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Corney was right: PNG drops outcome-based curriculum

Open Equal Free | Education Development Blog

Alone_Corney KIN RESPONSE TO LOW ACADEMIC RATES, the Papua New Guinea government has decided to scrap the outcome-based education (OBE) system and return to the more traditional objective-based curriculum.

[Anti-OBE campaigner, Corney K Alone (pictured), got it right four years ago: PNG did not have the educational resource base to support such a radical innovation.]

The OBE system is designed to facilitate self-learning approaches. Schools are responsible for setting relevant, criterion-based outcomes, where assessment focuses on individual skills and performance.

In the traditional system, learning is based relatively on educational ‘inputs’ (i.e. teaching styles, textbooks, number of hours in school), in which students are ranked in comparison to one another.

Although OBE sounds more appealing, it appears to be difficult to implement effectively. For instance, Western Australia abandoned its OBE curriculum in 2007 after being criticised for designing ‘vague’ objectives that were too difficult to measure.

South Africa similarly dropped its use of the OBE system back in mid-2010.

PNG educational experts believe the real problem arises from a lack of specialised resources, such as teacher-written workbooks and lesson plans that support the use of the OBE curriculum.

“A lot of teachers are teaching the curriculum as they would in the old system. We have to provide full in-service kits that can provide cost-effective teacher training or in-service packages for all teachers,” said educator Michael John Uglo.

Some argue that the OBE curriculum has simply taken too long to develop. Unfortunately, the process of switching curriculum strategies now may take another two to three years to complete

See also: ‘Education: Oppression before enslavement’, PNG Attitude, 9 August, 2010 and ‘Corney steps up pressure in schools debate’, PNG Attitude, 11 September 2010


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Mrs Barbara Short

We hear confused messages about OBE, but this was in The National today 29 Jan. 2014.

OKAY, schools will continue to use the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) system until the Education Department completes rewriting the new curriculum. Too much talk by the bureaucrats at the top without proper consultation.
WHEN the government made the decision to remove OBE it did not consider that this will take some time. We are told the process to have the OBE curriculum completely removed from schools will take up to three years. We hope allowance is given for the teacher training programme.
STUDENTS who graduated in 2012 and 2013 were the first and second lot of students to be certified under the OBE system. Students will continue to learn and graduate under this system until this ship is turned around completely. All examinations will still be conducted in OBE.

Robin Lillicrapp

Steve, your excellent portrayal of an example of linguistic subtlety is itself a demonstration.

We readers would not benefit from this knowledge unless first, Adzera had been given a vocabulary by translation work. From that point both Adzera speakers and observers can fathom the intricacies of expression and nuance.

It is, as you present, a sequential step to production of cultural histories and other literature relevant to that language group.

It's no practical advantage to have a vocabulary, though, if there is not accompanying human capital to sow and multiply the resource in the minds of those needful of knowing.

In my family, the wife had taught our children to read and write by the time they entered a sequence of formal educational experience.

With your work among the deaf, you will have noticed the elemental brilliance of those so handicapped to nonetheless adapt to new inputs and respond to understanding imparted by creative and ingenious method.

Is there any reason not to believe that most children, handicapped or otherwise, will respond to inputs of similar nature toward gaining literacy, numeracy, and expression.

For example, my best man; Norman,a college friend, later married a deaf girl, Linda.
They went on to pioneer a church ministry in Alabama to the deaf.
The fact that it prospered; apart from theological overtones, is proof that the fertile mind has an enormous capacity to adapt to the very inputs appropriate to its design framework.

So it is, I believe, the capacity of PNG society fragmented in 850+ ways or a cohesive whole may nonetheless benefit by intense developmental effort toward building literacy and numeracy at the family stage of development prior to the student ever getting to a school per-se.

I have no doubt this is possible.

I do doubt that any form of OBE will deliver it.

It is both a methodology and a psychology devoted to building a society of conformists to norms unlikely to tap the creative and elementally brilliant minds of those so exposed.

Instead of producing a crop that yields abundant harvest it, instead, delivers a stunted and deformed miscarriage of academic and vocational abnormality.

Steve W Labuan

Robin thanks for your contributions.

Barbara, thanks for the compliments and for sharing those bits of Scottish too.

