As most of us welcome the new year with much enthusiasm and ambition, many young Papua New Guineans and their families greet the dawn of a new year with stress and anxiety for this also marks what is probably the most important part in their lives. In the Papua New Guinea (PNG) education system, High School Certificate (HSC) exams come at the end of year 12 and always seem to signal the ending of a calendar year. Year 12 students all over the country sit for this exam and the results are graded and used to select who continues on to tertiary studies. For some, sitting for the HSC exams would be as far as they go in their formal education while for others, getting an offer after the HSC is welcoming news with the promise of a good life after tertiary studies.
A little over a decade and a half ago, the education system in PNG was a lot different to what it is today. High schools existed through which one only passes through to years 11 and 12 after the national exams at the end of year 10. There were only 4 National High Schools around the country (Passam, Kerevat, Sogeri and Aiyura) then and competition was fierce for placings in any one of these schools. Then came the education reforms which converted high schools into secondary schools offering years 9 through 12 at the secondary level. Year 10 and 12 exams were still in place but there are talks now of doing away with the year 10 exams paving the way for a smooth transition straight to year 12 and the HSC exams, meaning a lot more young people would continue on to year 12 creating a bottle neck at after the HSC exams. This post looks at the results of the 2015 HSC exams based on acceptance into ONLY the six major universities in PNG and an observation of the performance of the many secondary and National high schools in PNG today.
The analysis discussed here focus only on the number of students selected to enter the six main universities in PNG, namely; Divine Word University (DWU), Pacific Adventist University (PAU), University of Goroka (UoG), University of Natural Resource and Environment (UNRE), University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (UniTech). Acceptance lists used in this analysis were downloaded from UniTech, UPNG and DWU websites while listings for UNRE, PAU and UoG were taken from the Post Courier (January 8, 2016). Only school leavers (those continuing on from year 12) were considered in this analysis including those accepted for studies in open colleges. PDF copies were downloaded and converted to excel spreadsheets for analysis, while lists in the news papers were done manually.
The 2015 HSC exams saw a total of 2,645 students selected from 139 different secondary and national high schools to pursue further studies in the 6 main universities in PNG, with the top 12 schools providing almost 40% of the total number of students selected and the other 127 schools making up the remaining 60%. The number of students produced per school ranged from only 1 in 21 different schools to 146 with the school at the top of the list . Click here for the Complete list of Secondary and National High Schools and the number of Students selected from these schools
The top 12 schools (per number of students selected to the main universities) stand as: Port Moresby National High School (146), Mt Hagen Secondary (128), Sogeri National High(123), Wawin National High (103), Kerevat National High(80), Goroka Secondary (69), Kitip Secondary (67), Kopen Secondary (65), Aiyura National High (61), Gordon Secondary (61), Lae Secondary (59) and Marianville Girls Secondary (58). Below is a graph of the top 12 schools and the number of students from each school selected to each of the 6 main universities.
Population growth in the last 2 to 3 decades is a likely explanation for the sudden increase in the number of secondary and schools and national high schools. There is also the free education policy granting more Papua New Guineans access to education in a bid to increase literacy rates in PNG. With 139 different secondary and National High Schools in PNG, the government has done well in making sure everyone has access to education but how good is the education when only the top 12 schools provide up for 40% of the students continuing on to tertiary studies at Universities? what happens to the all the other students who have missed out on placings in tertiary studies? Is education to year 12 the only way to increase literacy rates? PNG’s literacy rates are a concern but having a bottle neck at the end of year 12 may not be the solution to this.
While education is a solution to the literacy problems, having so many secondary and national high schools and a bottle neck at the end of year 12 is an injustice to the students and parents. Having fewer secondary and national high schools would not cause available resources to be spread so much. An example is that if there were 5 very good teachers (each teaches a different subject) in an area, having 5 schools in that area increases the likelihood of there being one teacher per school. If there were only 2 schools, then each school would have up to twice the number of good teachers it could have if there were more schools so the students are taught well in two subjects instead of one if there were 5 schools. Fewer schools mean government funding is more focused and fewer schools encourage competition between the students, teachers and schools.
One suggestion is that, the number of secondary schools today must be reduced by at least 50%. There should be at least two secondary schools per province as well as the regional national high schools. Year 10 exams should be reinstated, the number of high schools (years 7 to 10) be increased and a year ten exams used as a bench mark to select the best students to got into secondary/national high school. This allows for the literacy problem to be addressed, creates an environment where only the most eligible make it to year 12 for the HSCs, encourages a system where resources are not wasted unnecessarily and finally, results show more competition between schools to produce students for further studies.