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11.0 Policy Directions for the Future - Way Forward

Future Policies

In the short term, the reform policy is to fully develop cost recovery and cost efficiency targets to ensure filling the resource gap and implementing all of the aspects of the reform.

In the longer term, over 20 years, the attainment of compulsory education to grade 8 followed by the attainment of universal grade 10 education are likely to become policy objectives as the present reforms are achieved and new objectives are established to capitalise on the achievements of the reform. It is unlikely that universal primary education can be achieved without legislation that enforces compulsory education in Papua New Guinea.

Capacity Building

There is an urgent need for training and capacity building for provincial planners and the members of district planning committees to ensure successful planning and implementation of the education reforms. Although all provinces have completed their educational plans up to 2004, there is little understanding of costing and implementation schedules in the actions of provincial and local level planners and decision-makers.

The competencies of senior provincial managers of education and reform co-ordinators to implement the reforms are largely unknown. There is a high turnover of senior provincial managers, and for that fact, changes in ministerial portfolios and political directions, together with political interference in the public service which have the potential to detract from the sustainability of the reforms. Awareness work with communities, in relation to the reforms and community involvement in decision making, requires on-going attention. Indeed, there is some resistance by staff within the Department of Education and provincial educational structures about giving power to communities to decide educational matters.

In addition, the role of the District Education Administrator is unclear and the structures, or lack of them, which are in place to ensure that community voices are heard and contribute to local level planning and participation in education. Great store is placed on partnerships between education and the community within the reform especially at the basic education level. Communities are expected to contribute to curriculum development and the selection of teachers at the elementary and primary school levels and to contribute to infrastructure development for the schools. Adequate structures will need to be developed to enable participation to take place and these are problematic at this stage.

Key Strategies

Adoption of cost effective and cost efficient measures will greatly reduce the gap between the resources, which are likely to be available from government (national and provincial), and the resources required to implement the education reforms. Three strategies are fundamental to all components within the education reforms: co-ordinated planning and implementation; efficient teacher deployment; and community involvement.

Co-ordinated Planning and Implementation

The transition from the former system to the reformed system must be carefully planned and tightly coordinated. This involves national and provincial authorities, together with non-government agencies.

For example, the expansion in a given secondary school of grade 9 and grade 11 places (and grade 10 and grade 12 places in the following year) must follow the release of resources particularly teachers and classrooms provided by the transfer of grade 7 and 8 from the secondary school to local primary schools. Grades 7 and 8 facilities in the primary schools must only be provided after the teachers and the transfer of grades 1 and 2 from the primary school to local elementary schools has released classrooms.

This strategy allows for the expansion of secondary grades 9-12 and the relocation of grades 7 and 8 to primary, through the re-allocation of resources, thereby concentrating the need to provide new facilities on elementary, where such provision can be made at a lower per unit cost.

Efficient Staff Deployment

Given the high proportion of the education budget allocated to teaching and non-teaching staff for salaries and on-costs, policies and practices relating to deployment are critical factors in implementing cost-effectiveness, and in reducing unit costs.

For example, the average grade 1 primary class contains just over forty students, i.e. a student teacher ratio of 40:1. By grade 6, this ratio has dropped to a much less efficient 25:1. The separation of elementary from primary grades provides an opportunity to regroup classes at grades 3 and 6. Regrouping at grade 3 to re-establish a student teacher ratio of 40:1, rather than the present average of 32:1 would have saved up to 500 teaching positions in 1994 in grade 3.

The implementation of efficient deployment strategies will facilitate the achievement of reform goals by minimising the provision of additional resources, other than for the elementary sector. More efficient staff deployment practices will delay the demand for additional resources, particularly teachers and infrastructure, which natural population increases alone could be expected to bring.

Community Involvement

Community participation in education, including school communities, churches and non-government agencies, has a long and positive history in Papua New Guinea. The reform agenda provides enhanced opportunities for community involvement. Given the scale of the reforms, particularly at elementary level, a number of the initiatives to improve access and equity will only be feasible if the community can be encouraged to contribute at the local level.

