The National, Wednesday July 29th, 2015
The disbursement of TFF funds is revealing a lot more information about efficiency, misuse, abuse and official fraud (although an official report from Simon Tosali’s investigation) is yet to be made public.
As responsible leaders we should be able to find creative ways to implement TFF policy.
There is already a willingness from two provincial governors (Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas and Sir Julius Chan) and the Catholic Church to at least offer to help trial implementing the TFF funds through their system to manage and disburse the TFF funds.
When I was Secretary for Education I was approached by the two governors at different times to provide an avenue to deliver TFF funds through their respective provinces.
The concept was excellent but the practical implementation was not possible when there was a TFF management and implementation policy vacuum on such an idea.
I intended to incorporate such an idea because we had willing volunteers to explore and try out alternative ways of working around the challenges of ghost schools, ghost students, and ghost bank accounts.
As we learn more about the schools’ or individuals’ inclination to defraud the state by inflating their enrolment figures, it was critical that provinces such as Enga and New Ireland and the churches like the Catholic Church be given the opportunity to help trial the TFF funds disbursement to their respective schools.
The two provinces, under their respective governors, and the Catholic Church know their schools like they know the back of their palm.
They have the human touch and relationship with their schools through and by their internal networks.
I believe the time is right to explore such alternative ways to find the best ways possible to manage, disburse, and evaluate the implementation of TFF funds.
Instead of centralising the disbursement of the TFF funds to one central implementation agency, we could explore this option to at least trial with two provinces (Enga and New Ireland) and the Catholic Church to present to the TFF Secretariat the school data from their respective schools.
The Catholic Church can liaise with the two provincial governments on how best the Catholic Church schools in those two provinces could be dealt with.
We should be able to learn much from their collective implementation efforts to find smarter solutions to avoid ghost schools, ghost bank accounts, ghost students and ghost service providers.
Some education functions have been decentralised to the provinces and that is why the provincial set up mirrors the National Department of Education but responsible for only smaller administrative system pertaining to provincial institutions.
There is already a Public-Private Church Partnership policy which encourages such partnerships between provincial government, the churches, and the National Government Department to work together to deliver services to the people.
Education service such as TFF funds disbursement could be achieved through this partnership.
If this option is taken to transfer funds to the provinces then the blame game seen arising out of TFF funds disbursement will more than likely to shift from Fincorp Haus to the respective provincial headquarters (from the centre to the periphery) or in the case of the Catholic Church to the relevant diocese office.
The schools will have direct contact with their provincial education officers to sort out their mess.
Such a mess will be ‘localised’ away from Fincorp Haus.
So instead of Fincorp Haus dealing with mundane administrative glitches and anomalies with say 10,000 schools through their respective heads, it will be much easier and simpler to deal with 22 provincial education advisers and possibly a dozen churches’ education secretaries.
I have always encouraged my students to ‘Work smarter – not harder’ on many mathematical exercises in class.
The Public, Private and Church Partnership is an excellent opportunity to work smarter to implement TFF policy than working harder as we have toiled so far, which is fraught with many systems and people related challenges which continue to haunt our political and bureaucratic leaders.
The churches take pride in their successful school management system.
They were successfully managing their schools long before they came under the national system in the 1960s.
They have their hierarchy aligned, their channel of communication activated, their reporting mechanism intact, and their school management capable of working closely with the state and the church hierarchies to achieve the best for their students.
They will continue to do the best for their students.
Giving them this opportunity to help implement TFF funds will in more than one way help to minimise fraudulent practices.
I bet that ghost schools, ghost students, and ghost service providers will be significantly decreased from such schools.
It must never be forgotten that the potential risk of politicisation of TFF funds and its administration at the provincial level is imminent whenever a new successor comes into office of the respective governors and the dynamics played out then could defeat the good intentions.
If abuses do come to light the church leadership will swiftly address them.
They will contain the irregularities and discourage poor performances of their school management and leadership.
They will be more transparent in managing public funds and acquit for them.
TFF – quantity versus quality education
As it is the TFF funds are disbursed to schools based on student enrolment figures.
This idea of paying schools according to the number of student enrolled encourages schools to defraud the state by grossly inflating their enrolment figures.
Inflating enrolment figures suggest ‘ghost schools’ and ‘ghost students’ exist.
The TFF funds are used to reward schools for promoting ‘quantity’.
The more students you have the more money you are likely to receive for your school.
There are supposedly many ghost schools popping up with no students so how can anyone justify for TFF funds?
What if a formula or even a criteria is introduced to reduce the proportion of funds paid on the basis of the enrolment figures and increase the proportion of funds to pay schools in recognition of ‘quality education’ in the form of ‘Pass Rate’ attained by their school in the previous year for schools that sat for such terminal exams?
This suggestion is going to create even more problem for many schools.
However, if the schools implemented the Student Learning Improvement Plan (SLIP) programme then by virtue of the outcomes expected from that exercise directly contribute towards offering quality education.
We stand a better chance of encouraging schools to channel resources to achieve SLIP objectives.
The Slip programme aims to achieve the following outcomes:
- Improved curriculum and student learning achievement;
- improved staff development and training;
- improved student welfare;
- improved leadership (at management and administration);
- improved infrastructure (development and maintenance);
- improved school governance (school boards, governing boards), and,
- improved budget (allocation and expenditure) .
The net outcome is that when there is a general improvement in these outcomes (individually or collectively) will have contributed immensely towards improving ‘quality education’ which is simply measured in terms of the ‘pass rate’ in the School Certificate Examination.
More work is required to determine a simple criterion to encourage ‘quality education’ and use portion of TFF funds to reward schools for their effort and input into achieving quality education.
We need to strike a balance between investment in education for quality and education for quantity.
The PNG Vision 2050 aspires for PNG to create a smart, fair, wise, healthy and happy society by the year 2050 (35 years away from now).
We have been investing in education for quantity and TFF funds of late have encouraged education for quantity more than education for quality.
Unless this trend changes those we are currently educating for quantity will do little to help PNG to achieve a smart, fair, wise, healthy and happy society.
Take for example, a 10-year-old child in school now assisted through TFF funds is part of our mass educated population and in 35 years’ time he/she will be 45 years old but has been denied a quality education.
Should we now expect to have a smart society by the year 2050?
Many of us won’t be around by then but the consequences of the decisions we make now will create a type of society PNG will have then.
- Continued tomorrow