1960 was a big year in education in Papua New Guinea. Reading through the file summaries of The Blatchford Collection, now on site under ASOPA People Extra, the clear impression is conveyed of a year of high activity, great dynamism and growth in the Territory’s education system. It seems that finally Canberra has got the message, and the funding begins to flow.
Minister for External Territories, Paul Hasluck, wrote in his memoir, A Time for Building, that the Public Service Commissioner in Port Moresby had proposed a reduction in teacher recruitment numbers because of the incapacity of the Administration to absorb them. “I directed that priority for education be maintained," Hasluck wrote. "And told the Administrator to take immediate action to provide for absorbing the increase. ‘The Government looks to the Administrator for a special effort to give effect to the decisions, I wrote. ‘If he is unable to promise a successful effort he should have let me know within a week so that we can take the necessary steps.’ This was intended and was received as a direct warning to Cleland that he had to make the task his personal responsibility or face the consequences.” The drive for educational growth would take no prisoners.
In a letter written to a Prof Schindler on 22 September 1960, Director of Education Graham Roscoe cast some interesting reflections on his predecessor, Bill Groves. “Mr Groves’ intention,” Roscoe wrote, “was that Native Education should be directed not towards Europeanisation, but to fitting the Native for life in the Native manner, in a Native community.
“He had a picture in his mind of happy little peasant communities, living on subsistence agriculture, and free from the frustrations and tension of civilized living. The Territory is not developing like that; thousands of Natives are swarming to the urban areas and seeking employment in jobs of European type, while the older people and the children are left in their village communities, without sufficient man-power to meet the local needs for food and shelter.”
Meanwhile, Roscoe was well pleased with calibre of Australian recruits for the TPNG teaching service: “My Chief of Division, Teacher Training in a recent letter assures me that quite a high proportion of the applicants are people with a sense of vocation who really wish to serve and are prepared to put up with the isolation and lack of amenities inevitable in a frontier post.” Adding to his satisfaction was the arrival of the first group of 50 trainee teachers under the crash E Course teacher training program, which started in Rabaul on 1 November 1960. Hasluck himself said, “This group will form the spearhead of the government’s plan to accelerate education in the Territory.”