Papua New Guinea (PNG) is constantly changing. It needs people who have the required skills and knowledge to tackle economic, social and environmental challenges in the country. Education plays a vital role in shaping, building and producing leaders and intellects that have potential to provide solution to problems faced in the country. Indeed, education is an integral aspect of human development, which is necessary for national development and a prosperous society. Driven with the fact that education is an essential role player in human resource development, PNG’s past and present Governments have contributed much to education. The Tuition Fee-Free Education Policy (TFFE) is one of the Government’s contributions. This was initiated purposely to improve access to quality education for children across the country in all primary and secondary schools.

TFFE Policy is really good, because it provides a platform for each student to have an equal opportunity to access this level of education on the same scale, while on the other it will allow parents not to bother about taking students loans to facilitate their education all the way to the university. This is a relief to the parents and ensures that students remain debt free.

However, much have been written about the failures of the TFFE Policy, especially on its negative impact on the quality of education in the country. Though the TFFE Policy was labelled as an integral aspect of human resource development and a prosperous society, yet its out-turn on the quality of education is poor.

When we say poor Quality of Education (QoE), it is when the students are not fully equipped in following areas:

  • English language proficiency skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening),
  • Mathematics and numeracy proficiency;
  • Scientific knowledge and understanding,

Contributory factors to TFFE Policy’s poor outcome

The factors that contribute to poor outcome of TFFE Policy are varied. It is generally not one particular aspect of the service that results in substandard outcome, but a combination of factors that have a negative effect on its outcome. The factors include the following:

  • Lack of stability in implementing the TFFE Policy due to change of Education Secretary every year from 2012 – 2015.
  • Lack of maintaining regular surveillance over operations, and lack of providing an account on TFFE Subsidy to the respective divisions. It often contributes to the mismanagement of TFFE funds.
  • Ineffectiveness in the operations of the TFFE Policy Governance and Management Structure. Though the TFFE governance and management order was fittingly outlined or stated, there is no proper functional structure. Therefore, capacity to manage the TFFE funds and report on it was lacking in the department of education.
  • Lack of consistency in funding from the previous government. See brief about the history of ‘free education’ here.

 What government could do to improve TFFE outcome

 Many citizens, scholars and researchers have put across their views and published research papers generated from their analysis of the cons of TFFE Policy.

Besides, there is considerable constraint in effective monitoring on TFFE Policy governance and management of the quality of education. Recent studies have revealed that the capacity to manage the TFFE funds and report on it was lacking in the Department of Education. The reason of the government’s initiative to implement the TFFE Policy was a token of upholding the education as the key area to develop human resource and a prosperous society. As a concerned citizen, it really saddens me when noticing this good initiative (TFFE Policy) divert its core nature to money earning channel by those whom control the stream. If the Government really wants to see positive outcome of the TFFE Policy, the following actions should be taken at the respective level:

  • Government should consider creating a website where all the departments and offices that are in the chain of TFFE Policy governance and management structure should submit quarterly report about any necessary information and data associated with TFFE Subsidy via online. The task should be made compulsory so it is a MUST for them to adhere to.
  • TFFE Policy should not be an intent of political strategy, but it should be seen as integral to human development. With that, when any new government is elected, it should support the policy by maintaining the funding.
  • The Education Department should conduct a bi-annual assessment of the function reports of the Governance and Management structure, and should be aware of the exact school census and the data from the school administrations.
  • Education Department (secretary & TFFE secretariat) should establish a regular and effective link and communication with the District Administrators and School Inspectors to keep a continuous record or report on the School Learning and Implementing Plan (SLIP).

Conclusion

Upon knowing the fact that better education is an integral part of human resource development and a better nation, the government had at least or in much bestowed interest in supporting education by funding the TFFE Subsidy. However, there’s no proper TFFE Policy Governance and Management Structure, and there is inadequate reporting and accountability, and these appear to be the main barriers to the effective implementation of the policy. Apparently, the loopholes associated with the implementation of the policy is visible, the government and the key stakeholders must be prompted to consider the aforementioned recommendations made in the article. In all, the hope of a better education through the TFFE policy, and the expectation of its sustainability, is upon suitable approach and decision the government takes. Otherwise, it will always be a dare hope in the midst of poor quality education and unsafe society. It is a silent complaint and sought from the vast population that truly if this TFFE policy is good for PNG’s school-aged citizens, why are we neglecting the right governance and administrative path when the quality of the country’s education is suffering!

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