There's a word in the Adzera language of the Markham valley written as /waba ani/" pronounced phonemically as spelt. Literally it is coined from "waba" [w-]meaning 'you' [-aba] meaning 'come' + [ani] meaning 'here', so it's literary "you come here" or simply 'come". It's almost like two separate words combining to give one separately new word like the Topisin combinations for 'bring'. That's 'get' + 'come' to mean 'bring' ([kisim] + [kam] = 'bring').

There's also another word /waba-ani/ pronounced the same. But its meaning can not be found in English, or even Tokpisin because it represents a unique concept to a most significant way of life for Adzera speakers. New generation speakers refer to it as 'wisdom', others 'an art' while others an 'ideology' or a 'system' etc. In fact it is a mix of all of these - summarised as 'an institutional ideology backed by a system of social norms, values and their resulting practices of loving, caring, and sharing.

One day if the Adzera language is being killed off - the new generations then might still say 'waba ani' but there is doubt whether they will know or practise the system in the most uniqueness of that concept. In fact the whole body of knowledge and practice behind that concept will have all died too with Adzera.

The implication is that instead of the new generation population having broader and enriched knowledge from two languages - they become reduced to that from only the one new source. What a blow that will be to the substance of original identity.

And it is common sense that not every concept and system is good, everywhere, so we can separate and let die the bad, but have the good ones such the 'waba-ani' example cultured and replicate through the education system together with the introduced ones.

The decision is right here in our hands: the NDoE is making it for us for 2014.

Robin Lillicrapp

Steve, until the old ones die off without imparting their "Tok-ples" to their younger ones, the original dialects will survive.

On the other hand by the time a student is ready to begin formal schooling, we would currently expect Tok-ples to be their primary voice.
When English is introduced, as it must, for the child to progress in comprehension, the need for supply of audio and visual example is mandatory for the degree of connect required for the learner to accommodate the cultural roots to the new language.

It was this that prompted my question to Keith recently of the viability of resurrecting the old ABC productions existing during a learning era that produced a grand crop of able expositors of English among PNGeans.

Mrs Barbara Short

Good on you Steve, for what you are trying to do i.e. teach children their native languages as well as English. There are many schools in Australia for Australian Aboriginal children where their traditional tribal languages are used to start them off in school.

Later most lessons will be taught in English but they are still able to use their tribal languages, especially in their homes where they interact with the older people of their tribe.

But the ones I met in Sydney don't seem to use Pidgin English as much as you do in PNG. I tried talking to them in Pidgin but I could see they preferred to speak in English to me but in their tribal languages at home.

I can see that educated PNG people from different parts of PNG speak to each other in some missmash of Pidgin and English. I feel it would be better if they made a bit more effort to speak in English more often.

But hopefully many of the hundreds of languages of PNG will be preserved and used within the family and tribal groups.

Sori Keith, we got off the topic but I'm sure you can see that this is another important topic that needs to be discussed. I still enjoy using a bit of Scottish when with people from Scotland - "Lang may yer lum reek."

Steve W Labuan

We will probably also need native English speakers to teach English to our kids from higher grades on, as recommended in comments made on this issue. The policy in 2014 will most likely let students begin straight from standard 1 on-wards with English introduced there. What about the tokpleses? Well it's not clear whether to retain them for literacy acquisition, or to teach them as subjects. what methods to be used to teach English at the lower standards of grade 1, 2, and 3 will depend on the role tokples will play as mentioned. Present elementary school teachers will teach prep, then standard 1 & 2 at the elementary level, and standard 3 on-wards. Teachers will be trained, but enrollment will be raised to grade 12 graduates.

My comments so far is about getting it straight at the foundation level only - that is at the tokples elementary schools (that's about to be changed now). I always believe that getting this right, all other levels from primary school on-wards will become less difficult for teachers. I hope the government and NDoE considers my contributions too. If not, then I have no problems too concentrating only on English, killing off the 854 languages systematically through education.

Steve W Labuan

I want my kids to know and master English well. We all want that for our children, and of course we are talking about the best of modern education here for PNG. So I am also mindful with what you are saying about the minefields of philosophies out there, Barbara.

But what is the key to master English, or French, or Chinese or any second language? I had given my answer to that already - the key is the first languages.

Well, the NDoE was onto it but it didn't know how to do it and failed the country miserably. While there may be other standard ways for learning English, or Japanese etc, I am advocating a much better way to begin with. And I mean much better.

