Dr. GEWA AU writes about the state of ailing schools and education system in Central province. Part two
THE Government and relevant authorities must act now to make changes to suit the needs of central province school children in order to maximize their learning experience and better prepare them for the world.
Currently, our educational reforms seem to have hit a snag with the push for OBE which has not worked in other countries.
It seems that we are on the back foot, responding to critical OBE issues we cannot answer properly, or introducing SLIP programs or curriculum reform and so forth by reorganizing the existing systems and materials to accommodate this un-workable OBE policy. We are dealing with the triple ‘message system’ of curriculum, instruction and assessment in bits, failing to deal with instruction at all, and allowing the OBE agenda to drag us in a particular direction.
If we are not able to holistically and critically review these three systems curriculum; pedagogy and the assessment framework than we are not addressing the issues effectively. Therefore the system is going to be misaligned or will be pulling in different directions, thus cooking up a recipe for trouble.
Over the past three years, I have been talking to teachers, parents, students and academics, about the general state of ailing schools and education system in Central province. Most have responded by saying that teachers, educators, administrators in the field have a real case of ‘change fatigue’ – that they had been quality assured, curriculum reformed, OBE drilled, SLIP SLOP programmed to the point where they were not listening.
Table 1 (below) presents rating indices for each examined subject for each province in year 10. Last column shows mean rating index (MRI) for each province. M.R.I of less than 50% indicates below average performance. In Central province the MRI is 36%.
Just by looking at these figures, the truth is that, our public education system in Central province is a complete disgrace.
No other organisation would be allowed to have sixteen years to fix its culture and processes. Self regulation to build capacity within an organisation to conduct its own business ethnically and properly is a legitimate tactic. But for almost two decades in Central province, you must be joking? We have miserably failed our children, not only failed to hold individual students accountable for poor performance, but, we have also failed to hold the entire government-controlled school system accountable for its performance over the past 16 years.
It seems that our ailing education system has developed a functional blindness to its own defects. It is not suffering because educational experts cannot resolve the problems, but because they cannot see their problems.
So which way do we go from here? Let me make some suggestions.
We have two choices, we can let the system limp along or we can take some drastic action. It is our choice. For the sake of our children we must work together and begin to remake our education system in Central province in ways that will strengthen what we currently do and better enable us to give our children a better deal by proactively contributing towards developing improved policy directives for reshaping our children’s’ future.
For a start, we must take an extensive stock take about the needs of Central province schools to prepare students for risky, challenging and rapidly changing economic futures that will require new combinations of knowledge and information, skills and practices – both high tech and traditional. This will require a wide ranging debate over the new industries, economies that are emerging across Central province, about the new pathways to vocations, to universities, to life-long learning, where retraining becomes the order of the day, towards workplaces that require ‘learning new tools’
Secondly, we must take an extensive stock take about the kinds of citizenship, social practices and cultural identities that Central province students will need to survive, to prosper, to participate and to contribute to a cohesive new Central province community and culture.
Thirdly, we must re-examine our current curriculum in Central province schools in order to re-design or reform it in ways that would be guided by the current changes taking place around us. Let us revamp the system in a principled, and anticipatory way, rather than more or less drift along taking reactive actions to address issues
In this context, we have to think outside of the box and do something very different from what everyone is trying to do. I suggest we take the following steps:
We re -examine our schooling systems in Central province and propose establishing School Differentiation on Genuine Educational Grounds. Let us do away with this policy and make an end to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. So many things have changed drastically over the years, and yet for decades its business as usual in Central province. We must differentiate ourselves and adopt distinctive educational ethos and approaches, as long as that differentiation occurs on sound educational grounds and to cater for the needs of the communities and student. We must move towards developing a series of educationally-based options for our communities and our children. We must recreate and revamp our community schools; establish schools of excellence in particular fields or areas in the Central province. We must look at creating alternative schools such us introducing vocational education and training curriculum to prepare our children for lives after school and introduce information technology in all our schools.
Let us make everyone accountable, teachers, parents, the community and the government. Let us shift towards community accountability based on a system of community control, or community ‘contracts’ where we would begin to set specific ‘smart’ or value-added targets for delivering improved student outcomes . These suggestions would both reframe and reorient us towards the needs of targeted at-risk groups (both traditional and the ‘new’ equity groups of students most at risk in the new economies), and it would allow us to make guarantees around excellence that we haven’t made before.
Let us promote our provincial schools by providing better marketing and public representation. Let us go out there and tell the public who we are and what we stand for and attract teachers who can make a difference.
And finally, of course, our core business should be a future oriented approach to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. In other words, we must bring some real sense, linkages, and coordination to our main game with a proper educational plan.
Dr. Gewa Au is an Education & Training Consultant and has a keen interest in the field of teaching and learning. His expertise is in designing and developing creative teaching strategies to promote thinking and learning in the classroom.
Email Dr. Gewa Au at [email protected] and air your views
According to data (below) in the last sixteen years or so, schools in Central province have been continuously out performed by their counterparts in other provinces.
Table 1 Province Rating Indices- 2007
Province Number of Schools Number of Candidate English Maths Science Soc Sci M.R.I
Western 8 1114 36.89 29.35 33.75 33.48 33.37
Gulf 5 386 29.79 24.35 29.79 27.20 27.78
Central 10 1277 41.82 33.75 33.99 34.53 36.02
Milne Bay 8 1179 59.29 43.94 46.73 47.92 49.47
Oro 4 658 41.19 28.42 29.94 31.00 32.64
SHP 16 2249 20.68 46.11 29.79 27.66 31.06
EHP 15 2067 54.67 57.57 60.86 61.30 58.60
Simbu 12 1335 43.60 53.11 53.78 51.09 50.39
WHP 15 2274 48.24 65.00 56.82 57.43 56.87
Sandaun 9 678 54.57 54.72 56.64 56.34 55.57
East Sepik 13 1700 49.63 49.24 49.19 51.36 49.86
Madang 9 1385 63.25 62.31 63. 54 62.45 62.89
Morobe 17 2706 55.65 52.48 57.13 57.69 55.74
West New Britain 9 1142 38.76 36.75 39.28 36.66 37.86
East New Britain 11 2062 63.77 52.62 49.32 50.05 53.94
New Ireland 6 822 51.70 28.35 34.55 39.05 38.41
North Solomons 9 1173 39.81 38.02 39.81 2.97 40.15
Manus 4 433 68.13 51.50 57.51 56.35 58.37
NCD 13 2883 78.43 59.81 66.68 70.04 68.74
Enga 12 1403 31.58 64.15 58.52 51.25 51.37
SOURCE: Department of Education Report 2007- Measurement Services Unit