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PNG Free Education: “A Cargo Cult Policy”

By Lucas Kiap 

People of Papua New Guinea must not be continuously misled and fooled by the government’s “Free Education Policy”. It is important for people to know that every citizen has the right to basic education and the government has an obligation to uphold that right, regardless. For a developing nation, to have a fully illiterate society is critical to change the country with time and with the rest of the world. No government should take the credit for that very “simple policy”. 

However, the concern is that the free education system is a “bottled neck system” where it produces more failures than success. We have a lot of young men and young women coming through the system who are not taught skills but instead are taught with match, science, and social science courses, which in practical have very little use or no use at all when one exit out of the education system. 

Are we teaching them to become rocket scientists with match and science or are we trying to build a fully literate society with useful skills they can use in real life situations for them to live a better life? The free education system a catalyst for destruction of the country as it is producing people with no skills, less opportunities, increase in unemployment and worsening of law and order problems. 

Having that in mind, the start point to change this country is not through providing free education. This policy of providing free education is a conspiracy or a “cargo cult policy” that does not reflects visions or goals for the country to achieve but it is to confuse the poor rural people that basic education is a privilege and is not a right when it should be a right regardless. By letting people live in poverty and making education expensive, the government can then exploit the people’s desperation of getting their children educated when the government too has that obligation. 

Making education more expensive, a government that provides free education is a government that really cares for the people when in fact it doesn’t because every government should provide free basic education regardless. The very sad point about this is that we have a large rural illiterate population that has always been exploited by every government. 

To fix such bottle neck in the education system, the solution is not providing free education as people have the right to basic education. Instead the government should concentrate its efforts in upgrading the standard of the education in the country so that more people can be taught technical skills and other skills which will increase the chances of people getting employed here and elsewhere as well as enhancing the quality of life of the people. 

The point I am trying to make here is that, if the government wants to fund free education, then it should build a lot of technical high schools, technical colleges and technology and research universities and put students there and provide free education for them to learn skills and knowledge that will be useful in nation building and also help them be self-reliant when they drop out of the education system. Take the PNG LNG project as an example. In the PNG LNG project there are specialized fields which require specialized skills such as pressure welding of the gas pipelines. Because Papua New Guineans lack such skills, they brought in workers from Indonesia and Philippines and other Asian countries to do those jobs. Papua New Guineans were only employed as labors and most of the high paying jobs are occupied by expatriates. 

The question is - what is the vision or goal of proving free education in the country?

PNG has already celebrated 38 years of independence. Where and when should be the starting point? Are we waiting to start when all our natural resources are raped, dig and piped by multi-corporations overseas? Things cannot change overnight but the foundations for change must be laid and outlined with concrete visions and goals so that PNG can compete with the rest of the world. 

I am afraid if this generation can’t think big and outside of the box with the change of times then we really have a problem in this country. Things will stay much the same while we follow the footsteps of our current and past generation of leaders - ending up remain the same or possible worse with the increasing in law and order problems and deteriorating infrastructures.

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