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09 August 2010


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The government is trying to phase out OBE. I'm an English teacher. I started teaching with the former curriculum.

OBE totally changed the English syllabus. A lot of work for me. I like the content, had to do a lot of reading to identify the best way to teach a text type.

I plan my own approach to teach grammar and other skills.

The irony is the government didn't do much to make it work and now they are changing it. At least it helped me to be more creative as a teacher.

About 16 years ago, I was a teacher in PNG high schools. There was a strange policy that we were told came from the Measurement Support Unit of the Department of Education.

We were told that in internal assessment tests, students who did not sit for the test were not to be given zero. They had to be given one point lower than the class average.

This meant that on test days many boys would disappear into the bush near the school and not come out until the lunch hour. They waited till the test was finished.

If the class average was 6 out of 10, the boys in the bush would get 5 out of 10. It will be very interesting to find out if it still exists and applies to projects in Outcome-Based Education. It saves a lot of work for the lower end of the class.

If I were a parent and knew my child would complete the same projects as the year before, I might try to buy the assignments from the top student and give to my child.

Do not say it does not happen. If it can happen, it will. The top student may have got the assignments from the top student the year before.

Education is being compromised by criminals who sell false certificates to young men and women. Employers must check the certificates with the Measurement Support Unit. But that is a waste of time if the holder has adopted the identity of a real certificate holder.

I was once the Human Resources Manager for a security firm. At one intake, 60 applicants arrived with grade 10 certificates. They expected the standard entry test but I made a new one.

Who is a class patron? What month is the Written Expression exam? What is plate tectonics? What was your result in English and Maths? That was a hard one for applicants who had just handed in their certificates. At least 28 had no idea. They had never been to high school.

Let us hope that the cheats are not winning. If so, what is the point of education?

Perhaps it is fair to say that OBE might well have prospered in the 60's in Australia and other nations.

Since then the student body has been subjected to the removal of phonics from the educational environment.

The introduction of other word / picture memory dependent systems has ultimately reduced the functional vocabulary of latter day students.

Their ability to command language and form creative expression, to interpret moods and tenses, is now severely diminished.

My main concern with Outcome-Based Education is the opportunity it gives for students to cheat. They will use project assignments from their brothers, sisters and cousins from the years before.

I once worked for a private training institution in PNG that used services of the University of Papua New Guinea's distance education section. Subjects were prepared in booklet form with assignments to be completed by students. These were never changed year in, year

Many students were not interested in coming to class but came once a week to deliver their projects. I checked assignments against one another to find that handwriting varied between the assignments for the same students. It was not the work of many of the students.

It is crucial there be an external exam to test the skills and knowledge of the subject being studied. If a student gains 85% for projects and 25% for the external exam, something is wrong. External exams should test rote knowledge and thinking skills.

The problem is that, in the hands of a thorough teacher, all thinking skills can become rote knowledge. Is that good or bad?

As well, all assignments must be held by the school in files to be checked by the inspector. If returned to the students, these can be recycled. Projects must be regularly changed. But PNG being PNG, this will not happen.

Outcome-Based Education means that schools can lose control of their students. They do not need to be in class if completing a project. Some can be fighting, drinking homebrew and smoking marijuana.

Their assignment is due in on Friday.They can miss out on two lessons tomorrow, turn up after lunch and leave before last period. Outcome-Based Education can turn schools into a cheats' paradise.

Would it be true to say that the lack of resources in PNG schools extends to Tok Pisin materials.

If so then Tok Pisin comprehension will be references only from an oral tradition. Where is the phonics for Tok Pisin let alone English.

Where are the hallmarks of analytical understanding of language, science etc then to be found.

It is increasingly difficult for PNG teachers to form objective determinations on their abilities to function in the future of PNG education.

They become administrators of processes designed by others over which they have very little creative control or input.

Such a scenario is not just native to PNG, it exists worldwide.

Every person thinks in their native tongue before their second language.

Marilyn - When asked a question, many of my PNG students would think in Pidgin first and then reply in English.

I fully understand that PNG people need to be able to think and speak and reason in Pidgin.

But I think English needs to be taught in PNG schools from an early age to benefit those going on to do further study, which will be conducted in English.

Over the last three years I have been helping an Indian Australian lady with her assignments in her nursing course from the University of Western Sydney.

