The 2020 academic year has closed and it’s holiday season. For the parents and students who have just completed Year 12, 10 and 8, the focus and concern is on the Exam results selections for continuation of studies next year. The exam results for Grade 12 and Grade 10 were already released by the PNG Education Department through the online portal https://www.mypngexamresults.com/
By looking at the grades from the results portal above, the students should have a fair idea of whether they will be selected or not. Particularly for Grade 12 students who will be competing for limited first year intake quota at the tertiary institutions.
Limited Spaces at Tertiary Institutions in Papua New Guinea.
One of the legacy issues when it comes to selecting students into tertiary institutions was the limited spaces available at the respective tertiary institutions. This continues to a sticking point. In terms of improving student intake at schools, two things stood out this year. The first is announcement by Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) that Western Pacific University in Pangia District, Southern Highlands Province will offer it’s first Foundation Year Program. The total selected to start the academic year will be 250 students only. Next year and onwards, this university will add more students in a progressive or incremental mode.
The other is the opening of learning two student dormitories, kitchen and dinning hall, at the Enga College of Nursing which is now a affiliate of Pacific Adventist University. The female dormitory, kitchen and dinning hall were funded by AusAid at a cost of PGK4.4 million while while Enga Provincial Government (EPG) counter funded with PGK2.2 million for the Male Dormitory. The dormitories will accommodate 42 students each (total of 84 students) and the dinning has has a capacity for 140 people.
Whether the Enga College of Nursing will increase student intake for next year (2020) is not clear. This is because, facilities is just one part of the equation. There are other factors, such as academic staff, support staff, regulatory requirements and etc which may delay the increase of intakes.
Private Training Institutions Capitalizing On Limited Space Availability.
Private Training Schools around the country have ramped up their activities to capture their market share in the number of students who will not be able to make to the tertiary institutions. In the past private training providers were perceived as education for the children’s of middle income and elite class people and mainly located within the main towns or cities like Lae, Port Moresby, and Hagen. Some of these long time institutions were Institute of Business Studies (IBS), International Training Institute (ITI), International Education Agency of PNG (IEA PNG) and PNG Institute of Banking and Business Management (IBBM).
Now, due to the explosion of Grade 12 School Leavers coming out of the PNG Lower and Secondary Education system in Papua New Guinea, numerous training providers have started offering courses. Some of these institutions include Mapex Training Institute, Kumul Training Instititute. Others have focused on more trade skills oriented courses.
These training providers have registered under the National Training Council (NTC) under Papua New Guinea Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. This was because, initially these training providers were to provide specific skills oriented short courses with shorter duration and with integration of on the job training to complement theory content.
Difference Between Short Courses and Programs
The private training institutes when they saw the demand for training to cater for influx of Grade 12 not getting into tertiary institutions, they started offering Programs that has a duration of more than 1 or 2 weeks. They branded them as Certificate and Diploma programs. This was in complete contrary to being a short course. This then raised the issues of programs and course accreditation and certification of these institutions. This includes the certification of things like learning facilities, program contents, staff qualification and etc. For example, Diploma program offered at a Technical or Business Colleges or universities is normal two years. The private training institutions offers a Diploma in six months. Their course units are focused on specific topics and often does not include broader subjects. Therefore, when students apply for further studies at public tertiary institution like the university, college or technical college as non-school leaver, after completing a Diploma at a private training institute, their Diploma is not recognized. Their prior learning at the private training institute is not recognized and they cannot even exempt some of the course units that are very similar to what they have already covered in their studies at a private training institute.
Private Training Institutes in PNG Will Be Regulated By DHERST
Just this year (2020), the Papua New Guinea, National Parliament passed a series of reformed Higher Education Bills. Two important ones are the following:
- The Accreditation of all private training institutions in Papua New Guinea will now be under Department of Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology (DHERTS). The private institutions will now be registered under the DHERST and no longer under the National Training Council (NTC) with the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations.
- The Business and Technical Colleges which were under the Papua New Guinea Department of Education were also transfer to DHERST. Department of Education will be responsible for Pre-School to Upper Secondary Education in the country.
As these laws come into effect, it will effect some operations of the Private Training Institutions and it also creates uncertainty among parents whose students are already enrolled in these institutions and also operators. For example, whether they will be grace period for these institutions to prepare themselves to meet the requirements of DHERST or they will continue to operate under NTC. The timeline is not clear yet.
Important Higher Education Responsibilities Vested Under DHERST .
One thing is very obvious. That is that DHERST will become the single most important government department to shape the higher Education in the country. DHERST now has the following key responsibilities;
- Management of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)
- National Online Application System (NOAS) for Grade 12 students selection into Tertiary Institutions.
- Management of Tertiary Education Student Assistance Scheme (TEAS) scholarship
- Accreditation and Regulation of Private Training Institutions
- Accreditation and Regulation of Business and Technical Colleges
- Policy Direction and Technical Assistance for Universities both State run and private universities in the country.
Performance of DHERST as a key government department in charge of higher education sector in the country will pretty much depend on how the government recognizes these responsibilities and allocates the necessary funding and attention it deserves. The stakes are high for PNG and DHERST must not become another efficient government agency or department.