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11 September 2010


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It may be germane to speak glowingly of experience with military training courses, and fondly recall the potentials unrealised, but the evidence is that the taxonomy that produced those military courses also fashioned its cousins employed in the national educational fields.

Our old nemesis, Bloom, was as hard at work then to satisfy the demands of military management systems as he was seen to be in the development of those precursors to the OBE of today’s debate.


The need for a systematic approach to training began with World War II when thousands of military personnel had to be trained in the shortest time possible. Various kinds of teaching machines, training films and teaching aids were used in military training sessions.

With the publication of BF Skinner's book, 'The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching' in 1954, behaviourist principles were used in the design of instructional strategies wherein the principles of reinforcement and feedback were introduced.

Most popular being "Program Learning" which emphasised the formulation of behavioural objectives, the breaking down of the instructional sequence into manageable units and providing feedback for each unit attained.

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom, introduced the 'The Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives', which provided instructors with a list of intellectual behaviours to be developed.

Bloom also introduced the notion of 'mastery learning' in which a learners had to be brought to a level of mastery before going on to the following unit of learning.

About the same time, military researchers took the model of 'General Systems Theory' by Ludwig von Bertalanffy based on biological interactions and together with Bloom's Taxonomy, introduced the systems approach to instructional development which integrated content and the delivery of instruction.

In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik which started a space race between the USSR and the US. This led to a re-evaluation of the American education system especially with the teaching of science and mathematics.

In 1962, Robert Glaser synthesised the work of various researchers and introduced the concept of "instructional design" with a model that linked 'learner analysis' with the design and development of instruction.

About the same time, Robert Mager proposed the construction of performance objectives which, according to Mager, should be measurable and exhibit a terminal behaviour.

In 1965, Robert Gagne published his influential book, 'The Conditions of Learning', in which he described his instructional design theory which initially was behaviouristically based but later shifted to a more cognitive approach.

My comment:

The problem faced within PNG is that there are now fewer human resources to work with capable of comprehending the levels of instructional intent by science, industry or military in a vocational environment.

The means of acquiring those assets is dependent upon the success of the institutions, which we observe have dramatically failed.

There is presently no measurable body of achievement in the public sector by which to assume a well regulated scope and sequence of educational progress to grow and prosper.

Unless some radical shifts are made to remedy the aberrant philosophy and practice of the past 15 years, PNG can just expect more of the same.

There were criticisms of the Program in Problem Solving in the military in Australia. The view was that this was all just commonsense.

And we all know that commonsense cannot be taught. We just learn the basics of checking and double-checking from our mother's knee. Spoken like true military training idiots.

What was commonsense to young Australian officers in the 1970s was not commonsense to Papua New Guinea young men.

That is where training fell down at the hands of the Australian military. There was a massive cultural gap between the Australian trainers and the PNG trainees. It still exists with the consultants who brought OBE to PNG. It was all just commonsense.

The common feature of the application of "mastery learning" techniques as experienced by PNGDF or local schools is the conditioning of the subjects to conform to a regime of achievement facilitating the aims of the administrators.

In the case of the PNGDF and the schools, the demolition job done on both is patently obvious to contemporary historians.

Meanwhile, the architects of application, generally, are now the objects of examination for the degree of responsibility or otherwise that saw them preside over what is becoming a ruin and a tragedy of national dimension.

The soldiers lose their pensions and pride of service.

The students lose opportunity and a future.

The architects and their minions get pay rises.

Only now does it appear minutely possible that there is some hope of change re application of lessons learned from failure.

Probably, much of that possibility has been engendered by the kick-start Corney gave to the education debate, and the overall scope of this most valuable blog to publicly airing many other aspects of PNG issues

Is the military not part of the relationship between Australia and PNG? Do we just keep the blog as Kiaps Attitude?

We would talking about reasons for the failure of the PNGDF.

Rod - What is a parade of soldiers? It is a 100% stocktake of men, clean uniforms and weapons.

What would happen if the soldiers had to line up outside the platoon commander's office and be inspected one at a time?

They would play all kinds of tricks. 40 soldiers - 20 clean rifles presented to start with. Four soldiers had to borrow hats. Twelve changed into polished boots.

Talking about all this is like old times.

And before we become Military Attitude....

Go to it offline fellas - KJ

Rod - I agree with you. The trouble with Australian Army training is that so much was not trained but expected to be known from the military culture. It was very insular.

Take the young duty officer who released the prisoners. He would not be counselled by the CO on the approach to checking and double-checking. He would be given ten extra duties and expected to work it out by himself.

Officers should be educated in decision-making by being able to apply the insights from solution of one problem to the solution of other problems in different contexts.

According to the Defence Force journal article, this was key objective of the Program in Problem Solving (PIPS) developed for the PNGDF. It prepared young men who knew very little about decision making.

The Army did not know how to turn out educated decision makers. The military appreciation process and the Operation Order did not prepare an officer for ordinary day-to-day probems that he may face.

It would be thought that if we teach men and women how to know all the tricks they would face in accounting for stores and equipment, they would then use that knowledge to steal. The system can not win.

So we do not train for accurate decision-making. Keep them stupid and give them extra duties when they stuff-up.

The designer of the Program in Problem Solving became a consultant in the Australian Defence Force on training foreign students. He advised the schools of the Australian Defence Force in the period 1985-1991.