Imagine on the first day of class for a tokples elementary grade 2 class, with students who had never been exposed to English before, and that on that first day of class, the whole hundred percent of students were being able to speak, read, write and understand English on the spot. Is this possible?

Give that class a whole year of similar education and not only can they speak, read and understand grade 5 and 6 reading books but can also competently perform basic mathematics, sciences and the social sciences before going to primary grade 3 in the following year.

Imagine this school also to be remotely isolated somewhere in the mountains of New Guinea? Wouldn't such learning outcomes be great?

Well yes that would be awesome - but do you think such achievement is possible for first language elementary schools remotely located, and for that matter for schools anywhere else?

If your answer is no, then it's because you did not know there is already such a way implemented in almost a hundred government schools in three districts in PNG through voluntary partnership work. The first lot are now doing grade 6. There's also this minefield that's untapped.

Mrs Barbara Short

The Romanyshyns. a couple from Canada, who had taught in PNG in the 1970s, returned to teach at Keravat NHS in 2010. They had become well experienced in curriculum development work in Canada, especially in Science.

In their spare time they spent a lot of time sorting through the Chemistry Lab at Keravat and throwing away what needed to be thrown away and helping the other science teachers to understand how practical science work was a very important part of teaching Science.

They discovered that education standards had dropped dramatically in PNG. They offered to help by making available to PNG schools the syllabi that had been developed in Canada and the various resources (including videos etc) that were needed to teach these syllabi. Sadly their offers were not accepted.

They believe that the PNG Education Department needs help. I can understand what you are saying Steve, but as you can see from what Robin has contributed, there is a mine field out there when it comes to Education Philosophies.

I feel many of the various approaches to Education which are derived from these theories, are often devised by "an academic" who hasn't got a clue about how to teach.

I heard from the Romanyshyns that the teachers were often using Pidgin English when they should have been teaching in English so when the students sat for the HSC, due to their lack of English, they couldn't understand the questions.

I fully respect the right for you all to retain your ability to speak your own language but in order to progress with your education it is good if you can also master English.

I think it is good that the teachers can go for inservice training in other countries and hopefully they will take home copies of the various syllabi followed in other countries.

I can imagine how these syllabi would vary in some subjects, from country to country, but probably it would be fair to say that a good Science or Maths syllabus in one country could be followed by teachers in another country.

There probably are teachers in places like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who would be glad to go to teach in PNG and this would help to raise the standard of the student's spoken English.

When I was teaching at Keravat we had a Japanese man who came and taught the students how to speak Japanese. In the same way, a person who comes from a country where they speak in English all the time, will be better able to teach the students to speak English, and probably raise the overall level of spoken English of the whole staff.

Steve W Labuan

Firstly, as a realist, I totally agree with Barbara on 'just getting on with teaching.' I had always found that useful for the last 8 years as a volunteer community worker.

But we need to harness all these practices systematically in order to keep tract on consistency for both quality and quantity of our products as a country. Few people do consistent free work for a living.

But whatever the approach, I believe the key for outright success for PNG's education both nationally & internationally can only be developed within this country rather than outside of it.

On the matter of consistency a way is now being carved out behind closed doors at Waigani by NDoE.

Although there is no courtesy for effective public awareness - again just as the OBE reform once was, we trust that the new policy will successfully include all relevant aspects necessary for quality and relevant education as we are discussing now once it becomes fully revealed, and/or once implemented.

Secondly for me, I still believe that if Papua New Guineans are smart enough to cooperate and take stock for improvement over the impasse, which I think they are, and as I am hoping will soon be reflected in the coming policy, a balance can be compromised for the best passage between maximum and quality modern education, with maximum relevance for PNG ways without all the problems of mismatches we fear presently.

And thirdly, I don't believe totally on isolated 'experts from the skies' providing straight forward adoption packages from the blues for PNG.

There is no such thing today as one system being more modern than the other. Every system is modern. The task for PNG is to agree on which to use and make it suitable to serve our country best for everybody as per the constitution and the PNG-V2050, apart from the options of private schools.

Finally, if the coming NDoE system will be another blundering experiment,I don't mind continuing doing my own thing too.

I'd been doing it for the last 8 years while the country was going through the impasse, I have something to show for success in the lives of individuals who have beaten the OBE, with the acquisition of literacy, and English at a hundred percent from tokples elementary schools; so I am not talking out of context nor am I describing imaginations.

