Critics, including some prominent educators and political leaders, have expressed their opposition while others have written in support of the outcome-based education (OBE) model in our education system in this forum.
While the concerns expressed may be genuine, an evaluation of the success or failure of the model is needed to make an informed decision to either continue or dismantle the whole policy.
On the outset, the education department’s decision to accept it and the government’s decision in adopting it as a national education strategy and policy, is now overshadowed by various unforeseen and unexpected setbacks.
Critics have unfairly used the level of written and spoken English as a yardstick to suggest the failure or success of the OBE.
In fact, data gathered through research spanning several years from five different provinces since the inception of the OBE by the late Dr Rex Matang of the University of Goroka, showed children in elementary schools using vernacular language had higher cognitive ability in mathematics compared to those attending Tok Pisin and English only schools.
They also showed multilingual ability.
Similar research to measure the cognitive and intellectual development of our students from elementary through to upper secondary schools in other subjects might reveal a pattern as observed in mathematics.
That is for our educationists and academics in leading institutions of higher learning to pursue and advise the government accordingly.
The main idea behind the OBE syllabus in our lower and upper secondary school curriculum is that it expands the scope of work from the previously used objective based education system by introducing sets of tasks that a student must accomplish as a measure of the student’s cognitive ability to comprehend the topic under study.
This model moves away from the traditionally accepted notion of teacher centred learning to one in which the teacher, after giving the facts, guides students to appreciate the topic through a number of assessable tasks.
The measure of the student’s comprehension and understanding of the topic will be reflected in the students’ ability to successfully complete the tasks (defined outcomes) of the topic which will be an indication that the teacher can now go on to introduce the next topic in the syllabus.
This model differs significantly from the older version which was mostly teacher centred and required the teacher to give all there is to be known in a given topic and move onto the next topic, whether or not a student understood the content.
This OBE model, in theory, is highly workable but in reality, seems almost impossible to achieve.
The option to accept this OBE model or totally dismantle is subject to scrutiny as there is no silver bullet to this issue.
In my view, the model can be made to work if our teachers, as implementers of the model, are factored into the overall equation of OBE success.
Other parameters to this equation are housing, proper in-service training, improved salary and hosts of other industrial issues they have been unsuccessfully negotiating to boost the dying morale.
That may be the white elephant in this fiasco and the Teaching Services Commission, National Department of Education, Public Employees Association and the government ought to take ownership and address these issues so that the roadmap of PNG’s future is clearly charted.