His article on Mastery Learning appeared in Defence Force Journal 44. Type into Google "A Systems Approach to Mastery Learning. Defence Force Journal B D"

PIPS reminds us that in Outcome-Based Education there are two approaches to thinking. There is convergent thinking that requires only one solution and divergent thinking that allows many solutions.

The Program in Problem Solving seems to be totally convergent which requires one solution only. If not, the student is wrong.

It also requires the teacher and course planner to be totally precise in setting out the details of the problem. It may be that too much OBE in schools suffers from totally vague problems and not enough detail.

Mastery Learning requires many parallel problems that demonstrate the same approach.

Divergent thinking requires divergent and creative thinking. Whereas checking the phone number of the commanding officer is convergent, the task of researching the economic problems of PNG is divergent.

All mathematical problems, spelling and reading comprehension are convergent as only one answer is acceptable. Outcome-Based Education requires a balance of convergent and divergent activities.

With the break-up of the Joint Services College, all services went back to their old training.

The Programme in Problem Solving was given to the training officers of the other two services while the program continued at the new Military Academy.

Checking situations were categorized in three levels depending on urgency.

The first had to take place before any further response as in a guard checking an ID card at the gate or a soldier seeking a passwprd.

The second took place in the process of checking as with a fire engine checking a fire in the process of arriving at the scene.

The third was a 'Shoot first and ask questions later' in a combat situation. Sadly many women gathering firewood in the jungle have been shot.

It all comes back. This was the most practical mastery learning Outcome-Based Training I have ever experienced. I came on the scene in Australia.

It was like old times reading about the Program in Problem Solving (PIPS) designed for officer cadets of the PNG Joint Services College. It was far ahead of its time and the first course in Outcome-Based Training ever conducted in PNG.

It was carefully researched and based on the range of problems a young officer would face after graduation as a junior regimental officer.

Looking back, I can see the massive value of this program and know that it provoked interest in the Australian Defence Force. It was based on 120 or more basic problems in checking and double-checking with an extension into fault finding and planning.

The program was passed to the Royal Military College of Duntroon, though I do not know what they did with it. The staff cadets were not given a textbook, being told to research checking and double-checking in practical scenarios.

I recall one problem that illustrates the practical worth of the program. A young officer on duty received a phone call from a man who told him he was the commanding officer and that he was to go to the cells to release the prisoners.

The young officer knew he had to check, so he asked for the caller’s phone number and rang back. The angry caller told him that he would be charged if he did not obey his order. So the prisoners were released.

In the morning, an angry commanding officer was demanding to know why the prisoners were released. “But, but you told me to do that sir and I checked with you”. “I did not and you did not”.

His error was to ask the caller for the number. He should have taken the telephone number from the duty log. Failing that he should have visited the house of the CO. Even then the CO may have been a hostage under duress.

The basic principle in checking is always to use a means independent of the source. There are hundreds of scenarios in which this can be applied

After a year of solving these problems, the staff cadets were quite brainwashed in the discipline of checking and double-checking. There were about 120 more.

This is Outcome-Based Training. The basic principles are the same for OBE. The instructor needs to be practical and experienced in decision-making skills.

Rod - I read about the Type programming in the DF Journal copy of 1979 and it was good learning stuff.

A correction with the ranks here. The former PNGDF Commander was Commodore Peter Ilau and the present one being Brigadier General Francis Agwi (both one star).

I have been involved with Papua New Guinean teachers for many years and have met quality teachers, but many others I would not feed. They are totally unhelpful to students.

Among lower quality teachers there is the unprofessional view that they are educated while students are low grass roots nobodies. Students will be told once and, if they do not understand, it is their fault. To make matters worse, they insult the professionalism of the teacher by not listening.

There seems to be no idea that a difficult concept has to be retaught daily for a week, practised and then retaught three weeks later and practised.

No. That makes students lazy. I am a professional teacher and I teach once. If they do not get it they fail.

There have been many calls in the PNG media for Outcome-Based Education to be scrapped, and these can not be ignored.

Educationist Aaron Hayes has written wonderful and practical explanations of OBE in The National newspaper.

His view follows basically what has been written on this blog with a focus on lack of resources, particularly in rural schools.

He says OBE is an offshoot of Mastery Learning. Perhaps this is where it all went wrong. Too much is left to the student.

Mastery Learning requires a sequence of exercises for (1) teacher demonstration (2) student practice and (3) student assessment. Teachers may be unable to come up with practice exercises before the assessment.

Teaching strategies are like a see-saw. At one end is teacher-centred learning. On the other is student-centred learning.

The best place to sit is in the middle. Too many education authorities can never integrate two approaches. It is all in or all out.

It was pleasing that the major allocation of funds in the recent PNG budget was to education, with a focus on resources, training, employment of more teachers and infrastructure.

Now OBE has a chance to come alive. There are still more problems coming with Universal Basic Education extended to Grade 12.

Children in rural schools have enough problems going as far as Grade 6, let alone Grade 12. It will not be solved by making them sit on school seats for another six years.

It does not mean that they will learn. Still the increase in funding for school resources may help them along.

Barbara - OBE is just the same as teacher-centred learning with a good teacher who gives a range of assignments and promotes knowledge.

Students learn to think and work independently and in a team.

The students now do assignments for Outcome Based Assessment. It should be basically the same as teacher-centred learning. But they do more of the work now.

