The National – Thursday, December 23, 2010
TWO career educationists have called for an overhaul of the education system if PNG is to produce students who can meet international standards.
For a start, they said education must be made a top budget priority and that English, not pidgin, be the medium of instruction in all schools.
The syllabuses are at least two years behind most countries and must also be developed.
Canadians Bev and Vic Romanyshyn made the assessment after spending five months at the Kerevat National High School this year as volunteer teachers.
They had taught at the same school in 1972 and in Lae where they spent another year before leaving PNG.
On their return to Keravat in June this year, the Romanyshyns were shocked to see the run-down conditions and facilities.
Back in Canada recently, they wrote a report citing the problems faced by schools and also made several recommendations to improve the system.
They said that while their assessment was based only on their experience at Kerevat National High School, their perceptions were confirmed by their discussion with parents, teachers, employers, former students, politicians, business people and professionals.
A copy of the report, entitled Obstacles to student success in PNG, was made available to The National.
The Romanyshyns, who have retired after half a decade of teaching, said that when they first arrived in PNG in 1972, schools were using the New South Wales syllabus, resulting in standards parallel to those of the Australian state.
They were saddened that the system had deteriorated over the years, primarily because financial support was seriously lacking.
They said teacher and student access to computers, internet, textbooks, reference materials and audio-visual aids were essential for effective teaching and learning.
At the Kerevat school, there were no student textbooks or student workbooks.
“Various books left by teachers over the last 40 years served as teacher resources,” they said.
“Four sets of six books, each from the 1960s and 1970s became biology student classroom references.
“The blackboards, worn to the point where we had to repaint them, were often the only resource we had to fall back on.”
The Romanyshyns said careful planning and budget allocation must be paired with fully-accountable systems of plan implementation.
“Money allocated to education is too often circuited into the pockets of corrupt politicians and their friends.”
The Romanyshyns said that in the 1970s and 1980s, education in PNG was moving strongly towards English because it was the official language of the country.
When they returned, they were surprised that pidgin had become the language of choice in schools.
“This put students facing Grade 12 final examinations requiring the skilled use of English at a great disadvantage.
“When students lack proficiency in English, even if they understand prescribed science concepts and their application, they will not be able to read, understand and answer the questions posed.
“Tragically, such poor comprehension of English contributes to poor performance in all Grade 12 subjects.”
On the syllabuses, they said they fell well short of international standards.
Compared to Canada, the syllabus is about two years behind.
“PNG graduates would have problems seeking entrance to post secondary institutions overseas.”
The Romanyshyns said the young people of PNG were the country’s greatest resource and their education would be its best investment for the future.
“Well-educated students become astute and capable leaders, professionals, business people and citizens; the foundation required for a secure and prosperous society.”