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04 October 2013

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I am beginning to question if the free education policy has already ‘created intelligent criminals.

Some tertiary institutions have uncovered a racket involving students and corrupt bank officials who used forged bank deposit slips to register. The practice may have been going on for years.

Forty nine students from the University of Goroka were recently referred to police.

Over at the Enga Teachers College, 183 students were terminated outright.

'Intelligent' students cheating the free education policy?

It's a pertinent issue but those in tertiary institutions can afford to take up student loans.

It is very unfortunate that such a noble cause was left for one person who had a great initiative bear the burden alone.

He died and no one can step up and adopt the same and replicate. Sad.

The government has put the students back on NATSCHOL which is good for the tertiary students.

Those of us who passed out early missed out on this opportunity.

We should stop complaining. The government is trying to provide free education where bulk of students go the school. This is to educate everyone.

I would like Ishmael and his friends to close this with an opinion. Has this give and take changed his views on the subject.

He is at uni, and part of the job description of students is the rarely exercised right to criticize the views of their elders and leaders; at 76 I am certainly an elder.

What hope is there for a poorly educated primary student to become a highly motivated honor student? Where do we spend out limited kina?

I have another question in general for all Uni students. Where is your serious interest in the affairs of PNG. Do you have any disinterested political clubs?

When I was protesting against the Asian influx from 1991 onwards, student opinion was noticeable only by its absence.

Was it due to the hard work of making up for a poor preparation for Uni provided by our High Schools? No time for any extracurricular activities other than sports, church or relaxing.

It was not their fault. The best steel knife will not cut without being sharpened. So it is with intellect; our education system is not performing well as a sharpener of the intellect of our youth.

You are right, Tony. A complete education of the body, mind and soul is worth $$$$$$ on this side.

An observation and reality that makes me grateful for "old school" and the resolve to instill discipline for my brood at home and it is but a constant challenge in this fast place.

I wasn't looking for an answer, though. The question was a general one just to help develop my lengthy comment.

Maureen, I kept my submission as short as possible. I did not mention that it was stated, since the variable quality teacher training schools were realigned with Universities, the quality of teachers had greatly improved. The panel was apparently based on the poor performance of American students compared with other nations. America has a big business in military type academies that provide the wealthy students with the discipline that money can afford. The rest of the excellent American system is without the benefit of the discipline that was inflicted on both Maureen and me. Bright lazy students become bright uneducated school leavers.
There, but for the flash of the cane, go I.
Tony Flynn

Tony, I am not sure what criteria were used to do placings for education systems that CNN was covering. Was it based on student performance, teacher performance, efficiency of institution or government's priority on education?

The USA may be badly placed but their public school system is still a whole lot better than that of many, many systems around the world, PNG included.

I am talking efficiency of school management, teacher performance, student performance, and government help through headstart, student pick-up, drop-off and affordable nutritious meals (b/fast and lunch) - a break for taxpayers.

The American system aside, I totally agree with your your two viewpoints of quality teachers and moral standards as critical contributions to quality education.

Teachers of our time were thoroughly trained (to the highest standards of the time) and morally sound. They did not hesitate to use corporal punishment to instill discipline where needed. They conducted themselves around the principle of teaching by example.

Our generation came from such systems. Are the teachers of today thoroughly trained? Not if they cannot differentiate between the words live and leave. Are they morally sound?

Not if they have two wives and certainly not if they are playing horse race during school hours. The success rate and behaviour of students today will answer these two questions for us.

My daughter is in third grade in an American public school and since kindergarten (there's headstart, kindergarten, and first to fifth grade in elementary school), I have found out that every one of her teachers held and holds a Masters in early childhood development. Such is the emphasis placed on rigorous selection and training of teachers for American public schools!

(The little girl is now teaching me back - everything from academic to accent, yet she knows if her head gets too big, she may feel a thud on her behind.)

They (the public schools) do not do faith-related teachings or instruction in school (except in church-run private schools), but in my county, they have the six pillars of character that they teach when a child enters school and recognize (through an award) students who display these characters: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

To me as a parent that is good enough. At least the system has time and space for the child's emotional development. It is then my responsibility to really found the child on my faith which has been passed down from generation to generation in my own time.

There is obviously work for both parent and teacher. So I absolutely agree with Tony on a sound biblical foundation to give back quality to our students just starting their educational journey - all the more adhering to "teach a child (notice the choice, child and not teenager) the way he should go, and he will not depart from it"

I watched CNN at lunch today and there was a panel discussing education in the United States of America. The USA is placed badly place in world ratings.

An expert panel member who works with education was asked which part of the education system is most important; primary, secondary or tertiary.

