Essay On Free Education In Papua New Guinea

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Abady, R. (2015). The impact of the Papua New Guinea Free Education Policy on the School Executive’s Decision Making in the management of Class SIze (Thesis, Master of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from

The Papua New Guinea National Government’s directives on educational policies are expected to be implemented effectively throughout the country, in educational institutions that are solely or partly funded by the government. The Free Education Policy (FEP), also known as Tuition Fee Free Policy (TFFP) is a governmental directive that is implemented in elementary, primary and secondary schools. The implementation of FEP is perceived as a device for fulfilling the National Government’s Universal Basic Education (UBE) Plan (Guy, 2009; Swan & Walton, 2014) that aims to provide formal education for children between the ages of six and eighteen. The 2012 implementation of FEP in secondary schools, created a significant increase in student population thus (Marshall, 2002) creating class sizes to exceed forty-eight students. This study was conducted to explore how classroom teachers are assisted by school leaders in the management of large class sizes as influenced by FEP. Participants included ten school leaders from two separate secondary schools which are currently implementing FEP in the National Capital District of Papua New Guinea. A qualitative research methodology was used, based on the interpretivist paradigm. Guided questions were deliberated and utilised in collecting data through semi-structured and focus group interviews. The data was collated then analysed thematically. The findings indicate that school leaders are very much challenged in assisting classroom teachers manage large class sizes. The main factors that appear to undermine the success of effectively assisting classroom teachers are inadequate facilities, insufficient resource materials and the shortage of teachers. The amount of time classroom teachers have for classroom preparations and presentations are also encumbered by the number of classes with large class sizes. It was apparent that while the National Government’s directive of FEP gives an opportunity for all school aged children to receive formal education, there are setbacks that impede effective implementation of this policy specifically in secondary schools. The implications suggest that as specialised teachers, classroom teachers need to be assisted in managing classes in overcrowded classrooms.



University of Waikato


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Challenges of implementing a free education policy have been many. Political will and funding are among the top issues, including education department’s capacity to monitor and evaluate the policy.

From 2012 to 2016, the government’s commitment to implementation of Tuition Fee-Free Education (TFFE) policy has been better than the other attempts in 1981, 1993 and 2002. In addition, funding commitment was consistent and the amount committed to implementing the TFFE policy set the bench-mark for any future governments wanting to implement the free education policy.

On the contrary, there were many challenges faced between 2012 and 2016. TFFE policy framework lacked detail from the beginning, though there were guides like the TFFE Manual 2012 to show attempts have been made to establish some control mechanisms. In fact, details of monitoring and evaluating was lacking and therefore a major obstacle to the success the policy both in the past and present.

For example the School Learning and Improvement Plans (SLIP) which is the key for knowing what has actually transpired on the ground (in schools), as far as accounting for TFFE spending was concerned, remained obscure.  By this I mean, the school inspectors (call them standard officers) and district administrators (DA) played an important role to not only maintain standard, but also improve standard. 

The inspectors and  DAs are a link between schools and department of education and this link is vital for monitoring school operations and providing accurate reports required by the Tuition Fee-Free Secretariat of the National Department of Education. And therefore, the standard officers and DAs not monitoring SLIP (school population, development plans, head teachers’ spending, etc.…) have a negative impact on the. overall monitoring and reporting of TFFE policy. Their roles are pivotal to whether the government gets an accurate report or not.

One could argue that the SLIP does not correlate to TFFE policy and its implementation, and the school inspectors and DAs have little to do with the school yearly plans. This is not true. The school yearly plan (SLIP) tells you all you need to know before releasing the government’s fund to a school; monitoring it on a regular basis; and reporting it as and when required. In brief, strictly monitoring SLIP gives you the ability to meet the challenges and limitations of implementing the TFFE policy.

Is it too late to talk about the TFFE policy? Well, the question of continuation of the policy is sketchy as are the election results post 2017 elections – no one knows what happens until it happens. So, we never know. But what we know is that the current government TFFE policy continued for the last five years – no government is the past has done that. It is an achievement. Nevertheless, there are many challenges.

Perhaps it is important to know that who (or which party) forms the government after 2017 election is NOT important. What is important is that EDUCATION, must, remain number one. The new government has to plan to ensure key stakeholders like the school inspectors and DAs perform their roles effectively. Also the new government must identify the KEY INDICATORS needed addressing within the education system, and address them properly from the beginning.

I have written extensively about the Tuition Fee-Free policy since its inception in successive years. The screen shots are the Abstract and Content pages of an academic paper I wrote for a post graduate study. The paper reviews three governments efforts in the past, compares it to the current government attempts and discusses 4 recommendations needed going forward. Join me on Twitter or comment below and request a PDF copy.

If you are an academic or a student or someone writing a paper on PNG government's TFFE policy, you will find this discussion useful. Request it for free.

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