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Community Teacher Education in Papua New Guinea

Chapter 5 - Improving Education:  policy issues
Chapter 6 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Pedagogical problems


Chapter 5 - is from the complete text of Dennis McLaughlin and Tom O’Donoghue, Book:  Community Teacher Education in Papua New Guinea; August 1996. 133p. A4. ISBN 9980-84-066-8. K20. (overseasUS$20) * as approved for use by authors *

Commentary on Chapter 5 Commentary on Chapter 5
Education policies aim to provide future directions for education change. Very often such policies are influenced by apparent ’progress’ in developed countries. Before such policies are adopted for Papua New Guinea they need to be scrutinised for their appropriateness for the contemporary PNG context. Chapter 5 catalogues former policy initiatives that failed to do this and as a consequence had a deleterious effect on the quality of education in Papua New Guinea. It is apparent such scrutiny was never undertaken. Unfortunately, the rationale for some of them appears to be no more than: "It seemed like a good idea at the time.

This chapter examines a current policy initiative, the Education Sector Review and argues that many of the proposed changes may be inappropriate because the teachers who are responsible for their implementation have neither the general or professional education needed for the their successful adoption. Moreover they demand additional resources and a reduction in class sizes, neither of which appear to be forth coming. Education policies aiming to improve the quality of education in a developing country must be firmly rooted in reality. Moreover, before suggested policies are implemented they need to be scrutinised for their appropriateness. It is only when such appropriateness is demonstrated that attempts to implement them, including changing the nature of teacher education, should be undertaken.


Papua New Guinea's (PNG) history of educational reviewing and planning is an uneven one. Prior to 1970, the year of the unification of the education system the various mission systems and the government system operated independently of one another. With unification, district education boards and the national government were required by law to produce plans. However, it was not until 1981, that the process gained momentum when a World Bank-assisted project was commenced for the development of the planning skills of national officers. At the end of 1983 each provincial government had an education plan (Bray,1978) in existence. However, by the mid-1980s the planning sector was in a state of disarray because of the severe financial cuts made by the national government which held power from 1986 to 1988.

Since 1988 governments have been more generous to education. At the same time, however, a comprehensive planning approach has not been evidenced in several of the major initiatives which have been taken in the education sector in recent years. In particular, there has not always been a full assessment of objectives, alternative strategies, probable outcomes and likely implications for required resources and their management. The most recent Education Sector Review (Department of Education, 1991) in PNG addresses planning, management and administration, pre-community and community education, secondary education, higher education, technical and vocational education, non-formal education and curriculum. It arose out of an awareness that if a coherent development and planning strategy had existed over the last decade the education sector could have succeeded in securing more national budget funds and funds from bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. A National Education Reform Task Force was established to commence planning for the possible implementation of the review's proposals in 1993.

The proposals in relation to each of the areas dealt with in the review merit serious consideration. This chapter, however, concentrates on the proposals for community education. The decision to select these proposals for special consideration was influenced by Colclough research (1986). He asserts primary education increases productivity in all sectors of the economy in developing countries. Moreover, he argues that it can have such significant socio-economic effects as reduced fertility, improved health and nutrition and higher agricultural yields even when school quality is low. Indeed, economic returns to investment are greater than those arising from other levels of education. This chapter firstly considers the primary school proposals with respect to access and structure and then analyses associated curricular proposals . These policies necessarily impinge on teacher education.


UPE became an official objective in 1955 but it was not until the 1960s that rapid expansion took place. Community school enrolment more than doubled between 1960 and 1970 (Smith, G, 1975, p.36). In the following decade it slowed to 38 per cent though secondary enrolments increased. PNG's Second Education Project, Education 11, was initiated in 1982. One of its objectives was that UPE should be achieved by the end of the century (Department of Education, 1985, p.35). However, despite impressive growth in the interim, UPE has touched only 74 per cent of children.

Like many other developing countries (Graham-Brown, 1991, p.37), the efforts which are being made in PNG in an attempt to extend educational provision at the community level are simply ensuring that the proportion of the age group enrolled in community schools is keeping pace with population growth. This fact is recognised in the review even though since independence politicians have propounded the notion of UPE being a relatively short-term educational goal of the country. Indeed, current government policy is UPE by the year 2000.

In PNG children are expected to enrol in grade one at the age of seven. Community school education is provided for six years, after which there is selection to go into high school. A policy of automatic progression operates as a cost saving measure but the review questions its effectiveness. With the average class size in the low 30s, a figure which appears generous when compared with national averages of over 50 in many African countries (Caillods & Postlethwaite, 1989, p.170), there should not be difficulty in allowing slower students to repeat a grade, thus improving the possibility of their retention within the system.

Since the country cannot provide access to education for all of its children, schooling is not compulsory. Instead, there has been a commitment to equal access to schooling for all citizens since 1973. The major effort aimed at ensuring that equity is brought about in the long term is the National Government's provision of funds every year to help "disadvantaged" provinces to catch up with those which are more "advantaged" in the matter of access to, completion of, and achievement in community education.

While the review does not take issue with the government's policy of positive discrimination in relation to the disadvantaged provinces, it fails to demonstrate that access to education also varies within provinces and that the principles which operate between provinces to ensure equity should also operate within provinces. Where population is dense, infrastructure can be provided more economically than in areas of scattered population. This has resulted in large imbalances within certain provinces. East New Britain, for example, ranks third among all the provinces for the proportion of its community school-age children enrolled, yet within the province the Pomio and Bainings districts constitute a large underdeveloped area with relatively poor access to schooling (Weeks & Waninara, 1988, p.63). The province's ranking is explained by the impressive number of schools located in and around the Rabaul and Kokopo urban centres where two thirds of the population live. Among the initiatives taken to improve access in parts of the country such as West Sepik Province and Milne Bay Province is the establishment of central boarding schools along the lines of those operated in the past by many of the missions. However, this development which is still on a small scale is not alluded to in the review and it is not clear if it will become more extensive in the future.

The review does indicate that many parents do not see the need for UPE. The major reason put forward for this is that they do not see the relevance of the current curriculum. The considerations of the next section of this chapter will centre largely on the adequacy of this explanation. However, there are other factors operating which receive little or no attention. The fact that throughout the country poorer groups have difficulty paying the relatively low fees which are usually in the range of K10 to K20 per year because the vast majority of the population is not in the wage-earning sector of the economy is recognised.

The sector review suggests that the abolition of fees would put very little strain on the economy. However, even in the few areas where there are no fees, the enrolment of many children does not take place since it would prevent them from looking after their young brothers and sisters, from trading or from working in the garden. The review would have done well to have drawn attention to the need for a major publicity and adult education campaign in this respect.

There are at least two areas in the access debate which the review largely ignores, namely, the international schools and the education of refugee children. The number of pupils attending international schools is only 2 per cent of the total number of pupils in the country. At the same time, the annual statistics indicate a steady increase in Papua New Guinean enrolment. Indeed, between 1980 and 1989 the number of nationals in international community schools went from 17 per cent to 53 per cent.

The quality of education in the international schools is clearly superior to that in ordinary community schools. They are vastly wealthier and vastly better equipped and have teachers who are significantly better qualified. While they are necessary in order to maintain expatriate employees in the country, the fact that they are also open to nationals who can pay the fees has led to much heated debate over the years. Unfortunately, the review glosses over the issues by simply indicating that international schools are another way of extending educational opportunities at no additional cost to the State.

