School leaver issue addressable

The National,Tuesday June 28th, 2016

IF it is not being felt already in the towns, cities and villages across the country, it should be.
The number of yearly school drop outs and their place and use in society is a ticking time bomb and something the state through its relevant agencies must address.
Acting Education secretary Dr Uke Kombra highlighted this problem at a meeting of department heads in Port Moresby last Friday.
He was answering a query by National Development Bank managing director Moses Liu, who stated that the increasing number of school drop outs (we assume at all levels of education but in particular from primary to secondary level) was becoming a major concern, wanted to know what the Education Department was doing about it.
Liu stated plainly that if left unchecked the large numbers of unemployed youth turned away by the system would become a developmental obstacle for the country in the short term, as well as extending well into the future.
The alarming statistic that was proffered by Liu is that of the 22,000 students that come out of high schools each year some 17,000, or 77 per cent, are “not employable”.
The problem is clear but the solutions are not so easy to come by. So the obvious question is what is the government doing about it?
What is their strategy and overall plan to deal with the problem?
They cannot just sweep it under the carpet of ignore the problem because sooner rather than later that carpet will be sitting on top of a mile-high mound of trouble.
With a build of the masses in this demographic there are bound to be issues that society will face.
The current student unrest is, for the time being, confined to two or three major tertiary institutions in the country but what about the disenfranchised multitudes out there who might get the idea that they are owed something more than the raw deal they have been given by the State in terms of their education and career and future employment prospects?
What of them?
Kombra in his response to Liu gave his own set of figures and projections that did nothing to mitigate the crisis.
He said approximately 50,000 students come out of Grade 10 annually and half of that figure out of senior high (grade 12) and out of this senior completing student numbers only a quarter (6250 students) are absorbed into the various State institutions around Papua New Guinea.
“The bulk are not going into formal institutions,” Kombra admitted. The rest of these school leavers are left to fend for themselves either in the job market or in private education institutions – if they can afford it.
In many if not most families, there is a high value attached to education. It is seen as the ticket to a better life and something that can enable not only the recipient of the education but their families and tribes.
The effect is multiplied and magnified over the community. Kombra, a career public servant in the Education Department, knows this has been a problem for a long time – it just was not felt as sharply in the community as it is now and has the potential to do.
The solution, or one of them, he said was giving these students a chance to find employment and become in a way self-reliant and able to function in the modern economy.
“We have to provide for these children coming out of our Grade 12 system (and) going into technical education is one pathway.”
At present technical and vocational education is the low hanging fruit that many disregard on their way to higher honours but quite simply this is the only fruit worth getting for the majority.
The challenge the state has is obviously job creation, and giving young men and women in this country the means to earn a living.
Technical education should not just be a complementary or supplementary part of the education system, it should be a large part of what schools do now.
It shouldn’t be an elective but a core range of subjects.
The numbers demand it.
At present there only precious few schools at secondary and tertiary level that offer this opportunity to students leaving upper primary and senior secondary institutions.
More needs to be done to tilt the playing field in favour of students who miss out.