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The O’Neill regime is dumbing down a whole generation

Martyn Namorong on ABC TVMARTYN NAMORONG

PORT MORESBY - High profile journalist Scott Waide’s recent article about the high cost of his daughter’s university fees highlights a conundrum Papua New Guinea faces in terms of the quality of its education system.

Scott was shocked about the high cost. But let us reflect on what is a major crisis in the sector.

When the O’Neill government introduced the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) education system for primary and secondary schools, it failed to account for capacity constraints.

Schools were flooded and schools lacked and continue to lack learning resources, infrastructure and staff numbers to cope with the influx.

Primary and secondary schools in PNG have essentially become child-minding centers as opposed to centers of learning.

In terms of TFF, the government contribution is K20-K50 a child and it warns schools not to charge fees.

Schools are then expected to turn this miserly level of fees - five loaves of bread and a couple of fishes - into something to feed knowledge to thousands of students.

Universities also continue to be grossly under-funded leading to massive fee hikes. However when one considers the true cost of providing university level education, the fees are a drop in the ocean.

Student strikes in recent years have made the government wary of funding revolutionaries.

Students, particularly those in rural PNG, don’t stand much of a chance in terms of social mobility that a good education provides.

The member for Menyamya recently highlighted in parliament the rural-urban technology divide and how rural students are disadvantaged in terms of securing places at university.

While the predatory elite in government is dumbing down the general population, their children are being trained overseas to rule over a dumb population in the future.

The O’Neill government, whether by design or accident, is increasing inequality and making social stratification much more pronounced.

The constitution of the independent state of Papua New Guinea calls for integral human development as its first national goal and directive principle. The way things currently are under the O’Neill regime, this national goal is ignored.

PNG’s constitution also calls for equality and participation as another national goal. Whilst the TFF policy can be seen as being reflective of this, the poor quality of education means many students leave school unable to equally participate in the economy. They become a liability.

The rural-urban divide also means rural students don’t have the same level of opportunity to attend university, thus furthering social inequality.

A poorly educated population that lacks capacity to engage in the modern economy becomes reliant on political patronage.

This is a politician’s dream because, as long as people keep waiting for handouts from politicians, politicians can control voting behaviour.

This is not reflective of PNG’s third national goal – the one that calls for national sovereignty and self-reliance.

O’Neill originally came into power unconstitutionally, so it is not surprising that the regime has marks of unconstitutionality in its mismanagement of the education system.

So parents need to support learning institutions with additional resources. They also need to take a greater interest in their children’s academic performance and perhaps support them with extra-curricular tutoring and coaching.

Given the tens of billions of kina that have been spent recently on white elephants, there is no justification for having poor quality education.

The O’Neill government’s resource allocation decisions are destroying a generation of Papua New Guineans.

In its defence, the government may point to new infrastructure, but buildings are just shells if complementary learning resources are not provided.

The decline of PNG’s education system will continue unless a change of government produces a shift in policy priorities.

PNG also risks future class warfare (which is already happening) if the status quo is allowed to remain.

Comments

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Philip Kai Morre

I have observed that education standards in PNG are going down because of political decisions made in the absence of advice from professionals.

A real philosophy of education does not exist in PNG. There is no effective pedagogy nor a systematic education system. It operates on an ad hoc basis.

Despite modern technology and access to the internet being available, teaching hardly uses them. Furthermore, the learning methods do not teach values and true knowledge.

Learning must be based on the praxis method, learn to tell the truth, respect others, practical knowledge, ethics and morality.

Colleges and universities must learn to respect each other and support each other. Education must be centred around integral human development which is a means to an end.

Lindsay F Bond

To a socially perceived imbalance, the Tommy Baker solution is one response type but will fail because not only does it not respect life, is audaciously pursued against a more resourced force (albeit inertia challenged) and perhaps more tellingly, it might interrupt the surety of flow of wealth to the political elite.

To a shabbily deceived immersion (a whole body of politic struggling to stay financially afloat) the Tommy Baker solution is noteworthy as a topic of conversation and as a touché of the tenacity that appears essential for rising and ridding the nation of the staggering display of dishonesty at the interface of words and wrought (actions) by the current governance of Papua New Guinea.

To all sceptic responders it is urged, look and measure the deficits of delivery of gavman services, then apply elementary calculation multiplying dimensions by time. Tenacity is tenable and a tenet for tackling tricksters.

Daniel Doyle

Every province is required to have its own Education Act. (A couple still don't, decades after they were required.)

The provincial Acts take precedence over the National Education Act in respect of the operations and management (apart from curriculum) of primary, high, secondary and vocational institutions.

So what section of what Act empowers the National Department of Education to forbid provincial education authorities, registered Education Agencies and/or Boards of Management/Governors from imposing fees?

If a province was to impose fees under its own Act and the National Government were to withhold that province's share of the Tuition Free Fee capitation grants, that would be a matter for the courts to deal with.

Surely, some lawyers could take this up on a pro bono basis in the interest of their provinces.

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