She replied early education should receive most attention. She also said that quality of education was more important than quantity. That selection of teachers should be done more rigorously and their training should have more status.

Is it possible to improve our PNG education system by tightening standards for the teachers, and having strict pass levels for the pupils.

The early church was built on a rock and is still with us. The Biblical parable of building on rock or a poor foundation has application today.

Without a solid firm foundation laid down in our primary schools we will not succeed in our aim of competing with the rest of the world.

Provided the universities do not lose their revenue they currently get from tuition, subsidizing tertiary education fully is a very good idea, justified by the public good.

Moreover, the state makes up for more than it investment through income tax revenue of the graduates, who otherwise would be engaged in the informal economy and not pay taxes.

In the Netherlands, for example, I always enjoyed a full scholarship which covered tuition and a small allowance up to the doctorate level.

Just read this on the Sepik groups Facebook page.

"Maprik MP Mr John Simon does it again. On Friday 4th October, Mr. Simon presented K33,000.00 to DWU Maprik students .

"The DWU Maprik students (and the rest of Sepik students) were inspired by Mr. Simon's value on Human resources for Maprik as well as his plans to invest in and engage Maprik students (in tertiary institutions) to go back and work in their district.

"Well done to John Simon and the people of Maprik. Maprik people have voted in an ACTION man na mipla laikim displa.

"Little talk, more action for the people (voters). Sepik students from Yangoru-Sausia, Wewak, Ambunti Dreks, Wosera-Gawi and Angoram have yet to hear from their respective members."

PNG is the land of the unexpected. I guess this is one way around the problem for the moment.

Well maybe PNG should be caring for it's own young and gifted students. But there is also this.

http://www.ausaid.gov.au/countries/pacific/png/Pages/australia-awards.aspx

I agree with Maureen.
I was amazed when, a few years back, I read of the changes that had been made to the PNG education system.

I guess they had been made so every child should be given an equal chance. But it meant that scarce education funding has been spread around in a way that has led to the lowering of standards. Many students were staying on to Grade 12 level at a high school who should have gone off to a vocational or technical college.

Does the country still have a Manpower Planning Authority? It is wasting money if you are training people for jobs that don't exist.

Obviously people need to be free to choose what they want to do in life. But firstly they should have a look around to see what types of vacancies exist.

But a developing country also needs to use its scarce financial resources wisely. It should maintain high standards to Year 12 for the gifted and talented who can then go on to the universities.

There has to be some realization that if you are going to do Manpower Planning then scholarships have to be given to people who can be trained to fill the vacancies that exist.

For example, if you aim at universal primary education then you need lots more students being trained, on scholarships, as primary school teachers in teachers' colleges.

The discussions are pointing toward the scholarship system we had the years after independence.

Highly intellectual students - onto national high with full government scholarship and technically apt students - onto technical or secretarial institutions also with full scholarships. there were countless vocational centres like Malahang in Lae and Badili in Moresby that catered for those who just missed out, and at a very affordable cost.

With all the reforms that have taken place in our education system over time, starting early 90s, I think we're more messed up than ever.

The standards in quality have dropped, parents are paying ever-mounting school fees which seems to go on until graduate school and there seems to be no work for those who finally walk around with their degrees, masters and, dare I say, doctorates?

Will we revert back to the original system? Lord, have mercy!

What did the new reform achieve?

My apologies Kristian, I took "every human being is pretty much endowed with the intellectual capacities to engage in graduate professions" to an extreme to make a post to hitch my hobby horse.

What you say is true. My girlfriend (with a doctorate in entomology) when I was electrician at the university was convinced I was capable of a degree course.

My heart was in PNG and I was shortly to return. I remember the Tricoptera (Caddis Fly) named after me; which was collected by me on the Kokoda Trail later.

It is simply unrealistic for Ishmael "... to hope all those students under the free education scheme will have the opportunity to reach tertiary institutions".

Not all students who make it to Universities are the best- at least intellectually. I know this too well.

The falling standards over the years throughout the education system (primary to National High)means that not all who make it to Universities are of the expected quality (I got fed up with reading very poorly written essays apart).

Poor infrastructure (Peter Kranz is absolutely right!) also adds to poor standards at most Universities, and the fact is most students do not pass out with the best grades.

PNG can harness the full benefit of free education by encouraging more young people to take up technical and vocational training (Barbara's point makes economic sense for PNG).

Most importantly, free education at the lower levels of the education system can produce a literate population for PNG's future.

The point here is; "The subsidies goes to those who prove themselves worthy enough to go into tertiary institutions".

I don't mean that going to tertiary institutions is a free education so anyone with 0.001 GPA can just go and be educated there.

