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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Education woes persist and worsen with time

IT MUST have been a chaotic week one of term one of school year 2010.  The normal activity and mad rush and long lines at the start of the school year are nothing new.

But judging by reports so far this school year is commencing with another lot of problems apart from the usual hassles expected.

Problems encountered at the start of the 2010 academic year are varied but these are among the worrying ones that need special remedial action: There have been two different student selection lists for tertiary education institutions; elementary education is still to be paid for despite the government's free basic education initiative announced toward the end of last year; and schools have simply run out of space to cater for transferring students. 

The anxious moments may run into a second, possibly third week while school administration scramble to find solutions before students are settled into classrooms and dormitories.

More drama is expected when university classes commence in a couple of week's time and especially at the University of PNG which has raised its tuition fees. The move has irked students as well as parents and guardians.

The line of communication between the Measurement Services Unit of the Department of Education, the Commission of Higher Education and a number of secondary level institutions who graduated students from grade 12 in 2009, has not been kept clear of distortion. 

Two different lists of schools examination marks and information emanating from secondary schools to the MSU has resulted in a number of eligible students being denied places in tertiary institutions and government scholarships through the tertiary education assistance scheme (TESAS).  When final marks on higher school certificates were compared against the listings of universities and colleges, much did not make sense to the many students who were expecting to be on the lists.

The Director of the Office of Higher Education (OHE) Dr William Tagis explained at a press conference this week that OHE was not involved in selecting and admitting students into academic and training programs but facilitates the national selections.

He said however, that those deserving students will be catered provided for under some arrangement with higher learning institutions concerned.

In the NCD, a directive from the district education office has stopped secondary school administrations especially from enrolling any students transferring from other schools either within the district or from elsewhere in the country.

This drastic measure is a direct result of a lack of classroom space at schools that has been left to worsen over the years.

District education officials partly blame the schools for failing to maintain existing classroom facilities or build new ones for the increasing student population in the city.

The shortage of space in schools is not something peculiar to the NCD but school administrations and planners in this expanding city have been slow in realizing that they have to regularly adapt to and cater for the growing population.

With the hype about the mega resource developments and the expected influx of other Papua New Guineans into the city in the next few years and decades, time is surely against our education planners and institutions.
The instruction from the NCDC education office to halt enrolments of transferring students is one based on the reality of the situation at hand but it may also be indicative of a lack of creativity and innovation.

Yes, we have a space problem but can we not work around it?  This may be the time to implement that shift teaching concept proposed at the 2009 national education conference in Alotau. Rather than stopping schools from getting in students, let each school administration use some creativity and deal with the demand in the best way available to it.

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