I have learned a lot about nursing! I can also see that she has slowly improved her written English. She will need this English when she starts working as a Registered Nurse next year.

She will also be able to help Indian Australian patients who cannot understand much English.

OK, speak Tok Pisin in the school gounds. But for those students who want to go on to do professional studies let them be encouraged to speak in English.

We Australians have been spending time blaming PNG for the drop in standards in schools. We have to realise that PNG is following the same path as Australia has done over the last 80 years.

Education in Australia has never been too high. After World War 1, there was shortage of teachers and the brightest students were given extra tuition and taken on as teachers.

They taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Students performed in spelling or wrote incorrect spelling 100 times. Students learned by rote and learned thoroughly.

My mother learned all the capes and bays around Australia. She never really used the skill. But she had learned crucial discipline of rote learning. She was great in memorizing cards in bridge.

After World War 2, there was a shortage of teachers with many recruited from the military on discharge. Some gained educational levels while waiting for discharge in places like Buna and Gona.

This was reflected in schools. Students were required to march around the school on columns of three, left, right, left, right. Again, students learned by rote and their rote skill was tested for examination.

But times they were a’changin. Out of World War 2 came baby boomers who grew to salute flags, swear allegiance to the Queen, march in rank order and go to the headmaster for six of the best. Some went to Vietnam. The rest stayed home to make love not war.

The baby boomers became teachers and there was a reaction against rote learning. Students had to learn by enjoying study and not by memorizing. Spell CAT,mm T-A-C. That’s close enough. You will get it soon enough.

The baby boomers were the teachers of the present teachers who lost the skills of teaching the basics. It is now too late. The World War I, 2 and Vietnam era teachers are dead / retired in that order. Who is going to bring back a little rote learning?

Teachers like a herd of lemmings are committed in PNG and Australia not to promote learning by rote. It is their professional responsibility to promote a lack of discipline. Standards have dropped.

Outcome-Based Education teaches the capacity to produce a report, summary, letter or plan. But many teachers have not the ability to teach the basics in spelling, writing and thinking. All are supposed to go together.

The onus is on the students and that is a cop-out. We read that OBE has failed. It may be 50% that incompetent lazy teachers have failed.

And who said that all students are to succeed? That has not ever been the case anywhere in the world.It may be that many students fail because of their own lack of capacity. That is 50% too.

Many students achieve regardless of the teachers.

Tom - I taught at Brandi High 1971-74, Keravat NHS 1975-1981 and was headmistress of Manggai HS 1982-83.

Over the past few years I have been in contact with many of my old students from these schools and have found they are very concerned with the problems with education in PNG today.

Many of them are teachers and many of them are concerned for the education of their own children.
I realise that PNG is a developing country and I'm not comparing the PNG school system to Australian schools but to PNG schools as I knew them in the past.

The idea of a Health Promoting School sounds excellent!
I know that copying from the blackboard is not enough but, if there are no textbooks, then this is a way of giving students a handwritten "textbook" which they can use in later life.

I still own my old notebooks from my school days and I used them during my teaching career!

It is a positive task to compile your own collection of notes on anything in which you are interested, even as an adult.

Of course, better learning takes place when you use the information in your notebook to answer questions or write essays on a topic.

I think that English needs to be taught to the students during Junior/Primary School years. It takes a lot of time and constant use to teach a child to speak and write in English.

For those going on to higher education the need to be able to understand English is greater.

Thank you for your thoughts, Dorcas. I just wonder if this 12 year old girl has been given any lessons on good health and hygiene on which to base her letter.

It is good to get students to apply the information that they have been taught but I just wonder if the actual information has been given to them.

Do they have an appropriate General Science course being taught to them that would give them the basis to go on to further science study in high school and to eventually become doctors and nurses themselves?

The same goes for the making of a vegetable garden. Do they teach her elementary agriculture? Do they have a garden in the school where they can apply what they have been taught and carry out experiments to find the appropriate methods for the climate of that area and the local soil type?

As for the diet, do they teach them what is meant by protein, carbohydrates and vitamins etc?

They probably do not have any textbooks but if the teacher wrote the key facts on the board and they copied it into their exercise books they would end up with their own reference books for further use.

