The current Education Minister (2020) Hon.MP Joseph Yopiyopi announced that all 89 Districts in the country will have Flexible Open And Distance Education (FODE) centre. He made this announcement while officiating at the opening of a new high school in the Jimi Electorate in Jiwaka province in the highlands of region of Papua New Guinea.
The National of Department of Education will partner the District Development Authority (DDA) in each of the districts to establish FODE Centre, particularly in areas where there a no high school or secondary school or have a smaller number of schools. This will enable every child to have access to high school and secondary education to students who cannot continue in the formal education system due to various reasons. FODE is operates under the National Education Department and has the same recognition as is the high school and secondary schools. This means that any student that has completed Grade 10 up to Grade 12 through FODE are eligible to sit for the National Grade 8, Grade 10 and Grade 12 National School Examinations. If they pass these Examinations, they are eligible to go to selections for higher learning institutions.
The only difference is that conventional schools have face to face teaching and learning while FODE is through study materials and learning aids supplied by FODE and have no face to face teaching.
FODE centres will greatly assist those in the remote areas and bring equal educational opportunities.
Challenges Faced by FODE Centres in PNG.
Although FODE was established with a noble vision to bring high school and secondary education to the rural districts and communities where there are limited schools and lots school drop outs, it continues to the face challenges.
Logistics of Printing and Sending Learning Materials to Centers.
Papua New Guinea is geographically diverse. Islands scattered along the New Guinea Islands Region and coastal provinces. Rugged terrain and mountains in the interior highlands region and vast wetlands with huge river systems and tributaries in northern and southern end of the mainland. Logistics of getting the printed study materials to districts and FODE centers around the country is a huge challenge.
Student Support Services
Providing student support, guidance and feedback is also a challenge. Most of the student enrolling in FODE has come out of a conventional face to face classroom from elementary level to Grade 6, Grade 8, Grade 10 or Grade 12 when they leave the formal school system. So getting them to study themselves based on study materials and learning aid is a complete transition for these students. FODE has tried to address thee logistics of study materials and learning support by providing students with Tablets but, students coming from remote communities also lack the basic ICT literacy to use these gadgets and it’s a learning curve on its own.
Internet based support services like Websites, student portals and etc are currently being explored. Yet these ambitions are hampered by most districts not on full functional electricity power grids and access to internet connectivity.
Limited Spaces in the Tertiary Institutions.
FODE is now perceived as giving the students passing out of Grade 8, Grade 10, Grade 12 the second opportunity to redo the Upper Primary, Secondary, and Secondary Curriculum and sit the for the National Examinations. For most students, passing out of the formal education system has personal and emotional connotations. Most may blame the education system, lack of resources at school and etc and going back to FODE is like waste of time and effort. On top of that, PNG has not developed a reading culture like the countries in the west. FODE study method depends a lot on reading and study the materials alone.
Also, the lack of study space in their homes. Most homes in rural settings function as communal settings where extended family member live together. Students may not have the private study space needed to study under FODE.
Sitting the National Examinations through FODE doesn’t guarantee any special admission consideration by the higher institutions. FODE students are regarded as part of the whole annual selection and they have to compete against the high number of students from the formal system schools. For those FODE students who are unsuccessful, the grim reality to search for other alternative education or live life continues to challenge to them.
These are some of the things challenges that needs to be addressed by FODE. The recently launched FODE’s Strategic Plan needs to address these critical issues. This is why collaboration between District Development Authority (DDA) and PNG Education Department (FODE) is crucial for future of FODE as announced by Minister Yopiyopi.
For more information about PNG FODE, visit their website http://fode.education.gov.pg/