Technical and Vocational Schools in Papua New Guinea – Key

Grades 8, 10 and 12 students in Papua New Guinea are on a long Christmas Holiday – three months of rest and respite. Some are heading back to the villages, others to towns and cities. Will there be opportunities in the Technical and Vocational Schools for these students?
Whilst the students are enjoying their vocations, they are sure to ask two important questions: 

How have I performed in the national examinations?;  and 

Will I be selected to continue to the next level?

(Readers Note: I wrote this article nearly 8 years ago, in 2015, for the PNG Insight Blog. I’ll park it here! In the article, I addressed the growing number of Grade 8, 10 and 12 students in PNG; and asked why the government has been failing the technical and vocational education sector for so long.)

PNG Grades 8, 10 and 12 Students Performance in Examinations

The first question can only be ascertained by each student depending on how good they were leading up to the exams. Each student’s performance in exams depends on how well they were preparing for the exams, nature and nurture. 
May the best students be given one of the limited places they rightfully deserve.

This brings me to the second question.

Grades 8, 10 and 12 Students Selections 2023

Based on the proportion of tertiary places available in 2015 and the preceding years,  96% of Grades 8, 92% of Grade 10 and 81% of Grade 12 students did NOT make it to a tertiary institution.

By this, I mean only a select few will end up in universities, colleges, vocational centres and other higher learning set-ups.

Those fortunate enough to continue should be congratulated. They have earned the right to proceed. They passed exams – they can enjoy the privileges (pride) and challenges higher educational institutions bring.

And deservedly, they should hold their heads up and be proud to continue.

Technical and Vocational Training in PNG
Why has the PNG government been failing the technical and vocational education sector for so long?

High number of Grades 8, 10 and 12 Students pass out

What about the bulk of students who would not have continued? What will they do? It saddened me to think that little or nothing is available to those students.
What can be done now to take them on board the education train? It is imperative removing examinations at Grades 8 and 10 will NOT improve the number of students entering tertiary institutions.
It will further decrease the university access but only maintain the number passing from Grades 8 to 10 to 12 (RETENTION). 

PNG Grades 8, 10 and 12 stats

In 2015, over 120, 000 grade 8 students sat exams. Extrapolating 120,000 Grade 8 students to the 8000 spaces at higher institutions is just 7%. It means 93% of students who did the Grade 8 exams in 2015 did not receive a higher education qualification. That is the statistic that is now in the villages, towns and cities with primary or secondary education, today.

Now, look at it from a different angle. If the PNG government phases out Grades 8 and 10 examinations, about 120,000 to 150,000 students will end up in Grade 12. 
The problem of retention is addressed, but the problem of access to higher education is not solved. It remains the same, problem compounded.
There should be a way to address this problem, don’t you think?! 

Phasing out Grades 8, 10 and 12 Exams

The availability of resources, the number of teachers and primary and secondary schools’ capacity to hold larger students can be crippling.

Removing exams will put a huge strain on schools’ ability to function. Many principals will know the effect of taking in a high number of Grade 11 students in 2017 to get more TFF money, just to realise it was a wrong choice.

It was good news to hear that the Minister of Higher Education has given out cheques to several universities in the country to expand their capacities. This shows that there is likely to be an increase in spaces at tertiary institutions. 
But, what is the projection – what number are we talking about in 5 – 10 years? A mere 20,000 spaces would not be enough to suffice the appetite for higher education.
removing exams in PNG

Technical and Vocational Schools Way Forward

The university and non-university spaces in PNG have increased. About 4500 in 2015 to 10, 000 in 2020 then to 15,000 in 2023. But, we all know that the increases were not in line with the increasing number of students. The drop-out rates at Grades 12 are still at 90% of the students’ total population in the country.
For it to work, the government needs to improve the university/higher education access to over 50% of the Grade 12 population.
The reality is that the change between 2015 and 2022 makes NO difference to access and retention. 

Papua New Guinea STILL has a Grade 12 drop-put rate of over 90%  – the same as it was since this article was written in 2015! That is sad but true. Something is NOT right.

Still, there won’t be enough university and college spaces to take in the high number of students. That is why there is a NEED to seriously increase the spaces at technical and vocational schools in the country.

Exams are the corner-stone of PNG education system

So the public statements about phasing out examination have to be backed by some foresight.

The public examination system has to be strengthened – made rigorous. Address the problem of cheating. Empower Measurement Service Division. Or, come up with alternative measures to overhaul and make examination processes tough – challenging. 

The question of catering for those who are dropping out of the formal education system can be addressed by focusing on Internships, apprenticeship schemes and vocational schools. 
Meanwhile, here is what I posted nearly 10 years (2015) ago on the Key To Addressing Skill Shortage and Grades 8, 10 and 12 Pass-outs – Technical and Vocational Schools.

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