Recently, PNG has been confronted with a new problem, namely, how to provide education for the children of the West Irianese refugees. While the 12,000 people are relatively small, PNG's response to the incursions of the West Irianese has been unsympathetic as it has sought not to aggravate diplomatic relations with Indonesia. Currently, refugee children are not permitted to enrol in local schools. While some schools have been established under the agency of the Catholic Church and by the refugees themselves, they suffer from negligible funding. Indeed, many of the children have not been in school for over four years. Since the review chooses to ignore the matter indicates the likelihood that the situation will not improve for the refugee children in the future.

The review argues that the crucial issue affecting educational provision in PNG is the inadequate access and retention rates at the community level. In addressing this issue it is argued that there are also other matters which need to be addressed, namely, the matter of increasing the number attending at the lower level of secondary education, the matter of providing an education at this level which is relevant for those who will go no further in the system as well as those going on to further education and training, and the matter of expanding the upper secondary level without increasing its already high unit cost while maintaining or increasing the quality of its graduates. The proposal is that these matters should be tackled simultaneously by restructuring the overall system. What is envisaged is that pupils would attend village vernacular schools for three years, commencing at six years of age, after which they would transfer to community schools for six years, the last two of which would correspond largely to the present first two years of secondary schooling. At the end of grade 8, students could then attend high school for two years or institutions which have a mainly vocational or practical skills bias. A select group would go on, as at present, to spend two years at national high school and prepare largely for tertiary education.

What is proposed generates questions. It is envisaged that the pre-community village teachers will be prepared through a one-year elementary restructuring teacher education course. This is planned despite the fact that resources are already extended to train the currently required number of community teachers. The review also contends that "research evidence shows that achievement, and therefore, by extrapolation, retention improves by providing, at least in the early years, a more integrated activity-based education in a language which the children speak." However, Throsby and Gannicott, (1990, p.10), while recognising that this is a view which has hardened, particularly in the South Pacific, emphasise that the research in fact suggests there is no clear position on the matter. Furthermore, even if there was, PNG is not like other Pacific nations in that it has 869 languages not dialects (Grimes, 1989). The logistics of the preparation of teachers so that each language group will be catered for underestimates the enormity of the proposed task.

There is no doubting the review's contention that many children in PNG leave school functionally illiterate but it does not necessarily follow that this is because education is largely presented in a foreign language. It can equally be argued that it is because many of the teachers possess a poor command of English and fail to adequately communicate with their pupils (see chapters 6 & 9). There is also the matter of the proposed changes to the overall structure of the educational system. The proposal is to facilitate the expansion in the number of enrolments and improve retention rates and there is no reason why it should not be successful in this respect. However, over the last two decades research in the developing world has shown that there is frequently a trade-off between taking such steps and pursuing improvements in such quality variables as training and standards of teachers; the supply and quality of teaching materials; and the efficiency of educational administration and infrastructure (Mingat & Tan, 1988). However, rather than examine these and other major issues arising out of the review's proposals the remainder of this chapter concentrates on the curricular proposals for the suggested revamped community school structure.


The current community school curriculum includes a national syllabus for English, mathematics, science, religion, health, physical education, expressive arts, social science and agriculture. The review argues that this program leads to pupil boredom, a sense of non-achievement and attrition. Consequently the current type of education provided to PNG children has invited criticism (Matane, 1986). However, to argue as the review does that pupil discontent can also be attributed to the fact that they are pursuing a "subject"-based program rather than an "integrated" one is debatable.

It is agreed that the strict parameters which schools were required officially to maintain between subjects was poor educational practice. In order to overcome this, the Department of Education made it clear to the schools in 1991 that they were free to adopt a more flexible approach where appropriate. However, the review went much further in recommending "a restructure of the curriculum under four main strands, namely, language and literacy, vocational development, social and spiritual development, and mathematics and science". The aim of this restructure is "to foster integration of the variety of subjects currently offered". There are reservations about this approach from three perspectives, namely, the philosophical, the pedagogical and the practical.

The proposal that an integrated program be introduced reflects the general trend towards Western traditions in recommendations for the reform of PNG education. For example, a recent set of guiding principles for a new three-year program of preparation for community teachers which in January 1991 replaced the previous two-year one, states that teachers should be prepared "to guide discovery learning" and "to value child-centred education" (Association of Teacher Education, 1990). Though there is a need to move away from the dominance of mechanistic and rote rituals (Avalos, 1991b), their replacement with "child-centred education", "individual activity and discovery learning" and "the integrated curriculum" may be educationally and culturally inappropriate for contemporary PNG (Guthrie, 1986). The irony in this proposal was that it was actually implemented in PNG in the mid 1970's under the title of the Generalist Teaching program. It aimed to provide an integrated multi-subject approach to grades seven and eight. It failed not only because of its rapid and authoritarian introduction, but because it demanded from teachers in Beeby's (1966) stage of formalism, stage of meaning teaching and associated resources. As a consequence, "time consuming preparations were not undertaken" (Guthrie, 1980a, p.426). The program was doomed at its inception because it was inappropriate (Field, 1980). It appears that PNG has not learnt from its history.

The practical objections to the adoption of an integrated curriculum are compelling. It has been debated throughout the developing world that "discovery learning", "activity-based learning" and "integrated curricula" are inappropriate as they presuppose small classes and additional resources (books and aids) which cannot be provided for economic reasons (Beeby, 1979). Recent World Bank assistance to PNG has resulted in the production of basic student textbooks and teachers' guides (Department of Education, 1987) for the schools but it is arguable that they are the minimum required for teaching intelligently in a formal manner let alone in an `integrated way' (Guthrie, 1986). Furthermore, owing to a variety of factors, great difficulties were experienced with the distribution of these materials throughout the country and with providing in-service for teachers in their use. It would be an unusual school which would have the quantity and quality of basic reading and writing material required to mount a program in the integrated mode. One can also ask why should an integrated approach rather than a subject-based one make any difference to the attitude of parents and pupils to schooling? It is likely that the children of the middle class will continue to be educated in international schools and go on to positions of power, wealth and status in society. This has happened in a variety of countries like Fiji, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands (Crossley & Weeks, 1986) where the new elite has promoted integrated and practically relevant curricula for rural youth while securing academic studies for their own children. This being the case it is just as likely the underprivileged will continue to value academic studies more highly and view the promotion of any alternative for them as second rate.

Any advocacy that school subjects in PNG should be taught in the integrated mode also clearly underestimates what is involved, namely, constant, complex planning by each staff member who should have a clear view of the interrelatedness of subject-matter. This requires a highly qualified and experienced staff of a type which is not currently available in PNG and, notwithstanding recent attempts to improve the quality of teachers, is unlikely to be available for quite some time. Furthermore, the adoption by the teacher of a formal subject based curriculum rather than an integrated, open-ended one may be most appropriate for an authoritarian society like PNG where semi-educated communities expect teacher to "know" and to operate in a structured environment and where not to do so could threaten his or her prestige (Lindstrom, 1990). This in some ways corresponds with Delpit's (1988) findings that parents without economic power in America prefer explicit, teacher-directed methods and reject "liberal progressive" methods because they give the feeling that "secrets are being kept, time is being wasted and teachers are abdicating their duty to teach". In relation to PNG, it is suggested that there should not be so much be a change to the formal system and styles to another one but an improvement in the quality of the formalism which currently exists, should now be applied to the community school situation. Such a stance has a rationale based on Beeby's assertion that qualitative changes in an education system will occur only when teachers understand them, feel secure with them and accept them as their own (Beeby, 1979)

A number of other proposals of the review also invite criticism. The proposal that the length of the school day for all grades be reduced is a cause for concern. The argument is that a reduction will allow the children to spend more time with their parents and in the community and result in "greater socialisation" and "stronger cultural bonding". It is debatable that the five-and-a-half hours per day which pupils currently spend away from home is a major factor in the growing discontent of youth with village life. Even if it was, it is incredible that it could be reversed by reducing schooling by an hour or two. In contrast, students' performance appears to be positively correlated with the number of hours per week spent in school (Heyneman & Loxley, 1983). The seriousness of this situation is amplified when one considers that time is lost through unscheduled school closures, teacher and pupil absences and other disruptions is much greater than in the developed world.

