Exams start in troubled school year


THIS morning and for the next four days about 67,500 teenagers will be sitting their year 10 national examinations.
Traditionally, the English language paper precedes the three other core subject papers, and perhaps the general science paper will end the long week of brain strain for the youngsters.
The importance of this examination week cannot be overstated; it is crucial and has the potential to change the life of thousands of the country’s young citizens.
Whether one is attending Gordon Secondary School in Port Moresby, St Ignatius Secondary in West Sepik, or any of the other 130 secondary schools and 170 high schools throughout Papua New Guinea, the students are given the same paper each morning.
The past one year or four years of lower secondary school education will come flooding back as the students try to make sense of the questions before them.
It is going to be a tense week, no doubt.
Success will depend largely on the students’ academic ability but the average Joe or Zoe who has worked hard in the year and prepared well can give himself or herself a pleasant surprise.
The squeeze for grade 11 spaces has gotten tighter every year.
The number of grade 10 hopefuls has grown dramatically over the past few decades and more so since the tuition fee-free education policy was introduced.
The number of available spaces for grade 11 in the existing secondary schools, however, remains mostly stagnant or has increased by a small margin in comparison.
That is one of the biggest challenges facing the education department and the higher education sector.
Fortunately, a number of private institutions have stepped in to offer alternatives to get students admitted to schools in the formal education system.
Whether such institutions provide students another route to acquiring matriculation qualifications or direct trade training, such alternatives, should be encouraged by the State to absorb the high number of young people coming out of high and secondary schools. The government education policy has been a positive achievement in providing education to eligible children and young adults but the quality of such education has been questioned by many a commentators and educationists.
Class sizes may have affected the teachers’ ability to impart knowledge and supervise students as much as they would have wanted.
This will unfortunately show in the final examinations.
The situation can be worse in boarding institutions because of a shortage of teachers, classroom facilities and food and water – issues which directly impact on the performance of students in national examinations.
Cheating in examinations has been another big challenge.  However, there was a huge improvement in the containing it last year, according the education secretary, because of the security measures adopted. The department must be commended for that.
This year’s election has also adversely affected some schools where the second-term holiday in July was extended by one or two weeks,  with a number of schools in Southern Highlands and Chimbu the worst affected.
After assessing the situation in the provinces, the department has decided not to conduct examinations in the Nipa sub district of Southern Highlands where election-related violence continues to disrupt classes.
This is another bad outcome of the 2017 national election which is affecting mostly those who have not had a say in who is elected into Parliament.
We wish all our grade 10 students well for the week ahead.

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