Right to information: PNG performs poorly on assessment
Talk and blame

Education has lost its way in curriculum wrangles & teacher quality

ClassroomJOE KUMAN

GOROKA - The diminishing educational standards of Papua New Guinea are of grave concern to citizens and stakeholders with the outcome-based curriculum (OBE) adopted a decade or so ago continuing to be blamed for this.

The talk now is of a standard based education/curriculum rescue package, which – if adopted - will surely take a time equal to the lost decade to recover the situation. This means that PNG might see quality and affordable education system in maybe 20 years.

I am of the view that there is no problem with either curriculum. OBE was fine in theory and design but not in practice. The implementers (teachers) were not ready for, nor receptive to, the change. And they were defeated psychologically by the foreign concepts and terms used.

One of the major challenges was to develop activities relevant to the grade and context suitable to the diverse needs of students. Building the capacity (skills) of teachers to implement the curriculum was another problem.

The government failed to seriously address this through quality training at higher institutional levels. Monitoring and inspectorial mechanisms were also poor.

Teachers were inducted by a few officers who had attended Training of Trainers workshops which focused only on how to plan and program the syllabus without delivering skills in curriculum adaptation.

Most elderly teachers were knocked out by the ‘foreign’ OBE concepts. Dictionaries and thesauruses were needed by these old timers during the implementation trial stage in 2004 and 2005. They were to become strong opponents of OBE until it was finally disbanded in 2015.

The OBE curriculum was criticised as being developed by foreign consultants and irrelevant, but this is not true. It was relevant and appropriate for Papua New Guineans.

The outcomes, strands, sub-strands, indicators and activities were designed to be progressive and consequential from simple to complex or known to unknown.

True, the teachers have to be imaginative, sensitive, creative, innovative and productive in translating the syllabus into a learning avenue for students. These qualities have been lacking in teachers who also lack research skills as well as curriculum design, development and innovation skills.

Young graduate teachers need sound content knowledge in different subject areas so they can plan accordingly for the classes they teach. This knowledge then needs to be deployed through effective teaching methods to impart meaningful learning to the diverse young brains eager to receive it.

The principles of OBE were based on the diverse cultural contexts of PNG. In essence, they were aligned with the national goals and directive principles of integral human development. OBE also acknowledged the philosophy of PNG education for to serve the intention established by our forefathers to create an educated population which would mean a prosperous nation.

The late Kondom Agaundo of Simbu once said, “You laughed at me when I struggle to speak Pidgin but my children coming after me would communicate with you in English and share the same table with you. My sons will come! They are coming!”

Kondom was a visionary. He believed in the potential of his fellow Papua New Guineans to become leaders who would guide and shape the people and the nation. In doing so, education was a top priority in this era of the 1960s and 1970s.

This philosophy also sought to ensure that PNG’s cultural heritage would be maintained. It was not to be and our traditions are quickly dying out. Inter-regional marriage and globalisation have accelerated this. Pidgin and English are squeezing out our indigenous languages and with them the traditional ethos and cultural practices they supported.

Standard based education (SBE) also honours the national goals and directive principles enshrined in the Constitution. Here there is not much difference between SBE and OBE except that consultants benefit from changing one for the other.

The structural change will not have the desired impact unless teachers are well prepared and equipped to implement the new policy. If the current government intends to up-skill serving teachers or hire skilled teachers to provide quality education through SBE, the same applied to the OBE system would have worked just as well.

OBE set an outcome within subject areas to be achieved by students through the guidance and facilitation of teachers. Teachers worked towards ensuring students achieved the outcomes. However, the activities varied from context to context and teachers had to be creative and innovative to achieve the desired outcomes.

On the other hand, SBE sets a national standard for students all over PNG to uniformly meet despite their varied contexts.

Rural or urban, resourced or not, will be treated indiscriminately using a national performance matrix for both students and teachers. Again teachers will have to pull up their socks to hit the national target considering the scarcity of places in tertiary institutions.

All students will have to be taught by teachers in a manner that meets the national standard, which unfortunately - although much talked about - is still blurred and vague because detailed curriculum principles have not been established.

Why? Because there has been no curriculum statement developed to date. There is now a likelihood of adopting the old curriculum statement as was adopted under OBE

If this is the case, there may not be much difference between OBE and SBE.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Showing your age a bit there Bernard - Pink Floyd and Ivan Illich.

Triple loop learning only really kicks in at tertiary level but there's still a lot of indoctrination.

I discovered that university was all about pleasing your lecturers. Once I'd worked that out I cruised through. Never wrote so much crap in my life.

Ed Brumby

Isn't the deeper purpose of institutionalised education to instil compliance and conformity within the student participants? Think about it....

Bernard Corden

Almost all education has a political motive, which promotes national, religious or social group interests at the expense of its opponents.

It determines the subjects taught, the knowledge provided or suppressed and the customs and conventions students are expected to acquire.

In many curricula learning is akin to schooling and it confuses process with substance. It is mostly indoctrination and the information is merely absorbed and repeated. This obfuscates teaching with learning and imagination is controlled to accept ceremony over value….

'We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control, no dark sarcasm in the class room, teacher leave us kids alone, all in all you're just another brick in the wall.'

Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, police protection for public safety and military prowess for national security. Issues such as welfare, learning, dignity, independence and creativity merely reflect the performance of establishments serving these ends.

Education occurs only when there is an ethical intent to enhance the wisdom and development of individuals. It requires a community of reciprocation, empathy, meaning and engagement with an emphasis on self-discipline.

Single loop training or indoctrination restrains progress, which inhibits maturity and wisdom. The acquired knowledge is merely superficial with repetitive vapid clichés such as reaching or moving forward. CAE used to stand for College of Advanced Education but it now means cool, excellent and awesome.

Double loop learning is a generative process that contests traditions and assumptions and encourages creativity to develop alternative trajectories.

A paradigm shift only occurs via triple loop learning, which is learning to learn. It cultivates deep intrinsic knowledge that is much more meaningful and resilient than single loop training or replication of data using algorithms via the fallacy of machine learning

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire is worth reading:


Deschooling society by Ivan Illich is also quite interesting:


"An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern" - Tony Benn

Robin Lillicrapp

Institutionalising educational outcomes typically enthrones aspects of power and control.

In PNG, with so much deterioration of literacy and numeracy, it might be wise to effect a clean up of the mess by affording present and future teaching staff and student bodies a remedial construct where emphasis is directed toward individual prowess in the three R's - Reading, Writing, Arithmetic.

Simply squeezing existing and prospective students through a system demonstrably perpetuating failure is folly indeed.

Not much is said about those areas of successful ed-experience that sees graduates tread the local and international stage.

I suspect the rot is prevalent amid state schools where the dysfunction of state apparatus ensures a deficit in supply of essential services and resources. If so, the need to "triage" remedial steps outweighs mere process in forming typical institutions.

For most Papua New Guineans, holding out the theoretic possibilities of acquiring an education is useless unless the individual is also guaranteed grounding in basic skills and standards thus freeing them to pursue goals to the extent of their abilities.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)