It is assessed. It will take time if students are used to being spoon fed.

It will take libraries with hundreds of books and many in multiple copies. Students in a class should not all have to scramble for the same book to complete the same assignment.

In the Weekend Courier is a letter from a Grade 10 student from Enga Province on the problem of failure in Grade 10 exams that was blamed on OBE. He wrote:

"We were prepared to tackle the exam but the papers distributed were totally new to us. We went through the old exam of the old system as revision and mock (trial) exams.

"There were no samples of OBE papers given in advance to go through. We had no taste of it until the exam which was a total surprise to most if not all of us.

"I believe that this led to the psychological disturbance that caused such poor marks. Can the Department of Education look at alternative ways to look at us?"

This blog was spot on in our assessment of the causes. Did this happen in other provinces?

M Kila - I am a retired teacher. I was asked to use an OBE system. I did not like it and moved to another school which had very high standards of teaching.

I was told yesterday that the academic standards of the school using OBE dropped.

I realise that any good teacher will use assignments and require students to do wide reading. It is not something unique to OBE.

There are other problems to do with OBE, just ask the teachers.

I fully agree with you that it is imperative that all schools have a library and a good supply of books for the students to read to improve their reading ability.

Barbara - It depends on where you are standing. To my mind, the issue is becoming rational and clear.

It is not about OBE. As a letter to the editor advised in the Post-Courier today, it is about a broken promise of the government to spend K300 million on books and other resources.

There has been an upsurge in donations of books in the last month and many politicians spending some of their discretionary funds on double classrooms.

If this continues, the OBE issue will solve itself. Teachers want better working conditions. They want more pay. That is not OBE. We have to do a little of defining terms.

Read the report posted by Tom Kuligi today about the donation of books by Oil Search. That is typical of what is starting to happen.

Success with OBE starts in learning and reading from elementary school. Then OBE becomes a national challenge.

Teachers in the Western Highlands are planning to go on strike to get rid of the OBE system.

Spokesperson, Nius Rom, who teaches at Mt Hagen Park Secondary School, said they would hold a public forum to discuss factors brought on by OBE - class size, lack of students materials, failure in the education delivery system, and teacher work conditions.

"We are now at the crossroads, that is whether to make changes and improve the failing education system or ignore these calls," Mr Rom said.

"We cannot pretend that nothing is wrong and start to jump up and down later after the whole education system has collapsed," he added.

A debate on OBE was on air today after the 8 am news on the national radio and Corney Alone spoke for about 10 minutes. The discussion on OBE is gaining momentum.

Wonder just what happened to Corney Alone who started the debate in the first place. He has gone very quiet.

Tom Kuligi has hundreds of good ideas that he needs to write a long letter to PNG Education Secretary, Joseph Pagelio to suggest new strategies to further reform the country's education system.

Go for it, Tom...

In “The National”newspaper today, the Governor of Madang Province, Sir Arnold Amet, attacked Outcome Based Education calling it a national tragedy. He described it as absolute nonsense.

Speaking at Brahmin High School, he said his education vision for Madang was for all children at school age to start school and that education should be free for them.

Sir Arnold Amet stressed there had been a lot of push-outs from the schools since OBE started, and that this was unacceptable.

He said the old system was better where children started from preparatory, advanced to Grade 6, then went on to high school.

Max David, founder of Brahmin High School, said OBE, while successful for schools in urban areas which had better access to libraries and computers, had not been success stories in rural areas.

Sir Arnold said he hoped to give preferential treatment to Madang students in disadvantaged areas to continue, as it was unfair to push them out at Grade 8.

He said that a total of 4,000 students were pushed out at Grade 9 of 5,900 that sat for the Grade 8 exams last year.

He said we have to upgrade school capacities, double class sizes by shift arrangements and be able to think through radical ideas for change.

Sir Arnold has good ideas but his vision is clouded by a view of how it all used to be. Across the nation, large numbers of rural children were pushed out at the Grade 6 competitive exam.

Now they are pushed out at the end of Grade 8. The push-out at end of Grade 10 is a normal selection process.

Not all rural children succeed at school. Girls have problems with accommodation in villages and the danger of sexual abuse from village men and boys.

Many rural children can scarcely speak English and can certainly not write English. They know very little about anything. Going on to Grade 8 is extra punishment for these students and teachers.

They will bring extra problems to the school with fighting, smoking marijuana and drinking home brew. If they can not do school work, they may operate outside the school system in destructive and disruptive ways.

Outcome Based Education has problems as pointed out above. But it has to be given time. Teachers have to be trained. Schools have to be given greater access to resources. The motivation of children to learning must be radically uplifted.

Extra time has to be given by schools to the basics in reading, writing and mathematics. That means that the Education Department has to reduce the workload for students and teachers on OBE.

Schools with a bad record of success in the Grade 10 exam must put extra weight on the OBE assessment mark. But not too much; that will inspire cheating.

We have to remember that the move to Grade 11 is an enormous jump for struggling Grade 10 students.

Teachers are so pressed for time they cannot prepare students for external exams. Effective exam preparation is the key to success. Students have to be coached on passing exams.

The Department and schools have not yet got the mix right. They must do so over the next year or two but not unfairly discriminate against students.

If students do badly in the external exam, look at their OBE assessment mark. If in doubt, send out the inspector to check assignments that should be locked at the school in a secure room.

