A new normal for education in Papua New Guinea
International Literacy Day
International Literacy Day on 8 September is pause for thought in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Gains in expanding access and improving the quality of education through investments in infrastructure, Standards Based Curriculum and system strengthening reforms have been severely hampered by the pandemic.
PNG is a linguistically rich nation with over 800 living languages. This diversity comes with challenges as 85% of the population live in rural and hard-to-reach areas. During the recent lockdowns prompted by the spread of COVID-19, an estimated 2.4 million students in PNG experienced disrupted learning. Students across the country lost in excess of 400 hours of instruction time due to school closures. Many were also slow to return to the classroom due to fear of contracting the virus.
Those worst affected were schools in urban and remote areas who were unable to ensure continuity of education for their students through remote learning online. Access to learning through digital technologies is limited in PNG with an estimated 80% of schools not having access to electricity.
To support those students most affected, the Australian Government and the Global Partnership for Education have funded the production, printing and distribution of much needed supplementary academic materials for over 300,000 students in five targeted provinces where – National Capital District, Morobe, Madang, Western and Sandaun provinces. Home Learning Packs produced by the NDoE’s Curriculum Development Division with the support of Save the Children will facilitate self-study to compensate for lost time in the classroom, and ensure schools are better prepared for remote learning in case of another lock-down.
Booster packs assist teachers inside the classroom as they return to a ‘new normal’. The Booster packs support teachers to assess their students’ learning with simple set of diagnostic tests and to focus in on areas needing review, further instruction or thematic integration.
We know from lessons learned globally that school closures can lead to increased drop-out rates, disproportionately affecting adolescent girls, further entrenching gender gaps in education. Higher dropout rates can lead to child labour, risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy as well as early and forced marriage. These interventions providing academic support, along with the distribution of student back packs facilitating a return to learning could not come at a more vitally important time for PNG.