No! Like Maureen as stated, it can only apply to those intelligent who are feet enough to keep up the academic level of tertiary institutions.

So those who can't get into that level, then give them other alternative where they can secure paid jobs or where they can make a living out of it. Example, give them skills training on ways they can earn money.

Go down to community levels and see how young people are helping themselves. And provide good training centers so those good cleaners and repairers would come out instead of becoming the damagers and destroyers.

Okay this part where I stated: "I hope all those students under the free education scheme will have the opportunity to reach tertiary institutions." Well, like I've said, if you are grade 12, 10 or 8, who on earth will give you a good pay package for a job?

Those who are in a good position to earn some income, e.g. those young people who can work hard to clean his/her small cocoa plantation will be at least have some good coins.


Think about those who can't secure a good job and can't even work in a garden but while in free education from elementary to secondary the government would spent for him/her a good number of thousand kina which then turns to be a waste because he/she cannot repay it for they are not qualified for a good paid job.

On the other hand, the prices of living is so high, hence if you are a cleaner and your pay package can’t satisfy you, your grade 12, 10 or 8 education is very useful to plan a robbery or hold up strategy for you know more than your boss knows coz that’s where you work.

I’m not saying that cleaner are like this but I’m just trying to support my point.

So instead of wasting it on free education on the low level where parents can easily afford, focus on the high levels where you can create a good situation for the majority to gain good paid jobs so that the minority can became like cleaners or other jobs needed in the communities.

Thus, I said reach the tertiary institutions because that is where I see people qualified to work on good paid jobs. Or otherwise anybody without formal education can do other simple jobs like that.

Tony I agree with you, I cant see where in my post I suggested that PNG's university system should be open to all and sundry?

Any well run higher education system must maintain the highest standards possible - which means small classes, intake based on high standards of academic achievement, ample learning resources, an emphasis on research led teaching, etc.

Providing a system of tertiary student funding does not contradict this - to the contrary it ensures the best and brightest feature among the intake, not those whose parents have the means (of course, its more complex, if those with means have access to the well sourced international school, while the poor have overcrowded, poorly resourced schools, then kids from the latter world, no matter how bright will not make it).

Do I think we should see beleaguered lecturers teaching 300 students sitting on the floor with a busted overhead projector - clearly not!

And I stand by my macro-economic justifications; which is supported by studies conducted in a range of 'developing' countries (I hate the latter term) - indeed many warn of the danger associated with emphasising primary and secondary education at the cost of tertiary.

Of course I accept there is a danger in applying comparative data, each case is unique.

And Tony I agree with you on nearly all other fronts in your post especially: "It comes again to the building of roads, provision of services and upgrading the capabilities of our farmers. This is the only way to provide places in an expanding farm economy for the youth of PNG to partake in the progress of Papua New Guinea into the future".

So I think you may have overread my post - we are in agreement in key respects, though we may differ a little on how to best implement such a system practically.

I think I agree with Maureen. It's a matter of getting the balance right.

Even if the education system produced a resource of trades people and rural workers there is still a need for educated leaders to coordinate the whole shebang.

A system of tertiary scholarships for the very brightest students, no matter their origins, funded by the government would be a great thing.

In fact, such a scholarship scheme could be extended to apprenticeships and other important non-tertiary education.

In my first job in Australia I worked with a boss who proudly boasted of his Masters degree from UPNG - he was one of the first graduates.

Then it was an accepted international uni with a high reputation - I think sadly diminished now.

Fix the air-con in the library, provide decent accommodation for students and pay internationally-accepted salaries for good staff, and you then might have an argument about student fees.

And update the bloody website - not done since 2007 (when yours truly was there)!

PNG is not like a lot of developed countries where each family unit would typically have a two income household i.e both father and mother working to bring in two paychecks every fortnight.

Nor does its financial systems that have the credit schemes where one can get a good or a service and pay later.

In fact, it is just say a decade or two ago that households started with dual income. Many of us were from single income families.

Then a lot of our peers were from the settlements that were starting to be established on the outskirts of the cities. We also had students from rural PNG.

These were the ones who came from families that did not have a regular income but their school fees were paid on what the family could earn and save in a year.

Sometimes their fees were paid in full, other times not. For these students, there were no other means of getting the balance from parents.

In my experience, good samaritans in the likes of compassionate wantoks and school mates' parents stepped in to pay the balance or through arrrangements with local retailers, the students with outstanding fees worked the term holidays and earned money that went to paying off school fees.

I would think this kind of help is what Ishmael is talking about and not necessarily about the government paying complete school fees for every tom, dick and eddie already in the tertiary level. Oh no! That would reduce the value of education.

