Teaching in remote areas of Papua New Guinea can be a daunting prospect for many. Road conditions are poor, preventing access to remote communities, and there is a lack of teaching materials available to use.
But nothing great can be achieved without the power of enthusiasm.
For over a decade, the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF), an Australian non-government organisation, has worked with relevant government agencies to provide much needed training, upskilling, and professional development of school teachers based across remote and rural PNG.
With the belief that education is the key to Papua New Guinea’s bright future, KTF has partnered with ExxonMobil PNG, operator of the PNG LNG Project, and relevant government agencies to deliver quality education by building the capacity of elementary school teachers to equip and enhance their teaching practice in the classroom.
After training over 3,600 elementary school teachers across 14 provinces between 2016 and 2018 through the Teach for Tomorrow (T4T) program, KTF is now rolling out its Teach for Tomorrow II (T4TII) project.
Due to recent changes in the requirements to qualify as an elementary school teacher, which came into effect this year, there was a need to fill a large gap in the skills of elementary school teachers trained under the old model compared to those being trained under the 12-month Certificate of Elementary Teaching.
Teacher upskilling and in-service was identified as a critical requirement for the delivery of relevant, evidence-based teaching and learning.
Southern Highlands Provincial Elementary Teacher Training Coordinator, Mary Alkend, said most often teachers in remote areas miss out due to the geographical location that makes these places isolated from others.
“We struggle so much to undertake outreach to our teachers and schools. It is very hard to travel the long distances across the remote province and I know my teachers are crying out for more support. But it’s hard to deliver it to them.’’
The T4TII model is a ‘train the trainer’ program piloted and delivered in Morobe, Oro, Milne Bay, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. It is an in-service program designed in close collaboration with elementary school teacher trainers and provincial education authorities. It is tailored according to the main needs and gaps identified within the province.
The training focuses on a range of topics such as inclusive education, child protection, use of natural resources to educate others, and pedagogy – which is the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.
During the recent evaluation of T4T in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces, teachers and trainers spoke of their experience of implementing their newly acquired skills in the classroom setting.
One key focus area for T4T was teaching teachers how to be innovative and to utilise natural environments for teaching materials.
This is especially important for remote and rural elementary classrooms where resources often lack.
T4T Trainer, Velmah Worike, observed: “We’ve seen elementary classrooms full of songs, sign language, rhyming words, and animals sculpted with leaves from teacher’s gardens. This creativity is at the heart and lungs of the education system in PNG. This creativity is keeping things going.’’
According to teachers, the training has improved their skills and they are able to transfer it into their teaching setting. This implementation included strong alignment to the new Standard Based Curriculum, child protection and inclusive education policy, and implementation strategies.
KTF Chief Executive Officer, Dr Genevieve Nelson, said that the success of T4T and soon to come T4TII would not have been possible without the support of ExxonMobil PNG.
“We are seeing some incredibly creative applications of newly-acquired skills by elementary teachers across PNG. The imagination and passion with which teachers are putting theory into practice in the classroom is truly inspirational. The result is a better learning experience and retention of information by children, equipping them well for the future.
“Without the generous support of our partner ExxonMobil PNG, we simply could not have delivered this vital teacher training. We look forward to further developing this cohort of teachers across Gulf and Southern Highlands with a T4TII program tailored specifically to their needs in the upcoming months.’’
T4TII commenced in Gulf Province in late August and continued into Southern Highlands in September 2019.