PAWA KENNY AMBIASI
PORT MORESBY - When he announced Joseph Yopyyopy as Papua New Guinea’s new education minister, prime minister James Marape said his government will continue the tuition fee free (TFF) education policy and add quality to it.
Managing TFF is one thing but quality education is what we need most in PNG society.
A civilised society should be made up of well-educated people who apply the highest level of self-discipline, tolerance, respect for others and esteem for private and public institutions.
The sign at the entrance to the education department’s head office of in Waigani has the motto ‘Quality Education for Quality Citizens’, but, even though the motto has existed for some time, education standard continue to drop.
There is a very big gap in the learning of mathematics and science. Many students can’t understand what is taught in school. And many students cannot attain the scarce places in tertiary institutions.
So what is lacking? Is it policy? Is it money? Is it resources? No. We could have a silver coated TFF policy, money and resources but we would still have a problem with the quality of education.
This is because PNG has overlooked its teachers over the years.
Teachers are not treated well. They are paid low salaries. They are not given houses. And they are not given adequate support to further their studies in specialised subjects.
Let me quote the words of a long-serving teacher and now school principal, who told me:
“Teachers whose welfare is not addressed by the school authorities and stakeholders don’t perform to the best of their knowledge and ability.
“They don’t teach students with a holistic approach to develop them to become meaningful, responsible and productive citizens of the country.
"Teachers lose focus of their real purpose of being a professional teacher and they simply clock time to get paid.
"As a result, students become the major victims. They suffer. Such attitudes are the major factors that contribute to the drop in our country’s education standard. Is it fair to blame the teachers?
“In order to produce well educated people, we need best teachers who are diligently committed and enjoying their job. The way to make teachers enjoy their job is by providing them with good accommodation, pay them at an internationally competitive salary level, equip their schools with necessary infrastructure like classrooms and a library and give them the necessary teaching materials and equipment.
“There is currently a brain drain in the teaching service for greener pasture. Many teachers are leaving for other jobs that offer them better pay with good accommodation.
“All government bodies, private, churches, parents and citizens must work together towards achieving what we preach ‘Quality Education for Quality Citizens’. Well educated and specialist teachers who have passion for the job can produce the best manpower the country needs to achieve its ambitions, goals and aspirations.
“Teacher training must be geared towards producing quality products in knowledge, skills, discipline, character, personality, ethical behaviour and personal hygiene.
“Schools and training institutions need to be equipped with the necessary teaching and training materials, tools and equipment. There must be adequate funding for these institutions distributed on a timely basis.
“The school inspection system must be adequately resourced for the officers to carry out their duties well. The inspection system is the only way for teachers to realise their full potential, get promoted and be rewarded for their good work with a salary increase.
“Currently, the inspection system is only carrying out less than 50% of its job due to lack of funding and resources.
“Teachers as individuals and role models must lead a productive live for their own good and be submissive to God, school authorities, provincial and national governments and their agencies.”
I concur with this school principal and agree that we need quality teachers for quality education.
Field officers and policy implementers have the first-hand experience to know the facts of the situation we face.
As Dr James Aiwa, Dean of School of Education at the University of Goroka, said, “The quality of anything will reflect the type of support given.”
Government support is needed for teachers’ welfare and quality training.