It would also help them to improve their English. The more they copy and write in English the better they will become at expressing themselves in English.

It is good that they are being asked to write all these projects, I assume in English as it will help them to become competent in both spoken and written English.

I hear that in many schools today the teachers are teaching in Pidgin and that students might not be taught in English until they reach Grade 11 in high school.

When it comes to talking to a person in government, I would think that it would be excellent for the school to invite government officials to the school to explain their jobs.

At the same time, they could be taught about government. This could include a simple course on PNG history and PNG traditional political systems, especially those of the local cultural group.

They could also be taught about the PNG government and the local member of parliament could be invited to speak to the school.

I just worry that OBE could lead to a situation where poor outcomes could be blamed on the students.

Teachers in my time as a teacher knew that they had an obligation to teach a certain body of information to their students.

It was their task to work out ways that would help their students, with all their individual differences, to actually learn what they were required to teach them.

They did the best they could. But I always knew that the home situation was the key behind the success of the students.

I feel happy that this young girl is very fortunate to have you to guide her in her study at home. This may not apply to her other classmates.

Hopefully she will be learning the facts. She will be learning the facts from living with you. But will her classmates be so fortunate?

There is a young girl who lives with my family. She is 12 years old and in Grade 6. I looked at her school books to see what she was doing.

I can see her work is outcome based education. Look at some of her tasks in the last month:

-- Write a letter to your mother and explain to her why immunisation of babies is important.

-- Explain steps to be taken in making a vegetable garden. When do we start a garden?

-- Plan a diet for a family for a week. Make sure that you have a balance of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins. Explain which vegetables you cook and which your family can eat raw.

-- Talk to a person in Government or business and find out the jobs that person has to do.

She is not just recalling facts but explaining processes. She is not using text books but taking knowledge from real life. That is the best schools can do without reference books.

I used to be a teacher and feel this is better than just learning facts. It would be better if the school had access to new library books.

On the internet, I found an article on OBE in PNG by Dr Pam Norman.

Dr Norman is currently Dean of Studies at Divine Word University. She is passionate about curriculum and has a long involvement with curriculum initiatives in PNG as well as in other countries.

In the article Dr Norman mentioned that the main purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. An outcomes based curriculum is driven by assessment plans derived from well-defined learning outcomes.

Here’s an example from the draft Lower Secondary Personal Development Syllabus.

Learning outcome 9.3.2: Students describe ways to deal with sexual health during adolescence safely including avoiding HIV and AIDS.

Assessment task: In groups, write and perform a short play on HIV/AIDS. The play might include issues such as:

* ways to manage sexual relationships safely
* pressures to engage in harmful practices
* strategies to minimise harm.

But will the students have learned any biology?

Darusilla - My understanding of the results of student outcomes in literacy, as a result of the application of OBE, is that there is up to a tenfold discrepancy in the capabilities of primary school graduates.

Phonics based approaches provide a discipline within which the student has established objectives by which to measure progress and develop creative skills and abilities particularly suited to their persona.

This approach recognises the worth and potential of the individual.

Some research that you asked for:

A crucial component of global education is the look-say or whole-language method of teaching reading. It was developed around 1810 for deaf mutes, who are unaware of phonetic sounds. Attempts to get it accepted by regular schools failed until it was picked up at the end of the nineteenth century by Deweyites.

Dewey’s idea was that education is not to develop talents, but to prepare the child to fit into society as a servant of the State.

Phonics started being phased out of American schools in 1929 and most school districts were without it by the 1950s. By the early 1980s, look-say was almost exclusively taught across North America, Britain and New Zealand because educators were told phonics didn’t feel good.

The illiteracy statistics show look-say doesn’t work. Illiteracy among 10 to 20-year-olds in the United States decreased from 7.6 per cent in 1900 to 4.7 per cent in 1910.

And after the introduction of whole-language instruction, scores on the Armed Forces qualification tests indicated that illiteracy amongst recruits soared from almost zero during World War II to 17 percent during the Korean War.

Darusilla - You astound us with your revelations - or I am fighting back to say ignorance.

Might I ask when you started working there?

Outcome-Based Education is a crystal clear public policy that was shoved into the deep throats of the country's education system in the mid-1990's. The Education Department and your Curriculum Division facilitated this.