At the time the Review was conducted, about nine hours per week were devoted to English in community school and three-and-a-half hours to mathematics. It is proposed that the former be reduced to four hours for grades 3-5 and three hours for grades 6-8 and the latter to three hours and 20 minutes for grades 3-5 and two hours for grades 6-8. Furthermore, it is proposed that science be removed totally for grades 3-5, although it is to be given two hours and 40 minutes in grades 6-8. Overall, these changes in time allocations are undesirable since language and mathematics contribute crucially to intellectual development, being the cognitional media through which further learning is made possible. They also contrast strongly with the World Bank's conclusion that governments interested in laying the groundwork for a more technically oriented economy should place heavy reliance on general mathematics and science in the whole curriculum (World Bank, 1988).

The reduction in time allocations to English, mathematics and science is partly a consequence of the overall reduction in school time but is also required to make more time available for vocational subjects. Much is made of the importance of vocational education at all levels in the review. It is argued that the challenge for schools is to identify the vocational needs of the community and develop projects which will equip the students with the necessary skills. Many developing countries have attempted to equip children through school with basic vocational and technical skills relevant to local needs and so encourage pupils to take their place in village life rather than have aspirations towards "white-collar work". In general, however, they have overlooked the fact that schools have only a limited ability to shape pupils' attitudes to the jobs they want to do. Furthermore, school-based vocational training is neither as effective nor as cheap as that carried out on the job or in specialised training centres (World Bank, 1980).

The stress on vocational education is a trend in a number of South Pacific Island nations with education planners believing that it is the presence of white-collar aspirations by parents and pupils which accounts for many problems in education. There have been experiments in Western Samoa (Western Samoa Department of Education, 1983), Fiji (Hindson, 1985) and the Solomon Islands (McMaster, 1987) with proposals for introducing an explicit technical/ vocational stream in schooling and for integrating vocational subjects more closer with traditional academic or general subjects. Yet there is no evidence to suggest that such curriculum reform improves the quality of schooling (Psacharopoulos & Woodhall, 1985). The World Bank (1988, p.64), after surveying the record of curriculum reform in Africa, concluded that if further research corroborated their findings, the conclusion in relation to diversified secondary schools was that they were not worth their higher costs and constituted a "sobering experience for the technical experts (often from international funding agencies) who funded them". In this respect the example of Tonga is interesting since the argument there for some time has been that "vocational elements in the curriculum tend to confine students to their existing way of life" and that "it is difficult to develop a curriculum which will provide a type and level of education appropriate for the next few decades" (Tonga Central Planning Department, 1987, p.316-7). Accordingly, a general curriculum with its stress on "basic skills" in language and mathematics is retained as it is thought to be the most appropriate for equipping students with the skills necessary to develop through their own initiative ways and means of earning a livelihood other than that offered by governments and large enterprises.


The major argument of this chapter has been that the structural and curricular proposals of the review, particularly in the domain of community education, need re-examination. They are recommended largely to facilitate greater access to community education. Such an aim is highly desirable. However, it is arguable that it can be facilitated just as significantly by taking a less radical step, namely, by increasing the average community school class size from 33 to about 50. Research suggests that, in general, it is not until the class size goes beyond 50 that discipline and monitoring of progress breaks down to the detriment of the learning process (Haddad, 1980). This in turn, of course, means staying with a formal style of teaching but with a more educated teacher who understands what has to be done and can do it intelligently with the resources available (Beeby, 1979; Guthrie, 1986). However, such a decision is also desirable on pedagogical and practical grounds.

A radical overhaul of the present structure of community school education and the introduction of a "child-centred" curriculum is problematic. The review may have done better to have made a strong case to ensure that the quality of students entering the teachers' colleges is of a higher intellectual calibre. Unfortunately, this is currently not the case (McLaughlin, 1988). There are also other factors operating to make community school teaching an unattractive option. These include community unwillingness in certain districts to help the teacher, coupled with a lack of appreciation of the benefits of education; poor housing; the poor condition of the schools themselves and the furnishing; the serious breakdown in law-and-order, particularly the high prevalence of rape; the isolated location of many of the communities; the likelihood of being posted to an area with a culture vastly different from one's own; the frequent non-arrival of salary and complications with its processing (McNamara, 1989). When teachers themselves have poor conditions and suffer from low morale the school system becomes caught up in a vicious circle of poor quality. These problems need addressing first. Quality improvement in an education system is dependant on the quality of the teachers within the system (Beeby, 1966). Curriculum reform that does not first address this problem adequately cannot succeed because those held responsible for its implementation have not acquired sufficient general and professional education to do the job (Roberts & Kada, 1979). This is the major task to tackle if the objective is to improve quality. Sadly, it is questionable that the direction indicated by the review will result in a significant improvement in the quality of education in PNG.


Commentary on Chapter 6
Improving the quality of education in Papua New Guinea is often the responsibility of those who teach in universities and teachers' colleges.  These lecturers, some of whom are expatriates have frustrated authentic qualitative change in education by their uncritical promotion of western educational innovations and ignorance of the PNG educational context.  It is arguable that an appreciation of the complex educational context by educationalists is more likely to promote qualitative changes than the acceptance of innovations from overseas. 

In this regard it is appropriate to explore in the case of Papua New Guinea how teachers view the teaching act as well as their experience of teaching and learning in English which is their third of fourth language.  Presenting the results of such an explanation provides an opportunity for educationalists to see things from within rather than merely as an observer.  In the presentation the context of the impact of school teaching and the experience of learning in the teachers colleges is discussed by examining cultural perspectives, the medium of instruction and the teacher education experience of teachers.  Such scrutiny can become the bases for relevant policies to improve teaching in teacher' colleges and the education system in general.



As a strategy to enhance the quality of an education system, there seems to be an acceptance of the common belief that teachers should have carried their own education at least one stage further than the stage they will teach (Elvin, 1974).  This proposition appears reasonable, particularly for a lesser developed country (LDC), since as Beeby asserts: "Qualitative changes in classroom practice will occur only when the teachers understand them, feel secure with them, and accept them as their own" (Beeby, 1979, p.291).  An implicit corollary is the belief that longer formal education will produce a better quality teacher (Beeby, 1980, p.441).  This axiom is apparently well founded.  In a review of the research about school factors which raise achievement in the developing world, Fuller (1987, p.281) concluded that there is a direct positive correlation between student achievement and the "teachers' length of post-secondary schooling or the number of teacher training courses completed".  These data have been confirmed by other research (Throsby & Gannicott, 1990).  Beeby's theory has implications for higher education. 

Beeby and others have asserted with reason, that quality in education depends largely on the quality of teachers...but quality teachers emerge from institutions where high quality teacher educators are to be found (Maraj, 1974, p.147).

Consequently, there is an added responsibility for those involved in the education of teachers to provide appropriate experiences to empower serving and future teachers to improve the quality of teaching and learning in an LDC. 


