He told the National Planning consultative summit held in Lae that when talking about empowering someone, “education is one of those tools that can be used to empower them”.
“There are critics out there that will tell you that free education will never work. New Ireland was one of the first provinces to introduce free education as a provincial agenda, followed by Enga,” he said.
“They are the two leading provinces that continuously score better above national average in education in the country and 50 per cent of their students in classes have advanced.
“They have doubled the number of students in classes meaning that half of the children did not attend classes previously.
“I always say that each child has the right to be educated. That is why we can never do away with free education.”
He said that of course there had been challenges, but “that does not mean that we do away with the education system”.
“We have to make sure that there are opportunities available to every child because the future of our country depends on those two million children,” O’Neill said.
He said it was important to build infrastructure and capacity, train teachers and ensure they taught the right subjects.
O’Neill said the government was going to improve the quality of teaching and teachers in the country. The National