I have been talking to a senior pastor in the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the problems of no dormitories in top-up primary schools for young girls who are 15-17 years old.

He agreed and said that the matter had been raised at a Seventh Day Adventist conference that large numbers of young girls at rural primary schools are becoming pregnant.

This is because they have to live in villages near the school where they face sexual abuse. At high schools, they would be in dormitories.

This is failure of Universal Basic Education. It means that many village parents stop their daughters from going to school in Grade 5 so as not to put them in danger away from home.

Universal Basic Education discriminates against village girls.

From this morning's Post-Courier: "Grade 10 results shocking" [by Peter Saa and Peter Korugl]

Education authorities in Enga Province are lost for words after it emerged yesterday that all the grade 10 students that sat for their final examinations have all scored very poor marks.

About 3,000 students from 12 high schools including the two international schools scored well below the cut off mark to enter Grade 9 next year, prompting the Enga Provincial Government to call on the National Government to revisit the Outcome Based Education program implemented in schools throughout the country.

“The lowest score is two out of 100. All the students have scored a fail mark in all the subjects they were tested. I don’t know how the parents are going to accept these results,” the Provincial Exam Coordinator Nicholas Pombeam said from Wabag yesterday.

Teachers marking the exam papers at the UPNG Centre in Wabag said the highest grade was 41, scored by one student and that was well below the cut off mark which is 60 points.

There is a report in the media that the Grade 10 results in Enga Province are shocking. OBE is blamed. It is surely more complex that that.

Were the papers too difficult? Was there no link between what was on the paper and OBE outcomes? Were teachers not prepared to teach OBE? Were there no proper resources?

It simply means that the exam pass mark will be lowered. This is valid but sad. It does not mean that the students did not work hard and well. It may just mean they could not show it on the exam paper.

Robin - I have been reading your letters for a number of months and have decided you are too much concerned with conspiracies.

You forget there are powerful forces in the world that can counterbalance any force that could ever be set up by the UN or AusAID.

In the last decade, there has been a campaign in this country promoting importance of family in the national HIV/AIDS response. We sought to promote family relationships and family values.

To our surprise, there has been serious opposition from the UN and AusAID who have wanted to stop a family message and promote the rights of women and children with no responsibilities.

I know the facts as there have been emails going out every week for years. The good news is that the family message has now taken centre stage in the nation.

Two weeks ago, there was a two-week crusade in Port Moresby conducted by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Department for Community Development. Focus was on family, marriage and parenting.

The UN is not a powerful organization. Countries surely have a take it or leave it attitude. The Moslems have decided to leave it as they see the UN as the servant of Satan.

We take insight from the League of Nations that lost support of nations over a 20 year period ending in World War II.

There are valid humanist values. Most nations teach history as propaganda for their own sense of nationhood. History belongs to the victors. We do really have to rise above all this.

We are all human beings. We have the same needs. We face the same dangers. We have the same doubts. We all have children we want to live a good life. Many of us are in poverty. Many of us die of curable diseases and hunger.

Teachers are generally not propagandists except to promote human values. Teachers are loyal to their nation, community and children. They will generally promote what they think is best.

And you call Bloom's Taxonomy "psychobabble". Are you a teacher?

The 'Post-Courier' (14/10) reports PM Somare’s address to the 8th Pacific Islands Forum Education Ministers Meeting:

“The success of the region depends on the quality of human capital that we can harness and develop for a better future.’

“We cannot talk about development in the region without developing our human resources, because educating and skilling our people are the fundamental building blocks for the Pacific region.

"If this foundation is weak then the livelihood of our people will be difficult to improve.’’

“Our goal must be to achieve universal and equitable participation in basic education. This will provide the foundation for higher education and life long learning.’’

Somare's speechwriter draws from the UNESCO well of understanding. Essentially the words reflect a growing consensus among world leaders that speaks to “change.”

There is a religious nature to “change” The fervency of its apostles cannot be underestimated.

Julian Huxley, first Director-General of UNESCO explained it well in his 1947 book, 'UNESCO: Its Purpose And Its Philosophy'.

His socialist philosophy is at the root of PNG’s education system:

"The task before to help the emergence of a single world culture.... You may categorize the two philosophies as...individualism versus collectivism...or as capitalism versus communism, or as Christianity versus Marxism.

"Can these opposites be reconciled, this antithesis be resolved in a higher synthesis?... [T]hrough the inexorable dialectic of evolution, it must happen....”

Such is the deviousness of process in pursuit of “change” that folk like Stanford's Professor Stephen Schneider helped speed it up.

As a member of the UN’s IPCC, he shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore and won worldwide praise. But back in 1989 he shamelessly described the manipulation behind both "system thinking" and social change:

"...we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public's imagination.... So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts.... Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being
effective and being honest."

UNESCO agents formulated outcome-based education just as they developed the thesis for universal basic education, which is regarded as a priority for developing countries and the focus of the 'Education For All' movement led by UNESCO.

It is also included in the Millenium Development Goals as number 2: Achieve universal primary education by 2015.

The worldwide problem facing implementation of UBE goals is the current massive under-funding ultimately expected to come from first-tier nations.

It was expected that some of the consensus supposed to arise from the Copenhagen conference would lead to disbursing of percentiles of donor GDP’s toward fulfilling Huxley’s vision.

Climategate put paid to that.