I agree with Barbara and Tony on the argument of government helping all to year 8 or 10. Then those who cannot go further intellectually can do a trade whilst those who are very smart work hard for their space at the top.

Only here can the help from the government come to those who prove their worth in terms of grades or grade point average.

Kristian, we need quality rather than quantity in our universities and schools.

We do not need 40 to a high school class and 70 in a lower school class. We do need teachers and lecturers who can spend the time on their students; time that these students need in order to excel.

Excellent primary schools are relatively of more value to PNG than high schools and universities. Excellent primary schools will turn out competent students who can make a life without the benefit of further education.

The cut off marks should be dictated by the number of teachers and classrooms available for an optimum level of pupils.

Optimum levels of pupils for the available teachers and lecturers in tertiary institutions should dictate the cut off marks in high school. Quality not quantity should be our aim.

Would you commend a farmer having 100 starving cows or a farmer having 50 fat cows in identical circumstances?

Badly taught graduates; a burden on the country. Well taught competent graduates carrying the country forward to a bright future.

Most PNG parents, even in remote areas, have university ambitions for their children. What happens when the maximum number are allowed to enter 'a vibrant higher education system, both from a teaching and research perspective"?

An overloaded university taking badly prepared students is hardly likely to be a vibrant institution. I personally would wish for a vibrant uni but it will not eventuate under a misguided policy of little screening.

Ghana apparently went the way of emphasizing education to the highest level. Hence the documentary I saw about a lone technician armed with his trusty shifting spanner and bicycle, pedalling the savannah between hand wells to provide maintenance to a group of villages.

It was fortunate indeed for the villagers that he had not managed to gain a university education; they may have had doctors, engineers etc. but had few competent people at the grassroots level.

I have had carpenters graduated from Vocational schools making joints with ¼” or 6mm gaps in the joints. They should not have graduated; they cannot understand why they were not employed.

One of Parkinson's Laws states that people are promoted to their level of incompetence. I would suggest that a hot house education program will ensure that people reach their level of incompetence much sooner.

Hence we find a number of highly educated incompetents in the Public Service of PNG; these lock up the positions until pensioned off. They could have had a lifetime of being competent tradesmen with a little less education.

Two American graduates were travelling PNG 30 years ago; Bsc's were undervalued at that time; they made more as truck drivers.

They maintained that the only way to a decent life was to have a masters or a doctorate.

I have to support Barbara. I will possibly be called reactionary but free secondary and tertiary education should be for students above a certain academic level; it should be scholarship based.

The reason is that PNG cannot afford to lose its brightest students, some of whom come from deprived backgrounds. Rich parents can pay for their golden boy or girl’s education for the prestige.

It is a cruel and unusual punishment to allow parents all children to believe that their child will benefit from further schooling. The only reason for some children to progress to High School is because the standards are so low.

Let them enter the workforce in the towns or in the villages at an early age, when they are still amenable to advice and guidance; without the chip on their shoulder that comes with being educated beyond their capabilities.

When I worked at Asaroka High School 40 years ago I told students that, should they be unable to go on, they would be many years ahead of those that did.

That if they were smart enough to benefit from further education they were also smart enough to start earning now; that their school mates who became uni graduates would be living in town, paying for utilities, transport and be targets for impecunious wantoks; that their highly educated mates’ disposable income would be less than that of an efficient farmer or businessman in the village or town.

In the towns expenditure rises to meet income; the small businessman or farmer can hide his income. A whole community of bludgers knows to the kina what a teacher earns.

A student at year eight should be capable of being employed in the lower skilled trades; if not, this is an indictment of the Education system.

Most parents are unqualified to judge what their offspring are capable of. Some offspring are capable of hoodwinking their parents in order to remain out of the workforce and remain in the school environment.

That their child will be a future leader is the cruel promise that time and time again fuels the ambitions that drain the families' finances; most will be on the street.

It comes again to the building of roads, provision of services and upgrading the capabilities of our farmers. This is the only way to provide places in an expanding farm economy for the youth of PNG to partake in the progress of Papua New Guinea into the future.

Having worked closely with students at all levels for many years, it has been my experience that every human being is pretty much endowed with the intellectual capacities to engage in graduate professions - whether people want to is another matter entirely.

Sometimes it needs a little bit of TLC to come about, but gifts rarely have anything to do with it - hard work and resources, that's what its all about.

Ishmael you are right, we are seeing billions of kina washed away in dodgy contracts, land thefts, misappropriation, resources that could be used to build a future generation of engineers, scientists, health care professionals, etc, lowering PNG's dependency on expatriate workers who come at a premium begrudged by locals and business alike.