Now in PNG, with the inclusion of an English-only Standards-based system,or whatever base it might soon change into again, I believe the key to outright national & universal success will always be in the 854 first languages.

Gail Loup Ani

Thank you, Barbara. I can confirm that the new curriculum is called 'PNG Standard Based Education'. No further details, just like that.

It will be in effect next year. I am hoping that all will turn out well.

Robin Lillicrapp

If Gail's report is correct, and OBE is to be replaced by "Standards," then we have reason to expect more of the same (chaos) in the prospective future.

Teachers who are hungering for improvement need now to look beyond their PNG borders to see the root from which all the straggly branches of "crazication" are growing.

The "Grand Dame" of Ed reform gives relevance to our suspicions about Standards in the recent critique following.

Common Core Won't Make Kids Smarter
July 16, 2013|11:53 am

The new education standards called Common Core won't make U.S. kids any smarter. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute studied them and concluded that they are inferior to existing standards in 12 states, superior in only 16 states and the standards of 22 states are too close to call. It would be better if states used their own revised and improved version of standards already successfully piloted in 12 states.

The overall Common Core strategy is to raise the scores of average students by a point or two but do nothing to motivate or help the smarter kids or the dumber kids. CC's goal is to achieve a result like Lake Wobegon, the fictional Minnesota town where "all kids are above average."

Professor Sandra Stotsky, a member of the CC validation committee, refused to approve the standards finally published and explained: "Common Core has carefully disguised its road to equally low outcomes for all demographic groups, and many state boards of education may quickly follow up their unexamined adoption of Common Core's K-12 standards ... by lowering their high school graduation requirements in the name of alignment."

CC advocates continue to say that CC standards are not a curriculum but are merely standards. But it's clear that the curriculum must be aligned with the CC tests so teachers will be compelled to teach to the test.

A report by the UCLA-based National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing concluded that "educators will align curriculum and teaching to what is tested, and what is not assessed largely will be ignored."

Bill Gates, the largest individual financial contributor to Common Core, told the National Conference of State Legislators, "We'll know we've succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards."

The CC English standards replace about half of the readings in literature classics with "informational" materials, which CC advocates say are supposed to promote analytical thinking by students. In a report released by the Pioneer Institute, Stotsky gave an example of her grandson's experience.

The students were assigned to read selections on the fate of the Taino Indians and from a diary supposedly written by Christopher Columbus' cabin boy, and then were told to write to a state official opining on whether Columbus should be honored by a state holiday. Every student's letter said Columbus should not be so honored.

That's how "informational" reading morphs into liberal propaganda.

Common Core gives leftist educators a backdoor for bringing leftwing activism into the classroom. NPR reported that one veteran teacher, Melinda Bundy, replaced her popular unit about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table with one about President John F. Kennedy and the 1960s because, she said, she "adored JFK."

Comic books and graphic novels were formerly considered useful primarily for underachieving students and poor readers as a means to get them interested in books. But now Common Core is bringing picture books into the mainstream of education.
At a National Council of Teachers of English conference, the teachers of a senior Advanced Placement honors course presented an argument against having students read "Beowulf" and substituting a comic book based on "Beowulf." No doubt parents will be told that CC includes classic literature such as "Beowulf."

The outgoing president of the Missouri branch of the NEA said CC will "prepare our kids for a global community, a global society. These are going to exactly take us there."

The new science standards, called "Next Generation Science Standards," were examined by nine scientists and mathematicians for content, rigor and clarity, after which the Fordham Institute gave them a grade of "C." They criticized the "ceiling on the content and skills that will be measured at each grade," the excluding of content that more advanced students can learn, the failure "to include essential math content that is critical to science learning" in physics and chemistry, and the "confusing" wording of the standards.

Proponents of evolution and manmade climate change are ecstatic about the new Common Core science standards. Education Week reports: "The standards make clear that evolution is fundamental to understanding the life sciences."

Common Core does not prepare students to major in the STEM subjects at a university. CC prepares students only to enroll in courses at two-year community colleges.

Mrs Barbara Short

Dear Gail, I feel like jumping on the first plane and coming up to help. But age has overtaken me!

It sounds like "people who can't teach" have taken control of education in PNG.