For example: the provision of infrastructure for elementary grades will require an extensive development of facilities in local communities throughout the country. Contributions from communities in the form of labour and local materials, supported by grants from government, will enable such facilities to be put in place at minimal cost. The alternative of erecting formal permanent buildings will be beyond the Government's financial capacity; the result being that this key component of the reform would not be realised.

When combined, the three strategies outlined above will result in:

•elementary education will provide significant employment opportunities in rural areas in terms of new teaching positions;

                    •significant growth in the required number of teachers for either primary or secondary;

•minimal requirements for additional infrastructure (buildings and related facilities) for either primary or secondary; and

                    •a marked increase in opportunities for education at all levels.

Potential Risks

There are four main areas of risk that could impact adversely on the success of the current policy.

Planning and Management of the Reforms

The reform agenda is complex and demanding and is confounded by the intention to phase in the new system and phase out the existing system concurrently over a period of ten years. A further complexity for planning and management arises from the shared responsibility for education between national and provincial authorities. There is a risk that attempts will be made to implement the reforms piecemeal, as occurred early on in the reform process but has become more controlled lately, in response to inadequate planning and/or local pressures. Such initiatives will distort the integrity of the reforms, particularly in relation to access and equity, and jeopardise quality and lead to resource inefficiencies.

Elementary Education

The planned and timely provision of low cost infrastructure is central to the success of the reform. Delays in the provision of facilitates will result in corresponding delays in the implementation of reform and lead to considerable additional costs. Similarly, the salary levels of elementary teachers are the keys to a centralised recurrent budget. Any variations from the proposed salary scale (at some 50% of primary teacher salary) will have an adverse effect on the budget. For example, if primary rates were adopted the additional salary cost for the year 2004 would be in the vicinity of K52 million.

Upholding of Priorities

Agreement on, and adherence to, priorities will be essential. The risk is that priorities will be changed without clear recognition of the consequences. Such initiatives will undermine the continuity of the reforms, lead to delays in implementation and could jeopardise quality.

Resource Allocation and Sustainability

The resources required to implement all the desired components of the reform are expected to exceed the projected level of Papua New Guinea resources available for education, at least within the next five years. The agreed priorities for reform must be fashioned to fit the financial parameters that emerge and be contained within that framework. The risk is that the flow of funds will fluctuate to the extent that implementation will be neither consistent nor sustainable. Such a situation will diminish the efficiency of the implementation process, jeopardise student progression and undermine public confidence.

As a resource rich country, with tremendous potential for economic growth, PNG will not be prepared, nor have the capacity to inherit its wealth, unless it gives priority to the health and education of its people within a well-defined strategy for sustainable development.

Children represent the greatest asset and security for the future and, as such, they must be central to development planning. Investment in children's capabilities and capacities reinforces the strong links between human development and economic growth. Parents, families and communities represent the primary resources for ensuring the survival and care of the nation's children. Investment in the human relationships that support and nurture children is equally important in maintaining the important links between social and economic development.

Strengthening the capacity of the family, clan and community to participate in development as active agents and decision-makers is central to addressing the situation of children and education. Individuals and communities need to be facilitated with the skills to formulate plans according to their identified needs, and to make choices about their future. Capacity building and training at all levels and sectors continue to be areas of immediate need in fulfilling objectives to improve the well-being of children and communities as partners in development. Churches and community groups offer important organisational networks from which to promote partnerships and identify opportunities for action.

In planning and programming for the development of children and communities, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that 85 per cent of the population continues to live in rural areas and maintain a subsistence based livelihood. Strategies for action must be sensitive to the different needs and concerns of remote village communities, and must account of structural disparities affecting less developed areas. How do children benefit from the reform? Much of the thinking about the education reform tends to focus on the system and education planners are in danger of losing sight of children and the nature and quality of their learning that takes place in schools.

An emerging issue which will affect the prospects of EFA and the education reform agenda is that of relevant education given the significant economic and social changes affecting Papua New Guinea.

