K16b UBE plan gets NEC green light

National, Normal

THE National Executive Council has given its approval for an education plan that will cost K16 billion to start next year.
Education Minister James Marape announced yesterday that the NEC met on Wednesday and approved the Universal Basic Education (UBE) plan.
The 10-year plan starts next year, with elementary enrolment to be free of school fees.
Mr Marape said the UBE plan was a 10-year (2010-19) roadmap to ensure PNG achieved 70% gross enrolment rate for basic education by 2015.
UBE meant all school-aged children must enrol in school; complete nine years of basic education and will have learned knowledge, skills and values stipulated in the UBE curriculum.
This would cost the Government K16.6 billion over 10 years.
The bulk of the cost would go to employing more teachers, building new teachers’ houses and classrooms, building more facilities, buying more school textbook and materials as enrolment go up.
“Some 47% of our school-aged children today are not in school and the UBE plan really aims to address this,” the minister said.
He said the plan was enthusiastically backed by the Prime Minister when he outlined the submission.
Mr Marape said the Government would financially back this plan by raising the education budget for next year, but he could not give any figures what the increase would be.
In GDP terms, annual education allocation in PNG averages about 3%.
To achieve the aims of the UBE and to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets, this allocation has to rise exponentially.
Teachers’ salary will continue to be a sizable chunk of the education budget, rising every year under UBE because of enrolment expansion.
Education secretary Dr Joseph Pagelio told reporters it would be ideal for revenue from the LNG project to directly fund education.
He said about K2 billion would be required every year, and they might approach the Government to have the LNG revenue take care of this programme.
Dr Pagelio said countries that spent 30% or more of their national income on education reaped a lot of rewards, and he used Singapore as an example.