People have to learn that teaching is a gift. If you know you have it, use it. The people who can't teach must show respect to those who can.

Last night I taught my old pastor, now in his 80s, over the telephone, how to understand what a "blog" is.

Some comment was passed..."you are a teacher".

Children know who the true teachers are. People who have the gift, know, and try to use it for the benefit of all they meet.

Stop worrying about "discover, discuss, analyse, create or critically think of logical approach to any task given" ....and just get on and do what you have to do and teach them what you know they need to know. Use the approach that you know will work.

God bless you.

Gail Loup Ani

Thanks Barbara, I read something about you teaching in PNG. I am teaching in the school in which you taught in 1971 or so, it is a secondary school l now.

The problem with OBE is the students cannot read and write in English. Oh, they can, but it cannot get them to discover, discuss, analyse, create or critically think of logical approach to any task given, 1/10 maybe.

The rest need to be taught. This is happening in grade 12 so just imagine.

Oh, by the way, someone mentioned that the scrapped OBE will be replaced by a curriculum called Standards, not sure what it is.

She went for the grade 12 exam marking and came back with this information. Getting weirder.

Michael Dom

A very interesting academic discussion friends. From a layman's perspective I am more concerned about a good plan being poorly implemented.
If the OBE had mixed and reportedly disastrous outcomes then it must somehow be remedied.
It seemed simpler to revert to a system we knew and could implement with more consistent, if not fully expressed results in terms of enabling individual student advancement.
Does standardization mean dumbing down? Education systems of the past must have had some good outcomes otherwise we wouldn't have made it this far in national and world progress.
Improvement is desirable, but what to and how to do are challenges.
Regarding OBE, we were unprepared.
Regarding culturally relevant education or perhaps 'education sovereignty' perhaps this is a key task that requires much better planning.
A basic tenet is 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
We need to find out what has been working for PNG and strengthen that rather than spend limited resources on a challenge we may be unprepared to tackle.

Steve W Labuan

Thank you Barbra and Robin. Do understand, we can not be against what is deemed progressive for man-kind as a whole, as in the points you both are alluding to. I believe you are reading me incorrectly.

I do not wish to think that I am advocating against global sustainability and standardization of methods etc for the good of this world. I am all for cooperation for the universal good of mankind. Here is what you misunderstood:- what I was, and am still suggesting now is that I think I can see there are better ways to advance universal goals through contributions of specific actions, resources and innovations as we are already doing of international goals such as the UN MDG's etc in PNG - not only specific to the country's constitution at large, but specific all the way down to the district and languages and different cultures in practice. Practically processing abstract universal goals in a sustainable and relevant way locally.

For instance - what if the key to better acquire a new universal language is the known first language: - the enabling of perfection in the acquisition of new second languages, as well as the knowledge & skills that come with them so effectively and efficiently in such a way as never been before or now for English, example? Wouldn't such a way be an asset for multiculturalism, sustainability, standardization universalisation etc etc in the world we are jointly advocating here, or is it that small countries like PNG will no longer contribute but just follow the "experts"? What is the PNG V2050 for? - isn't that how universal goals are achieved locally, or are you suggesting we skip that?

Robin Lillicrapp

You're surmising rightly, Steve.

Your question: "But what about the question of PNG as a specific country with more that 854 languages & numerous related cultures?"

The answer you posed in words following echoes the theme that is covertly, if not overtly, resonating within topics of debate widely dispersed and not limited to education alone: Eugenics.

It is posited by many of the world's top "Think-Tankers" that a sustainable future population for this planet is under 1 billion souls.

Is it any wonder that, in the field of education, the push is on -not to prepare 850+ tribes in PNG for a bright sustainable future- but to produce a standardized body of so called skilled labour base.

In your or my eyes, that does nothing to remedy the default so clearly recognizable in the "apparent planning oversight."

What it does do, however, is to synchronise with a long running agenda to harmonise or bring into balance the planned means of regaining control over what is deemed to be unsustainable use of resources that allegedly threatens the existence of human survival.

As to who falls through the cracks along the way, that is obvious to you by the very questions you pose.
The sheer bastardy of the conclusion is, to us, often hard to come to terms with, and should provoke us to more vocal response.

The primary existing document used to drive most of this calumny is Agenda 21.

Ignore it at your peril.

