This article is an updated version of an academic paper. The task was created around sampling of *a* National Education Action Plan for 2020-2029. The underlying issues are relevant to the Sustainable Development Goal 4 education targets (SDG 4) in Papua New Guinea.
The National Strategic Plan for Primary and Secondary Education is an attempt to discuss the key issues relating to the Sustainable Development Goal 4 in Papua New Guinea. The attempt draws together the positive achievements and other challenges in the last 15 years and articulates actions for addressing the challenges. The sample strategic plan draws inspiration from the first and fifth goals of Papua New Guinea’s Constitution. The undertaking also highlights the problem of access to secondary schools. The progress in education is achieved through a partnership between parents/guardians and the government led by the National Department of Education (NDoE). Strategic and practical measures needed implementing from the start of 2020 to meet the challenges of a growing population.
Children’s education is the responsibility of the community. Parents and guardians of school-aged children are key players in children’s education. Hence, the fundamental duty of parents is to educate their children. The government representatives at local communities must help young children integrate into their communities. Rather than leaving them to fend for themselves after leaving primary and secondary schools.
The government, through the National Education Department (NDOE), must facilitate avenues for children to be successful in life. The plan for the next 10 years takes into consideration the world view (SGD 4) of the educational development and incorporates it into the changes that are taking place locally in the Education System. The NDoE is the key Actor, with the support from the agents such as the NDoE divisions and sub-divisions, local government officers, civil societies, Non-government Organisations and parents and guardians. The plan is specific and includes details of the 4 Strategic Interventions.
Parents have direct responsibility for their children. Government facilitates all avenues to make children’s dreams come true.
There is a high number of students leaving school before they are 17 years old. This plan suggests 4 ‘Strategic Actions’ for addressing accessibility issue at primary and secondary schools in PNG and identify each issue in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). Structural change analyses the earlier changes and the recently proposes the 1-8-6 change of the education structure.
1-8-6 means 1-year preparatory education, 8 years primary education and 6 years secondary education.
The Education Ministry believes that the structural change was to solve the accessibility issue (N. Kuman, 2017). However, the capacity and manpower at elementary and secondary schools must be considered and factored during the planning phases. Also, the accessibility issue should not be the reason for (proposed) phasing out Grade 8 and Grade 10 examinations (The National, 2017) or changing the education structure. The education system needs strengthening, not undoing it, to give children a better chance to attain a better education.
The National assessments must be used for measuring students and ensure schools are held accountable for poor performances – not just for selection and certification. School Inspectors are empowered to carry out their duties at the provincial level. The capacities, functions, powers and budgetary allocation to the Inspection Division of the NDoE is further enhanced.
The Grades 3, 8 and 10 national assessments are made mandatory. A Right to Children’s Education Act is enacted so that parents, schools, inspectors and governments are held accountable if they failed the children. The 4 Strategic Actions suggested in this article are intervention actions necessary for translating the SDG 4 target 4.1 into the national targets. The actions are achievable within the first 5 years to 2025 and can be consolidated in the next half to 2029.
Sustainable Development Goal
SDG 4 target 4.1 Inclusive and equitable quality education and prompting lifelong learning opportunities
Acknowledging accessibility is an issue among children ages 13 – 14 years old (Grade 8/9) could be the first step to addressing development challenges in education. The plan discusses ‘accessibility’ in the context of students attainments in Literacy and Maths skills. Retaining students longer at primary and secondary schools is beneficial to long-term learning. In fact, P. Pholphirul (2016) and G.Vanlaar et.al (2016) studies conclude that pre-primary and primary education have long-term benefits and increases the chances of students to be successful. However, the number of students transitioning from Grade 8 to 9 remained relatively stagnant since 2004 (NEP 2015 -2019, 2016). That implies that the chances of more students achieving a minimum proficiency in Literacy and maths remain relatively low.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) education strategists must consider accessibility an urgent issue. The 2030 Global Goals for education – SDG4 target 4.1 – which relates to giving pre-primary, primary and secondary children a fair chance to long-term education – cannot be realized if access to education and retaining students within the school system does not improve. Indicatively, the graph shows a ‘slight’ downtrend in the retention rate of students since 2004. Further indicating that there are access and retention issues needed immediate attention. The 4 Strategic Actions could be corrective actions for addressing these pertinent issues.
Strategic Actions for Localising SDG 4 Target 4.1 – Political Will
The Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action emphasized that SDG 4 targets are ‘specific and measurable. Perceived to contribute directly to achieving the overarching education goal’ which is SDG 4 (Education 2030 Framework for Action, p.21). This means that each individual country must act. The Global Education Monitoring Report (2016) mentioned that political-will to drive change must be present.
The report gave an example of Uruguay and stated that
Uruguay owed its expansion to sustained political will, an emphasis on inclusive [approach and] government led coordination and implementation strategy (p.20).
