While the E Course – the 6-month ‘emergency’ teacher training program launched in PNG in the early sixties - has been justifiably lauded as delivering great educational outcomes for the then Territory, at the time it was regarded with suspicion by expatriates, the South Pacific Post editorial writer and even by some people within the Education establishment.
Things settled down, however, and graduating E-Course teachers went on to serve with distinction alongside their two-year trained counterparts as part of the Australian Administration’s Herculean effort to prepare PNG’s 800 tribes for nationhood.
But by 1963 other storm clouds loomed over the E-Course. As senior education official Don Owner later wrote to the Public Service Commissioner: “It was evident upon the arrival of recruits for the Sixth 'E' Course, that applicants had misconceptions regarding the conditions of service. These caused several immediately to return to Australia, and it is feared that others who might have burned their bridges, are simply waiting for a propitious moment to do likewise.”
Owner’s response was to propose that future recruits be provided with a summary of conditions before their selection interview. It seems the points he listed were those that had caused such consternation in the 6th intake. They were:
§ No permanent appointment – six to fifteen year terms of service.
§ No superannuation.
§ Successful graduation does not confer eligibility for employment in an Australian State Department of Education.
§ You may be supervised by an indigenous officer.
§ You are charged £7/7/0 per week for board and lodging whilst at college.
Loch Blatchford, from whose files this intriguing documentation has been drawn, comments: “The prospect of indigenous supervision seems a funny one to put in. Perhaps Owner felt he had to mention it because of the push for indigenous executive development. I can't imagine the trainees being concerned at the prospect.”
Nor can I. But a number of the other points, especially as they learned about the service conditions of other expatriate teachers in PNG, probably would have struck the trainees as being quite discriminatory.