Mrs Barbara Short

Well said, Steve. But I feel you are getting onto a different topic. You need to write something on this topic as a separate article for Keith.

I was talking recently with some people with an Australian Aboriginal family history amd they were telling me how important it was for them to try to keep their own language alive and use it in the homes. But, living in the present Australian society they were also very fluent in English.

I remember years ago, when I visited Norway, I heard that a number of local languanges were spoken but English was also very important and many could speak it.

Sydney is now being Asianised and many Chinese and other Asians are buying up the houses. My old primary school at Eastwood is full of Koreans and their web site shows them performing Korean dances.

In some primary schools they have started teaching every subject in an Asian language one day and in English the next. OK if the teachers and students are bi-lingual.

The world is becoming a smaller place and our cultures are becoming blended. Fortunately for English speakers the English language is spoken my many people throughout the world.

Steve W Labuan

This is a great effort by Corwin (2012) etc. But this is for a universal system which possibly hinges on a universal language, a universal culture etc for a not-so-easy one-world type setting. But what about the question of PNG as a specific country with more that 854 languages & numerous related cultures? With every country becoming multi-cultural and more diverse, are we suggesting here that we should just let them all die off, and progress with just a major language and a way of life? Reality at present will not accept this without identity crisis situations for instance. If there is no balance, then we can see PNG is in for something similar to all the failures we have had so far already.

PNG needs to keep a balance between its sources of specific knowledge preserved in its languages to share when the world runs out of ideas, and at the same time progress and be equally competitive with the world on what is universal. At the moment we don't see any alternative but to progress at the expense of cultures. At the same time, the 854+ languages must facilitate an easier way to acquire the universal language, English for instance, and its knowledge and practices, and also enrich themselves as English would be enriched in return from these languages. In the end, both the local languages as well as English can harmoniously develop side by side in a parallel manner, simultaneous with cultural and modern developments. If such a harmonious complementary system can be developed, then that will solve the problem for PNG, and maybe the world may borrow the idea from us.

Robin Lillicrapp

I know it’s hard to predict what might be the thinking of the education department in PNG in relation to ditching OBE the old for OBE the new.

As the article shows, the post for that new initiative appeared in January and yet competent teachers like Gail are still uninformed as to the game plan for next year.

What is being planned?

I think one clue to that may be found in the recent report on the visit by Kerevat staff to schools in Indonesia.

There, among other things, it was discussed concerning the need to implement changes to bring curricula up-to-speed with International standards.

As we have observed in the old failed OBE system, it too was all about notions of facilitating learning process toward achieving results.

As one looked closely at the results in PNG let alone other nations, it could be seen that chaos reigned. And for all the reasons so comprehensively put during the initial debate fostered by Corney.

The new kid on the block in the USA is Common Core Curriculum. It also bears the hallmarks of mediocrity and foolhardiness as did its predecessor.

As the old dictum stated: All roads lead to Rome, so here have we another statement of rationale designed to foster a Globalist Communitarian paradigm of education.

I think the all too silent gurus in Waigani are contemplating ways of adopting a lookalike system for PNG.

Such a system would undoubtedly meet the aspirations of PNG’s UN inspired Millennium Development Goals.. What do you think?

Here’s a challenging perspective by Yong Zhao, presidential chair and associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon’s College of Education

If you are reading this, you know the world didn’t end in 2012. But the world of American education may end in 2014, when the Common Core is scheduled to march into thousands of schools in the United States and end a “chaotic, fragmented, unequal, obsolete, and failing” system that has accompanied the rise of a nation with the largest economy, most scientific discoveries and technological inventions, best universities, and largest collection of Nobel laureates in the world today.

In place will be a new world of education where all American children are exposed to the same content, delivered by highly standardized teachers, watched over by their equally standardized principals, and monitored by governments armed with sophisticated data tools.

This is the last year to ensure that happens: parents and school boards have to be convinced to remove any lasting resistance; teachers have to be fully trained so they can be turned on automatically when 2014 arrives; school leaders have to be readied so they can identify and incentivize good Common Core practices and exterminate bad ones; and data systems have to be developed so they can be deployed anytime.

As American schools pour their resources into products, programs, and services to be Common Core ready in 2013, please keep in mind that the Common Core is a bet on the future of our children.

