Education is one of the key factors that can be used to improve human capital and productivity, and consequently, improves the standard of living of a country. Papua New Guinea’s National Education System (PNGNES) is often being criticised for making frequent changes to the curriculum and the systems. In the last two decades, there has been two curriculum and structural reforms. The public does not often support the frequent changes to the education system. However, the Department of Education (DoE) seems to be eager to implement the new Standard-Based Curriculum (SBC) with a new 1+6+6 system without proper consultation with key stakeholders. The new education system has the potential to complement the new definition of universal basic education which covers schooling from prep to grade 12. This can create some problems in schools.

The education system reforms in Papua New Guinea

The national unified education system was formed in 1973 with the education structure of 6+4+2 where students spend six years in primary school, four years in high school and two years in national high school or sometimes direct entry to colleges. The system used the objective-based curriculum which was a teacher-centered pedagogy where students have limited control on their learning. Teachers designed and taught according to the syllabus. National examinations were used to select students from grades 6, 10 and 12.

The system produced more dropouts who did not fit into the community well and this became a social problem. This resulted in the introduction of outcomes-based curriculum (OBC) in the early 1990s to provide relevant community-based education with a structural reform from ‘6+4+2’ to ‘3+6+4’ with examinations at grade 8, 10 and 12 for selection and certification. Children spent three years in elementary school, six years in primary school and four years in secondary school.

However, problems of low literacy and numeracy was evident in all levels of education from elementary to tertiary as most elementary schools in the rural areas were taught in Tokples and Tokpisin. There were numerous calls by parents, teachers and other stakeholders to abolish the OBC as it failed to produce the desired outcomes.

The OBE Exit Task Force recommended for OBC to be replaced by SBC under a new 1+6+6 structure. This reform is to be implemented from 2021 onwards. This structure will replace the current 3+6+4 system where the education system will have one year Early Child Education and Development, six years of primary education and another six years of secondary education. This means that the current infrastructures in schools will need to change to accommodate the new structure.

Problems associated with frequent reforms to the education system

  • Inadequate awareness. It is paramount that all new curriculum should be given ample time for awareness especially through consultation with key stakeholders.

  • Inadequate curriculum materials. A complete curriculum pack should have a syllabus, teacher’s guides, teacher’s resource books and students’ resource books. These were never produced.

  • Inadequate school facilities. With the transition from the 3+6+4 system to 1+6+6 system, there will be problems of spaces for grades 7 and 8 who would migrate to secondary schools.

  • Inadequate teacher training and incentives. Teachers are key stakeholders to implement any new curriculum. Thus, in-service training is important to implement the SBC properly, from OBC.

Strategies to improve the implementation of Standard-Based Curriculm

  • More awareness is required for the change to be accepted and adopted by all stakeholders. Teachers need to be trained and made aware of the change in curriculum.

  • Invest more into schools’ facilities and resources. Build more facilities to cater for grades 7 and 8 in secondary schools.

  • Invest in teachers training and review remuneration of teachers. Train teachers on SBC and provide better incentives and rewards to motivate teachers to teach the new curriculum.


This article was first published in the Post-Courier’s 18 March 2021 edition and on its website’s commentaries and features page.