This mandate has difficulties, some of which have been identified:

the average practitioner has all his (sic) education, training and experience, from the age of six, in the very system he (sic) is expected to change.  A narrow, formal style of teaching in primary schools passes on to the secondary schools...and to the teacher training schools, and is reflected back onto the primary schools in every generation of trainees.  In nearly all countries rich or poor, the staff of training institutions tend to loose touch with the average classroom teacher and his daily problems.  Teacher trainers in developing countries who do try to break with the old pattern, usually get their ideas from travel in rich countries, or from books written there, and often hand them on, in the form of indigestible theory, to teachers who need practical guidance to take even simple steps forward.  The reformers' most puzzling question frequently is, `who is to retrain the teacher trainers?' His (sic) success depends on divining where best to break into the circle (Beeby, 1980, p.465-66).

Clearly then foreign or "Australian courses are not always suitable for developing country conditions" (Jackson, 1984, p.92).  This observation can be applied generally, albeit cautiously, as Hawes (1979a, p.62) warns:

No one denies the need for such training, or questions the role of overseas aid in this process, though I have the most lively reservations about the mounting of full time courses overseas for teacher educators out of the context...  it has to be admitted that the track record is not a good one, for the methodologies and terminologies we have exported to developing countries are often obscure and unworkable. 

Educationists need to be sensitive to the implicit dependency model characterised by imitation and intervention in the above quotation.  This assumes that the solution to problems in LDCs is through the application of a western epistemology (Kumar, 1979).  Though this theory has invited substantial criticism (O'Donoghue, 1994a), there is evidence that lecturers have provided an inappropriate education for some LDC students (Aspland & O'Donoghue, 1994).

This observation resonates with some Pacific scholars (Meleisea, 1987; Hau'ofa, 1987) who have challenged the uncritical international transfer of theoretical perspectives: "Their plea is for increased recognition and respect for Pacific values and intellectual perspectives in the analysis of the problems and development of the region" (Crossley, 1992b, p.175).  For some expatriate lecturers, such a challenge may promote a personal and painful dissonance when they attempt to share in some depth, another's perspective which is so culturally different from their own:

In the case of (expatriate) lecturers, our identity has been formed in different cultural contexts, where certain forms of knowledge are given status in a hierarchy, where certain theories are held in deference.  Our personal identity is often strongly tied to our field of expertise, and within that to certain models...  It may be difficult for us to restructure our identity to meet the needs of a different culture...lecturers may be asked to suffer a species of crises of identity in order to rethink their courses so that they grow out of a Papua New Guinea (PNG) reality (Jordan, 1987, p.5).

This problem is particularly relevant when selecting expatriate consultants for LDCs.  Some have had negligible experience or training in LDC contexts (Crossley, 1992a; Crossley & Broadfoot, 1992; O'Donoghue, 1994b).  Not surprisingly, some consultants have done a disservice to LDCs as Little (1988, p.19) warns:

Only when prepared to spend time doing our homework to learn and understand more about the situation on which advice is sought, and only when prepared to share responsibility when things go badly wrong, should we erect our "for sale" sign.  International consultancy work is difficult and time and energy consuming, if it is to done well. 

This chapter then attempts to provide a cultural framework for those involved in higher education.  It will do this by providing evidence that some educationists have provided inappropriate educational experiences to PNG.  It is suggested, that the inappropriateness was caused by the uncritical application of western approaches to the PNG context.  Secondly, a case will be made that the impact of higher education on future teachers is muted because English as the medium of instruction fails to fully promote communication.  Moreover, it encourages rituals in teaching which masquerade as communication.  Such phenomena hold implications for universities and teachers' colleges that as of yet have not been adequately addressed.  Finally, it will be argued that the managerialist perspectives and policies adopted by some in the PNG Ministry of Education have emasculated attempts to promote holistic and culturally sensitive responses aimed at improving the quality of teaching (McNamara, 1989). 


Clearly, it is important to provide some appreciation of the PNG cultural context.  PNG has a population of some 3.5 million, about 1000 tribes with differing cultures and over 869 identified languages (not dialects) (Grimes, 1989).  This is almost a quarter of the world's languages.  Most people live in small relatively isolated communities practising subsistence farming and/or fishing, in a traditional life style which has included and at times still does, intertribal warfare and belief in sorcery.  Though there was limited inter-region trading, knowledge of the outside world was minimal.  Foreigners were often believed to be reincarnated tribal ancestors and their technologies were considered to be forms of magic or "cargo" (material goods).  While the population of the urban centres is increasing, the majority of the population lives in the rural areas.  It is the norm that most tertiary students have lived a village life that does not provide for electricity, running water, shops or libraries. 

Traditional Education

Traditional education was centred in village life, with the young learner informally observing and imitating elders at work and then practising by personal trial and error (see chapter 1).  In such a way are the technical aspects of hunting, fishing, canoeing, agriculture, butchery, house and canoe building, carving and pottery acquired by the neophyte.  During puberty, secret or true knowledge concerning the dynamic life forces originating from the gods had to be passed on to them, in often painful initiation ceremonies. 

A number of propositions can be generated regarding traditional concepts of knowledge.  Firstly, unlike western knowledge, which is meant to be challenged, traditional knowledge was finite and not tested.  Its divine sources guaranteed its veracity.  Moreover, it explained adequately enough the important forces in the world to further legitimise its orthodoxy.  In addition, it dictated a set of moral imperatives that guided individual and community behaviour and maintained the spiritual strength of the community.  The important point to emphasise is that young learners were `schooled' in the accurate reproduction of received knowledge and customs.  At no point were they encouraged to question or innovate.  Indeed, this would alienate the learner from adult society.  The kind of analytic thinking and deep approaches to learning necessary for success in western education (Ramsden, 1992), are utterly at variance with the students' experience of traditional culture.

Learning Transfer

Akin to this problem is the concept of transferability.  One of the key values in western learning is that it hopefully promotes skills to apply learning from one context to a variety of others.  Knowledge is perceived to evolve.  It is not considered static.  Previous knowledge and experience are the bases of new learning, of creative explanation and the generation of novel insights. 

The traditional PNG village would appear to generate few novel experiences and can be typified by constant repetitiveness, the exception being those involved in maritime hunting and trading (Lancy, 1983).  Lancy's research into cognitive development suggests that certain intellectual potentials are not well promoted within at least some village cultures in PNG. 

Traditional educational experiences, as well as modern schooling, have not been models to stimulate students to experiment or provide alternatives to established procedures (Wong & Swan, 1984).  As knowledge was perceived as static and related to survival demands, the tendency to rely on rote learning is understandable (Lindstrom, 1990).  (This assertion will be explored in detail, later in this chapter.) Given this unique cultural context, any attempts to initiate students into a western style education should be predicated by an appreciation of the traditional education already experienced by most PNG tertiary students.


Such a cultural sensitivity is relevant, because a number of doubtful "innovations" have been tried in PNG.  These aimed to improve the quality of teaching and learning but eventually were detrimental to children's learning and to teacher development.  Furthermore for the most part, they have been inspired by expatriate academics or consultants. 

Under the inspiration of Zoltan Dienes, a pioneer mathematics educator of the 1960s, expatriate academics inaugurated TEMLAB (Territory Mathematics Laboratory), a program that introduced to PNG the new maths through pupil centred, individual discovery methods, similar to that in operation in Australian schools.  The program failed "because it assumed far too high a level of general knowledge and competency on the part of teachers" (Lancy, 1983, p.174).  Moreover, it was erroneously based on a premise that PNG children progressed at roughly the same rate from concrete to symbolic thinking as Western children (Kelly & Uriari, 1970).

