City schools standared drop


AS the 2019 academic year commences this week, many parents are bitterly complaining about why their children with all distinction have been selected to continue Grade 11 in some of the underperforming secondary schools in the nation’s capital district (NCD).
Underperforming schools in the sense that many of these schools had continued to perform poorly in the past Grade 12 examination results, and already parents are worried that their children will not make it to universities after completing grade 12.
For instance, as far as the 2019 University of PNG acceptance list is concerned, some of the schools in NCD and Central achieved the following results:

  • De La Salle – 10 students, two for science foundation
  • Gerehu – 10 students, two for science foundation
  • Laloki – one student – no science foundation
  • Tokorara – six students – one science foundation

The above results indicate that many of our secondary schools located in the heart of Port Moresby city and neighboring Central are performing far below standards.
The frightening scenario in here is that not many students will pursue studies in science and mathematics-related courses like medicine, engineering, surveying among others.
This is a big threat and a nerve-wracking part from a parent’s point of view when they anticipate their children becoming engineers and medical doctors after leaving school.
If schools in the city can produce such results, the worse can be experienced in some remote schools in the country, where our so-called elected Members of Parliament continue to establish many substandard secondary schools without enough learning and teaching materials nor proper planning.
An approach more akin to the increase in Port Moresby city settlements build out of off-cut building materials like plastics and cardboards.
The number of school leavers entering universities only reflects the lack of quality specialist teachers in many schools today.
A quality teacher is one who has a positive effect on student learning and development through a combination of content mastery, command of a broad set of pedagogic skills, and communications/interpersonal skills.
The real world must be brought into the classroom teaching and learning process to ensure their students will perform at higher level when taught by teachers who are intelligent and equipped with the correct content knowledge.
For instance, a teacher teaching language must understand key elements of linguistics, including reading, writing and speaking.
It is not enough for teachers to have a minimum understanding in the subject they teach.
The proficiency of teachers must significantly exceed the proficiency expected of students and beyond.
The argument here is that teachers must know a subject well in order to teach a particular subject with confidence and effectively.
Quality teachers are life-long learners in their subject areas, teach with commitment, and are reflective upon their teaching practice. They transfer knowledge of their subject matter and the learning process through good communication, diagnostic skills, understanding of different learning styles and cultural influences, knowledge about child development, and the ability to marshal a broad array of techniques to meet student needs.
They set high expectations and support students in achieving them.
They establish an environment conducive to learning and leverage available resources outside as well as inside the classroom.
The techniques for successfully teaching mathematics are different from techniques for successfully teaching science.
Teachers must know what structures and explanations fit a particular subject.
They must know how that subject is commonly understood and misunderstood by students, the difficulties they have in mastering it, and the instructional strategies that are most effective in addressing those difficulties.
Teachers must not only master their subject, they must also master the pedagogy appropriate for teaching it.
With the lack of content knowledge in scientific or mathematical knowledge, teachers also lack the confidence and competence required to instill passion for these subjects in their students.
These often impacts the quality of classroom lessons, resulting in ‘cookbook’ activities that look hands-on but are overly procedural, which results in students disengaging scientific and mathematical interest in the process of moving from one level to the other.
This appears to be the missing link where the interest in content knowledge like science and mathematics had dropped at the early stage of learning.
The lack of interest trickles onto university studies where we see very low enrolment in science or medicine or engineering courses as evident in the recent 2019 university enrollment list.

Ken Nandawa
Bush Education Advisor