While I have written about the Common Core many times before (e.g., Common Core vs Common Sense, Common Core National Curriculum Standards).I wanted to ask all of us to ask again if the new world of education ushered in by the Common Core will be better than the old one scheduled to end in a year.

The Bet

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy. Common Core Mission Statement

Questioning the Bet

The Common Core is placing this bet on behalf of millions of children. But how good is it? I cannot answer the question with as much certainty as the Common Core proponents, but I invite them and you to consider the following questions.

1. What makes one globally competitive?

With only a few exceptions (e.g., North Korea), geographical distance and political boundaries no longer divide the world in terms of economic activities. Virtually all economies are globally interconnected and interdependent. Employment opportunities are thus no longer isolated to specific locations. Jobs can be outsourced to distant places physically or performed by individuals remotely.

In a world where jobs can be and have been moved around globally, anyone could potentially go after any job he or she desires. Whether she can be employed depends largely on two factors: qualifications and price. All things being equal, those who ask for a lower price for the same qualifications will get the job.

With over seven billion people living on Earth today, there is plenty of competition. But due to the vast economic disparities in the world, there exists tremendous differences in labor cost.

The hourly compensation costs in manufacturing in 2010 varied from $1.90 in the Philippines to $57.53 in Norway, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).

If a Norwegian were doing exactly the same job as a Filipino, it is very probable that his job would be gone soon. For the Norwegian to keep his job, he’d better be doing something that the Filipino is unable to do.

If all children are asked to master the same knowledge and skills, those whose time costs less will be much more competitive than those with higher costs.

There are many poor and hungry people in the developing world willing to work for a fraction of what workers in developed countries need.

Thus for those in developed countries such as the United States to be globally competitive, they must offer something qualitatively different, that is, something that cannot be obtained at a lower cost in developing countries.

And that something is certainly not great test scores in a few subjects or the so-called basic skills, because those can be achieved in the developing countries.

Yet the Common Core claims to be benchmarked with internationally high-performing countries, i.e., countries with high scores.

2. Can you be ready for careers that do not exist yet?

Old jobs are being replaced by new ones rapidly as old industries disappear due to technological changes and existing jobs move around the globe.

For example, existing firms in the U.S. lost on average over one million jobs annually in the period from 1977 to 2005, according to a report of the Kauffman Foundation, while an average of three million jobs were created annually by new firms (Kane, 2010).

As a result, there is no sure way to predict what jobs our children will have to take in the future. As the head of PISA, Andrea Schleicher, recently said: “Schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t know will arise” (Schleicher, 2010).

If one does not know what careers are there in the future, it is difficult, if not impossible, to prescribe the knowledge and skills that will make today’s students ready for them.

3. Are the Common Core Standards relevant?

Jobs that require routine procedure skills and knowledge are increasingly automated or sent to places where such skills and knowledge are abundant with lower cost.

As a result, as best selling author Daniel Pink observed, traditionally neglected talents, which he refers to as Right-brained directed skills, including design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning, will become more valuable (Pink, 2006).

Economist Richard Florida noticed the increasing importance of creativity in the modern economy ten years ago in his best seller The Rise of the Creative Class (Florida, 2012).

And economist Philip Auerswald convincingly proves the case for the need of entrepreneurs to bring the coming prosperity in his 2012 book (Auerswald, 2012).

These are just antagonistic to the core subjects prescribed by the Common Core and tested by international assessments such as PISA and TIMSS, which are mostly left-brained cognitive skills.

4. Does Common Core support global competence?

The world our children will live in is global, not local as before.

Given the interconnectedness and interdependence of economies, the rise of global challenges such as climate change, and the ease of movement across national borders, one’s birthplace no longer determines his or her future living space or whom he or she may be working for or with.

Thus to be ready to live in this global world requires the knowledge and abilities to interact with people who are not born and raised in the same local community.

But the Common Core does not include an element to prepare the future generations to live in this globalized world and interact with people from different cultures.

5. What opportunities may we be missing?

Globalization and technological changes, while presenting tremendous challenges, bring vast opportunities. Globalization, for example, greatly expands the pool of potential customers for products and services.

Niche talents that used to only be of interest to a small fraction of people may not be of much value locally, because the total population of a given community is small.

In the globalized world, the potential customers could number seven billion. Even a small fraction of the seven billion can be significant, and talents that may be of little value in a given location can be very valuable in another country.