In the 1970s, a new mathematics curriculum - MACS (Mathematics for Community Schools) was designed which compared to primary syllabuses in most Australian schools, was relatively sophisticated and ambitious.  Not unexpectedly, the innovation floundered "since even experienced teachers found difficulty in implementing it" (Clements & Lean, 1981, p.61).  Indeed, the designers ignored the capabilities of the PNG teachers who were required to teach it:

The MACs Course was designed, it was felt, so that it might be possible, provided that the teacher slavishly followed the instructions in the guide, for the children to acquire an understanding of mathematics possibly beyond that of the teacher...This was dubious to say the least (Roberts, 1978, p.213).

The Secondary Schools Social Science developed in the late 1960s on a concept based, spiral development syllabus covering a wide range of multi-disciplinary PNG and world topics, and incorporating student centred, independent learning strategies, emphasised the teacher's role as a facilitator of learning in contrast to the traditional didactic role.  Such a "revolutionary" emphasis, it was claimed, made "the curriculum branch of the Department of Education an international front runner" (Cleverley, 1975, p.21).  Ironically, and inevitably, the program was only a partial success, and this success was because of major curriculum rewriting which articulated more specific objectives, while "down playing the concept basis and spiral approach" (Weeks & Guthrie, 1984a, p.50).  In addition, increased PNG content and a more expository teaching mode was added (Guthrie, 1980).  Moreover, a "very well-designed and trialled" (Jones, 1974, p.47) primary science program was unsuccessful, because there was a lack of equivalence between the students' background knowledge and the "concepts which the program had been aiming at". 

Another innovation initiated in the mid 1970's was the Generalist Teaching program, which attempted to provide an integrated multi-subject approach to grades seven and eight.  It failed not only because of its rapid and authoritarian introduction, but because it demanded from teachers in Beeby's (1966) stage of formalism, stage of meaning teaching.  As a consequence "time consuming preparations were not undertaken" (Guthrie, 1980a, p.426).  The program was doomed at its inception because it was inappropriate (Field, 1980).  The same reason has been offered for explaining the difficulty which many teachers experienced with the school based curriculum development component of the Secondary Schools Community Extension Project (SSCEP) (Crossley, 1983).  Clearly, educational successes in one context are no guarantee for quality if the transference to the new context is uncritical.  Most of the above innovations were inappropriate responses to a ritualised style of teaching manifest in so many classrooms. 


Jones (1976) maintains that the biggest inhibiting factor to quality in teaching in PNG is rote-style teaching with its concomitant expectation of rote style learning.  Educationists are more likely to assist in generating appropriate reflective experiences with their students (Guthrie, 1986), if they attempt to understand the rote teaching phenomenon than to merely criticise it. 

Classroom observers (Smith, R.  1975; Markwell, 1975; Roberts & Kada, 1979; Pearse, 1990; Fife, 1993; Kian, 1996) have commented that a noticeable feature of PNG classrooms is the apparent industry of the teachers and students without either communicating with the other.  The teachers are said to use teaching "recipe" strategies and follow lock step procedures, while the children respond ritually (Smith, R.  1975).  In a study focussing on community life (social studies) lessons, Otto (1989) concluded that much of what was observed was a communication of labels, in contrast to a communication of concepts.  She recorded that in a lesson on China, the teacher wrote the names of the major religions of China on the blackboard and the children ritually copied those into their books: "The teacher ...told me that he did not know anything about these three religions.  But he believed that "to have heard the words" would help the students who were going to high school and who would deal with China again" (Otto, 1989, p.28).  Markwell (1975, p.84) observed similar occurrences: "in all subjects in the primary school, teachers in PNG lean heavily on lesson plans provided for them, often resulting in little or no communication between teacher and child".  Such an observation may have its basis in the traditional understanding of the processes of acquiring knowledge.  In traditional PNG society, the practical application of knowledge involved not only the performance of the physical activity itself, but more importantly the performance of an elaborate ritual which ensured that the appropriate deities would influence a successful outcome.  Since such forces are essentially a part of nature, they themselves are subject to placations and may be partially controlled.  As a result, much of the ritual is quite visible and symbolic, though the essence of the ritual is on the correct utterance of a spell or secret name.  For the villager, knowledge is not something that is generated from independent human intellectual effort, but it is believed to be distributed directly from a divine source on to those to whom the deity is well disposed (McLaughlin, 1994).  Human technical knowledge is dependent upon the possession of a collection of magic religious formulae: "New knowledge could be obtained only through dreams or revelations, or by purchase, but not through human intellectual enterprise" (McSwain, 1977, p.19). 

Consequently, "there is a kind of thinking that regards the whole education process as somehow magical and automatic and goes on at least in part by the teacher and student merely being present" (Howley, 1980, p.11).  Alkan Tololo, PNG's first national Director of Education concurred with this observation: "The belief is that attendance at Western-type formal school is, in itself, a guarantee of material goods" (Tololo, 1976, p.221).  If teachers follow the accepted rituals of teaching, then education occurs.  The transcription of blocks of written exercises from teachers' handbooks to blackboards by the teachers and from blackboards to exercise books by pupils is one such common ritual.  Other rituals include an emphasis on procedural and mechanical processes such as "correct" headings and properly ruled pages, as well as the regular reminders for children to produce neat and tidy work. 

The classrooms appear to be operating at peak efficiency when children are given rote tasks such as writing, spelling, mechanical arithmetic or reading comprehension exercises.  Repetitive writing activities remove the uncertain aspects of teacher/pupil relationships, but more importantly, "writing down" is perceived by children as "work"...  Children say they are "learning English" (mathematics, reading etc.) when asked why they are writing which suggests that they conceive the classroom experience in a deterministic sense...Outcomes are guaranteed in a sense when correct procedures, such as the sequencing of activities and rituals are brought together in village life.  Teacher behaviour too might well be seen in this way as they strive to work in a situation where their formal teaching "methods" are perceived to be a guarantee that students will learn (Smith, R.  1975, p.8).


Ritual in schools may be given emphasis because the experience of education in a foreign language has been, in many instances, incomprehensible, or a matter of survival of the ablest (Johnson, 1972).  Such an insight is very relevant for lecturers, academics and consultants.  It not only provides them with the opportunity to address the English communication deficit of students, but also urges them to generate authentic learning strategies across all disciplines to combat the survival tactics adopted by students.  Further explanation is invited:

In the early stages of primary school the pupils' lack of comprehension is almost complete.  At this stage imitation or parroting is almost the only response they can make.  Later this incomprehension is replaced by the grey world of partial understanding, a world in which the teacher's utterances may or may not mean anyone of a number of things; a world in which the safest strategy is to catch on the teacher's actual words.  They are concrete, definite while the meanings that the pupils attach to those utterances are vague, and often prove to be illusory (Dutton, 1977, p.28).

In a situation where pupils understand little of what is being said, they are unable to ask questions.  Consequently, the teacher does most of the talking, though pupils do respond to questions generally by way of chorus answers (Pearse, 1990).  This is a safe strategy and camouflages a lack of understanding.  Indeed, from the beginning, school children are introduced to a pattern to be quiet, not to ask questions and to speak only when requested.  This pattern is also noted in secondary schools (Hayter, 1982, p.79).  Such a mode does not stimulate significant cognitive functioning and is not consonant with a number of curriculum initiatives which require more dynamic student participation (Lancy, 1979).  Regretfully and understandably, the indulgence in rote learning is the current state of affairs in many schools:

After having observed a large number of Community Life lessons, having heard hardly any student ask a question and having listened to teachers talking most of the time with students parroting back I realised that this overall lesson pattern, to a large extent, was the result of teaching Community Life in English, which is for Manus children their second or third language.  They did not understand properly, and were certainly not able to engage in dialogue (Otto, 1989, p.29).