Now, the new bogeyman on the block, echoing Schneider’s sentiments, is “biodiversity.”

Getting PNG up to speed by 2015 to meet MDG’s is dead in the water. It won’t happen.

What can happen is a radical redraw of PNG’s curriculum along the lines of tested and tried linear-thinking unaffected by the holistic-thinking psychobabble of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Linear thinking is characterized by:

-- Beliefs: with a Judeo Christian compass vs UNESCO’s “unifying spiritual blend”

-- Culture: extolling individualism vs UN global solidarity

-- Values: absolutes and objectivity vs UN subjectivism and human idealism

-- Morals: moral boundaries vs UNESCO sensual freedom (affective domain?)

-- Rights: personal freedom / self control vs UN social controls (operant conditioning)

-- Economy: free enterprise vs UN socialist collective

-- Government: by the people vs UN centralised mass control

Note Cilla Aarons’ recent comment: “The most important classroom in the nation is the home. The most important class is the children in the family. The most important lesson is family values."

Cilla poignantly reflected on those aspects of life that are deemed precious to most of us.

Now those most precious reflections and the institution of family behind them are under attack.

The architects of change would have Cilla Aarons and you depart that sanctuary to more holistic climes of conformity and operant conditioning, replete within the dogmas of OBE and UBE teaching a new generation to be collectivist clones of the New World Order.

Keith Jackson has done a service to PNG by allowing the educational blog to set out the major basic problems facing the country.

Inasmuch as the plight of PNG’s education sector is a more severe reflection of Australian woes, today’s Sydney Morning Herald piece on the draft curriculum being considered offers no solace.

On reading the various issues identified as of concern, there is seemingly little change in the expressions of doubt by critics as if, as is the case in the prolonged debate raised by Corney Alone re OBE, the Aussie draft has merely rearranged the deck chairs on an already sunken ship.

You can read it here:

Looks like the inmates are in charge at the asylum.

What’s the guess that the developers are themselves very much the product of OBE and are incapable of comprehending the basics that are needed for PNG (and Australia) as those basics form no part of their resume?

Beware the gift of curriculum resources from AusAID to PNG.

It is likely to be the leftovers of redundant and discarded stocks from the Australian stores.

I was interested to read what Somare said at the opening of the 8th Pacific Islands Forum on Tuesday, as reported in the PNG 'Post-Courier'.

"We cannot talk about development in the region without developing our human resources.. Our aim must be to produce citizens who are healthy and intellectually smart. ...balanced with good ethics and positive attitudes."

He mentioned "that the Education Department was working towards Universal Basic Education (UBE)."

I have recently been writing the history of my family. My grandfather came to Australia from Scotland in 1854 when he was 9 years old.

He lived with his father who taught him the 3R's and he had extra education attending the church's Sabbath School, run for poor children.

When he and his father finally settled down, he was 15 years old. The government had recently set up a school in the small town where they were living and he went to evening classes while he worked as a shop assistant by day.

He later did an apprenticeship. He married in the 1880's and his child, born in 1888, went to school until she was 12 years old when she received her "Certificate of a Child being Sufficiently Educated" up to the standard of education required by the Public Instruction Act of 1880.

I wonder what Somare would understand to be the level of Universal Basic Education which every PNG child should reach before they left school?

Reg - I think the issue has changed to a more broad-based focus on the problems of education.

But there is a political will to improve the situation that did not exist before by the government and overseas donor organizations.

So there has been a positive result from the initiative of Corney Alone.

All these good discussions were triggered off in the first place by Corney Alone but the problem now is, after stirring up the hornet's nest, he has conveniently gone quiet.

I am interested to hear some of his good ideas of making education work well in PNG. I want Corney to continue the debate here on the pros and cons of OBE or other educational models (if any) he thinks may be suitable for PNG in future.

Come on, Corney, let's hear it from you. There are enough comments here to write a complete new book on many ways we could improve the current educational reforms in PNG.

Did you have the planned UPNG forum you were organising to debate this issue with educational officials and the public?

However, I could not attend but then I have heard nothing about it, so I am wondering whether this organized public discussion/debate did actually take place at all.

Did anyone attend that to give us a brief here?

Something is happening. In the last couple of weeks, politicians are making public through the media the number of double-classrooms they have had built in their electorate with their discretionary fund money.

Perhaps the attacks on the two politicians is having some effect. They are realizing that going back to their electorate with no support given may be dangerous.

Every politician who receives K19 million should find a million or two for schools in the electorate.

Secretary for Education Dr Pagelio announced through the Post Courier today of the plan to train 1800 elementary teachers a year in the new Elementary Teachers Training Program.

They will be trained for 12 months on the techniques of teaching. That is better than it was with elementary teachers trained for one month.

Could we imagine a pilot, nurse or health officer being trained for a month? Their pay will need to be raised to a living standard. But they will still have to close their schools once a month to go to town to collect their pay.

Many schools close for a semester each year while the teacher takes a week to go to some towns and a week to get back, having spent half their pay on living and travelling expenses before they come back to school and their families. They may do that 12 times a year.

Thanks, Tom, for this news item. It would appear to me that there are two separate matters that need to be investigated.

Firstly the problems that have resulted from the change-over to the present three levels of schools:
-- Elementary school (Preparatory Year and Grades 1&2),
-- Primary School (Grades 3-8) and
-- Secondary School (Grades 9-12)

Secondly, there are the problems that have resulted from the introduction of the Curriculum Reforms - which include OBE.

