DHERST and Education Department Overlook Crucial Grade 12 Selection Data

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has expanded its secondary school network significantly. Yet, a puzzling anomaly persists. The surge in secondary schools hasn’t resulted in a proportional increase in Grade 12 school leavers. The critical Grade 12 selection data reveals this alarming trend, demanding immediate attention.

The Department of Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology (DHERST) and Education Department leadership must prioritise this matter urgently. The data does not pinpoint any development trend in education in the country.

The oversight of crucial Grade 12 selection data suggests a serious issue that requires thorough investigation and strategic intervention.

DHERST and Education Department Selection Data

Two disconcerting trends have surfaced from the data PNG Insight recorded since 2019:

1. DHERST selection data reveals a disparity between Grade 12 school leavers and their enrolment in higher learning institutions (HEIs) from 2019 to 2023. Despite fluctuations in Grade 12 student numbers (from 27,142 to 31,817), HEI entrants predominantly range between 9,000 and 16,000, with a spike in 2021.

2. The number of secondary schools has increased by 36 from 2019 to 2023, yet Grade 12 completions between 2019 and 2023 have not experienced a proportional increase. This raises concerns—what is the underlying cause?

YearGrade 12 StudentsEntered HLIsSecondary SchoolsIncrease in Schools
2019271429374185
20203071180001883
2021318171617120416
2022290321740121814
202329742161622213

Original Data: Stats that Matter @ PNG Insight Blog

Potential Bottlenecks Grade 12 Selection Data

Papua New Guinea’s education system is confronted with a puzzling bottleneck. Although more schools are being established, the number of students entering universities and colleges remains stagnant. Is this indicative of a system prioritising quantity over quality, or is there another factor at play? Several areas necessitate thorough scrutiny:

New Schools, Unchanged Numbers:

Why are more schools being opened if the pool of Grade 12 students is not expanding proportionately? Are these new institutions fulfilling their intended purpose of expanding educational access, or are they primarily motivated by factors such as accessing government funding? Could it be that some schools are emphasising quantity over quality, resulting in lower student engagement and higher dropout rates?

Free Education, Exploited Channel?

Is the pledge of free secondary education attracting new schools solely for financial gain, without a genuine commitment to student success? Are these institutions effectively preparing students for higher education, or are they offering alternative pathways not yet reflected in DHERST data? A detailed examination of the curriculum, resources, and student outcomes in these new schools is essential.

Policy Priorities Under Scrutiny:

Does the lack of alignment between school growth and university and college enrolments suggest a need for more forward-thinking education policies? Should the department focus on strengthening existing schools and ensuring quality education before expanding the system further? Are there untapped potential pathways for graduates beyond traditional higher education that need exploration and support?

HLI Accessibility:

Are geographical or logistical factors, such as limited HEI presence in remote regions or inadequate transportation infrastructure, creating barriers for potential students? Strategically expanding HEI access and developing targeted outreach programmes can bridge geographical, regional, and provincial disparities, ensuring equitable opportunities.

Data Integrity:

Are data collection and reporting methodologies employed by the Education Department and Higher Education Department robust enough to provide accurate and comprehensive representations of educational trends? Refining data analysis processes can illuminate potential areas for improvement and inform evidence-based policy decisions.

PNG Education Discrepancy – Numbers Spark Concern

Despite a commendable 19% increase (see table above) in secondary schools since 2019, data reveals:

  • an increasing number of secondary schools without an increasing number of Grade 12 Schools leavers, and
  • a spike in spaces in Higher Education in 2021 but remained stagnant, with no trajectory trend in university and college spaces over time.

Grade 12 student numbers fluctuate between 27,142 and 31,817, while HLI entrants remain minimal between 9,000 and 16,000, showcasing a concerning number of students dropping out of the mainstream schooling system. This stagnation persists despite increased HLI capacity, raising critical questions about potential bottlenecks impeding student progression.

Urgent collaboration between the Department of Education and DHERST is crucial to pinpoint root causes and develop strategic solutions. PNG Insight 21/12/2023

Conclusion (Grade 12 Selection Data)

The current secondary and higher education trends in PNG cannot be ignored. Failing to prioritise the Grade 12 selection data and collaborative action between the Department of Education and DHERST would not only neglect the potential of its youth but also disregard the crucial insights offered by existing data.

This responsibility cannot be overlooked.

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