24.2

New Ireland 25.4 21 24.3

ENB 32.5 33 22.7

WNB 31.5 24 19.9

North Solomons 31.0 28 23.2

Kiunga/Lake Murray34.4 34 25.5

Country Average 33.4 24 25.4

 Source: FMU, Department of Education, 1999

 In addition, there are variations within provinces. A school such as Wards Strip Primary in the National capital District has four classes at each grade level. The maximum class size in grades 3 to 6 is set at 40 students but all such classes at the school exceed that figure. The school has no physical space available for expansion to include additional classrooms and so existing classrooms are overcrowded.

 Table 10: Class size at Ward Strip Primary School

Class 1 2 3 4 5 6

Grade 2 47 47 50 53 47 41

Grade 3 47 42 47 44

Grade 4 41 45 50 45

Grade 5 43 47 47 47

Grade 6 49 45 41 42

Grade 7 36 41 47 45

Grade 8 40 34 41 37

Source: National Research Institute, Survey 1999

There are 34 teachers at the school, 8 of whom teach at the grade 7 and 8 level, and a total student population of 1328 students with an overall student-teacher ratio of 1:40.

The student-teacher ratio for grades 2 to 6 is 1:45.7 when it is recommended to be 1:40. The student-teacher ratio for grades 7-8 is 1:40 when it is recommended to be no more than 1:26.

Teacher deployment is a significant problem and provinces need to move teachers from overstaffed schools to understaffed schools.

Survival rate

Indicator 13 in the Annex papers relates to the survival rate of students from grade 1 to grade 5. The data indicate that grades 1 and 2 are the grades that are most likely to lose students. It has already been mentioned that large numbers of students withdraw from public education each year. Evidence suggests that it is more likely to be for out-of-school factors such as tribal fighting, inability to pay fees and peer group pressure rather than in-school factors (Avalos, 1994).

The current official data available only allows for the survival rate to be calculated up to 1996. There appears to be a downward trend after a peak in 1993.

Graph 5

The Department of Education must address the issue of survival particularly at the grade 1 and 2 level of schooling.

Co-efficient of efficiency

Indicator 14 relates to the efficiency of primary education.

The following two graphs clearly show the relatively high coefficient of efficiency up to grade 5 but this figure drops substantially by grade 8. The major cause of this is the continuing large withdrawal of students at the end of grade 6 despite the expanded provision of places at grade 7 and 8 in primary schools.

Graph 6

There is a view that the investment benefits of education are less than what they have been in past years. In other words, some parents are spending savings on other investments such as coffee and copra plantations rather than paying increasingly higher school fees.

 Graph 7

 6.4 Learning Achievement and Outcomes

Examinations continue to play a dominant role in the life of teachers and students in Papua New Guinea schools.

Grades 6 and grade 10 students rehearse for final examinations which for most of them are in term three each year.

The education reform has more or less made the grade 6 examination obsolete because, in theory at least, all grade 6 students will automatically proceed to grade 7. There is no longer a need for a selection mechanism at the end of grade 6 which was the major role of that examination.

Nonetheless, the very expensive national grade 6 examination continues for all students. It has been added to by a grade 8 externally set examination, which assists provinces to select students for grade 9 as a result of the education reform.

Grade 6 mastery

The data for Indicator 15 in the Annex papers indicates that the majority of students who remain at school and complete grade 6 are successful and complete at least the minimum requirements for the award of the school certificate.

6.5 Literacy

Youth Literacy

Specific information is unavailable in relation to Indicator 16 relating to youth literacy rates.

Table 10 later on indicates the only official data that is available but this is from the 1990 national census and the data is considered somewhat dated and of little use except for comparison purposes when future data becomes available.

There is some recent data available that points to improvement in literacy rates of youth in comparison to their parents. A World Bank sponsored Poverty Study (Guy et al., 1997) in Papua New Guinea noted the change that has taken place in the mean number of years of schooling between youth and their parents. Parents in Central province average 6 years of schooling and their children 9.5 years of schooling. In the Highlands provinces, the respective figures are parents two years of schooling and children six years of schooling.

The education reform with its improvement in access ensures that youth literacy rates will improve and ultimately the overall national literacy rate.

