PNG needs a new breed of people

Normal, Weekender

We need to invest time and money in our children who are our future and our hope for a better society, HELEN HARRICKNEN writes in part two of this article.

A WAY forward for PNG is to prepare a new breed of people. We begin with our little children aged 3 to 8 years old. If today’s generation is spoiled and deemed doomed we should work on the next generation. It will take time but time should be of no concern here. What is important is we build a society where there is respect, love and concern for each other. A society where there is responsibility and obligation to each other and their country. Children are the building blocks of the society. The type of adult one becomes is very much attributed to the formative years of his upbringing. The children need to be given the best possible start with proper facilities, adequate resources and well trained teachers. We need to invest time and money on our children who are our future and hope for of a better society.
There should be a national initiative requiring participation by every stakeholder from parents, families, communities and all levels of government. At the government level perhaps we have already begun with the National Early Childhood Care and Development Policy and the Integrated Community Development Policy from the Department of Community Development. Whilst these policies advocate integrated approach by the government and the civil society an aspect of these policies is of particular interest here, the education of our very young children (early childhood).
The public (government) system is already implementing the elementary school system. The Government vision for elementary education is to create a literate and an educated population. But the development of a literate population may not be the same as the formation of a well mannered and responsible people. This is where early childhood education takes a specific focus on its own.Early childhood operators may specialize in different areas, but generally they all are involved in enrolling and educating children. For instance, Lahara Play School in the long run is looking at developing a training centre for early childhood educators. The aim of the centre is to help develop and upgrade early childhood teaching skills and curriculum.
For this initiative it will need to network with the other operators to see that the centre is developed so that all can benefit. As a private sector we aim to provide an alternative (that is appropriate to our needs) to the public sector. We should not just provide an alternative but a competitive alternative.
At Lahara Play School we believe that the curriculum should be adapted to what is developmentally appropriate practice for children. The school has been established to meet the developmental needs of children in the years before admission into primary schools. Lahara has a school based curriculum. It focuses on harnessing the power of play in an early childhood curriculum and by providing an environment which:
Empowers children to continue to learn through play
* Encourage self-expression, creativity and effective communication
*  Develop love for learning
* Recognize individual differences in children and respond to individual needs
* Value the worth of each individual child
*  Promote social, emotional, intellectual and physical development
* Promote cooperation of parents with teachers as partners to provide support for each child in their development and learning experiences
*  Provides equal opportunity for learning without discrimination in gender, sex, Christian religion, abilities and disabilities
The vision for Early Childhood Education is to contribute to a better future by providing foundation and formative learning towards a sustainable lifelong learning of children in their early ages from three to eight years old before they reach primary school age.
This is achieved by the development and provision of appropriate curriculum and strategies to stimulate better and equal learning opportunities and practices and to build sustainable lifelong habits of future generation of people that will instill sense of responsibility and obligation towards oneself, their families, the communities they live in and their country. There are a number of such private initiatives operating through out the country but mostly in Port Moresby. Many are involved with basic child care but there are few which operate under their own school based curriculums offering pre-school, prep and elementary courses. Some of these schools have registration only under the National Early Childhood Care and Development policy with the Department of Community Development but they also need to at some time register as a Permitted School with the Department of Education under the National Education Act.
The emphasis of these schools should be to develop and offer a developmentally appropriate curriculum aimed at producing a generation of people who are grounded with a sense of responsibility and obligation towards oneself, their families, the communities they live in and their country. This means the children are thought the basics of their Christian religion; their country; and basic discipline on respect, attitude and safety apart from the academic curriculum of reading, writing and numbers. This should also set the basis for a sustainable lifelong learning.
After a number of meetings by some early childhood operators in July and August this year (2009) we have reached consensus that an Alliance of Early Childhood Education be formed and we start working at forging partnership with the Government or the public sector and other development partners such as the international agencies who are concerned with early childhood learning and education.
Some of the private schools include Jack & Jill, Kitty Place, Twinky Winky, St. Joseph’s International College, Boroko East International, Bambi, Nonu and Lahara Play School.
The Alliance wants to profile early childhood education as a way forward to change this country from the stigma of corruption, laziness and un-productivity, alcoholism, drugs, violence etc.
The members of the Alliance will work cooperatively to raise and maintain an internationally competitive standard of education. It will also work at not only providing a collaborative learning with the public system but a competitive one in order to raise the standard.
Under the private public partnership, the Alliance will also ask the government and international development partners for support in areas of curriculum development, staff professional development and funding.
As a step forward Lahara will be using it’s fund raise dinner gathering on the 22nd of October to profile the need and the role of early childhood learning and education in Papua New Guinea. The theme of the dinner discussion will be: “EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: A PRIVATE PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE.” A number of Government Ministers and public authorities have been invited to attend the occasion. I hope we can all seize the opportunity to promote early childhood education in the country.


* The writer has been a secondary schools teacher in the public system for 15 years and seven years with the International Education Agency. She has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Papua New Guinea and a Masters from the University of Southern Queensland, Towoomba, Australia. She is now the owner and principal of Lahara Play School at Boroko, NCD.