Whilst taking the Global education targets and past national education plans into consideration, this discussion attempts to initiate a discussion on the importance of a clear operational plan and budget. And further, emphasize the urgent need for addressing accessibility at primary and secondary schools and giving all children a fair chance to achieve minimum proficiency in Literacy and Maths.
- Action 1 Strengthen national Literacy and Numeracy assessments at Grade 3, 8 and 10 for measuring lifelong learning.
- Action 2 Adjust the education structure to 1–8–4 for inclusive and equality quality education for primary and secondary schools aged children.
- Action 3 Increase teaching and learning capacity at primary and secondary schools: teachers and teaching and learning assistants.
- Action 4 Enact Right to Education Act, builds from the first and fifth goals of the Constitution and legalizes children’s right to free and compulsory education.
In anticipation for a clear national action plan for education, this document outlines some cross-cutting issues for the education planners and strategic planning consultants to consider when charting the next 10 years of PNG education targets.
Situation analysis and assessment
The number of students transiting from primary to secondary schools is becoming a development issue, especially sustaining and retaining a high number of students in the education system so that they receive a minimum proficiency in Literature and Maths. The figures published in the National Education Plan 2015 – 2019 (NEP 2015 – 2019, 2016) indicates that over 60% of male and female students at the end of Grade 8 do not enter Grade 9. Furthermore, the NEP indicated a grim reality where over 80% of students enrolling at primary schools have little or no chance for further education (p. 21).
The students either leave school before reaching Grade 8 or after the Grade 8 examinations. This shows that phasing out the examination may not be a solution to the accessibility issue. Moreover, changing the education curriculum and structure may not be permanent solutions either.
A practical and long-term solution, through inclusive and quality education, is required at primary and secondary education to give children lifelong learning opportunities. This also requires strong inter-department relationship within the NDoE sister divisions and sub-divisions. Hence, the development of an Action Plan for the next 10 years focusing the NDoE capabilities, resources and budgets is imminent.
Education Structure – Challenges of Implementation
The first education structural change occurred in 1993 from 6-4-2 (6 years of Primary Schooling, 4 years of High Schooling and 2 years of National High School) to the current 3-6-6 (3 years of Elementary Schooling, 6 years of Primary Schooling, 9 years of Secondary Schooling). The National High School, also called school of excellence, remained outside of the current structure. A second structural change, the 1-6-6 structure, was trialed early in 2018 in selected schools in Port Moresby. This structure would gradually be introduced to other parts of the country.
The downside is that Primary Schools will take-in Elementary 1 & 2 (also referred to as Grades 1 & 2); Secondary Schools will take-in Grades 7 and 8. The elementary school teachers and capacities that have been built to facilitate preparatory and elementary 1 & 2 would be of no use with this change.
Under the People’s National Congress (PNC) Party each MP is given a discretionary fund of K2,000,000. The education minister stated that improving school capacity to accommodate the 1-6-6 structural change is the responsibility of Members of Parliament. He, further, stated that the government is committed to implementing the new structure and MPs should use the K2 million development funds to make this happen (N. Kuman, 2018). In fact, structural change poses huge challenges in the education system. Money should be placed in the right place to facilitate the change.
- Existing EP, E1 & E2 up-skilled to serve at primary schools as teaching and learning assistants and librarians.
- Provincial elementary coordinators assist with training at ward level.
- Exiting Preparatory classes (EP) remain at Elementary Schools. Grade 1 & 2 move to Primary Schools.
- Supports SDG4 (target 4.2.2) Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age).
- Increased workload for teachers
- Lack of consultation and awareness and teachers and training
- Infrastructure and space issues at Primary Schools to house Grade 1 & 2
- Phasing out Elementary schools
- The government committed to funding education through TFF policy and K2 million members of parliament DSIP/PSIP funds
- Education department planning for the next 5 – 10 years
- Longer years at Primary Schools
- Communities refuse to change – political support for the 1-8-4 structure
- Structure unsustainable in the future
- Increase Literacy and Maths proficiencies among primary school age children.
Literacy and Numeracy Assessments
Regular national assessments are vital for improving teaching and learning in class. The assessments must not only be seen as a method for selection and certification. Firstly, current practice is that the Education outcomes are measured in two ways: national (external) examinations and schools (internal) assessments. The tests are for selections and certification.
- Selections for Grades 9, 11 and universities
- Certifications for Grades 8, 10 and 12
Schools’ internal assessments are school-based where learning is measured over a period of 10 weeks. The results are compiled on Students’ Information Booklets (SIBs) and sent to the Measurement Services Division (MSD) for perusal. Secondly, the national exams – taken at the end of Grades 8, 10 and 12 – together with the internal marks are ‘moderated’ and used for selections and certifications.
What is completely lacking is a standard for measuring students development over time.
Perhaps, it is important to conduct a National Literacy and Numeracy (NLN) tests for measuring students’ progress. Ideally, every two-year interval to help stakeholders monitor the development of children. Further, the NLN is a thermal indicator of the main Sustainable Development Goal 4. Its implementation is not a matter of if, but when if PNG wants to be placed well on the Global Human Development Index (HDI rank). Presented below is an analysis of the envisioned Literacy and Numeracy Tests.
