The poor state of Oro’s education standards

Posted: February 15, 2012 in Education
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The crusty old teacher with more than 30 years  under his belt sits on his hauswin and reaches for a buai. He is engaged in a serious conversation  abouteducation standards in the Oro Province. “I’m talking about standards that have declined,”  he emphasizes in impeccable English.  I didn’t say declining. They have declined. John Somboba  is a veteran educationist is known by former students for his  boundless energy and legendary temper. But those who know him also know that Somboba has always demanded the best from his students  and gets very anger when the best isn’t forthcoming. In more recent  years, his ire has been directed at  Oro’s  provincial education division and its political leaders.   He has good reason to be angry.  In 2011,  only one student from the entire province went on to a  higher education institution based on  merit.   It’s a shocking statistic. “Its not because  Oro students,  aren’t intelligent,” Somboba says. The academic results  produced by the students  are a reflection of the disarray  within the provincial education  division.   For  10  years, the standards  and measurements  section   that is responsible for appraisals and   the monitoring teacher performance has been  relatively inactive.   Schools have not been inspected. Teachers have not been appraised. This has a direct impact on motivation and education standards. Another   senior teacher points out that younger  teachers who are serious about building a  career  have very little hope of  being promoted  in the Oro Province because  their work  isn’t  evaluated by an inspector. “There’s a lack of direction by the  education management,” he says. Others point out  that those  at the helm now, don’t have the management and planning skills  required  to tackle the   myriad of  problems affecting  education in the province. There  appears to be  a faint glimmer of hope.  One year into his new job, Charles Soso, the man  now responsible for  standards and monitoring  has  brought in four new inspectors.  In 2011, with  limited funds, he was able to conduct inspections on at least 120 of Oro’s 300 plus  primary schools.  But he knows  that’s not good enough. Soso  also believes  that  the  changes  in teaching methods and content,  as per  PNG’s   education reforms   aren’t being implemented. “The teaching methods are  different from the days  when we were growing up,”  he says.  “There’s a knowledge gap.” He also believes that what is taught in some schools isn’t consistent with  what students are being tested in national exams.  However,  senior educationplanners like Soso don’t really know the extent  of the problems   because of    the lack of  reliable  information. Another  long serving teacher says  the poor reading and writing skills exhibited by  grade 9 and 10 students,  is a  direct result of  the elementary school syetem.  Teachers for the elementary school system  don’t attend  the normal teacher training colleges.  They are instead put through a 6-weeks training course and then sent back to their communities to work. “How can you expect a grade 10 leaver who didn’t do well in school to lay a solid foundation for the education of a child?” asks Carson Gandari, a 35-year veteran  of the teaching service. In a the classes he teaches, students have difficulty reading,  writing and understanding  the English language.  Poor language skills affects their ability to  perform well in almost  every other subject. Gandari is on of the many who has  seen education standards plummet to  near hopeless  standards.  As a teacher, he has helped to mold bureaucrats, politicians, journalists  and doctors.  For this teacher, poor education standards affects his pride and the pride of his province. “I can’t do that anymore and I hang my head in shame. When the last of our teachers and the last of our doctors are gone,  we  will have to import people from outside to run this province.”

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