Globalization and technology today enable products and services to reach almost any corner of the world.

But the Common Core, by forcing children to master the same curriculum, essentially discriminates against talents that are not consistent with their prescribed knowledge and skills.

Students who are otherwise talented but do not do well in these chosen subjects are often sent to spend more time on the core subjects, retained for another grade, and deprived of the opportunity to develop their talents in other ways.

In summary, the efforts to develop common curricula nationally and internationally are simply working to perfect an outdated paradigm.

The outcomes are precisely the opposite of the talents we need for the new era.

A well organized, tightly controlled, and well-executed education system can transmit the prescribed content much more effectively than one that is less organized, loosely monitored, and less unified.

In the meantime, the latter allows for exceptions with more room for individual exploration and experimentation.

The question is what matters in the future: Do we want individuals who are good at taking tests, or individuals who are creative and entrepreneurial?

I believe the answer is the latter.

*Adapted from my latest book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (Corwin, 2012)

Steve W Labuan

Well, I don't know what Corney is driving at. But both outcome-based or objective-based, even Christian-based or curriculum-based or whatever-other bases serve their purposes well one way or another both in PNG and elsewhere.

There are both successes as well as failures by both bases - and for any adopted bases that none is pure perfect. I wonder if Corney, or for that matter PNG, has a method that can work best as the foundation for any-base, be it OBE or otherwise?

A foundation that can make any base-system work best from. Such a foundation is missing - that is why any base system will continue to mix both success with failure just as English-only has in the past, OBE is now, and English-only will again soon.

It's no good keeping on celebrating other people's ideas without solving PNG problems ourselves - given that only us know better our unique situations & problems.

Daniel Doyle

"We have to provide full in-service kits that can provide cost-effective teacher training or in-service packages for all teachers."

Therein lies a large part of the reason for the failure of OBE in PNG. The AusAID-funded geniuses that led the design of the OBE curriculum also prepared an inservice proposal that would have cost approximately 75% of the entire national education budget.

This was never going to happen.

Another large contribution to a guaranteed lack of success was the failure by the national government, with the support of donors, to flood the schools with the necessary teaching and learning materials.

Good teachers have got on with the job of teaching what needs to be taught, using curriculum documents as guides, whatever resource materials they have and the best methodologies they know.

While teacher absenteeism can be a problem, the main surprise to me was the huge number of underpaid (or unpaid*) teachers all over the country who were to be found in their decrepit classrooms, one book per four or five children and a few sticks of chalk, still trying their best to educate the next generation of Papua New Guineans.

The reality of life for most teachers in PNG is that they are posted and forgotten.

*I once came across an elementary teacher who hadn't been paid for three years surviving on the charity of his community. And he was still in the classroom teaching!

Mrs Barbara Short

Good on you, Gail. Keep on stiring and fighting for improvements in education and a fair go for teachers. They will tell you that you are very well off as you have all these long holidays every year. Ha!

They don't see you slaving away every night, marking and preparing lessons and writing reports and lesson plans.

I wrote out my resignation in my first year of teaching but somehow hung on and learnt a few tricks on how to survive. Insulted a few people in the process.

I think OBE may have been all about guiding students to find the truth for themsleves, using books, other research tools, observation, microscopes, etc etc while the Objective curriculum tells you what the children should learn and you go about teaching it the best way you can.

You can actually tell the students what you believe to be the truth but it is always going to be their choice as to whether they accept it and take it on-board!

If you haven't got any research tools then chalk and talk and worksheets it has to be! Ha! It will get them through their exams. But one day they will have to think for themsleves. So the more you can challenge them to think the better. Give them plenty of problems to try to solve. Debates are good too.

Gail Loup Ani

The post on Outcome-Based Education was from January, but can someone confirm what exactly on OBE will the government remove?

Is it education reform or just leaving the curriculum and structure as it is?

I keep asking this question and no one can give me the answer. This whole reform thing is a terrible joke.

I am the implementer of the curriculum and this is not fair. The authorities tell teachers to do this /that or else. We are working, my goodness.

They always pick on teachers not teaching but they never try to find out why. I get so angry some time when I see negative news about teachers.

Try to imagine some one preparing their lessons by lantern light or writing this many reports until 4am. Oops! Thanks for letting me pour my guts out.

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