Posts Tagged ‘Education’

A few questions niggled in the back of my mind a few days ago after a long discussion with friends. We talked about the expectations that the Papua New Guinea education system embeds in our minds.

After more than 30 years since our colonisers (supposedly) relinquished direct control over our affairs, our education system – their education system – continues to perpetuate engrained notions that are far from reality. Those notions are reinforced by our families. We teach our children to study for an academic qualification in order to get a job and to support ourselves. Many of us have not – and probably never will – come to the realistion that the education system prepares us to work for a production system instead of taking control of the means of production.

Every year, the government talks about the high rate of unemployment. “There aren’t enough jobs out there for young people coming out of university,” they say. It is because we are educated to believe in the illusion that our young people will somehow be absorbed into a ‘job market’. It doesn’t teach us that we can create jobs for ourselves.

Nor does it teach us to have pride in working on the land to make a living. Hence a young man or woman is considered a ‘success’ if she leaves home to work for a commercial company. No matter that they work much harder and make much less money (see this video if you don’t believe it) – they are considered more successful than that buai seller (that buai entrepreneur) by the road, who’s making twice as much, and is able to stay close to his community and his values.

Have we really sat down to think about who it was that designed our education system? Do we realise that this system was designed by people from another culture who don’t own land? Sure, it taught us to read and write and speak a foreign language that we use to converse with other people around the world. But does the education system teach us who we are? Does it teach us our strengths as a people? Does the education system teach us the value of land (i.e land, sea, air, bush etc) in the context that we own resources and are in a position of power?

Why do we listen to those who tell us that the ‘wantok system’ can’t be integrated into business? Why do you think a Chinese businessman will buy from one of his own? Isn’t that the ‘wantok system’? When will we take stock of our many strengths and realise that along with land, that we own, the traditional structures that we use to pay for bride price and funerals can also be used to pool financial resources needed to start businesses? When will we realise that we can create, on OUR own land, environments where everybody from children to adults have an income without having to work for someone else?

* PNG Constitution National Goal 1, ‘Integral Human Development’: WE ACCORDINGLY CALL FOR education to be based on mutual respect and dialogue, and to promote awareness of our human potential and motivation to achieve our National Goals through self-reliant effort.

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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.”