Dr Joseph Pagelio, PNG's top chalkie, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and educational administrator and gained a doctorate in education from Queensland University of Technology while doing it. After secondary school he attended Goroka Teachers' College and, in 1975, became a high school teacher in Morobe Province.
Joseph advanced to headmaster, inspector and moved into policy and planning at headquarters. Since his appointment as Secretary for Education early last year he has led the reform of an education system facing a difficult array of geographical, social and economic challenges. “More and more children in Papua New Guinea are receiving at least six years of basic education and, increasingly, more teachers are being trained throughout the country,” he says. “'Progress may seem slow but you must remember we started in 1993 from a very low base.”
Dr Pagelio is keen to expand programs offered by vocational and technical institutions which teach life-skills. “These bodies offer an education that is probably more relevant to the majority of Papua New Guineans who live outside urban areas,” he says. “These people often don't have the opportunity to enter the formal workforce.”
Change is already underway. “The curriculum used to be based on standard subjects taught in the classroom. Now it's becoming more student-based. In some schools we have introduced, for instance, personal development and technology courses which we plan to take to schools throughout the country. It's all about improving the relevance and quality of what we teach our population,” Dr Pagelio explains.
Joseph looks forward to driving the process that will give Papua New Guineans a modern and better education system. His main thesis while studying for his doctorate was on leadership and management of education. “I came back with ideas how to improve the department's performance.”