All these problems need to be tackled.

The people who have written in response to Corney's original article have covered many of these problems.

I'm sure, over the years to come, the people of PNG will be able to solve these problems. They know why they made the changes and now they can see the resulting problems which need to be rectified.

I wish them well.

Having 'hedgehopped over these discussions it seems that there are a number of differing views about education methods by former teachers and concerned parents.

However isn't everyone really only debating the symptoms and ignoring the disease? PNG education is reportedly under funded, poorly managed and not providing what the teachers, students and the country as a whole desperately needs. Why? Because there has been a fundamental breakdown in the holistic management of the country.

If young men now aspire to taking home a high powered rifle as a means of obtaining prestige in his village rather than obtaining a complete and useful education, there has got to be something wrong.

If parents aren't able to educate their daughters because they fear for their well-being there will be a lack of educated women for those young men who do get an education to meet as equals. This will have subsequent spin off effects on educating the next generation.

It could be said that PNG is being led along the wrong track but anyone looking from the outside would come to a conclusion that the country is not actually being led at all. The only leadership at the top is mostly providing examples of what not to do.

PNG's people must start taking an active part in bringing the country back from the brink of anarchy. Everyone has a responsibility to start mobilising and save their country. Blaming someone else is non productive.

PNG education will only improve when the country as a whole improves. Spending countless hours debating the old argument of 'what comes first, the chicken or the egg' is clearly not going to fix what is obviously a systemic problem.

The most important teachers in Outcome-Based Education are loving fathers and mothers. The most important classroom in the nation is the home. The most important class is the children in the family. The most important lesson is family values.

I have been to the Family and Marriage Seminar in the Jack Pidik Park that ran for two weeks at night organised by the Seventh Day Adventist Church sponsored by the Department for Community Development and the National Capital District Commission.

We need to be aware that village schools are often pushing against village culture. Boys are to be seen and not heard. Girls are to cook, wash and look after small brothers and sisters.

Boys do not have conversations with their fathers. There is no teaching going on. A boy watches his father fixing an engine. He watches only. The boys may come to school with a few hang-ups.

If a boy asks what dad is doing - why are you opening that hose? why are you tightening that round thing? - he will get a clip in the ear. He will come to school with no background of successful enquiry.

In many villages, boys have no role until past their teenage years. That is why they are happy to go to live in town. Some boys are pleased to go back into the village with an automatic rifle.

The children who do best at school are those living with their families in the towns. Fathers and mothers are educated and see the importance of providing their children with a rich learning environment at home.

George - I think you are right about books stolen. But those that get to the schools will first educate the teachers who will then educate the students.

Teachers will have resources to be used that they have never had before. The village schools can really be the centres of learning. Teachers can follow whatever interesting topics are in the books. Thank you EU and AusAID.

I have been back to the Department of Education at Gordons and advised several senior officers in Curriculum Development of the existence of the blog 'PNG Attitude' and the issue of Outcome-Based Education.

They were most interested. When I have time, I will go to the 6th floor of the Department of Education at Waigani to pass the blog address to the Secretary.

This blog is worth more than an army of overseas advisors.

Rod - I am not sure if you have been an English teacher in PNG schools. If so, please remember the textbook 'Listen and Learn'. I think that is what it was called. It was a long time ago.

It had spelling practice, breaking words into syllables with prefixes and suffixes. There were no Latin roots, though my Australian teacher always taught us the Latin roots and derivation of English words.

It would be good if these skills were taught in grades 7 and 8. So this country has been learning certain basics for use of words.

I have met a senior teacher, a Mr Jonduo, involved in literacy in this country. We talked on many matters about literacy and he had a most interesting insight into reading and learning.

He said many students, particularly in rural schools, have no concept of the value of books.

Their knowledge is based on village life and they have no idea that new knowledge can be taken from books and added to what they already know.

New knowledge can be discussed and used to promote change and increase awareness.

He said many students see books as something to look at and put away once they have turned the last page. No input of knowledge. Empty slates remain empty.

Early educationists used to refer to ‘tabula rasa’, a permanent condition among many PNG students particularly from rural schools.

The explanation of the Eiffel Tower is just a story about a pointy thing. Nothing more. A photo of a bullet train just shows a flat, shiny pointy thing. No thought of reading the caption.

We both agreed that a large increase in school libraries across the nation and use of books for research in Outcome-Based Education will awaken the students to the fact that books are the key to the world to be discussed and used to increase the knowledge of the world.

Then Outcome-Based Education will come alive. But students have to stop just turning pages in books and tearing pages out for smoking tobacco. Corney, you have it wrong. Please leave it to the teachers.

Mr Jonduo learned about Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives as well as Mastery Learning at teachers’ college in the 1970s . Is Bloom’s Taxonomy taught in modern teachers’ colleges?

As he explained about learning skills, he spoke of making plans, putting ideas together, explaining knowledge. I could feel him running down in his mind through Bloom’s Taxonomy. Old teachers never forget.

Tom Kuligi please post 'The National' report on the statement from the Department of Education on teaching English and vernacular in elementary schools and the 12 month training of elementary school teachers particularly in teaching English. Advice was that critics have
no idea.

George - Thanks for commenting.

If you believe the results of the educational crisis in PNG are now the purvey of conspiracy buffs, you indeed have a right to scoff.

