PAPUA NEW GUINEA - BUAI DIGITAL INFORMATION PROJECT
ADEA/UNESCO Survey on Conditions of Teaching and Learning: Study on the Context of Book Provision
This survey covers book provision in thirteen countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu. Information has been adapted from a regional survey in progress (Crowl 1999a) and supplemented with interviews by telephone and in person (see references).
1.0 The book famine is serious in these thirteen countries.
2.0 All the materials on this list are lacking in some ways in the Pacific Islands.
2.1-3. Textbooks, work books and teachers guides, though not always
local productions, are generally available; however, variable from country
to country and within countries. Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand,
and Niue, a country politically associated with New Zealand, have enough
English books but not enough books in Tokelauan or Niuean (Kalolo 1999,
Magatogia 1999). For English, Fiji has enough teachers' guides, but
numbers of textbooks and work books for children vary. Fiji does
not have enough books in vernacular languages. Of the two main ones,
Fijian and Hindi, production of Fijian has always been favoured over Hindi
because books could be imported from India inexpensively (Prasad 1999)
though this ignores the fact that everyone speaks Fiji Baat. Otherwise
known as Fiji Hindi, this unique language is very different from standard
Hindi and is the first language for almost every person of Indian descent
in Fiji (Mugler & Lynch 1996).
2.4 Reading programs or schemes. The Pacific Islands adhere to set curricula, and students must pass national examinations based on those curricula. Ministries of Education do not encourage diversion from the curricula, and teachers who create extra work for themselves with such reading programs are few and far between. Schoolchildren in Nauru order books from Australia, e.g., Arrow and Wombat Book Clubs, Lucky and Scholastic Books (Ah Mat & Willis 1999, Willis 1999).
2.5 Children's fiction (e.g., easy readers, stories, plays, anthologies),
especially for very young children, is improving both in quantity and quality,
despite significant and remaining hurdles. The bulk of the material
is in English for most of the countries, and in English and French in Vanuatu.
Books in vernaculars are less common, but still improving in quantity and
quality. Education departments, the Institute of Education at the
University of the South Pacific, and religious groups such as the Summer
Institute of Linguistics (SIL) produce books in vernaculars. SIL
uses shell books, that is, pictures and the English story are provided,
then groups create a, or translate the, story in their own languages.
2.6 Children's non-fiction is increasing in quantity and quality very slowly. Ministries of Education are adapting adult work and designing children's work. A key program in this regard is Science Education for Pacific Schools (SEPS), sponsored by UNESCO, and undertaken with the Institute of Education at the University of the South Pacific and Learning Media in New Zealand. The Institute of Pacific Studies designs its books by local authors for a general readership. For example, Masters and PhD theses that have excellent data on the Pacific Islands are stripped of academic and disciplinary jargon and made readable for a general audience, including secondary school students. Full-colour, non-fiction books are by and large imported.
2.7 Audio tapes of educational value are rare in the Pacific Islands. Everyone that I interviewed for this survey said that there were not enough. Many schools in this region do not have power, nevermind equipment, so could not play tapes even if they were donated.
2.8 Video tapes that could be used in schools are few. For private use, Pacific Islanders spend far more on video cassette recorders, televisions and video tapes than they do on books, as noted above. It is not uncommon to find families who have invested in a small generator and show video tapes to the village or community for a small charge per person. Willis (1999) noted that video shops are Nauru's most successful business. However, just as with audio tapes, power and equipment shortages must be addressed before video tapes are useful in schools.
2.9 Multi-media learning packages and science kits are available for some schools, but not for others. Fiji has placed science kits in 500 elementary schools, with plans for the remaining 198 schools in the next two years (Prasad 1999). Interviewees in other countries said that there were not nearly enough multi-media or science packages, with significant differences between schools and urban versus rural areas.
2.10 Reference books are given far less priority than teachers' guides, textbooks and workbooks, thus the shortage in schools is significant and serious. Those schools with libraries have some reference books (though often out of date and sometimes wrong), but not all schools have libraries. The majority of schools in Cook Islands, Kiribati, and Niue have libraries. Some schools in Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu have libraries. The vast majority of schools in Papua New Guinea do not have libraries. (See Crowl 1999a for a country breakdown).
2.11 Magazines are more available than comics. Both are available in urban areas but rare in rural ones. Although magazines are expensive (e.g., F$ 2.50 for Islands Business [locally produced] and F$ 4.75 for Woman's Day [imported] in Fiji), they are more likely to be purchased than extra story books for children.
