I believe in education. Not in the formal education system but in its broadest sense. New information is food for the mind. The mind and brain is like any muscle. To become better and fitter in a particular sport, you exercise. The mind and brain also needs exercise to be sharp, alert and most importantly to grow. Sometimes we see old people and we are amazed at how sharp their mind is despite their age and fragility.
This week two news items appeared in The Nationalwhich prompted me to ponder on this particular issue in PNG – Education, and I am talking about our formal system.
The first story was about students buying grade 10 certificates and faking the grades using complex computer software and using the fake grade 10 certificate to enroll in colleges. You can read the details here. The second story was about urging parents to send their children to school. And I fully support that. Parents are obligated to send their children to get formal education. Every child is born with that right. I wrote an earlier article about this. Read it here.
For starters, I totally disagree with the label “grade 10 drop-outs”. This labelling has a negative tag or feeling attached with it and should be changed. In-fact the labeling of students who miss out on a placing in secondary school as “drop-outs” should be discouraged. After reading the story I asked myself; “why is there a school certificate scam?” The reason I think is because there is a growing population of students missing out in secondary school placing and with that growing population there is a growing need to get back into the formal education system. This faking, fraud or scam involving grade 10 certificates shows that these students WANT TO GET BACK INTO THE FORMAL EDUCATION SYSTEM. I am against the faking. It is fraud and is against the law. And the colleges have every right to identify these fraudsters! But when such things happen, we have to ask “WHY?”
Here we are (me included) encouraging parents to send their children to school knowing well that it’s a bottle neck system. What’s next after grade 10 for those who miss out on year 11 and 12 selection? Not everyone will be a doctor, a lawyer, engineer, an accountant or hold some office jobs. We must accept that it is the sad reality of the education system we have created for ourselves. If our son or daughter misses out on a year 11-12 placing, that does not mean our children failed. No! It just means they are not good at writing essays or doing complicated maths or other things which require higher brain functions. Maybe they are excellent with their hands. Maybe they are good at practical and hands-on things. We have to see and assess our own children, identify their talents and encourage them along those lines so that they can achieve their full potential. If any failing happened, it is the formal education system that is failing our children.
What needs to be done is to equip our existing technical and vocational schools and colleges to take in more students who miss out on a year 11-12 placing. Upgrade the teaching facilities, upgrade the courses and curriculum, concentrate more on vocational teacher training and start telling parents when their children are in grade 10 that you do not have to go home disappointed with your son or daughter if they miss out. There are other opportunities. You have to support them. With the booming mining industry in PNG, there will be a growing need for tradesmen and tradeswomen. Information Technology is growing everywhere. And it is only a matter of time before it reaches PNG. I see a huge potential there. You do not need to go to year 11 or 12 to be involved in the IT industry. If you want to do software development and other programming than maybe you can go and learn complicated maths and calculus. Otherwise, the bulk of PC repair, maintenance or wiring does not require a grade 12 certificate.
Being successful does not mean earning a university degree and getting a well a paid job. Being successful is and should be subjective. We must not let our minds conform to the stereotype successful career person. If a grade 6 leaver completes his or her grade 10 through extension studies than enrolls in a vocational school and graduates with a certificate or diploma in electronics and works with a IT company repairing their PC, that person to me is successful beating all odds. More successful than someone who earns a university degree and works part-time, if I may say so.
If a village mother builds herself a house using timber and roofing iron by using money she gets buy selling kaukau, than to me that person is successful already. We just have to be good at what we do. If you sell kaukau, than be a damn good kaukau producer. It it’s peanuts than be the best peanut producer. We are only limited by what we think we are. As the book of Proverbs puts it beautifully, “As a man thinketh, so is he”. So Let us begin to see opportunities in every problem.