One does not have to look far beyond the last ten to fifteen years of OBE’s regime to note a severe dysfunction in “outcomes” arising from its application.

Who are the victims here? The children and the teachers (Refer to Marilyn’s law of diminishing returns. She’s right, you know, you get out of a system what you put in.)

One can draw parallels from early industrial England where Robert Raikes began the Sunday School movement in a private home in July 1780.

This was the era when the common people of England had no access whatever to education except as it might be imparted by parents or elders. Children were made to work in the mines and factories. Six days of the week they worked. Sunday was the only day free.

By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching 1,250,000 children, 25% of the population. These schools were the forerunners of the English state school system.

The government of the day viewed children as exploitable human capital. Education was the province of the rich and privileged.

In the latter part of the 19th and into the early 20th century, the principal method of reading instruction employed “Intensive Phonics.” Along the way a conflict developed over the best way to foster literacy.

Early versions of “Whole-Language” or “Look-Say” were developed. This conflict continues today.

In 1912, Myrtle Sholty published a study of the “outcomes" resulting from the two competing methods.
Two kinds of readers emerged: objective and subjective.

The alphabetic-phonics method produced fluent, accurate, objective readers.

The sight method produced impaired subjective readers who guessed at, omitted, inserted, substituted and mutilated words. (Sound familiar?)

In “Why Johnny Can't Read” (1955), Flesch wrote: “The teaching of reading - in all the schools, in all the textbooks - is totally wrong and flies in the face of all logic and common sense.”

Flesch went on to explain how, in the early 1930s, the professors of education changed the way reading was taught in American schools.

They threw out the traditional alphabetic-phonics method, which is the proper way to teach children to read an alphabetic writing system, and put in a new “look-say” whole-word or sight method that teaches children to read English as if it were Chinese, an ideographic writing system.

Flesch argued that when you impose an ideographic teaching method on an alphabetic writing system you cause reading disability.

Obviously, this is a recipe for the destruction of literacy, not its improvement.

Whole-Language proponents have called reading a "process of generating hypotheses" or a "transactional process" in which the reader "creates" meaning rather than retrieves it from the text.

The process is totally subjective, with the text merely providing some mental stimulus. (Compare Bloom’s Affective domain) The reader is free to interpret the text any way he or she wants. And who is to say when the reader has gone too far in his or her interpretation?

Whole-Language represents a major shift in thinking about the reading process. Rather than viewing reading as "getting the words," Whole-Language” educators view reading as essentially a process of creating meanings.

It is a transaction, not an extraction of the meaning from the print, in the sense that the reader-created meanings are a fusion of what the reader brings and what the text offers.

In a transactional model, words do not have static meanings. Rather, they have meaning potentials and the capacity to communicate multiple meanings. (You don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to see a confusion arising here.)

This view of reading is nothing less than an outcome of the radical literary philosophy of “Deconstructionism.”

An article on Jacques Derrida, the French proponent of this philosophy, says: “Deconstructionism” emphasizes the reader's role in extracting meaning from texts and the impossibility of determining absolute meaning.

It is important for parents and students to understand this connection between Whole Language and Deconstructionism. The purpose of both is the destruction of the absolute word.

In addition, it was well known by the top psychologists involved in creating the new look-say or sight reading programs that these whole-word instruction methods produced inaccurate subjective readers.

Despite this, the professors proceeded to devise and publish the textbooks based on this very defective methodology.

The generational successors to those early publications are what, in part, heavily influences the educational outcomes of today’s crop of students.

If children are taught to invent their own meanings in whatever they read, then what is to stop them from reading any literature in their own subjective manner, inventing whatever meaning happens to please them?

Trying to change an inaccurate, subjective sight reader into an accurate, objective phonetic reader is not easy.

The sight reader is in the habit of leaving out words that are there, putting in words that aren't there, substituting words, guessing words, mutilating words, truncating words, skipping words, etc.

Only a remedial program based on Intensive Systematic Phonics can alter these bad habits.

Reg - If they put you in charge of a defence rebuild, I reckon you’re going to have to instigate a remedial literacy and numeracy program into it in order to get troops that can fulfil the roles required of them.

Sir Paulias - Will you come out of retirement to serve as the old fashioned and effective Inspector of schools that you were reputed to be?

I recently met an officer of the Department of Education. He had internet and I showed him the blog of opposition by Corney Alone.

He said that their main trouble is finding money to publish new copies of books. He acknowledged that 154 books from AusAID had gone out to each school of PNG.

He also advised that each school was to get 742 books from the European Union that had already been sent to Provincial Departments of Education, but not yet distributed to schools.

That would give small schools a library to excite the imaginations and curiosity of children

I asked him about the opposition to OBE. He acknowledged there were problems but stated that many teachers were not happy to be involved with new approaches that made them come out of their comfort zones.

He acknowledged there would be problems with young school girls sexually harassed and abused when they found accommodation in villages to go to primary school. Young girls in Grades 5-8 can be 12-17 years old.

He said that there was a plan to turn elementary schools into primary schools. That would increase the numbers of village children going safely to grade 8, especially girls. They would stay with their families.

George - I have quoted the observations from teachers at primary schools, high schools as well as university professors from our nation.

Give us a pointer as to where else we can capture the "feeling of the nation of teachers", apart from those at well resourced international schools?