Please spare some time to read about OBE here

Shoot me an email if you're not able to download it. My email address is

I have been reading the issues about OBE. Here at the Curriculum Development Division we talk about the Outcomes Based Curriculum (OBC) and not Outcomes Based Education (OBE).

So PNG does not have an Outcomes Based Education but an Outcome Based Curriculum.

Secondary schools only just started using OBC one or two years ago, so it is too early to blame the OBC for the problems of teaching English today. It hasn't been implemented for 10 or so years, so we can’t blame the OBC.

Has there been any research carried out on this issue. If there has, then we would like to have a copy of it. If not then do not blame OBC but teachers may need to assess their own delivery of this subject to students. Just a suggestion.

Just a reminder, PNG has an Outcomes Based Curriculum and not an Outcomes Based Education.

OBE requires students to have independence and maturity. They have to have a background of world knowledge. They must have a sense of enquiry.

So many PNG students are not fit. They have limited English and an inability to write ideas in their own words.

They could not even tell a teacher where Asia and Europe were. Many lack ability to work alone. They have no skill in analysis.

There is a sorting process as students go from Grades 10 to 12. Skill to do these things improves as students advance to higher grades.

In the 80’s, while our family resided in Sydney, my wife and I were home-schooling our children. Such a venture requires an early benchmark being set in the student’s literacy abilities. To permit the child to “self-manage” the resource materials, there has to be a grasp of the language.

To obtain this grip on language, the children were coached in the basics; consonants, vowels, blends etc. The usual flashcards, blend ladders and memory and reading exercises were employed.

Number two son was reading confidently for his level at 4 1/2 to 5 years of age. The others were not far behind in their respective experiences.

A young man came to us one day concerned at his repeated failure of the literacy tests required for his application for Army service.

He could talk and discern basics but had no ability to examine and analyse words. My wife coached him for three weeks in the basics described above as if he were a pre-schooler.

He sat his test and passed the grade required for military service.

I would suggest that all over PNG are to be found teachers and volunteers both inside the public and private or mission school sectors who have this ability to impart the means of literary transformation to teachers and students.

Perhaps a radical approach to the issue might be to issue a moratorium on the conduct of standard classes for a month in order to engage the students and teachers in simplistic, though life-changing, “back to basics training.”

Corney - I am saying that the poor levels of English were the result of the interaction of many factors.

There is the law of diminishing returns that began after the first language expatriate English teachers left the country. You would have been taught English by an expatriate.

There was introduction of vernacular language that took up the first valuable years at school. There was little or no reinforcement of learning at home. It is middle class parents who lift their children.

There is a passive style of teaching of many PNG teachers. You listen to me and summarise what I write on the blackboard.

There is a lack of textbooks and reference books in school libraries. There is the total lack of world general knowledge, particularly in rural schools.

Who is the President of the United States? Silence. Come on. His parents came from Africa. Nelson Mandela? (Sigh) Just copy what I write on the blackboard.

It is the interaction of many factors. It did not just fall from the sky. And no one person is to blame.

Mr Copeland - We both know the theory of cause and effect. Right?

We have countless Papua New Guineans (including myself) who went to school and were taught in English, and by our own standards we have pretty good command of both written and spoken English.

This is the language in which PNG's constitution is framed and which government and industry rely on as the preferred language.

So what are you saying here? We should not blame anybody?

Cause and effect. Simple.

Because of this poor grasp of English, Papua New Guinea's progress has been arrested, misdirected and to me it's a serious developmental issue that touches the core of our existence in the community of nations.

I will get back to the forum this afternoon after work.

Your article appears to suggest that this episode fell from the sky and is of nobody's doing - and we shouldn't do anything to correct it.

Also please tell us why OBE is ridiculed and scrapped all across the world - but not in PNG?

It will be interesting to read.

I have been a teacher of English for most of my working life in Australia and PNG. Over the last 17 years, the standard of English in PNG has dropped with diminishing returns.

There is no-one to blame for low standards. It is just how things are. English is a foreign language in this country though used on TV, radio and in the newspapers.

Most students leave the classroom and speak Tok Pisin. There was a time when the students were punished by teachers for using Tok Pisin out of class.

In the village, students have no motivation to speak English. Newspapers are taken by adults for cigarette paper. Most village parents never speak English.