Adult Literacy and Awareness

In the past ten years, there have been considerable efforts put into improving literacy and awareness levels within Papua New Guinea. Tok ples priskul programs have expanded rapidly, and elementary education programs are currently being introduced in an attempt to reach the entire school age population and provide early childhood education experiences.

Non-government organisations are taking the leading role initiating adult literacy and awareness programs in rural and urban environments and government run institutions are also providing some literacy and awareness programs aimed at unemployed youth, women and disabled students. There are programs that teach reading and writing and others are concerned with the content of literacy programs. Some programs are motivated by political stances and others by social and economic concerns.

It is difficult to get comprehensive information on these programs for planning and funding purposes, and it is equally difficult to discern which programs are effective in terms of outcomes and resource utilization, and what programs represent ‘best practice’ which may be emulated in order to maximize literacy and awareness efforts throughout the country.

There is no comprehensive and continuous record of literacy and awareness programs in Papua New Guinea. There are several databases which are compilations of aspects of literacy and awareness (e.g. NLAS has information on Tokples priskuls, the National Department of Education (NDOE) has an elementary education database, the PNG Trust has information in relation to its own literacy and awareness programs), but each of these databases are incomplete in one way or another in relation to the needs of this study.

It is difficult therefore to assess where weaknesses are, or for that matter, where strengths are to be found. The NLAS attempt to develop a database of literacy and awareness in Papua New Guinea in 1990. NLAS relied on the database developed by Village Services in 1993 and 1994 although it was recognized that there were limitations in that particular database (Department of Education 1995b:11). NLAS resurrected its own database in 1995 following the abolition of the Department of Village Services.

Table 11: Literacy rates by province and sex (1990)

Province Females Males M/F

Western/Lake Murray 60.2 72.4 66.5

Gulf 56.2 66.0 61.1

NCD 78.1 83.8 81.3

Central 61.8 70.7 66.4

Milne Bay 74.7 79.2 77.0

Oro 57.8 67.0 62.7

SHP 20.4 26.6 23.5

EHP 19.5 30.5 25.2

Simbu 20.9 31.1 26.2

WHP 19.4 26.8 23.3

Enga 24.9 34.9 30.2

Morobe 46.8 57.2 45.9

Madang 40.5 50.7 45.9

Sandaun 23.7 36.4 30.4

ESP 30.5 41.9 36.1

Manus 59.5 65.4 62.5

New Ireland 58.7 63.7 61.4.

ENB 72.6 74.2 73.4

WNB 56.8 64.4 61.0

North Solomons N/A N/A N/A

Papua New Guinea 40.3 49.5 45.1

Source: NLAS, Annual Report - 1995

The data that is available in relation to this indicator is somewhat dated. The data required of the EFA Year 2000 assessment is unavailable. The following information is the best information in relation to literacy levels that is available in Papua New Guinea at this time.

Papua New Guinea has a poor level of literacy attainment which is, in a sense, an accumulation of past, poor participation rates in all sectors of education. The average number of years of schooling per adult stands at a disappointing 2.1 years of schooling. The overall literacy rate stands at just 52 percent, but this is unequally distributed on a gender basis and males have a rate of 65 percent compared to the female rate at a low 38 percent (UNDP 1994).

The NLAS and the National Literacy and Awareness Council (NLAC) have been given pivotal roles by government in the organisation, monitoring and financing of literacy and awareness programs in Papua New Guinea. Non-government organisations play an important role as well and it will be of value to understand the structures that exist to support all literacy and awareness programs.

Papua New Guinea is to conduct a national census in the year 2000 and several questions have been included in relation to levels of education, the kind of education received and the assessment of literacy skills. It is anticipated that a more meaningful literacy rate will be available to education researchers, planners and institutions to develop new strategies aimed at further improving literacy rates throughout the country.

Table 12: Literacy rates by age group and sex 1990

Age group Females Males M/F

10-14 39.2 39.5 39.4

15-19 51.0 55.8 53.6

20-24 50.5 62.4 56.6

25-29 45.1 60.7 52.9

30-34 48.8 56.9 49.0

35-39 36.0 51.8 44.0

40-44 31.6 46.5 39.2

45-49 28.0 40.8 34.6

50-54 26.8 37.3 32.4

55 23.8 30.5 27.5

All ages 40.3 49.5 45.1

Source: NSO, 1994:130

6.6 Educational Training Skills

The Unschooled

All the time there is the unaccounted number of children who do not enroll in the formal education system at any time. Links are needed with non-formal education initiatives and with employers and communities in order to reconnect those children and youth who never attended school in the past or were loosely coupled and withdrew before they reach an expected exit point. Strategies are needed to improve retention rates such as a national awareness program, free education, compulsory education, improve school/community liaison, and flexible school fee policies.

