The pig’s stomach: a tradition dishonoured
Extraordinary events become a fine history

Thoughts on the future of PNG education


I WANT TO offer my observations on the serious academic shortcomings of the present PNG education system as highlighted by Bev and Vic Romanyshyn’s report [PNG Attitude, 30 November 2010].

Firstly, it has always been my belief that the introduction, a little over a decade ago, of the Tokples preschool curriculum (schooling in local vernacular) – which is compulsory for any child’s first two years of education - was a monumental tragedy. The resultant Grades 9 to 12 academic standards are proof of this.

Some university students cannot converse coherently in English, let alone write an essay up to the expected standard. Of course the politicians and well-off are not overly concerned, as their children go to school in western countries.

My heartfelt desire is for the Tokples preschool program to be abolished immediately and for children to be educated in English. There is a great disparity between children in our primary schools and those in international schools, especially in English language skills.

There is nothing wrong with our mother tongues, however teaching them should only be a subject and not the total curriculum. My parents and I and most of the Constitutional fathers of our nation were products of a curriculum taught in English by highly qualified European teachers in the not too distant past. Why did this recent quantum leap happen for the worst?

The shocking revelations in the Romanyshyn’s report are a strong indictment on those responsible for changes in the curriculum. Educating the human resource should always be of paramount interest and educating our children in English at a tender age is a ‘must’. A child’s future should never be compromised to accommodate some misguided patriotic notion.

The PNG people must be made aware of this problem in education as they hold the key to the 2012 general election and they need to elect responsible people who will make changes for the better.

In this country it is a fact that it is the politicians who hold sway and whether this is good or not is a moot point. All PNGian children should be capable of not just speaking but also writing short essays by Grade 9 in a concise English.

Secondly, I appreciate the fact that the Outcome-Based Education curriculum is a recent introduction but I venture to ask the obvious … why this paradigm shift? What happened to the core subjects of English, Maths, Science and Social Science?

The current leaders and educated citizens of PNG have passed through this curriculum. What was wrong with it? Is this nation prepared to take OBE on board? What has been OBE’s success rate in Australia, the US and the UK? Was it properly researched by PNGians before being implemented in this country or was it rammed down some subservient national educationist’s throat by some western wonderboy consultant?

The writing is on the wall, if PNGians continue to be naïve and gullible, and blindly accept anything dished out to them, we will reap what we are sowing in the not too distant future … an educationally retarded generation!

I don’t want to sound like the Grim Reaper but I love my country too much to not want it to slide down a slippery precipice brought on by the advent of OBE.

Thirdly, we obviously cannot bring back corporal punishment to schools because it is frowned upon as being politically incorrect by some nations in the global community, so perhaps a re introduction of the cadetship course to high schools will install the customary norms and ideals and discipline that formed the fabrics of our Melanesian society in our youth, something which is being eroded away by the ever changing society we live in today.  

Furthermore, students today are more militant and with this aforementioned reintroduction of cadetships, their energies, aggression or militancy, call it what you like, could be funnelled into a more profitable avenue and thus create a more responsible generation.

Fourthly, all parents and aspiring parents of this nation must be made to be more responsible in the upbringing of the fruits of their labours of love. The child that walks out the family door into the community should be a responsible and law abiding citizen.

However, if the child has not been schooled properly at home, due to negligent parents, then these irresponsible parents should also pay the price and not just the child. Laws should be made criminalising the actions of negligent parents. Children must be nurtured to be assets and not liabilities to nation building and that is the will of God!


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Trevor Freestone.

I have personally experienced the amazing ability of the children to absorb all aspects of the English language in their first two years of their primary schooling. To deny them of this early contact with English must put them at a severe disadvantage.

Maybe the politicians who send their children to Australia are happy that the village children are disadvantaged. Good English language skills are esential if one is to enter higher education. This policy reduces the competition at this level.

Many Australians would love to donate some time to assist in the teaching of English. Unfortunately volunteering is another casualty of the break down in law and order.

Robin Lillicrapp

Very astutely expressed, John.

"Some university students cannot converse coherently in English... "

A few people are easily accommodated within a social system.
A widespread generational impact such as is the present PNG model demands a strategic retreat to replenish supplies and fashion a new mode of operation to restore functionality.

If writers like John can see this, there is hope.

I think the rescue efforts are most likely to come from the ranks of those presently engaged in the private system.

It is a working system and consequently, a viable resource for PNG to draw from as it strives to remedy a national tragedy.

It is a little mystifying as to why we have not heard from those active in the private sector.
Maybe they need to be invited to the present discourse.

Billy Simon

Thankyou John, well said!
I think we need to act NOW and and put a stop to this educational genocide.
Some so called consultant must have shoved it down the throat of an ill informed kanaka who constantly feels inferior and considers what comes from them is god send.

Mrs Barbara Short

Well said, John.

I hope more PNG people will start to speak out their personal views on the problems that they see confronting their country. I think that it is not too late to fix up these problems but it is up to the concerned citizens to work out ways to do so.

I'm sure that the Romanyshyns and other educationalists who have worked in PNG are still very keen to help you.

I know the Romanyshyns would like to be able to help revise the PNG Science syllabuses. They hope the Education Department will accept their critcisms in good faith. They only want the best for PNG children.

I just had a letter from an English couple who taught at a National High School in PNG in the 1980s. They want to come back to PNG and do some volunteer work at a high school.

I had to warn them of the dangers.

If any high school principal in PNG is interested in their offer of help they should contact me via PNG Attitude.

The hearts of the former high school teachers of PNG are hurting as they hear what has happened to education standards. Many are old and dying but some have the energy to contribute some more.

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