It would also be interesting to read success stories of OBE in other countries where it has blossomed both in first and third world countries?

I'll be happy to supply information on countries where this "OBE thing" failed to impress its citizens - and they mobilised to abolish it.

As a citizen, I do not take comfort at people and organisations who want to see this country raise mediocre people who will forever wash the feet of others who trample over us.

Corney - What percentage decline in standards is due to OBE? What percentage is due to poor planning? Then tell us how you know. That will give us a firm basis to debate the matter.

So is OBE the cause of cults, smoking marijuana and drinking homebrew? Is fighting in schools not the cause of decline in standards? Or does OBE cause fighting?

Will decline in standards be affected by a lack of resource materials? Is OBE the cause of no money spent on infrastructure.

Please take care that you are not giving an excuse to teachers to oppose OBE.

What is wrong with teaching students to work independently? In grades 11 and 12, they have to prepare for doing that in higher education.

Yes, OBE is squarely to be blamed. The Law of Diminishing returns is not the "it". It's only peripheral. They were and are many well-trained teachers that knew what to deliver.

This massive nonsense of OBE overwhelmed and confused everybody - resulting in this slump in quality.

Throwing billions of so-called aid money doesn't help. It's not a pure money problem. Of course one wonders how such figures evaporates from the ivory towers of Waigani.

The rest of your list are symptoms of poor planning.

M Kila and Marilyn, please explain this observation:


By Thomas Hukahu [The National, 22 September 2010]

A Law lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea has expressed concern over the declining quality of students leaving various institutions throughout the country.

Associate professor of Law, John Luluaki said the quality of students today was lower than in the past.

"I am teaching ‘down’ instead of teaching ‘up’ ”, he told students, parents and citizens during the East Sepik Provincial Day celebrations at the Waigani campus last Saturday.

Thank you, Tanya, for the linked article. I am now understanding why I felt so much antagonism to OBE when I was asked to introduce its form of assessment many years ago.

Previously I complained about all the "jargon" (meaningless talk) OBE used. This article explains how OBE advocates continually use double-entendre expressions.

When they talk about "new basics" they are not talking about Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but OBE Attitudes and Outcomes.

Evidently when OBE talks about "critical thinking" they mean a relativistic process of questioning "traditional moral values".

As a Christian I believe in "Absolute Moral Values". Today Non-Christians are keen to push "Relative Values" or even "Radical Values".

Benjamin Bloom, who introduced "Mastery Learning", essentially the same as OBE, stated "the purpose of education is to change the thoughts, feelings and actions of students" ["All Our Children Learning" p180].

So OBE raises the question of who should decide what values, attitudes and beliefs a child should be taught.

Should schools be allowed to teach values that may be controversial and sometimes contradictory to values taught to children by their parents?

I feel OBE smacks of "mind control" and takes away the student's free will.

As Robin has mentioned, if OBE does not put emphasis on teaching children to read for themselves, what hope is there for the education of a child who has been brought up under an OBE approach.

OBE is summed up as "a process for the government to tell our children how to live, what to say, what to think, what to know and what not to know" [Schlafly Report 1993].

My philosophy of education required me to teach children to think and reason things for themselves, no matter what subject I was teaching.

I taught at a Christian school which catered for the handicapped and introduced the concept of integrating them in the normal classes whenever possible.

It did not "dumb down" the gifted and talented, who finished their work early. These children were very happy to help with the teaching of the slow learners. They later went on to excel in the HSC.

There is a place in this world for people of all levels of talents and we are all expected to use our talents to the best of our ability.

I hope that the gifted and talented children of PNG will still be able to go on with their advanced education in the government school system.

I hope PNG parents who want the best education for their children will not be in a situation where they would have to either, send them to an expensive private school, or send them overseas for their education.

I believe that this has happened in a number of developing countries.

Back in 1953, Paul Hasluck, the Minister for Territories, saw the lack of secondary education in PNG and arranged for some of the gifted and talented PNG students from primary schools to be sent to Australia for their education.

Today PNG government schools should now be capable of training their own gifted and talented students. But if OBE is going to hinder this and "dumb down" then something should be done to solve this problem.

Educators admit that OBE is very expensive and it is therefore, on this basis alone, not suitable for PNG.

Tanya - It is good to see you recognising the limitations placed on OBE. The lack of newspapers and other resources was a key starting point on this blog.

I have just read a report below mine today of the supply of 154 books to every school by AusAID.

You seem to think that the system is pulling the "elite" down. That does not help your argument at all. In all schools, the top students rise if there are resources and skilled teachers.

Are you saying that living skills of health, nutrition, hygiene, social relations and growing up have to be taught in technical colleges?

My children know so much and they are in grade 5 and 6. Do the students in primary and high schools miss out in your plan? Teaching social values in schools is a key objective in CEDAW.

Your argument is full of holes. And there are teachers complaining about the non-core subjects being assessed because they are lazy. My mum was a teacher too. So was my sister.

Students in grade 9 are only starting to plan their future careers. My 12 year old daughter in grade 5 wants to be a lawyer. That has been her interest for a long time.

Well said, Tanya.

One of the most telling statements, in the linked article on your post, must surely be, “OBE is a method for concealing and perpetuating the number-one crime of the public school system — the failure to teach first graders how to read.”

From all indications over the weeks of commenting, this, I think, is the muddiest area of concern for PNG parents and children.

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