Students seldom learn to write and read in class. There can be one textbook held by the teacher. Work is written on the blackboard and copied into students’ pads and that is the lesson. Is this to be the heartland of OBE?

Students in primary school seldom write in their own words, only the words of the book. Most students use Tok Pisin patterns in writing English on the few occasions they use their own words.

It is the basis of PNG students in Australian colleges being accused of plagiarism. But we always copy out of the textbook. Not in this university, young fellow. That is cheating.

Young students use repetitive baby sentences. I went to town. I wanted to buy a shirt. I wanted a yellow shirt. I went into a shop. I asked if they had yellow shirt. As an expatriate English teacher, I worked to elevate the baby talk.

Take the sentence group - I looked out of the window. I saw a ship. It was on the horizon. Change to one sentence. Looking out the window, I saw a ship on the horizon.

I called that sweet English. Most students had never seen sweet English before. But it did not take long to get the idea. It was the standard in my English classes. They had to write sweet English.

Oppression before enslavement - not an accurate explanation of the situation.

Mere statistical propping, with zilch quality of education, for international heralding by AID donors is an insult to the 6.5 million people of Papua New Guinea. The Education Department's complicity in this hollow grandstanding is shameful.

The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Steven Smith
stated at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting last Wednesday in Vanuatu: "In a large part of the Cairns Compact, we now have stronger evidence that there is some good news on MDGs in the Pacific, particularly in education."

He further stated that there are more children now in schools. most notably in PNG.

I have much stronger evidence from the ground in PNG.

Quality has taken a massive dive with so much schools' infrastructure falling apart. The English standards are heading south. Many teachers' motivation to teach an aid-driven reform (OBE) curriculum is showing serious problems.

Is this the kind of development target, or I should say "development target", we're being misled to follow?

Who in Port Moresby is providing all these artificially propped up education statistics for the aid donors to trumpet about?

Hear this from a teacher in Kundiawa:


Education reforms catastrophic for us

A lot has been said about the education reforms but the issue has gone cold. It must be revived and debated publicly because the outcome-based education is catastrophic for Papua New Guinea.

Let us look at why it has been catastrophic. Firstly, the structural reforms are such that Grades Seven and Eight are kept at the primary level.

Students are mostly in their adolescent stage where learning of all aspects are at their peak. The reform is such that only basics are taught, disregarding human norms of behaviour and attitude.

Also, the discipline system there (primary) may not be to expected standards, as to train a well-disciplined and behaved student now as compared to how it was like when Grades 7 and 8 3were at a high school with an effective discipline system and rules of conduct and behaviour.

Students in both grades are those mostly in their teens and when kept in an environment with children of Grades 3 to 6, they may lose their sense of maturity, thereby displaying behaviour and attitudes of immaturity as they move to Grades 9 and 10.

The secondary school system did better when students were groomed for four years, Grades 7 to 10.

Secondly, the curriculum reforms are such that students are taught basics from a choice of very broad topics in all subjects.

Even certain units in subjects are omitted so an average child will be taught to an extent where the person will not be properly educated on certain subjects.

In other words, there is no quality and PNG qualifications would not be recognised abroad.

In addition, someone passing out from the PNG national education system would have a low IQ because of the kind of the curriculum we have adopted.

This is now becoming evident in classrooms where students seem to have poor general knowledge and low intellectual ability.

PNG is looking at not being able to export professionals such as doctors, engineers, etc; instead, it will be exporting fruit pickers to Australia and New Zealand.
This is a shame for PNG.

Thirdly, the Education Department’s language policy on curriculum reforms is a total mockery of the language of communication, learning and instruction in the school environment.

In fact, the language policy contradicts its purpose as a tool for better learning. As a teacher, let me reveal the very frightening experiences I am currently encountering in my Grade 9 and 10 classrooms:

* My students cannot write a complete sentence in English;

* My students are very passive and cannot answer the questions I am asking, especially questions requiring an explanation, description, etc; Instead, they can answer questions requiring a “ONE” word answer;

* My students do not have a habit of reading and doing research;

* Assignments handed in are not properly done;

* My students are not confident to interact with me and I take it that they do not have the language confidence and ability to communicate effectively;

* Many of my students are unable to pronounce words correctly; and the list goes on.

