An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found. The 2015–19 National Education Plan endorses an inclusive approach to education, referring to the inclusion of children and youths who have been marginalized or excluded from the system, such as girls, children with disabilities, people living in remote villages and those from poor households. It also mentions ‘a suitable learning environment that is inclusive, catering for all children’s needs.’
Special education needs
An explicit definition of special education needs has not been found. Referring to special needs education, the 2010–19 Universal Basic Education (UBE Plan) mentions children with physical and mental disabilities. According to the primary and secondary teacher education project, a collaboration between Australian Aid and Papua New Guinea, special education addresses any student experiencing difficulties in learning, including students with a particular temporary or permanent disability (hearing impairment, vision impairment, speech impairment, physical impairment or intellectual disability), students with behavioural disorders, emotional problems or a medical condition, and students with a special education need.
The 2010–19 UBE Plan mentions that ‘UBE is there for all and special provisions need to be made for those children who cannot take part in the regular schooling system.’ The same source mentions that ‘the Callan Institute [helping to deliver education to children with impairments] will become a full member of the PNG Education System and will receive greater assistance in covering its operating costs.’
Callan Services provides education to children with disabilities; for example, every week, a Callan Services teacher visits schools with pupils with hearing impairments to teach sign language. It also works with inclusive education resource centres to upgrade skills and knowledge in inclusive education and community-based rehabilitation services.
The 1993 National Special Education Policy, Plans and Guidelines (NSEPPG) affirmed the right of children with disabilities to access education in the same settings as their peers, when feasible. The 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan highlights that children with severe disabilities cannot be educated within the formal school system.
Flexible open distance education (FODE) provides distance learning for students who wish to complete and obtain certificates for grades 10 and 12 and for those who cannot continue their education in the mainstream school system.
With regards to multilingual education, in ‘Viles Tok Ples Priskuls’, pre-primary schools, education is provided in local languages in some communities in an approach officially recognized by the province in the 1980s. Throughout the years, over 400 vernacular languages have been taught in local elementary schools based on a written system developed by communities.
The 1975 Constitution does not explicitly provide the right to education but calls for mutual respect and dialogue in education (Art. 2.1). The 1983 Education Act mandates all education providers, including local authorities, churches and communities, to develop a system ‘fitted to the requirements of the country and its people’ and to make it ‘available as widely as possible’ (Art. 4[b] and [d]). In particular, it sets out to make education accessible to ‘the poor and the physically, mentally and socially handicapped’ and ‘to those who are educationally disadvantaged’ (Art. 4[e]).
Framed within the Vision 2050 and built on the 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan, the 2015–19 National Education Plan reaffirms the goal of inclusive education for all and of creating a learner-centred environment sensitive to the psycho-social development needs of students and more aware of gender biases. On the other hand, the 2010–19 UBE Plan qualifies concerns such as gender, special needs education, HIV/AIDS, most vulnerable children and remote and overcrowded schools as equity issues.
Articulated in three developmental phases, the NSEPPG aimed to make inclusive education part of the long-term development goals of the education system. The reform was supposed to merge general and special education, creating a unified education system. The 2015–19 National Education Plan highlighted that awareness of the need to include children with special needs in mainstream classes, where appropriate, should be strengthened. Efforts to increase access to education for children with learning impediments will be intensified to make the system truly inclusive, as stated in the 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan.
The first National Policy on Disability, dated 2006, established a rights-based platform for disability. In relation to the right to equal access to education, the 2015–25 National Policy on Disability recognizes that education needs are different according to the type of impairments and calls for appropriate services for special education. It therefore serves as a platform for the review of special education provision. However, inadequacies in special education facilities persist, as highlighted in the 2010–19 UBE Plan.
The education sector pays specific attention to gender. The 2003 Gender Equity in Education Policy provides a framework of principles and practices concerning schoolchildren, both male and female. The policy paved the way to the 2009–14 Gender Equity in Education Strategic Plan, which facilitated the implementation of the Gender Equity in Education Policy with the development of explicit targets and implementation plans. Based on the principles of participation and partnership, capacity building, sustainability and gender mainstreaming, the 2009 Gender Equity Strategic Plan aimed to develop appropriate gender-based indicators for corporate strategies and mainstream gender equity activities and targets in divisional planning. It further intended to provide gender sensitization actions, with the incorporation of training on violence against women, and increase the professional capacity of education management personnel regarding gender.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous groups
As stated in the 1975 Constitution, everyone is encouraged to achieve universal literacy in Pisin, Hiri Motu or English, and in ‘tok ples’ or ‘ita eda tano gado’, terms which refer to vernacular languages (Art. 2.11). The country, linguistically very diverse, allows the use of vernacular languages in grades 1 and 2, when necessary. Thanks to the support of non-government organizations, churches and universities, vernacular instruction has been enhanced, since the rolling out of the new education system in the second half of the 1990s, by the development of alphabets. However, in 2012, the Prime Minister announced that English would become the only medium of instruction in elementary education as of the 2013 academic year.
People living in rural or remote areas
Developed as a project financed by the World Bank from 2011 to 2016, FODE addresses the needs of out-of-school youth and gives them the opportunity to complete secondary education via distance learning. Besides the establishment and implementation of an IT plan, the project improved the quality of distance learning curricula and the availability of instructional materials. The 2015–19 National Education Plan intended to continue strengthening FODE and enhance the possibility of distance access to education. Differences between the urban areas and the rural areas and, in particular, the remote regions of the country persist in terms of access to education. The 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan aims to address these disparities, encouraging teachers to teach in remote schools.
