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PNG educ'n 1964 – new stresses appear

Loch Blatchford

1964 is another crucial year in the development of Papua New Guinea’s education system. With national independence looming and pressure growing to create an indigenous elite (although few are bold enough to express the policy so bluntly), quality in education begins to be more crucial than quantity.

Furthermore, the acceleration of indigenous personnel through the senior ranks of the service – again in preparation for independence - generates challenges and stresses of its own.

Higher education is again prominent, with the Currie Commission submitting its report in March and the International Bank for reconstruction and Development submitting its final report in September. The Currie recommendations follow the Department of Education’s own proposals, including a Form IV leaving certificate followed by a preliminary year at University. Accordingly, Director of Education Les Johnson has no particular criticism.

The Department of Territories, however, procrastinates over implementation, convening many meetings to discuss the implications of the report. There is much criticism in the newspapers about delays in getting on with Currie’s recommendations.

The IBRD report spells the end of the quest for universal primary education. It recommends the rapid expansion of secondary education and greater economies in delivery. Expansion is to be restricted and concentration placed on quality not quantity. When this is announced, the Highland members of the House of Assembly protest. Education is less developed in their districts but expansion is to be restricted. Where there is great pressure for new schools, Johnson suggests, if the village provides the buildings, the Department will transfer a teacher from a large school by postponing a preparatory intake.

The ‘E’ Course for primary teachers ceases for Administration trainees at the end of 1964 and the curtain is drawn on primary teacher training at ASOPA: the 1965 student intake will be for secondary trainees.

Problems continue with the executive development of indigenous officers – types of courses and how to secure promotion in competition with expatriate teachers. The Public Service Commissioner asks the Director of Education for a confidential list of positions that the Minister can gazette for preferential appointment of indigenous officers. Attempts are made to involve more indigenous participants in District Education Committees. The Senior Officers’ Course is extended to one year. Some expatriates object to indigenous supervision.

Secondary enrolments are above estimates and procedures are introduced to enable Junior High School pupils to transfer boys to Sogeri and Kerevat and girls to Busu to boost prospective university enrolments.

The House of Assembly is expanded with a large increase in indigenous membership in preparation for self-government. The Tertiary Students’ Federation, with Ebia Olewale as president, is established and the Department is supportive of a teachers’ union being formed.

There is another milestone event in 1964: John Natera graduates in Agricultural Science at an Australian university, the first Papua New Guineans university graduate.

The Blatchford Collection summaries covering policies and events in the Papua New Guinea education system in 1964 are now on site under ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA.


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