2.12 Posters and wall charts are donated by international and regional organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and national governments to promote good eating habits, hygiene and, increasingly, safe sex. Maps are donated by regional organizations, such as the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, and national governments. All interviewees for this survey said there were not nearly enough of these visual aids, with marked differences between urban and rural areas, capital and outer islands.
3.0 Of the thirteen countries in this survey, only Papua New Guinea
has book policy. Papua New Guinea has a National Policy on Information
and Communication (NPIC), a Book Council, a National Book Week and a National
Literacy Week. The NPIC supports domestic copyright law, professionalism
and staff development, infrastructure development, and appropriate distribution.
The Book Council brings together people from all areas of publishing, from
writing through shop owners. Book Week is held every August, Literacy
Week every September, and activities are promoted throughout the country
(Paraide 1999a). Papua New Guinea faces more challenges in book provision
than the rest of these countries combined. Its languages double the
rest combined. Its literacy rate is half of some of them. Some
communities are inaccessible except by small aeroplane or bushwalking for
days, and either method does not allow for many books to be transported.
Nevertheless, Papua New Guinea is the only country of these thirteen to
adopt these positive measures to ameliorate the reading environment.
4.0 Papua New Guinea has set an example for similar developments in
the other twelve countries. Highlighting the importance of literacy,
focusing national attention on reading, giving prestige to book development
is essential to education in general. Papua New Guinea's National
Policy on Information and Communication strives to develop a distribution
system for the country, a national clearing house for nationally published
books, publicity for government books, support for all aspects of the book
chain, a subsidy on air freight to publishers and printers (because the
rugged country is heavily dependent on aeroplanes for communication and
transportation), and strategies for cooperation. Its Book Week and
Literacy Week promote writing competitions, book sales, and public readings
-- all of which celebrate the producers and the audiences.
5.0 Effective structure for book policy implementation has evolved at
the Institute of Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific.
IPS was founded to promote the research and writing of Pacific Islanders.
For these goals to succeed, IPS had to have a publishing outlet.
In 1976 most publishing houses looked down on Pacific Islanders' material
and certainly were not willing to invest the resources into bring Pacific
Islanders' writing up to publishable quality. IPS took on these tasks
and became a publishing house in its own right.
6.0 Steps to improve access to books in developing books are many.
6.1 Governments should prioritize schools and libraries, spreading the
benefits as far as and as equitably as possible. For instance, the
three main libraries in the Cook Islands are within 200 metres of each
other on the capital island! Concentration of all the resources in
the capital leads to greater migration to the capital. Education
in the South Pacific has been heavily focused on agriculture; it should
now turn to information. There is no reason why writing and the various
aspects of publishing cannot be incorporated into curricula from the first
year of school. For example, students' papers can be collected and
stapled together and kept, as a `book' for the next years' students.
Likewise, schools should teach aspects of small business. Publishing
can be a cottage industry.
6.2 The private sector should support local industry by contributing to and buying local books. It should use libraries and establish volunteer schemes to staff them. Businesses should sponsor book/literacy week or parts thereof. For example, such companies as Chevron give annually to Papua New Guinea's National Book Week. Stores should promote books as gifts, something which people will enjoy in their free time.
6.3 Funding agencies should ensure Pacific Islanders' participation.
All too often, funding agencies use expatriate staff on tight deadlines
to produce materials "for the people." If no skills are passed on,
then the agencies' funds are wasted. Books can have spinoff effects,
but books produced by local people for local people have greater spinoff
effects. People buy newspapers because they tell about events close
to home, as well as those far away. By and large, newspapers are
produced by local staff and are successful. Book projects are successful
if they use similar techniques: reporting local events and local people,
using many relevant pictures, being priced at a minimum.
7.0 The Pacific Islands have not yet moved from central procurement
of school books to more choice at school and/or district level. With
the exception of Papua New Guinea, the Pacific Islands have small populations.
Even in Papua New Guinea, the topography renders some communities quite
small. Within small societies, maintaining standards is difficult.
Therefore, the system of national examinations makes sense. However,
the national examinations should test skills in reading and writing, not
related to any specific books.
8.0 All aspects of the book chain need attention in the Pacific Islands.
8.1 Workshops to train authors have been held in all thirteen countries. More emphasis should be placed on creative writing and research writing in schools, when children are young. Writing only gets harder with age. Training authors in author-publisher relations is essential.
8.2 Workshops to train editors have been held in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Many more workshops are needed in this essential field. Moreover, students should be taught to critique and to correct each other's work in school. On one hand, Pacific Islanders are often reluctant to comment on each other's writing. On the other, they are often harsh if they think that another author has tread on their territory. Hiding knowledge is traditional. Training publishers about author rights and accepted practice in publishing is essential.