- Monitor students learning and progress over time
- Used for improving teaching and learning
- Address Thematic Indicator 4.1.2 – Administration of a nationally-representative learning assessment (a) in Grade 2 or 3; (b) at the end of primary education; and (c) at the end of lower secondary education
- Lack of monitoring, evaluation and technical framework
- Regular assessment is seen as overworking students or over-testing
- No Literacy and Maths Proficiency tests at present apart from Grade 8, 10 and 12 for certification and selection purpose only
- Timely for consideration when NDoE in planning for the next 10 years
- Expose students to international assessments
- The government has specific budgetary allocations for national examinations
- No Board of Studies to monitor regular testing
- Lack of technical expertise and expert assessors
- NDoE not considering a standalone assessment like the L&N Test
- Lack of political will and insight
Improve Capacity at Primary Schools
In fact, the readjustment of the education structure (discussed above) will, certainly, affect the teachers who are teaching at each education level. Though Kuman (2017) said that the infrastructure and capacity will be the responsibility of the elected Members of Parliament, there is a lack of capacity. A concern raised in a Parliamentary debate by opposition members on this issue (PNG Loop, 2017) indicated that the K2,000,000 PSIP/DSIP may not have been used to build capacities at schools.
The training of teachers and teaching and learning assistants is fundamental. It addresses the teacher/student ratio. One way to improve manpower is training (either school-based or institution-based) for elementary school educators. The structural change is likely to leave them without a job. One way to use this capacity is to train them to become Teaching and Learning assistants at Primary Schools. Another way is preparing the Grades 7 and 8 primary school teachers to teach at secondary schools.
Strengthen Schools Inspections Systems
The School Inspectors are the national public service officers based in each region/province. They are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the education department. The division can monitor the recent changes in structure, implementation of policies like the TFF policy and other systemic (educational) changes that are taking place. Empowering school inspectors to perform their roles can strengthen the governance and monitoring of schools functions.
- Link national, provincial and local level education officers to schools
- Facilitates teacher performance-based promotions and appraisals
- Report to NDoE individual schools needs and wants (situation reports)
- Monitor educational changes
- Reinforce education pedagogy and advice on school development ‘best practices’.
- Research in other countries shows that Inspectors reports are external and not reflecting the school’s needs (GEMR 2017/8, p.23)
- School Inspectors preparations and visits are based on school plan and data
- No country-specific Inspections and Monitoring Framework where purpose and scope of inspection is defined
- NDoE not acting on Inspectors reports.
- NDoE gets timely information on progress and development on educational changes
- Address accountability issue
- Willingness to empower School Inspection Division
- Existing team of school inspectors in regional areas
- No Schools Data management systems
- No action is taken to empower the Inspection Division after several changes have been effected
- Lack of collaboration among NDoE sister divisions/units/offices and Inspection Division.
Enact Right to Education Act – free and compulsory basic education
The National Education Plan 2004 – 2015 highlighted that the ‘Constitution grants every local-level government K20 per head of population’ (p.11). The MP’s District Service Improvement Program (DSIP) and Provincial Service Improvement Program (PSIP) funds are a legal allocation. A decent portion of the funds must be spent on health or education in the districts and accounted for. The funds are, in addition to the government’s education grants provided under the TFF policy, are to facilitate education capacity developments and assist with the implementation of policy changes.
However, there is no Act that clearly defines the legal instruments for accountability and transparency for the use of the government’s allocations and grants. Hence, management of the funds is at the discretion of school administrators and MPs. Though the administrators and MPs are bounded by the Leadership Code Act 1978 (Ombudsman Commission, 2017), the Right to Education Act specifically holds leaders to account for failing to facilitate or provide free and compulsory basic education.
The Right to Education Act will hold MPs and School leaders to account and punish them for mismanagement or misapplication of school development funds
In anticipation of developments in the next 10 years, the education department needs to place the emphasis on sustaining the Development Goals relating to education – SDG 4. Focus on the specific targets and improve on the weaknesses in the education system. In fact, the country’s performances in the Millennium Development Goals was described as ‘dismal’. The Sustainable Development Goal has 17 targets for education. If Papua New Guinea wants to compare well on the global stage, it needs to focus on the country-specific targets before 2020. PNG must aim to sustain the education targets by 2025, and consolidate the development targets by 2030.
The education planners and government must do an intensive analysis of the internal factors that place a strain on the education system. Strategize the best way to deal with each challenge. The education planners also need to look at external factors. Build on the opportunities at present. Minimize the threats that may cause strategic plans to fail. There is no room for complacency with the dismal MDGs performance. PNG’s place on the HDI (Human Development Index) is a grim reality facing all sectors, including the education sector.
The country – politicians and educationists – must remain within the targets of SD4 to further the developments that are taking place in the education sector. Parents must take responsibility. The government must facilitate policy changes. All stakeholders must act together to make education a priority area for the next 10 years.