ILLITERACY is a growing concern in Papua New Guinea .
Illiteracy means the inability to read or write.
The opposite is literacy, which means the ability to read and write.
In the current modern era, literacy enables individuals to compete progressively to sustain their livelihood through accumulation of resources.
The development of individuals, families, communities and the country, therefore, depend largely on the literacy level of its population.
Literacy, in terms of reading, writing and understanding English as the official language of instruction, is a very basic skill individuals need to acquire in order to advance into other fields of specialisation.
A report published by National Research Institute’s Dr Kilala Devettee-Chee “Illiteracy: A growing concern in Papua New Guinea” highlights four key points:
- ILLITERACY in Papua New Guinea is a worrying issue;
- PNG’S literacy rate is one of the lowest in the Pacific;
- PNG’S literacy rate has increased in the last two decades, but only at a marginal rate; and,
- STUDENTS dropping out of school are either semi-literate or illiterate.
Literacy does not just give us access to knowledge of facts or skills.
Some skills and facts can more easily be taught with pictures or video and some things can only be learned by practice.
Literacy supplies a whole mode of thought.
The purpose of universal literacy is to make better people, capable of richer lives and able to enter fully into society in dialogue, not just with their contemporaries, but with the community of everyone who has written in the languages they speak.
Shocking numbers of children in PNG leave primary school unable to read properly.
The report says although the Government has taken a number of measures to improve literacy in the country, more students who drop out of school are either semi-literate or illiterate.
This is a result of, among many factors, the outcome-based education which promoted the use of vernacular languages in elementary schools with a transition period to English in grade 3.
This bilingual programme is an excellent concept and has worked well in other countries, however, it failed a lot of Papua New Guinean students due to its improper implementation.
Like other developing countries, PNG’s development challenges are huge.
With the current population of close to 8 million and growing at more than 2 per cent annually, 85 per cent of the population live in hard-to-reach isolated areas and health indicators are below neighbouring countries.
In view of the challenges, providing literacy is at the heart of human development and lifelong learning to alleviate poverty by building and empowering capacities of individuals and communities to achieve many development goals.
The combination of the highly specified and often very demanding national curriculum and new exam grading scales are leaving teachers feeling disempowered and educationalists warning of the risk the changes pose to skills such as understanding and creativity, the two key attributes distinguishing people from robots.
One cannot do without knowledge.
But knowing how to use it matters too.
PNG is blessed with abundant natural resources, but its human resource is the key to future growth and prosperity.
We should make sure our children receive a good education from the start and books should be an essential part of that.
Without a well-educated and skilled population, our nation will not be able to cope with the rapid global changes that are taking place in science, technology, commerce and trade.