The OBE curriculum is centred on active participation by students in learning but I am beginning to experience the opposite where students are passive.

Sometimes I feel as if the students are dumb or that I am talking to the wall.

This is because our curriculum development officers and policy makers in Waigani are enjoying their salaries and assuming that things in remote Manus, Sepik, New Ireland, Simbu, Western, Southern Highlands, etc, are getting on fine.

As a teacher, I am telling you guys in Waigani that this is a nightmare teachers can do without. I pity the students who are going through this as a result of poor decisions.

I call on Dr Joseph Pagelio and his team in Waigani to be realistic about the education reforms and its effect on our education system.

Fourthly, I want to challenge PNG teachers and the PNG Teachers Association to join the debate on the reforms.
Why are teachers keeping quiet when the reforms are not working and are very detrimental to PNG?

They are not reforms but rather deforming our children.
It is not too late to get rid of OBE.

Last but not the least, I see the so-called reforms as a medium to promote hidden agendas of foreigners.

The Government blindly voted to accept the reforms because they do not care, and have the means to send their children overseas.

If any of our MPs had bothered to study the bill before passing it, they would have known that it was not possible for us to implement it as we did not have the means.

I suggest the old system be reviewed and improved on than to overhaul the system entirely.

I hope Papua New Guineans with a heart for the future will take on the battle and stop the current education reforms which are catastrophic for PNG.

Wii Kauma


With this and many others, Kevin Smith's and Dr Pagelio's smugness about Education in Papua New Guinea is considered hollow grandstanding with little substance.

I challenge both these two gentleman to read Notre Dame University lecturer, Richard Berlach's paper on OBE

Papua New Guineans that have commented here and many others are calling for an end to this madness quickly - as quickly as in November 2010.

Spot-on, Sarah. There’s a “motive “ for sure.
Around the world, there is a battle raging for “mind-control.” People who can form a thought like your comment are not welcome in the world of tomorrow.

Tomorrow's world is a collectivised society of dumbed-down conformists to a universal ideology.

Western individualism has been thoroughly mocked and maligned by today's leading change agents. No wonder, since free, factual thinking would slow their revolution. They can't win their war unless they modify our minds. John Dewey, father of progressive education in America, described this psycho-social battle in his book, Democracy and Education.

"There is always a danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual.... It often makes an individual so insensitive in his relations to others as to develop an illusion of being really able to stand and act alone -- an unnamed form of insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remedial suffering of the world."

The use of vernacular in schools in the 60's/70's was not allowed we were punished. I don't know whether these children now who sing and dance to traditional music and tokples all day will ever get employed. There must be a motive for this.

There are enough people currently in the system to correct this stupid insinuation that learning tokples and Pidgin in elementary school will make the kids learn to read, write and speak proper English.

I don’t know from which billabong or rubbish bin in Queensland Dr Pakelio [and his band of AusAID advisors and Education Department briefcase.carriers] picked up his PhD in Education reforms with the OBE curriculum being the most flawed. It just must be done away with.

My father was a primary school teacher and worked his way up to school inspector before his demise in 1975 and I saw how hard he worked to ensure standards were maintained in pre-independence days.

With all the talk of economic boom for PNG in the next five years thanks to the LNG project, I hope our planners are discussing and ensuring plans are in place to revamp the education system with infrastructure to rural schools, training and retraining of staff and their remuneration is adequate so that our future generation is not only well educated but proper life skills are imparted at an early age.

Just some food for thought my friends.

I am truly saddened by the fact that the level of English in all learning institutions in PNG is deteriorating.

I was in Port Moresby last Friday when I read this article by Ellen Tiamu in The National which certainly broke my heart.

For your information I wrote an article which was partially focused on 'One World: World Englishes" in 'The Newage Woman Magazine' (June 2010 issue).

I did this as an awareness to the general public on the falling standards of English in PNG. This was a follow-up of a paper I presented in a conference in Cambodia in February this year on the Use of Tok Pisin and the local vernaculars in PNG schools.

According to my current research work on pidgins, creoles and vernacular education, and the collection of articles and letters to the editor on issues relating to the current education system, there is overwhelming support for the English-only education to be re-introduced.

