Fishing with Joe
White man dreaming – the romance of the South Seas

The dividends of the SRA kit have been lost to PNG


WHAT I was told as a student in Grade 2 such a long time ago was that “if you are looking for work to do, consult the SRA reading kit in the corner.  It will pay dividends.”

Dividends, my teacher said. It was an awesome word for us bush kanakas back then.

The SRA contains many reading cards with stories on the front and questions on the back. You answer the questions then look up an answer sheet and correct and score your own performance.

Once you have done this, you show your work to the teacher and then plot the result on your personal chart and an SRA wall chart.  The reading kit was intended to imbed comprehension skills in readers.

It was Mrs Bob Mulholland who introduced the SRA kit in Grade 2 to Iufi-Iufa Primary School.

Mrs Mulholland also had lots of reading books in the classroom.  We read Cinderella, Goldilocks and numerous books in that year. We never got right through the SRA kit because of the number of books. 

Mrs Mulholland was very sweet with us.  She made candy with us in the classroom using Bunsen burners every afternoon. I think we came to school more for the candies than to learn.   Oh, we also brought dried peanuts to stuff in the candy.  It was a wonder most of us didn’t have holes in the teeth from all the candy. But we read, we read…. 

Come Grade 3 we did not have books any longer but the teacher had SRA kits.  Several of us took to the SRA boxes like ducks to water. 

This was fortunate, as our teacher was the first Papua New Guinean headmaster of the school and he was often outside the classroom performing school administration duties, leaving us to our own.

The SRA boxes proved to be a useful teacher assistant.

SRA TarzanThe stories were short and interesting.  There was a short descriptive narrative and then a series of 10 short questions to see how well the reader had understood the story. 

The short story about Tarzan’s creator can spike anybody’s interest (it did in my time anyway, it may be a problem now).  You can see here a page of the reading kit.

What I was told so long ago about the SRA kit paying dividends was true, I can attest to that, and it could become true for others too.

But researchers tell us that the illiteracy level in PNG is very high 40 years after independence. This situation is dismal.

Reading cards would help but I realise there must be policy direction from the Education Department to reintroduce the SRA kit into classrooms. 

In any event the kit has to be bought individually by school and some schools will not purchase it if left to their own devices.

I think that if there was a concerted effort by all, this would be one small step towards a greater achievement of getting more literate kanakas.  Perhaps, once again, the SRA kit can pay dividends.


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Ed Brumby

Baka, You've reminded me of how close we came to having a PNG version of the SRA kit. That was back in 1973 when Jim Humphreys, a senior curriculum developer suggested that we use stories and articles from the School Papers and Our World (the social studies magazine for upper primary students) to build such a kit. We had plenty of material to choose from:more than 1000 stories from 10+ years of School Papers and only a slightly smaller number of articles from Our World.

Regrettably, the Department declined our request for funding and the project languished.

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