Because of this feeble grasp of English, students who have developed a tolerance of not understanding (i.e.  they accept words, rather than their meaning) evolve survival tactics, in contrast to learning strategies, to enable them to function.  Behavioural manifestations of these tactics include the remembering of the right answers, and the refusal to admit to or demonstrate a lack of understanding, as is aptly illustrated below:

Teacher: A gibob is a zingut and is used for willoting things together.  Alfred, What is a gibob?

Alfred: Sir, a gibob is a zingut and it is used for willoting things together.

Teacher: Excellent answer.

Thus, it is possible for behaviour, superficially resembling comprehension, to take place even in an incomprehensible situation.  Given an early indoctrination of this type of ritual, it is quite difficult for students to start to think critically.  The chances are that they will continue to use survival tactics to disguise ignorance.  When this basic language difficulty is considered in the context of village life, where the influence of elders, and respect for established authority does not encourage questions and the questioning of authority, it becomes apparent why many student are likely to be very unwilling to admit that they do not understand (Lindstrom, 1990). 

There is little chance that this school situation will gradually improve unless the institutions of higher education do something about it since "most community school teachers and a large proportion of high school teachers do not speak English well enough to be able to teach the language effectively.  So, across much of the country there is a situation where teachers lacking in knowledge are expected to do something that they cannot do" (Kenehe, 1981, p.31).  This observation has contemporary currency.  McLaughlin (1991a) explored how studying in English as a second language influenced the learning of ninety community and secondary teachers and teachers' college lecturers studying at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), by using a cloze test with a grade 10 readability level (15 years).  Results concluded that 75% of the teachers read at instructional and frustration levels.  Interview data suggested that their problems with reading were not so much concerned with English as a language code, but with their own deficiency in background knowledge that permits and promotes an intelligent assimilation of new information.

Mohok (1989) researched the reading levels of eighty inservice teachers studying at the nation's only inservice teachers' college using a cloze test.  The results revealed that only 5% could read at the independent level.  These findings are not surprising, since the English course that was offered at the college was optional:

The students find studying this (English) course very difficult.  When they realise they cannot cope, the stream to other courses.  To be specific, the teachers who really need this course avoid or stream from it.  They don't want to fail..  After all, Language Curriculum Studies is only an elective (Language lecturer in Mohok, 1989).

In addition, the same cloze test was administered to 200 first year preservice students from four community teachers' colleges (McLaughlin & McLaughlin, 1995).  Results of the comparison concluded that 96% read at instructional or frustration levels.  This problem with English needs to be systematically addressed in a holistic language context, if quality education is to be promoted.  Clearly, education can only improve in PNG when competent teachers graduate from quality teachers' colleges.  A start in addressing this problem begins with the higher education experience of prospective and serving teachers.


Up until 1992, the National Objectives for Teachers' Colleges were the curriculum guide for all the Teachers' Colleges in PNG.  They numbered approximately 1,100 objectives, generally expressed in behavioural terms.  They had their genesis in the 1970s, when the classical model had significant influence in curriculum development.  Given the contextual realities of PNG teachers' colleges at the time, this curriculum appeared to be an appropriate response (McLaughlin, 1990a).

However, what developed degenerated into an obsession with the development of unit outlines (sometimes numbering over a hundred pages), characterised by an excessive concentration on pedantic detail, and the policing of their implementation through the regular inspection of college lecturers by supervisors from head office.  Not unexpectedly, experienced lecturers subverted this attempted teacher-proofing of the curriculum:

I am not going to get involved in fights or paper warfare.  I am flexible and I encourage my associate (trainee lecturer) to be likewise.  We teach more or less what is in the unit outline...  I think! But we change where it is appropriate, you know students' interest, or if its more relevant.  Now I'm not going to the Academic Advisory Committee to get an OK.  I do what I think is educational and don't publicise it.  That way, I'm happy and the boss (principal) is happy (Senior Lecturer in McLaughlin, 1991a).

It is argued that the rigid interpretation of what constitutes curriculum development, coupled with the rigorous and pedantic accountability structure of lecturer inspection, have contributed to the adoption of a questionable paradigm of teaching.

Research (McLaughlin, 1991a) into the planning of their own teaching indicated that many lecturers did not include detail content knowledge in their unit outline.  One possible explanation for this phenomenon suggest itself.  Each curriculum unit must have a unit outline that can be presented to inspectors.  A number of unit outlines are written in such a way that every lecture has its own annotated section.  What is in the unit outline is considered sufficient as a plan and, in fact, is substituted for individual lecture preparation.  This is a questionable assumption.  Ironically, the content and associated professional knowledge (Russell, 1993) of many lecturers is a major cause of concern:

Rarely are questions posed requiring lengthy responses, and a high level of cognitive functioning.  Furthermore, while extensive use during this section of lectures is made of plans, diagrams, pictures and paragraphs on the blackboard, what is usually sought is simply naming, labelling and cloze-test type of activities.  ...Much of the time is taken up with note-taking.  ...  quite often lectures can be taken up almost entirely with note-taking, with the lecturer writing on the chalkboard and the students, without receiving any explanation on the content, copying it down at high speed.  The situation can sometimes reach the ridiculous with lecturers giving out notes about the notes, as evidenced by the following....  `It doesn't matter if what you have been writing down off the board is a bit confusing to you; I will be giving you typed notes on it tomorrow' (O'Donoghue, 1992).

In assessing the curriculum taught in the teachers' colleges, McNamara (1989) argues that the narrow emphasis on the achieving of a behavioural objective promotes a formalistic style of teaching:

...  because curricula are based on the achievement of a large number of behavioural objectives, there is a concentration on content at the expense of process, with the result that students tend to have a very formal perception of teaching (McNamara, 1989, p.32).

The irony in the above contention is that there appears to be very little "content knowledge" in the teachers' college curriculum.  What little there is has a level of difficulty probably not exceeding grade 6.  The reason for this is documented:

Over the last five years, the more realistic colleges have got back to teaching primary school methods and have not tried to continue with secondary content (Penias & Quartermaine, 1981, p.11)

Such a policy is questionable as the research indicates that "student teachers show evident weakness in their understanding of the content of subjects" (Avalos, 1989, p.104).  Students do not have sufficient background knowledge to teach with understanding and this intolerable situation has been deliberately promoted in the teachers' colleges which are required to follow the Ministry guidelines. 

Consequently, much of the content of the curriculum in the teachers' colleges has consisted of the methodology of teaching subjects, with a focus primarily on a "doing", assuming that an "understanding" will occur through a process of osmosis:

Methods-like activities, pupil centred lessons, learning by doing and discovery are not only taught as school room approaches, but encouraged as principles in the colleges also (Penias & Quartermaine, 1981).

Such a policy, maintained until 1992, is not only short sighted, but is difficult to justify in terms of how pedagogical expertise is developed and promoted (Stones, 1986), with the result that:

So much time is spent on re-inventing the wheel in each course.  Everybody seems to feel that it is a totally different way to teach community life or expressive arts or science...  We need to concentrate on the curriculum background.  Then, maybe we'd start to break from the technician model of teaching students, teaching exactly what they need to teach, rather than broadening their perspectives (Deputy Principal in McLaughlin, 1991a).

