A 2011 literacy assessment report conducted throughout 5 provinces by the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) and PNG Education Advocacy Network (PEAN) highlighted the poor literacy rates and education quality faced in PNG’s education system.
The problems are on-going, even today. The tuition fee free policy has further revealed the social hurdles and economic complexities within PNG’s education system that still await a definitive solution.
Factors ranging from gender disparity, accessibility and quality of education continue to contribute to Papua New Guinea’s failing education standards.
International help has always been rife in addressing Papua New Guinea’s education standards and one innovative SMS system, developed by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), has shown successful results.
Developed jointly by VSO and PNG’s Department of Education and funded by the Australian government, the SMS Story research project aimed to seek out the effectiveness of sending daily lesson plans to teachers via SMS texting.
Teachers were briefed using a cartoon poster explaining the user process and ultimately received 100 text message stories, as well as 100 related text message lessons plans spanning two academic terms.
This was to determine whether English teaching and children’s learning could be improved.
“Schoolteachers here are very hard working but they get very little training, so this is a way of structuring their lessons for them,” said Richard Jones, VSO program manager.
The findings revealed an improvement in comparison to schools that did not partake in the programme. A major difference in teaching and learning methods was noted, as well as a 50 per cent increase in the number of children who could read English.
Some schoolteachers voiced their approval of SMS Story, likening it to be built into Papua New Guinea’s new national curriculum.
SMS Story directly addresses PNG’s consistent shortages in school materials with a low-costing and simple solution to raise the literacy levels.
A total of K2.01 per child was required in trialling the project and should it be further implemented, the costs are likely to drop further.
Program manager Richard Jones commented on the project’s low cost, adding a finding that no-one has used this approach anywhere else in the world.
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