The National, Monday June 1st, 2015
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a signatory to achieving Universal Basic Education (UBE) by the year 2015.
This is the year in which we signed up to achieve UBE.
The five pillars or domains of UBE are: access, retention, equity, quality and management.
Signatories to achieving UBE goals aimed to achieve; 100 per cent access rate, 100 per cent retention rate, and 100 per cent in students learning outcomes (or quality education).
That ideal is yet to be achieved but it’s not an impossible task as some progress have been made in terms of access to over one million students in school now.
While significant progress is made on Access domain and to some extents Equity domain through the O’Neill government’s introduction of the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) policy, a national effort is required if PNG were to make any progress on the other domains.
The O’Neill Government’s TFF policy has triggered an unprecedented increase in enrolments (Access domain) at all levels.
It impacted on minority and disadvantaged groups to have opportunity to access education (equity domain).
The challenge for PNG now is whether it can achieve retention, quality and management.
In this commentary we discuss management issues and practices inherent in PNG which affects the delivery of quality teaching and learning at school level in the administration of TFF funds.
The TFF policy brought about unprecedented increase in enrolment.
The increased enrolment is chaotic to manage not only do the correct cohort (correct school-aged children enrolled in correct grade) but allows over-age and mature students to occupy spaces rightfully meant for the correct age group in their respective grades.
We have read of father and son in the same class in some primary schools in PNG.
These were students who have left school many years ago due to school fees problem or other problems are now occupying spaces in a class in a school rightfully intended for the correct school-age groups of students.
This impacts on a whole range of learning environment.
Overcrowding reported and seen in many classrooms across PNG is just one consequence of increased and uncoordinated enrolment of mixed age groups.
We know teachers and head teachers have colluded to grossly inflate their enrolment figures in submitting their monthly or termly returns on the correct number of students physically present and attending the respective classes over the term or the month. The enrolment figures are deliberately inflated to include “ghost number of students” to arrive at a “respectable enrolment figure” in order to benefit from the TFF funds calculated on the basis of the enrolment figures.
We know that teachers, head teachers and school board members are colluding to defraud the state and share the fraudulent gains from their scheming (Laepa, 2015).
The school inspectors or standards officers in each district who would normally travel to each school to check on the enrolment figures among other inspection duties couldn’t travel because their travel funds have been diverted at Fincorp Haus to offset other pressing issues.
School level administration and management
School level administration or management is equal and complimentary pillar of UBE.
They performed their unique roles to manage (physical, human and financial resources) and provide necessary oversight so that quality education can be delivered and achieved.
The head teacher, assisted by the senior teachers, are to ensure that junior teachers under their charge are performing their daily teaching duties delivering the official curriculum within the given time frame at a satisfactory level.
The parents and guardians can be rest assured that their children are presented an honest day’s teaching provided the students do their part by their level of receptiveness and attentiveness.
The teaching staffs is provided with guidance to effectively deliver the curriculum content approved, programmed and planned for each lesson.
The teachers are provided with relevant teaching resources to supplement and complement their teaching in order to enhance the learning opportunities for the students.
The school management is responsible for making sure that teachers are in a class teaching when they are time tabled to teach at a particular time in a particular class on a particular subject.
School management is to ensure teachers are periodically observed by their senior teachers and Standards officers to provide professional advice and ensure the official curriculum is delivered.
We see on many occasions teachers are not in class on a school day because of various reasons including absence of head teachers, lack of teachers’ house and illness.
When teachers are absent, there is less or nil teaching, hence nil learning other than students learning “hidden” or “unofficial” curriculum.
Head teachers and senior teachers must be physically present in school to ensure teaching takes place for the required number of minutes for each teaching topic or subject of study on official curriculum.
The school management is there to provide leadership, encouragement, resources and professional advice to teachers in order to enhance teaching and learning.
There are many school management teams in PNG that worked prudently to ensure their students receive quality education with limited resources in a diligent manner.
They are delivering government service in the most difficult of places in far flung villages travelling over mountains, walk through jungles, wade or paddle across swamps and cross rivers with no bridge or travel on bush tracks with no vehicular road access.
They are bringing smiles to their communities because their school is the only presence of government in that community.
We salute such head teachers and their dedicated team of teachers who serve their country in a challenging environment with a smile every day.
You don’t get that warm reception from those working in air conditioned office in many high rise buildings in Port Moresby or PHQs.
Teachers and school management team in yesteryears had worked honestly and the s