Training in Essential Skills

A number of common issues surround essential development:

changing nature of work

jobs disappearing

new jobs appearing

high level of youth unemployment

few youth engaged in formal wages employment

broader but shallower jobs


subsistence agriculture and small-scale marketing of agriculture are likely work areas for youth

the growth in the informal employment sector

further education opportunities tend to go to those who have already received considerable benefits from society

the continuing large number of withdrawals from school

inappropriateness of curricula

the importance of literacy and numeracy skills

expansion of the higher education sector severely constrained

Relevant education

The relevance of education emerges rather quickly when issues about the outcomes of education are raised with teachers, students and parents.

Issues of relevance have existed since the first missionaries established schools in Papua New Guinea. Teaching in the vernacular, education for work, education for changing social and economic conditions, elitist education or mass education, melding traditional and modern knowledge systems are all located within the relevance debate.

What kind of a track record do educators have in developing relevant approaches to education? An increasingly common view is that they have not been that successful. Fast developing social and economic conditions suggest that the focus on relevance will absorb attention over the next decade more than at any previous time in Papua New Guinea. It will require a schedule of necessity for education to catch up with those rapid social and economic changes.

There is a significant shift in the level of teacher concern about the relevance of schooling. Teachers want more responsibility in relation to curriculum development, assessment, selection of students, conselling and their own professional development needs.

Teachers are losing patience that education is mostly aimed at mainstream urban environments and academic skills are emphasized. They wish to see a move away from centralized curriculum control to regional, provincial and even local control. They know that there is insufficient integration with local community and they are conscious of the growing negativity towards education and training. As a result, a large minority of youth is disenfranchised resulting in a large proportion of students who do not complete an expected cycle of schooling.

What needs to done? The delivery and provision of education needs to be tailored locally. Learning and delivery styles, entry level training and retraining, and literacy and numeracy opportunities are required throughout life.

Parents continue to hold strongly to the belief that their child will succeed at school and gain one of the scarce formal employment opportunities. There is some evidence that parents of children at grade 6, 7 and 8 who are doing poorly on academic grades lose the financial support of parents and drop out of school.

A small shift in parental perceptions concerning the outcomes of education has been detected recently. Some previous work with parents by researchers (Guy et al., 1996) revealed advocacy for more work-related skilling at primary school level. It is not overwhelming at this stage but parents will become more discerning and conscious of the number of grade 10 and 12 graduates who fail to secure formal employment or higher education opportunities.

Year 11 and 12 should not be conceived as more of the same. If educators continue to do that then we will find that drop-outs will begin to increase at this level as students recognize the impossibility of their life chances at university and the increasing irrelevance of what they are doing at upper secondary schools.

Alternative curricula options need to be provided rather than the limited offerings from Curriculum Development Division at present. The focus of the direction needs to be forward with strong links into the local community. Delivery modes need to be flexible and maximize new learning technologies. Access should be available outside normal school times. Combining part time study with work should be a common experience for many students at this level.

Students select their programs within a market of possibilities – driver training, selling and marketing, tour guides, hospitality activities, arts and crafts, performance, knowing yourself, languages, physics, chemistry, biology, maths, advanced maths, history geography, art, literature, business studies, secretarial studies, legal studies, textiles, general maths, agriculture, technology, technical drawing, health, general science, graphics, music, media studies, catering, physical education, computing, home economics, tourism, food technology, automotive, hospitality, small business management, small engine maintenance, and enterprise skills.

Directions for training in essential skills

Some emerging principles for the development of essential skills have been endorsed by the Department of Education:

(i) Work-related skilling acknowledges the rapid changes in the kind of work that people do and will do, and the way they work, now and in the future;

(ii) Work-related skilling must be an integral part of a comprehensive education program from elementary to grade 12;

(iii) Work-related skilling must be appropriate for all students attending school;

(iv) Schools must develop working partnerships based on mutual and collaboration with local communities and work providers;

(v) Work-related skilling should have links with potential formal and informal employment destinations and lead to recognition of prior training;

(vi) Generic key competencies are important for all students;

(vii) Some students are better suited to completing schooling at a TAFE college; and

(viii) There should be no imposition of countrywide solutions on the problems faced by local communities in meeting the needs of students. Local solutions will need to be found around a set of guiding principles.

