Sunday, December 02, 2012
A comment on PNG education
By MAURICE PRATLEY
During my stay in PNG I was called upon to lecture at both the PNG University and the Legal Training Institute.
The University had asked the PNG Society of Accountants if it could provide a replacement of a lecturer who had left. I volunteered as I had just started up an accounting practice and had spare time and also I thought it was a great opportunity to review and update my knowledge on particular subjects. The subjects I taught were Corporate Finance and Accounting and Auditing Standards for one semester and Corporate Finance and Accounting I for another. When it came to testing I posed the questions on principles and the application of these. The answers as to principles was, generally, of a high standard but when it came to applications, the responses were varied. So much so, that in some cases I wondered whether the students were from the same planet. Or maybe I did not explain matters fully enough.
At the Legal Training Institute I was asked to lecture in Tax. This I did for three annual sessions of six week duration. Again there were similar results. The learning of principles was excellent but applications not so.
I remember discussing this with a colleague and he suggested that people in PNG had been generally less exposed to a commercial way of life. On reflection this could well be right although I could have still concentrated more on illustrating the principles at work.
I have had no teacher training nor do I profess any teacher 'bent'. However, I am firmly convinced that the standard of education relies on the quality of teachers. Money thrown at education will not necessarily improve the system.
These thoughts are backed up by a report just issued. It is a study called The Learning Curve, published by Pearson and carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The aim of the report was to help policymakers, among others, identify key factors driving improved educational outcomes. One conclusion was there was no substitute for good teachers. There were 40 countries examined which was due to data being available from these which could be used to analyse cognitive skills and educational attainment. Ranking was done according to standard deviation. The two countries which topped the list were Finland and South Korea. They have different systems but they provided similar outcomes.
I seriously recommend this study to people involved in the education system for close study. It can be found at www.thelearningcurve.pearson.
Incidentally, I am in the throes of using standard deviation to win at the horses! I will advise of any positive outcome at a later date.