This concentration on technical rationality (Schon, 1983) has assisted in the development of a characteristic teaching style that has muted attention to pupil learning:

There were obvious weaknesses in subject content and it was noted that the student teachers were constrained by the way the curriculum is structured ...  student teaching tended to focus on the individual parts rather than the substance of the lesson as students attempted to complete the prescribed teaching content ...  rather than focus on the learning needs of the children (McNamara, 1989, p.32).

It is suggested that many lecturers had interpreted or had interpreted for them, the National Objectives in Teachers' Colleges in such a way as to promote a rigidity of teaching that has been observed by the research.  There appears to be considerable evidence to link the behavioural objectives model to an "extremely narrow concept of education concerned with job training and conformity rather than improving the quality of human life" (Lawton, 1983, p.23).  Avalos (1989) also concluded that student teachers, irrespective of the college they attended, exhibited a similar teaching style, complying to patterns learnt at the colleges.  In only one case in her research was there evidence of a student attempting an innovative approach, which suggested that the student was exhibiting a genuine concern to promote pupil understanding.  The irony of this situation was in the comments recorded by the lecturer-observer, which may partially explain the lack of initiative among student teachers:

This student displayed that she truly loves teaching.  The lesson she taught convinced me that she is going to be a hardworking teacher.  Considering her performance she truly displayed: imagination, resourcefulness, confidence, maturity and good classroom leadership.  Sadly, however, one cannot see specific teaching skills applied in the lessons.  Could this be because she is a first year student? But it should not be taken as an excuse.  The only conclusion I can draw is the skills lack drilling at the college level (Avalos, 1989, pp.  80-81).

Avalos argues that such an observation has its basis in the policies operating in the colleges.  It has been official policy since 1977 (Department of Education, 1977) and reaffirmed in 1989, that "technical competence can best be acquired through a careful step by step or component skills approach" (Department of Education, 1989, p.25).  Consequently:

Despite the appearance of a good lesson, this student is judged adversely by someone who knows what colleges are required to do, and would no doubt also be judged in the same way as a beginning teacher by an inspector who looked only for evidence of the accepted form of teaching skills (Avalos, 1989, p.81).

Such an observation illustrates that even if new graduate lecturers wished to provide alternative perspectives to student teachers, their ability to promote change may well be muted or indeed smothered by existing policies and by the excessively bureaucratic structures that are forced to operate within the colleges.

Research (Avalos, 1989; McNamara, 1989; Meyer, 1989) has concluded that lecturers in colleges and teachers in schools are following a recipe, formula approach to curriculum design and teaching.  While this may have met an interim need, it is not only inappropriate but irresponsible for the 1990s.  McNamara has called for a new type of teacher, one who is committed to the development of the whole child, and is capable of critical thinking.  If this is to be achieved, the curriculum operating in teachers' colleges needs to be revolutionised so as to reflect PNG's official philosophy of education (Matane, 1986) and the Task Force's vision (McNamara, 1989, p.103):

The Task Force considers that the current teacher education program ..  is not producing graduates who have the professional and social skills needed to diagnose the learning needs of their pupils in the context of the communities and the school facilities they will encounter (McNamara's emphasis) (McNamara, 1989, p.5).


McLaughlin's study (1991a) of tertiary teaching in the colleges indicated that most staff in all colleges acknowledged that they "spoon-fed" students.  Lecturers believed that this process was inappropriate but commented that the students' lack of knowledge and skills, their lack of initiative, the quantity of content to be taught, and their own limited time were factors which forced this process on to them:

The college often gives them more innovative methods, but the influence of classroom teachers overpowers the college influence.  Students imitate and copy the classroom teacher to survive small problems.  They lack motivation and probably cannot see beyond the immediate...  Yet lecturers give such boring lectures.  What we lecturers offer is not an alternative and hence the classroom teacher is seen as more helpful.  We lecturers would be failed in motivation, variety and relevance.  We teach but I feel that the students see little relevance in it.  Our teaching leaves a lot to be desired.  Every lecturer should be a good model for student learning (Education Lecturer in McLaughlin, 1991a).

Such a comment should not be interpreted as demonstrating that good lecturing does not occur and that good lecturers are rare.  On the contrary, only perceptive lecturers are capable of recognising the dissonance between their educational beliefs and prevalent practices in the colleges. 

The main reason it is argued that lecturers seem to indulge in this very structured form of teaching comes from the demands of the very structured curriculum.  It is agreed that students have limited ability and general education, but these difficulties are not being addressed by the curriculum.  This is the issue identified by McNamara, in his recommendations for a new direction in curriculum in teacher education:

Such new programs will promote a qualitative shift in teaching behaviour from one which is preoccupied with set procedures and steps to a more holistic approach which provides a learning environment to promote learning for meaning (McNamara, 1989, p.6).

Ironically, nowhere is the word "learning" printed in the Division of Teacher Education's official Handbook for Assessment of Preservice Students in Community Teachers' Colleges (Department of Education, 1986).  "Relearning" is mentioned once, but only in the context of retesting.  There is considerable emphasis on assessment and very little on the types of teaching experiences that might promote deep learning (Ramsden, 1992).  Learning appears to be equated with assessment results.  Moreover, a curriculum based on over a thousand behavioural objectives tends to focus on outcomes while failing to honour sufficiently appropriate learning processes.  It has not been possible to improve the quality of teaching in the colleges significantly since there has been an emphasis on technique and product devoid of at least an equal emphasis on the understanding of content and pedagogical knowledge.  Nowhere has this been more illustrated than in the conduct of an English Basic Skills (EBS) program and assessment designed to improve the English language competencies of student teachers. 

In the early 1980s it was recognised that a vicious cycle had been initiated which minimised the possibility of improving teaching in PNG.  Young high school graduates entering the teachers' colleges were the products of "teachers (who) do not speak English well enough to be able to teach the language effectively" (Kenehe, 1981).  Indeed, it was believed by the eight Principals of PNG's community teachers' colleges that, despite their close adherence to selection procedures, student teachers accepted into their colleges were so incompetent in English that the "task of training them to be capable teachers of Community (primary) schools appeared an almost impossible one" (Wingfield, 1987, p.3).  As a response, the Principals proposed to initiate a one semester intensive English Basic Skills (EBS) Program and examinations aimed at the identification of agreed common errors and then designing a set of objectives to remedy these difficulties.  In order to guarantee comparability across the eight community teachers' colleges, the examinations were to be administered by the Ministry of Education's Division of Teacher Education.  Ironically, what developed, promoted an unparalleled degree of animosity, conflict and resistance between the Division of Teacher Education and the independent Church colleges.  Seven of the eight colleges are conducted by the various Christian mission agencies.  They have considerable independence in the conduct of their colleges.  The story is detailed elsewhere (McLaughlin, 1991b) and in chapter 8.  Suffice to say, what was conceived as a sensible educational initiative degenerated into a political deceit. 

The Teacher Education Division rejected the above perspective and insisted that their examination was merely a structure to ensure the maintenance of standards.  Consequently, it was decided to measure the effectiveness of the EBS program with another measure in order to ascertain what educational benefits the program might promote (McLaughlin & McLaughlin, 1995).  The research concluded that the 100 hours of instruction in the EBS not only failed to promote English competency among students, but had a statistically significant negative effect on students' reading and language development.  The results confirmed prior research conducted by Matane (1986), McLaughlin (1991b), Yeoman (1988) and McNamara (1989).  Fortunately, this program was abolished in 1992.  However, there are still many other mechanistic structures inhibiting a truly tertiary orientation in the teachers' colleges. 