The 2012 Tuition Fee Free Policy was introduced to increase access to quality elementary and primary education. However, parents remain financially responsible for some of their child’s education, such as for uniform and transport fees. To encourage continuing education beyond grade 10, the 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan intends to introduce a voucher mechanism for education and training in formal and non-formal sectors and to extend tuition-free education to all grades.
People affected by HIV/AIDS
The 2005 HIV/AIDS Policy for the National Education System is part of the multisectoral response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. Based on the principles of access to education and information, protection from stigma and discrimination, gender responsiveness, and involvement of people living with HIV and AIDS, the policy intended to integrate education on HIV/AIDS into curricula at all school levels.
Cooperation across sectors
The Ministry of Education comprises the National Department of Education, the Office of Libraries and Archives and the Teaching Service Commission. The National Education Board is the highest education decision-making body, overseeing the development and functioning of the education system and the implementation of the national education plans.
The Department of Education holds the responsibility for teacher education, inspection and registration, the national curriculum, learning materials and examinations. It also makes education accessible to the poor and to physically, mentally, socially and educationally disadvantaged people and for operating special education resource centres. Within the Department of Education, an Inclusive Education Unit works with external providers offering teacher trainings.
With reference to gender, the Department of Education is in charge of ensuring an effective gender mainstreaming mechanism with the establishment of a gender focal point under each department division and ensuring that staff receive regular professional development in gender equity.
An Inter Sectoral Early Childhood Care and Development Coordination Committee representing the departments of education and health works on the development of a policy document introducing early childhood education. The committee is led by the Department of Community Development, while the Department of Education provides support in specific professional areas, such as teacher education and curriculum development.
Cooperation across government levels
Since the 1995 Organic Law on Provincial and Local‐level Government, the education system has been decentralized. The Ministry of Education, the National Education Board and the Secretary for Education administer national institutions, such as FODE centres, national high schools, primary teachers’ colleges and technical and business colleges, while provincial authorities are responsible for elementary, community, primary and secondary schools, vocational centres and community colleges. In particular, provincial education boards and school boards of management are in charge of translating national policies into strategies tailored to provincial and local needs.
As recognized by the 2004–19 National Plan for Education, the decentralization has created difficulties in quality assurance and in oversight of responsibilities. In practice, each of the 14 provinces developed its own provincial education plan. For instance, the 2007–16 policy and plan for education of the autonomous Bougainville Province were formulated by the Bougainville Education Board in full consultation with the Bougainville Administration and the Bougainville Executive Council. The 12 districts and 33 constituencies of the province are in turn responsible for the initial planning and development of basic education services in their respective areas of competence.
The development and implementation of national infrastructure design standards for all building projects to address special needs of students, but also water and sanitation, are objectives of the 2015–19 National Education Plan. In the Bougainville province, in response to the growth of population in some districts, new schools need to be established and guidelines for conformity standards developed.
With the support of Australian Aid, the Curriculum Development Division of the Department of Education presented a new inclusive curriculum in primary schools to meet the needs of all children. The national curriculum has been further reviewed. Another aim is to strengthen teaching diversity and gender inclusion. In particular, the 2009 Gender Equity Strategic Plan set as a priority the development of a gender-inclusive curriculum in terms of content, methodology and language.
Pre-service and in-service teacher training is offered in teacher colleges and public universities or private institutes, approved by the Papua New Guinea Education Institute. At university level, the University of Goroka offers a special education course as part of an in-service programme and an inclusive education course as part of the pre-service programme for secondary teaching, as stated in the 2010–19 UBE Plan. The Callan Studies National Institute offers training in applied diploma of special education and inclusive education for mainstream teachers. The Department of Education has designed and produced Teachers in Schools Electronic Resources (TISeR) as an electronic tool for teachers. It contains several resources to learn more about different topics including gender and language
The special education course offered at teacher colleges was reviewed in 2008. The 2010–19 UBE Plan calls for a further update of special education programmes at teacher colleges to enhance current qualifications and experiences of professionals in special education. In order to achieve equal opportunity in education, the 2015–19 National Education Plan aims to increase the number of teachers who are trained and qualified for special needs education, while the 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan intends to further strengthen teacher training to teach children with various disabilities. Furthermore, it highlights the need to reinforce the selection process to access teacher colleges through a psycho-aptitude test.
People living in rural or remote areas
Besides monetary incentives for teaching, the 2011–30 Education Sector Strategic Plan proposes housing to encourage teachers to move to remote areas of the country.
People affected by HIV/AIDS
According to the 2005 HIV/AIDS Policy for the National Education System, educators need to be trained to effectively integrate HIV prevention information into lessons. A set of resources for teacher training is available on the TISeR website.
A monitoring and evaluation system has been established to support the continuing review of policies and guidelines and to assess progress of the activities of the Department of Education. The regular reporting of progress is carried out quarterly as a part of the budget review process.
The monitoring and evaluation of the National Education Plan and the UBE Plan are undertaken annually and report on indicators developed for the Performance Assessment Framework, based on annual education census figures disaggregated by province, district and gender.