I sigh when I hear comments that university students should not get a free ride. Firstly, it misses an obvious reality that they, and their parents, have been and will contribute taxation revenue; also in many countries there is a student loan system - which I don't necessarily agree with - that see students pay back their fees when employed.

But the second point, and more substantive one, is that it is an illusion that capitalism is driven by an individual pursuit of excellence (its a nice fairytale though). Its course is increasingly determined by collective power, be it of large conglomerates or nation states.

If PNG wants to flex its collective power to determine its own future, without being hustled, it needs to invest - keyword invest - in a vibrant higher education system, both from a teaching and research perspective.

Ishmael another poignant piece, and I love the reference to the Mama Law!

I'm all in favour of scholarships for the gifted and talented but Ishmael said, "I hope all those students under the free education scheme will have the opportunity to reach tertiary institutions."

My comment was especially in reply to this sentence.

I hope that the Education Department goes ahead with setting up these Schools of Excellence, which they have spoken about, so Grade 12 standards can be raised.

One would then hope that the brightest students at Grade 12 level would be given scholarships to continue their studies at tertiary level.

The people hold a caring government at heart. A caring government does not allow a single person to suffer.

But people can be a government to themselves too. A wise person is always expandable and does not keep on asking for free handout for everything.

Today's gaps were created from indecisiveness of previous times by both governmnet and people in their respective governments.

We create our own confused worlds. The only advice now if help comes would be, go and do not do the same again. But not so many follow the narrow path. It's crazy how things don't fit at times.

Barbara, what you have to consider are the academically very bright kids from poor backgrounds whose parents cannot afford the university fees or are unlucky enough not to score a scholarship.

It must be terrible for these kids to realise they will never really be able to use their intellect and are condemned to menial work.

I was one of those people from a working class background who benefitted when Gough Whitlam abolished university fees in the 1970s. I imagine that a lot of readers of this blog were in the same boat.

In the 1980s the Labor government reintroduced fees in the form of HECS and effectively cut off tertiary education to a lot of bright kids who weren't prepared to take on a debt load.

Since then the conservative side of politics has ensured that it is only kids from affluent backgrounds who get into university.

I think this is the type of inequity that Ishmael is talking about.

But Ishmael, just think about it, we are not all born with the same gifts.

The world needs cleaners, garbage collectors, labourers of all kinds etc etc, just as much as it needs doctors and nurses, lawyers, business managers, engineers and teachers etc etc

Children who are gifted intellectually should be the ones who are allowed to go on to the tertiary colleges to become the doctors, lawyers, business managers,engineers, teachers, etc.

The young people who are not born gifted intellectually should be very happy to go and do some training on the job, hopefully as an apprentice, where they get paid at a suitable rate while they learn a job.

They may even attend a technical college to learn more about the trade that they take up.

I believe that a few years back when they allowed students to go on to Year 12 all over PNG in the various provincial high schools, that the PNG people didn't realize that educational standards had been compromised and the standards of education reached by many of these students were nothing like the high standards that had been reached in former days by the Grade 12s in National High Schools.

The professors at the universities noticed the drop in standards and no doubt had to work out ways of raising the standards of the incoming students. All credit to places like Divine Word University.

But that doesn't mean that all Grade 12 students should go on to a university or other tertiary college.

Back in the early days of independence there was a Manpower Planning authority who worked out the manpower that PNG needed and saw that Year 12 students were directed to courses where, on completion, they would be assured of a job.

Yes, all citizens should have an equal opportunity to use their skills for the development of the country.

But remember that a physically strong labourer is just as important to PNG as one of these university trained men and women in one of the so-called professions.

I fear that many of these physically strong men are part of the gangs that terrorise places like Port Moresby and Lae.

There should be paid work that they can do e.g. cleaning up these cities, repairing the roads, getting rid of the filth around the market places, building the gutters and drains, working for WaterPNG to install the pipes to bring the clean water to all houses, building good small affordable permanent housing for all, repairing the older housing on a regular basis, turning the slums and squatter settlements into clean, tidy suburbs where the people maintain them in an appropriate way, etc etc

The labouring profession is vital for PNG and they don't need a university education. But they do need to be in paid employment in the towns doing the jobs associated with running a town e.g. as firemen maning the fire stations, which evidently at the moment do not exist.

And I haven't even mentioned the farmers. I realize that they now call Vudal a university but whatever it is it should be training men and women who will go back to the villages to work at improving the farming techniques, and management of the village gardens and cash crops of various kinds.

Then there are the fishermen, and the forestry workers and the miners... they don't all need to go to a university.

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