The implementation of these principles involves:

(i) Strategies to change community perceptions of work-related skills – there is a need to convince parents of the changes in the employment market, the irrelevance of much that has been done in the past and for the majority of students, and the relevance of new kinds of education;

(ii) The country needs high quality work-related skills development accessible by all students and ultimately linked to a year 12 certificate which have the potential to lead to nationality accredited vocational and technical courses;

(iii) Changes in vocational center structures – fixated at present on the demands of formal employment sector and trade testing. All major stakeholders must be given a voice and that includes provincial education authorities, communities, business, parents, local schools, students, and those who have withdrawn from school;

(iv) Too much emphasis is placed on front-end education and not enough on life long learning and work place learning. Most people learn by doing and are dependent upon maturation processes. For some young people a more productive learning environment is work not school. If youth are to continue to year 12 then they need appropriate curriculum options;

(v) Government policies need to be reviewed to encourage employment opportunities for youth. Financial incentives to employers to take on youth are not a cost to the public but an investment in the future. There is a need to develop stronger links between education, employment and training at the government level;

(vi) Schools must develop partnerships with other work-related skill providers in local and provincial sites;

(vii) Planning and development offered to a number of select schools and communities simultaneously through clusters of communities in regions/provinces with similar affiliations and language, who are in geographic proximity and have appropriate infrastructure; and

(viii) The establishment of regional/provincial/local work-related skills resource teams to facilitate work-related skills planning and initiatives.

The Way Ahead

The Department of Education has established a challenging framework to provide education for all. The strength of the framework is in the elementary program. It initiates the process of formal education and the kind of things taught, the language that is used, where it takes place and who manages the learning process are vital issues over the next decade.

There is promising evidence that more children than ever before in Papua New Guinea are able to commence schooling and to stay longer in school and achieve more.

The experience so far points to areas that require close attention to ensure that the largest benefits are derived from the education reform. There are a number of general matters that apply to all sectors of education. They are:

The working conditions of teachers must be reviewed and positive steps taken to attract suitable people to teaching and to retain those effective teachers in the teaching service.

The quality of what takes place in school requires monitoring to develop an informed understanding to ensure that the expenditure on education is effective.

A relevant curriculum suitable to a range of cultural and economic contexts in Papua New Guinea must be developed and monitored regularly to ensure that courses, programs and directions remain relevant to the needs of the majority of students.

Adequate funding must be allocated to support the effective an equitable provision of education services throughout the country.

There are a number of specific sectoral matters that require attention. They are:

Early childhood education

The effective training of elementary teachers.

The successful engagement of community, parents and teachers to negotiate and develop an agreed and appropriate curriculum.

Primary Education

Providing teachers with understanding and skills at the grade 3 and 4 level to successfully negotiate the bridging to English experiences of students.

The upgrading of the knowledge and skills of teachers to teach at the grade 7 and 8 level.

The design and implementation of successful strategies to reduce the large number of children who withdraw from school before grade 3.

An on-going and systematic awareness program of the value of education even in an economic climate of declining formal sector employment opportunities.

Secondary education

The development of alternative curricula for the increasingly wide range of abilities of students who are choosing to remain at school.

Re-skilling secondary teachers to take more local responsibility for the development of elements of the curriculum.

Essential skills education

The recognition that like skills education experiences are worthwhile and consistent with contemporary developments in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

The provision of innovative and flexible post-school institutions which are sensitive to out of school contexts and the real world.

Non-formal education

The provision of adequate funds to effectively address the unacceptably high illiteracy rate in Papua New Guinea.

The development of networks and partnerships between the Department of Education land the diverse range of non-formal education providers and other interested groups in the community to ensure that opportunities for non-formal education are available throughout the country.


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