Some local Churches and non-government organisations have combined and instituted Half Way houses to assist out-of-school youth and unemployed youths. These young adolescents are taught different vocational trade skills, moral ethics and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Vocational Education

As well as the unschooled, there are large numbers of youth exiting school each year at expected points.

Table 13: Number of students exiting school at expected points 1992-2000

Gd6 Gd8 Gd10 Gd12

1995 30219 3919 12909 632

1996 25794 6187 13517 1101

1997 20534 6983 13470 1220

1998 18074 6585 13048 1469

1999 13595 9284 14565 1999

2000 11049 11041 17980 2569

2001 10474 14985 19977 2911

2002 15209 18211 22336 3167

2003 19402 20881 24066 3367

Source: FMU, Department of Education, 1999

The education reform targets anticipate that 50% of students completing grade 8 will continue to grade 9, either in a secondary school, and the remaining 50% will go onto vocational centers or withdraw from education. The reform anticipates that some 25% of those students not enrolling in grade 9 will enroll in vocational centers.

Table 14: First year enrolments in vocational centers (1994-1997)

  1994 1995 1996 1997

Male 3940 4004 3648 4252

Female 1677 1541 1574 1573

Total 5617 5545 5222 5825

Source: FMU, Department of Education, 1999

The number of grade 8 leavers indicates a steady growth for both sexes. Unless there is considerable expansion of the number of places available in vocational centers or in the number of vocational centers themselves, the percentage of expected grade 8 leavers who will seek to enrol in a center will exceed first year vocational center place by the year 2000. Of course this does not include those grade 6 and 7 students who want to go to vocational centers.

Are grade 10 and grade 12 students progressing to higher education? School leaver and selection data does not hold a lot of hope.

In 1997, more than 10,000 grade 10 and more than 1000 grade 12 students were not selected for higher education studies. The expansion of higher education is not keeping pace with the number of graduates from grades 10 and 12. Grade 10 and 12 students are increasingly being denied placed in further education institutions.

Table 15: Number of grade 10 and 12 school leaver forms and selections (1997)

Grade 10 Grade 12

Male Female Total Male Female Total

#applications 8793 5862 14655 1554 801 2355

#to grade 11 1683 874 2557 N/A N/A N/A

# to HE 849 725 1574 729 470 1199

Total selected 2532 1599 4131 729 470 1199

Total unselected 6261 4263 10524 718 438 1156

 Source: Office of Higher Education, 1997

Grade 10 students are being affected more and in 1998, for instance, Madang Teachers’ College, admitted only grade 12 graduates in its first year intake. Other colleges took in an increasing number of grade 12 graduates as well, and the official entry requirement since 1997 is grade 10.

As little as five years ago, some 90 per cent of grade 12 leavers went on to higher education opportunities. The expansion of the number of 12 graduates as a result of the reform, and the lack of expansion of the higher education sector, means that as few as 40 per cent of grade 12 students will progress to higher education institutions in 1999.

There is much sense in all students participating in an integrated Prep to grade 12 work-related skills education because:

there is no longer any guarantee that grade 12 leavers will secure formal employment or a place in an institution of higher education; and

the largest group of leavers is at grades 6, 8 and 10 and the majority of these students no longer go on to higher education.

6.7 Education For Better Living

The Apia office of UNESCO has facilitated a two year youth program which began with the training of a core group of four young people from each of the thirteen Pacific Island countries resulted in a national youth forum and other activities which have contributed to education for better living for youth in Papua New Guinea.

The European Union is conducting vocational training in building trades for out-of-school youth with the objective of providing appropriate carpentry skills leading to employment in their own communities.

UNICEF, through the Department of Education Curriculum Development Division, is facilitating the Population Program, and this program creates awareness in the community about family planning and creating better and improved family life.

Within the formal education sector, the reform curriculum is developing relevant like skill courses for the primary education sector. As students proceed beyond primary, they begin to specialize in vocational type courses.

