Let me begin, by saying, large numbers of children in developing countries, including Solomon Islands receive little or no formal education.
Solomon Islands is categorized as one of the developing nations in our world today. Likewise, Papua New Guinea has also fallen under the same category.
Therefore, I would very much like to share with you some very important lessons to consider, especially during this time when we have new changes and new influences that had crept into our education practices.
First and the foremost, let me put this scenario into Papua New Guinea context and I would like you to apply it into our own Solomon Islands’ context.
I believe Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands has many practices in common. Thus, what was and is happening in PNG would always create the same consequences in Solomon Islands and elsewhere in the South West Pacific.
As someone who spent most of his time to work and study in Papua New Guinea, I think it is right time to raise such issue of great concern to inform our citizens of the OBE System in PNG. I am pretty sure that Solomon Islanders would learn a lot from this OBE lesson in PNG Education System.
PNG has undergone some substantive changes since 1994 to cater for the newly incepted education reform (OBE).
It has been generally agreed that the reform (OBE) would accommodate for the real needs and aspirations of Papua New Guineans.
According to Universal Basic Education Plan 2010 – 2019, the gross admission rate from 2000 to 2007 clearly shows that almost 92.5% of children were recorded as being enrolled in Grade 1 while the less than 10% of children are left at home schooling.
It was also stated in a National Plan for Education 2005-2014 that newly education system has grown over the 30 years.
Many Papua New Guineans would expect that the education reform (OBE) would bring new changes in the curriculum status in a way where it identifies the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that all students would achieve or demonstrate at a particular grade in a particular subject.
However, what the government of PNG and its people were expecting did not eventuate. The OBE reform has now come to a deadlock. Results gathered nationwide shows that there is a big problem with the implementation process.
Therefore, the government of PNG has decided to scrap off Outcome Base Education (OBE) reform and retain the old system, which is the Objective Base Education (OBE).
Generally speaking, the reform although a good idea, in practicality still lacks many resources and capacity building facilities to foster its implementation.
From my own observational approaches and research experiences in PNG, I would like to make mention of the fact that much of the policy conceived would need more planning and feasibility groundwork before it can become a reality in school settings.
In addition, the government has literally failed to fully capacitate the education system in the light of this reform. Lack of very qualified teaching personnel and specialist manpower mean that the students learning experiences in classroom is seriously affected.
In fact, current scenario shows that the reform increases enrolments but at the same time it creates a lot of problems for the implementers like teachers who have direct contact with students in the classroom and on a daily basis.
Firstly, the high enrolments has resulted in an increase in class size and pupil to teacher ratio. As a result of high number of students per class, the quantity of resources spend per child are not enough to enhance the child’s learning.
In addition, no facilities for students to use like chairs, tables, desks and even classrooms make it so difficult for an effective learning to take place.
In a study conducted by Riddel & Nyagura (1991) revealed that in Zimbabwe schools faced problems not unique from other developing countries.
Those include shortage of text books for students and lack of basic teaching and learning resources, coupled with a lack of higher proportion of trained teachers and staff stability contributed to immensely poor student academic achievement level.
Papua New Guinea faces a similar trend in its education system. The government of PNG accepted the Outcome Based Education without proper preparation in terms of adequate facilities, relevant teaching and learning materials and properly trained specialist teachers to teach the content of newly introduced subjects.
I believe this kind of situation will not single out PNG from Solomon Islands. If Solomon Islanders are thinking of adopting this similar system into our education system, then I would like those so-called Solomon Islanders to think twice.
Secondly, as a result of high pupil to teacher ratio, the subject content knowledge would not be properly taught to the students, though, teachers can be knowledgeable and skilled in their area subjects.
If teachers continue to struggle with more students and limited resources and little backups from head teachers and principals, they would lose interest in their career and would put only little efforts in it and this would result in an ineffective learning.
The main core activities in the schools are teaching and learning and these school processes would help to achieve the students’ outcomes.
The students would no longer enjoy the wonders of learning and would continue to miss classes if the teacher’s attendances are inconsistent, lack of resources and facilities available for them to use. Therefore, for an effective learning to take place, there must be an effective teaching.
Although the Outcome Base Curriculum (or OBE) projected to impact the education system, meeting the real needs and aspirations of the students’ learning processes, it in many ways was and is still inadequate.
Although the government introduced the reform (OBE) to have schools develop programs which would help facilitate and broaden students’ minds on perceptions to changes which would continue to promote and encourage the sustainable use of natural resources, it in many ways was and is still inadequate.
Although, such the process anticipates advocating strategies pertinent to teaching students skills which after the school life can provide opportunity for them to make the most of the income generating opportunities that are available in the formal sector, it in many ways was and is still inadequate.
Although, the educational goals are said to be achieved when the curriculum is properly taught to the students and with a positive feedback from the students, it in many ways was and is still inadequate.
In Papua New Guinea, the formal education system appears to fail more students than help them to accentuate a more positive feedback.
As such, the number of students enrolled for further studies is still low comparable to other pacific nations. Even the literacy rate for PNG is, according to recent statistics, one of the lowest in the Asia Pacific region.
This leaves me to say that Outcome Base Education or Outcome Base Curriculum will never work well for Solomon Islands system of education. No matter how much skilful and knowledgeable a person is, lack of adequate teaching and learning resources will continue to hinder the implementation process of the so-called Outcome Base Education.
Let alone, the traditional Objective Base Education (OBE) or Objective Base Curriculum be used, instead of the Outcome Base Education (OBE).
Learning must be controlled in order for competition to take place. What is very much required is healthy competition.
Healthy competition is all about working together aggressively and working together agreeably to compete against the system.
It is not about individual competing against individual, but it is all about individual competing against the system.
In the meantime, thank you so much for your contribution. May our Good Lord Bless our Nation Solomon Islands from Shore to Shore.
By John Iromea
University of Goroka
Papua New Guinea