As has been noted, it was asserted by the Teacher Education Division that technical competency in teaching "can be best acquired through a careful step by steps or component skills approach" (Department of Education, 1989, p.25).  Such a policy contributed to an excessive focus on skills acquisition and assessment, while neglecting more fundamental issues as pupil learning and teaching impact:

Although students try to carry out a well structured lesson plan the concern for the parts (skills) dilutes that concern for the substance of the lesson and so little teaching of new knowledge occurs and there is little concern for the pupils learning difficulties (Avalos, 1989, p.109).

Most colleges implemented Division policy by teaching pedagogy through a micro-skills program (Department of Education, 1987).  The time for giving lessons were limited to ten minutes or students are asked to give only parts of lessons.  Some of the skills are unsuitable for PNG student teachers.  For example, "advanced questioning" and "explaining" demand that students have some depth in content knowledge.  Research indicates that students have a significant deficit in basic background knowledge (Avalos, 1989; Pearse, 1990; Otto, 1989).  Moreover, one can only be "creative" in teaching (ironically a micro-skill) if one has confidence gained from success from past experiences that permits one to dare to risk alternatives.  Creativity cannot be acquired through micro-skills.  "Discovery learning" is another doubtful teaching skill.  Such processes require already established sophisticated knowledge and skills and ample classroom resources.  Most typical PNG community schools lack the barest of essentials in terms of furniture, student texts, books, stationary and syllabuses (Ross, 1989).  Beginning student teachers must be bewildered when exposed to the "parts" or skills approach to "learning to teach".  It is when well educated national lecturers appreciate the subtle dynamics existing in the acquisition of professional knowledge and practice (Russell, 1993) that appropriate programs will be generated to better promote quality education.  Such a premise needs to be recognised and appreciated by expatriates involved in aided programs to improve the higher education sector in PNG. 


Many of the factors that influence quality in teaching in teachers' colleges are gradually being addressed in PNG (See chapter 8).  The qualifications of staff in the teachers' colleges have been substantially upgraded (Burke, 1994).  Some student teachers are now recruited after a high school education to grade 12.  The length of professional education of student teachers has been extended to three years.  The curriculum in the colleges has been revised.  Yet, despite these positive initiatives, it is suggested that quality in teaching will not be enhanced appreciatively.  Though most lecturers have acquired a primary professional degree (Bachelor of Education), this may not be sufficient for the development of competency in the area of their teaching specialisation.  Such mastery is a pre-requisite for a qualitative improvement in teaching (Stenhouse, 1984).

Currently, while a small number of lecturers are gaining from overseas universities masters' degrees in administration, there seems to be no planning that might assist lecturers to strengthen their teaching specialisation.  A practical and theoretically rigorous strategy would be the development of a series of Graduate Diploma of Education programs.  Each diploma would consist of eight units of thirty hours' contact.  Units would be conducted in week-long intensive sessions, probably at one of the teachers' colleges.  Three or four of the units would be specifically related to strengthening the teaching specialisation.  Those who need further study in English would do such a unit in lieu of the fourth unit of teaching specialisation.  Two units would be on teaching and learning in higher education (Ramsden, 1992; Marton, Hounsell & Entwistle, 1984).  These would not be generic units on teaching and learning but would be units taught by subject specialist academics knowledgable in the teaching and learning of adults in higher education as well as being appreciative of the PNG context.  Consequently, learning strategies and assessment would be more likely to emanate from a deep understanding of the subject content and the PNG student and would be more likely to promote deep learning in students, while minimising the students' need to resort to rote learning.  Unit assessment would be a negotiated project based on an integration of theory with practice.  The final two units would be a guided significant `action learning' project that addressed a self identified teaching-learning issue in the teaching specialisation area.  These projects would be presented at a biennial national conference on teacher education so that the research could be disseminated, discussed and critiqued by colleagues.  Strategies of this genre appears to have been a realistic means to improve the quality of teaching and learning in some Australian universities (Evans & Butler, 1994).  This approach would provide PNG lecturers with a substantial understanding and increased knowledge of their specialisation and learning processes.  They would tend to negate inclinations to engage in rote or ‘keep them busy’ activities (O'Donoghue, 1992).  Hopefully, the ‘cargo’ perception of learning would be dissipated for the lecturer and in turn for the student teachers. 

Once lecturers have such enhanced competencies, curriculum in the colleges can be competently reviewed, so that teaching and learning become the focus of professional and informed debate in contrast to an emphasis on routines, procedures and over-assessment. 

In addition, a series of introductory text books needs to be developed in such areas as educational psychology, pedagogy, English language, literature, science, mathematics and social science.  These should not only reflect a PNG context within the discipline, but be consonant with the students' reading abilities.  Under the direction of a competent leader, subject specialist lecturers, graduates of the Graduate Diplomas, would be the authors of such texts.  Such group activities would also themselves be realistic professional development experiences for lecturers.  These activities not only are the stimuli for the development of a more competent lecturer but also result in the production of appropriate texts.  Funding for at least some of these proposals could be linked to tied aid currently provided by the Australian Government or educational projects sponsored by the World Bank or AusAid.  All these agencies are currently involved in assisting PNG education.

The catalyst for such quality changes, however, is the development of a National Institute of Teacher Education (NITE) (McNamara, 1989), which should be staffed and directed by qualified practical scholars in contrast to public servants, and accountable to the teacher education community.  NITE would have a mandate to:

enhance the maturation of the tertiary teachers' colleges and the exercise of professional direction by their Principals and staff.  This implies a shift in style to processes of negotiation, and not an extension of the bureaucratic model of authority presently governing the colleges (McNamara, 1989 p.49).

Changes can be only superficial if the current bureaucratic ethos and practices remain.  The maintenance of the inspectorate in teachers' colleges only impedes the professionalisation of teacher education, since inspectors personally lack the qualifications and experience to provide professional development.  In addition, their role denies them the ability to generate a context conducive to professional growth since it has its origins in an industry context as the name of the role implies (Toffler, 1970).  Moreover, the fact that an inspectorate operates, indicates that contradictory education paradigms are competing for existence in the PNG teacher education community.


With increased general education and professional training of lecturers (Ross, 1987), the current bureaucratic structures appear to be impeding the growth of quality in education.  If further teacher education development is to occur, then this mechanistic orientation must be confronted and programs be developed (McLaughlin, 1990b, 1991c) which would promote "the self reliant independent professional (who) is more likely to cope adequately with the learning needs of children" (McNamara, 1989, p.26).  The research (Myer, 1989; Pearse, 1990; McNamara, 1989) calls upon teachers to accept more responsibility for approaches adopted in the classroom, and to better cater for the needs of children.  Teacher educators have a pivotal role in this aim.  However, if the structures in which they are operating do not promote a self reliant independent professional among themselves, it is difficult to anticipate that they can give to student teachers what they lack themselves.  It is argued that the quality of PNG education will not significantly improve until the present focus on technical proficiency and a mechanistic governance in the teachers' colleges are abandoned and a truly tertiary approach to learning and teaching is adopted and supported.  It does not appear that this will occur in the near future (Simpson, 1994). 

Chapter 1 - Teacher Education:  Its Roots:  a 40 thousand year education tradition
Chapter 2 - Teacher Education:  The Past
Chapter 3 - Teacher Education:  The Future
Chapter 4 - Teacher Education:  i. Pacific Perspectivies
Chapter 5 - Improving Education:  Policy issues
Chapter 6 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Pedagogical problems
Chapter 7 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Political Intrigues
Chapter 8 - Improving Teacher Education:  Contextual Realities
Chapter 9 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Teacher Educators

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