Other contributors to better living opportunities include the Health Department and the Health Promotion Education Program. This program is available for all age groups and all sectors of the community. Church groups also have vocational programs and technical private technical and business schools offer life long skills to school leavers who would have otherwise become a problem for local communities had they not been taught skills to equip them for employment and earning a living.

7.0 Effectiveness of EFA strategies, plans and programs

The effectiveness of EFA strategy, plans and programs is being realized by the Ministry of Education through the implementation of extensive education reforms that commenced in 1993.

In particular, strategies to address the serious access and equity problems affecting a significant number of people have been successful. These strategies and successes have been widely acknowledged.

The issue of the quality of education is gaining increased attention at present now that access and equity achievements have been made.

The next five years will see quality issues addressed through teacher, curriculum and infrastructure upgrading programs that have commenced in 1998 and 1999.


The education system instituted during the colonial era in Papua New Guinea was characterised by a number of very serious problems. That system tailored academic programs which were strongly oriented to the formal employment needs of the Public Service and to a lesser extent private industry.

In reality, only those students who were academically gifted gained high school education and the opportunity to enter institutions that provided training for employment in those sectors. Those less gifted were not accommodated by the system. The Tololo Report identified this problem and made recommendations for changes in the system but they were not actioned.

The Matane Report followed and it echoed Tololo and stressed that the education of a child is a community responsibility and not just the teacher in the classroom. The Report also stated that the child must learn in his/her local vernacular. The EFA objectives were that the child must be literate, must learn to read and write in the language he/she is familiar with and that access is available to every school age child to achieve the highest education level as possible.

The collection of data regarding early childhood programs has been difficult in the past. The large number of non-government organisations involved in the tok ples priskuls made it difficult to gather systematic and accurate enrolment data.

The Education Sector Study (1991) reported the following problems:

  1. Lack of access to secondary level of education;
  2. High attrition rate at the primary level;
  3. Irrelevant curriculum that did not meet the needs of local communities; and
  4. Inequality in gender participation and distribution of education services.

Papua New Guinea had opted to review its entire education system incorporating EFA objectives instead of addressing these tasks independently.

Education reform is a new innovation, which Papua New Guinea implementing without any pilot staging and subsequently faced a number of problems. The problems are:

1) Leadership and Management – Since 1990, the National Department of Education, the lead agency acting as catalyst for this change, experienced a number of changes in its leadership.

At the Ministerial level, there have been five different Ministers appointed since 1990. The most frequent instability experienced in this decade was in the provincial appointments of Provincial Education Advisors (PEA). Some 50 per cent of PEAs have been replaced since 1993. This requires further financial and staff development and training programs. These changes have impacted on the implementation and sustainability of policy decisions. Implementers of these decisions were often affected by these changes causing planning problems. These also become impediments for speedy progress.

2) Geographical Diversity – The four and the half million people are spread across the mainland of PNG and the four major islands with different degrees of communication and transportation problems. These make the collection of school data a major problem. Quarterly and monthly reports from schools, especially those in the remote inland and islands, are not always received by Headquarters promptly thus making the collating of national statistics for planning difficult.

Communication between Headquarters and the Provincial Headquarters is often unreliable. Decreases in provincial budgets over the years have been the main cause for this. Correspondence between Headquarter, Provincial Headquarters and the schools is usually affected by these communications and transport problems.

3) Lack of Resources – The Department of Education budget has also decreased over the years. Inappropriate funding has limited the Department’s ability to monitor and facilitate this new intervention effectively. Lack of needed manpower within the lead line divisions to successfully implement Education for All is affecting progress. Coordinated parallel consultation between the lead divisions is irregular causing unnecessary delays. Similarly coordination between the line Government Departments is very limited. For instance, relevant data available in these Departments are not always known or made readily available to other users.

Gender imbalance is a concern especially in the supervisory and middle management at all levels. The work culture provides few opportunities for women to be employed at higher levels.

4) Problems encountered in schools – Reform curriculum development is inconsistent with the Department’s structural changes. The Curriculum Division lacks suitably trained manpower to write different curriculum materials. The bridging classes from grades 3, 4, and 5 require teachers who are trained to teach in two languages and this requires a specialist in bilingual teacher training which is unfilled.

The automatic promotion of students is presenting a quality problem. Classes now have students with a wide range of abilities making teaching very difficult. Teachers’ workloads and challenges are increasing as student enrolment increases.

