The PNG Department of Education (PNGDE) Secretary Dr.Uke Kombra has announced that he had instructed the Department’s Teacher Education Division to charge and suspend three Principals of Teachers colleges. The teachers colleges were as follows:
- Enga Teachers College-Located in Enga Province
- Dauli Teachers College-Located in Hela Province
- Balob Teachers College-Located in Lae city, Morobe Province
Chimbu Teachers College-located in Chimbu province was also implicated unfortunately, he has resigned and left the Education Department. As such, he cannot be disciplined by the Department by way to suspension and laying of charges.
Accepting Students With Low GPA and Faked Documents.
The Secretary announced to the local media that these Principals have accepted students with very low GPA and some with fraudulent Grade 12 School Certificates. They will have to justify their actions to the Department of Education and if they have violated the Criminal Code Act Section 462, which states that fraudulently or defacing a document is a criminal offence.
Balob Teachers College Students Strike Over Delay in Issuance of Diploma Certificates.
This all came about because of former students protest at Balob Teachers College over delay of almost two years in issuing Diploma Certificates to students who had completed their two year Primary Teacher Education program. The student became frustrated when the college blamed the Education Department for the delay in issuing their Diplomas and protest was done to get the attention of Education Department. The Education Department conducted their own investigation and found out the these students where accepted to study without proper selection and with low GPA entry requirements and also with fraudulent documents.
Selection of Grade 12 School Leavers to study at Teachers Colleges around the country is done through the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) when the students choose to study Teacher program in their School Leavers Form (SLF). The selectors then select the eligible students to study at the Teachers colleges.
However, the Principals are also required to accept potential students as Non-School Leavers to fill up any placement offers that are not taken over by selected students or in the event the college have spaces available. The Non-School Leavers are not covered by DHERST TESAS national government funded scholarship scheme and they pay their own school fees. After the First year of study, they are eligible for TESAS scholarship if they do well and pass the required GPA marks.
Non-School leavers still have to meet the entry GPA requirements for Teacher Program if they were to be accepted to study. After completion of Teacher Education program, most of the teachers are employed by the PNG Department of Education, mainly in the Lower Primary and Secondary Education system.
Severity of the Problem.
With the high number of Grade 12 students passing out of the National Education system with less number of higher educational institutions (HEIs), there would be more of these sort of cases going on in the Teachers Colleges or even other colleges such the Nursing Colleges, Technical and Vocational Colleges, Technical Colleges and etc. In this case, the case was not reported by the PNG Education Department itself, but it was forced to take the action as a damage control measure when the students protested for almost one week, forcing Balob Teachers College to halt its 2021 academic year registration and got media coverage. If the students had not gone on protest, it is still uncertain whether the Department would address this issue or not.
In this saga, both the students and Principals are at fault. They have somehow colluded to commit an academic crime and obviously such incidents cannot occur without any monetary transactions. It will be interesting to see how this case played out in the coming months. Whether it will go undercover once the media attention is over or PNG Education will pursue the case and have the principles pay for their academic crimes as promised to the nation.
Teachers College Reputations Are At Stake.
The reputation of Teachers Colleges in the country are at stake as a result of this incident. There has public outcry over students not performing well in classrooms. Particularly at the lower Primary and Secondary Schools with many students failing Grade 8 and Grade 10 Examinations and dropping off. Lot of the blame has been labeled against the Outcome Based Education (OBE) curriculum and less on the quality of teachers coming out of the Teachers college. This public perception is now changed. Teachers colleges are equally responsible for the outcome.
Also, Balob Teachers college is run by Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG. It is the one of the oldest and biggest church denominations in the country and public’s view is that the college must reflect the principles of the church in its school operations. This can be viewed as evident of corruption and bribery getting into the education system even in church run operations.
Enga Teachers College was newly established by Enga Provincial Government with the support of the Provincial Governor. It has received a lot of support from in form of National Government and infrastructure development funding from the Australian and New Zealand Governments. However, there were unconfirmed reports circulating on social media prior to this incident of political interference and biased student selection from the college. Having the Principal implicated in this saga may solidify these public perceptions.
Need for Fairness in Selection at Teachers College.
This saga highlights the importance of Education Department setting up stringent quality control measures to make sure the Teachers College are fair in their student selection. Also to make sure college administrations account for any academic crimes committed by the staff in discharge of their duties.