So I believe it is now up to the government of the day to hear the cries of its people.

The falling standards of English in PNG is in fact a very sad fact indeed!

Cry my beloved country.

Kilala Devete-Chee
University of Canberra

Ms Tiamu's article is spot on! I have experienced in the past ten years or so that English grammar, phonetics and written expression in newly graduated Grade 10/12, college and university students and some military officers (including medical doctors) we have interviewed for enlistment in the PNGDF is substandard.

Apart from the dreaded OBE, I strongly believe the 'system' sees teaching as a low class job therefore the pay and conditions are not attractive enough to lure persons with a higher IQ, personality and conviction to pass on the right skills in the 3 'R's - reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic from the primary school level to the basics in science, arts, at high school and onwards.

Serious re-assessment of the whole approach to education especially in rural areas is needed immediately.

Friends currently engaged in education reform should comment if I need to stand corrected on any of my views expressed above.

Lt Colonel (Dr) Gideon Kendino MBE
Director of Health Services
Papua New Guinea Defence Force

I agree with Bill Simon's comments. Both points are very true and I would like to comment further on point 2.

The teachers today are not committed in bringing education to Papua New Guineans. Apart from getting involved in village politics, the teacher is more interested in visiting urban centres looking for his/her pay or, if they live in urban centres, they spend up to 50% of their time looking for finances companies to borrow money from, a dilemma that the teacher cannot take full responsibility for.

The average teacher today earns K300 per fortnight. How do we expect the teacher to concentrate when he/she is worried about feeding their family? Twelve years ago a packet of Trukai Rice costed 80 toea, today the same packet of rice can be purchased at K6 - a 750% increase in 12 years.

Above is a major factor as to why people go and teach in their own areas. This way they get assistance from extended family, and they also help themselves by making their own food gardens. A good number of them get their pupils to make their gardens - a good way to get taught how to survive in the village and forget the English language!

I was going to suggest that we bring back the expatriate teacher who is more committed in doing his job. But, on second thought, who in their right mind would like to go to a remote highlands village where they see a motor vehicle once in a blue moon and they are found in the middle of two warring clans or in an isolated island where the sugar in sold out in the canteen and the next supply will be next month.

And don't talk about the harassment and the law and order situation - that's just the additional icing.

I agree in part that the OBE is responsible for what is happening today, however being a student in PNG back in the 80s and 90s, I think there are two things that stand out for me and perhaps contribute to this demise and they are:

1) Encouragement of reading through updated School and Public Libraries system. That is lacking today, either there are no libraries or there is insufficient books in those that exist. We were encouraged to read and I must admit I learnt more from just reading than in the classroom.

2) When I was a student we had committed teachers from all over PNG teaching in schools all over PNG away from their home province and they were faithful, rocked up on time and finished on time and kept a strict standard on school discipline and we feared and respected them.

Today, 90% of the teachers go and teach in their home province, district, village and most of them don’t even teach, they either take up in other village issues and spend less time with students in the classroom so a lot of the discipline and respect has been lost and students don’t learn. I know that because I have a lot of relatives who are teachers back home and most of them don’t teach.

The whole education system in PNG needs to be overhauled.

I would be interested to hear from teachers who used OBE with success. When I was asked to use OBE back in the 1980s at a high school in Sydney I felt that I would be spending all my time testing and recording marks rather than actually teaching.

Fortunately I had taught for over 25 years at the time and was pleased with the teaching methods that I had refined over those years and was able to continue to teach the way that I wanted to teach and "cut many corners" in the complicated testing system.

So my pupils did not suffer.

In PNG today, if OBE has caused problems, the Education Department needs to set up a task force to look into it.
The fact that OBE requires students to do research in libraries and that there are few libraries, should be enough to ring the alarm bells.

At the moment I'm receiving letters from two Canadian teachers who taught at Keravat National High School in the 1970s but who have returned there to help with science teaching.

They have been busy sorting out all the scientific equipment that has been stacked away for years and the students are looking forward to doing some experiments and practical lesson in biology.

From what I'm hearing, PNG Education today has many problems - lack of libraries, science teaching that needs teachers to include more hands-on practical work, and teachers who lack discipline and motivation.

Let's hope that the well-educated PNG parents will push for reforms in the education system for the sake of their teenage children.

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