5) Data collection - The National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat has the responsibility for collecting information. Staff attempted to develop a database of literacy and awareness programs in Papua New Guinea in 1990 with minor success. NLAS relied on the database developed by the Department of Village Services in 1993 and 1994. NLAS resurrected its own database in 1995 following the abolition of the Department of Village Services. Nonetheless, the continuing difficulty of ‘Getting timely information from the field is an on-going problem’ (Department of Education 1995b:11) and remains a significant difficulty in assessing the achievement of education for all. The statistics that are available are usually collected in aggregate form without distinction on the basis of age, sex or location.


Awareness is important for effective implementation. The awareness strategies in place include workshops, use of media, cultural groups, and the use of church organisations.

The Department began awareness programs in 1996, employing radio programs about the education reform, the introduction of elementary education, relocation of grades 7 and 8 from conventional high schools to primary schools and introducing secondary schools to cater for more grade 11 and 12 classes.

Posters have been developed and newspapers carry inserts on basic education and are reprinted by the Department of Education and circulated to schools and communities. Visits are carried out by staff of the Facilitating and Monitoring Unit to provinces and districts to conduct awareness workshops in schools. Students are targeted as agents for the distribution of information.

The National Education Board is kept informed of the progress made, on a quarterly basis. Good support is noted.

Ministerial briefs to Parliament also report on the progress of education reform which include EFA agenda, noting achievements, outstanding issues arising from reform implementation and the future plans of the Department.

The Department’s media centre is also used to disseminate relevant information on the reform agenda through school broadcast programs. AusAID is strengthening the communication section of the Department by engaging a Community Awareness consultant whose role will be to cost effectively, plan and facilitate a more effective awareness program.

Other key players are notably the Departments of Health and Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs, and local Church groups. The Health Promotion and Education Section of the Health Department conducts awareness programs on the importance of better living, dangers of HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse as well as family planning. Radio cassettes, video clips and television clips are available. Funding for these activities came from government and private companies. Similarly, the Department of Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs have also produced a video clip on the importance of bottom up planning and produced booklets on the roles and responsibilities of local level governments.

The sole television broadcaster screens programs on health care, education issues particularly concerning literacy and other related education issues. Local private companies sponsor these programs. The print media includes regular news items on womens’ issues, health and education.

Whilst a lot is being done by various agents and groups, the direct contribution from the government is rather small in comparison.


Good progress is being made given the diversity, limited political commitment and the current economic climate in Papua New Guinea.

The National Education Plan (1995c) sets strategies, which are followed closely by National Department of Education staff to the district education administration level. Twenty provincial education plans, with Provincial Executive Council’s approval, have been developed in recent years. These plans address the national targets set in the National Education Plan.

Assistance from the Australian Government, AusAID, World Bank, European Union and other smaller donors and lead UN agencies has contributed positively to this good progress.

Problems highlighted in PART II section 8 are being addressed. Basic Education and secondary education restructure has increased access at all levels, especially at the secondary level. The high attrition rate in the lower primary level is gradually improving.

The problem of teacher training is also being addressed through AusAID Education Sectoral Programs. For-instance at the elementary level, the Elementary Teacher Education Support Project facilitates elementary teacher training. Another is the Primary and Secondary Teacher Education Project that is addressing the needs of primary and secondary teacher training. The National Department’s Human Resource and Staff Development Division has developed a Diploma of Vocational Education Training for vocational instructors to enhance the current vocational education system.

The Curriculum Development Division has started working on developing appropriate curriculum. A bridging course has been developed. A series of training for grades 3, 4, and 5 teachers have also been conducted. This course is going to be part of the Diploma in Education Primary (Inservice) course. The whole curriculum review is going to be further strengthened by a Curriculum Reform Implementation Project (CRIP). This project is due to start in the next two months. Concurrently, AusAID is also providing material kits for elementary schools, and textbooks and equipment for primary and secondary Schools under the Commodity Assistance Supply Project (CASP). The Basic Education Infrastructure Curriculum Material Project (BEICMP) begins in late 1999 and is going to relieve the pressure of material distribution and improvement of basic building infrastructure.

Overall good genuine progress has been made with support from donors and agencies. Enormous parental support has been a most influential factor since the inception of this mammoth task.

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