PNG Flexible Open & Distance Education (PNG FODE)
Historically PNG Flexible Open & Distance Education (PNG FODE) was established in 1957 as College of External Studies. Later it became the Distance Education and later renamed to PNG Flexible Open & Distance Learning (PNG FODE).
The main objective historically was to prepare learning materials and distribute to adult public service employees to give them a formal qualification after they complete a set of modules. The model was adopted from the Queensland Correspondence School in Australia. Initially it was intended on lower secondary qualification but gradually it expanded into higher qualifications and eventually replaced the Australian Correspondence as PNG got independence in Sept 16th 1975 from Australia and established it’s own Education System.
Currently PNG FODE is one of the biggest education institutions in the country serving a total of 35 000 students, 22 registered study centres and 67 sub study centres across the 19 provinces of Papua New Guinea.
PNG FODE Five Year (2020-2025) Strategic Plan
In June this year (2020) PNG FODE launched its five year strategic plan. The plan was launched by current Prime Minster of Papua New Guinea-Rt.Hon.James Marape MP, witnessed by the Minister for Education Hon.Joseph Yopyyopy and other dignitaries officials at the National Parliament State Function room.
With the theme “Literate PNG and Leave No One Behind” PNG FODE hopes to advocate for growth of literacy in the country. Particularly by offering both low and secondary school certification students who have for some reason left the formal education system in the country. Minister Yopyyopy commented
“Many times we look at mainstream and we tend to neglect and forget about FODE’s role in the education system. PNG FODE is there to help the unfortunate so that non one is left out. Students who go through FODE will have equal opportunity just like those who go through mainstream education”
The Prime Minister added that:
“To give equal opportunity to citizens FODE has no limit to age, gender, religious faith, and time and class size. It is an opportunity for everyone to prosper in their own life and for the benefit of the country.”
What is missing in PNG FODE?
Since FODE is established and administered under the Papua New Guinea National Department of Education, it has its focus fixed on giving the Lower and Upper Secondary Students a second change to continue their education. A lot of students miss out on Tertiary Education selection list every year in Papua New Guinea. At the lower secondary school level, a lot of students miss out due to various reasons such as physical distance to schools, remoteness of villages from provincial centres, quality of primary education services provided at provincial and district levels and parents subsistence living standards.
PNG FODE hasn’t offered any technical or skills-oriented courses to the students for them to make some meaningful living. Current structure allows for reintegration of schooling back into the formal education system. Given that there are so many Secondary Schools in the country competing for limited spaces at the limited tertiary institutions, PNG FODE students still compete to make their way back into the formal education system. For example, PNG FODE students sit for the same Upper Secondary Grade 12 Final Examinations and Lower Secondary Grade 8 and Grade 10 Examinations. Students who successfully pass these exams are the ones get reintegrated into formal schooling system while rest, it’s vicious cycle of learning. This is something PNG’s Education Dept need to address. Creating exit pathways after completing studies with PNG FODE.
Need for FODE To Operate as Separate Entity
Currently PNG FODE is under the administration of the PNG Education Department. However, with large number student population and 22 registered study centres, and 67 correspondent centres, it is quite a challenge to serve these centres under the current arrangement. PNG is geographically and culturally diverse and compounded with limited road infrastructures, distributing teaching materials to students is a logistical challenge. PNG PNG has started a ICT enabled learning initiatives to such as giving tablet devices with electronic copies of learning materials. However, ICT initiatives will still have limited impact in the rural communities and districts where there is limited access to electricity and access to end user training of ICT devices. Print is still the preferred mode of study materials.
Therefore, Government of PNG should look at giving PNG FODE a separate entity status so that it can embark on its noble vision and mission with separate budgetary allocation from the Government.