A NATION’S most important asset is its human resource. Education is the tool to develop that resource, and that is why it should be among the top priorities for any government.
The question that needs to be asked is whether the education system is producing the quality of graduates to meet the country’s needs.
One should remember that education is not just about learning how to read and write nor having the basic literacy and numeracy skills to interact effectively in a modern society.
That should be the minimum expectation for any system.
What education should do is enable people to think critically on issues and be able to form conclusions independently. Schools in Papua New Guinea are set to undergo a reversion to the standards-based education system after trying the outcomes-based approach for the past 14 years.
In a way, the O’Neill Government is perhaps best served returning the country to a familiar system as their free education policy will be a much more costly exercise under the OBE.
It is a transition that will hopefully address the problems that schools from elementary, primary and secondary level experienced while on the current system.
Chief among those problems was the fact that the OBE put an extra burden on teachers and schools to implement (they were simply not equipped with adequate training of their personnel nor did they have the equipment and materials).
But this is only part of the challenge because regardless of the educational philosophy underpinning any system, the people who are tasked with implementing it must be able to do so without compromising their performance.
There are complaints from the public about the commitment of teachers and even their quality which begs the question: What good is any system if the ones who are supposed to run it are not doing their jobs?
It starts from the top with school principals, the people who should be taking the proactive approach of expecting, and in many cases, demanding a high standard from their staff. One parent saw fit to write to The National’s letter’s column this week berating the poor attitude of teachers at a certain primary school in Port Moresby.
That parent said he observed a very lax attitude among teachers towards the education of the students. Tardiness and absenteeism were among the biggest problems.
Elsewhere, Samson Wangihomie of the Teaching Service Commission, the body all teachers are registered under and handle teachers’ salaries and other terms and conditions of their employment, told provincial education authorities in Jiwaka during the opening of an office building, that teachers who misused education subsidies would be suspended from the commission.
He warned that criminal charges would be laid on any principal or school head deemed to have abused their position in the use of any government (provincial and state) grants.
Wangihomie extended the warning to teachers who were absent from duty for no good reason. “I see many teachers from Western Highlands and Jiwaka in the nation’s capital claiming to follow up on payments,” he said.
The Teaching Service Commission will suspend any teacher that travels to Port Moresby without the permission from their Provincial Education Office.
But wayward teachers, who are in the minority, are not the only problem.
In fact, we can say that those teachers who do find it necessary to leave their schools during the working week do so because of the failure of the commission and other relevant bodies to address their concerns.
Teachers in remote locations often find it hard to access their salaries and sometimes do not get paid on time.
Wangihomie put the onus on parents not to leave it all up to schools and teachers or the government in spite of the free education policy.
He said free education was not an excuse for parents to “relax” and become “lazy” and expect the state to take over completely once the child left their homes.
He urged parents to support schools and ensure teachers were present in classrooms.
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