More classrooms, teachers needed


THE Government has announced it is bringing back the free education policy next year, paying the full tuition fees of students from pre-school to grade 12.
The fee-free plan announced, according to the Government, is to help parents through the current tough times.
Parents, however, will be required to pay project fees and other necessary fees set by schools.
The tuition fee-free (TFF) policy was introduced in 2012 and was changed last year by the Marape-led Government where parents were to pay 37 per cent and the Government 63 per cent of school fees under the government tuition fees subsidy (GTFS) policy.
The TFF policy was introduced during the term of former prime minister Peter O’Neill.
While the TFF policy introduced in 2012 had increased enrolment in gender, retention and literacy, the policy did not address teachers, materials, quality and employment for the bulk graduating classes.
The desired result of quality education was not there.
The education sector over time continued to experience problems at all levels from elementary to tertiary.
These problems were unavoidable for a developing economy such as PNG with the biggest challenge that faces the Government at the moment is how to build the capacity of the system to cater for everyone.
We can continue educating the people, but if it is poorly delivered, it could be a disaster too.
Parents will welcome the policy, which now provides access to students who would otherwise struggle or be denied an education because of economic reasons. Education creates an enlightened society.
This is a crucial prerequisite to nation-building because the more people become enlightened, the more they would refrain from doing things that would endanger nation-building efforts.
Education is the key to unlocking the full potential of a country’s human resources
In PNG, ask most parents what they prioritise as an important goal for their children and they will most likely say that education and the further training and enhancement of their children is what they strive to achieve.
It is a simple principle: the better educated you are, the more chance you have of finding employment, well-paying employment with the favourable conditions and the better off your life will be and following that the better off your family’s life will be.
However, there are very obvious draw backs of education policy one of which is the limited number of school infrastructure.
The TFF policy had also placed a burden on school administrations who are now struggling to maintain an increased number of students in run down classrooms.
Two things had crept up since the introduction of TFF policy – increase in enrolment and overcrowding in classrooms making the teacher to pupil ratio become unmanageable, according to teachers and education experts.
The universal teacher to student ratio is about 1:35 in primary and secondary school and 1:25 for national high schools.
Today, a teacher is teaching approximately 60 to 80 students in a classroom and that alone is stressful for both the teacher and students.
When we talk about increasing the number of teachers to cater for the increase in the number of students, that means building more classrooms.
It is clear that the number of learning institutions simply cannot accommodate the growing ranks of students pouring into the secondary and tertiary levels on a yearly basis.
Perhaps, the biggest challenge that faces the Government is how to build the capacity to allow the system to cater for everyone.