8.3 Pacific Islanders are so concerned with presentation, that they will often ask for lessons in writing and proofreading to put out a quality publication. Overseas consultants and academics are often more worried about their resumes than actually putting books into people's hands. In both cases, little attention has been focused on distribution, yet this is the most pressing need. Showing people how and where to market books is essential. The churches are the biggest publishers with the greatest distribution networks; other publishers can learn from their techniques.
8.4 Pacific Islands budgets do not allow for many new materials, nevermind training teachers to use them.
8.5 A national publishing industry per se does not exist in the Pacific Islands countries. Governments have often assumed the lead role; they are often inefficient and they sometimes inhibit media freedom. They exempt themselves from Customs charges and facilitate their own ventures but force private businesses and even non-profit organizations to pay crippling charges or interest. As the countries are still developing, there is not much coordination in the industry.
8.6 The Pacific Islands have not developed national printing industries. Point 8.5 is applicable to this section.
8.7 The Pacific Islands have not developed a country-wide network of booksellers. Generally, booksellers cannot survive on books alone; they must combine books with stationery, with academia, with clothing, with government supply contracts, with food, with craft, etc. The reading public with disposable income is not large enough to support the overheads of the book business, especially in tropical climates where books deteriorate rapidly and given the transportation difficulties where damage occurs often.
8.8 The Pacific Islands generally have established networks of public and school libraries. Some have national libraries, national archives, mobile book services, and are answerable to the National Librarian (Crowl 1999a). They need to shore up these facilities and services, purchasing local productions, encouraging volunteer schemes, establishing story hours for children, etc. The Pacific Islands Association for Libraries and Archives is an umbrella organization that encourages professionalism in this sector.
8.9 Other initiatives abound. Train illustrators for books to entice children to read. Train typesetters and layout and cover designers to facilitate the information being presented and to attract adult readers. Train people in business skills and running cottage industries and small firms. Train everyone how to handle and care for books.
9.0 Several schemes for financing school books have implications for
the South Pacific.
10.0 Provision of free school books is necessary in some instances where
communities are just too poor to consider education for their children.
However, many book donations are worthless. With the idea that some
reading material is better than none, developed countries ship containers
of out-of-date and inappropriate materials to the Pacific Islands.
Often these sit in Customs warehouses for lack of clearance papers, or
because ministries of education do not want them in the first place.
Disposal of waste on tiny islands is a huge problem. For the countries
concerned in this survey, often it would be far better to put US$ 1,000
into employing an Islander to write a story or to print a small run than
to spend that same amount shipping a container of unusable books across
11.0 Reading material in local languages can be fostered by keeping students' writing for the next years' students, by giving prizes for local language writing and publishing, by publishing even small editions of local writing, by relying on local publishers (who will include local words even in English or French publications).
12.0 Strategies for a more favourable reading culture include mandatory
education through high school, a book policy and a book council, financial
support for the publishing industry and libraries as well as schools, prescription
of local books in schools, financing of buying rights so local companies
can publish to meet school needs, encouragement of extracurricular reading
Andrews, George. 1999. Vanuatu. In Crowl 1999a.
Crowl, Linda, ed. 1999a. forthcoming. Book Provision within the Pacific Islands. Apia: UNESCO Office for the Pacific States and Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific.
Crowl, Linda. 1999b. Literature in the Pacific Islands: tending our tiny garden. The ACP-EU Courier. 174:75-77. March-April. Also in French.
Falefaea, Eseta. 1999. Interview with First Secretary at the Tuvalu High Commission. 14 July.
Fonua, Mary. 1999. Phone conversation with the manager/owner of Vava`u Press, Tonga. 16 July.
Herrmann, John. 1999. Phone conversation with the USP Centre Director, Cook Islands. 16 July.
Kalolo, Kelihiano. 1999. Phone conversation with the Director of Education, Tokelau. 16 July.
Kauraka, Kauraka. 1999. Taku Akatauira/ My Dawning Star. Suva: Mana Publications.
Kii, Lucien. 1999. Solomon Islands. In Crowl 1999a.
Magatogia, Kupa. 1999. Phone conversation with the Director of Education, Niue. 16 July.
Miles, William F.S. 1998. Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm: Identity and Development in Vanuatu. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press.
Mugler, France, and John Lynch. 1996. Language and Education in the Pacific. In Pacific Languages in Education. Mugler, France, and John Lynch, eds. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies and Department of Literature and Language, and Port Vila: Pacific Languages Unit.
Mwasfy, Mona. 1998. Email communication from the Information Officer, OCS Advisory Service, World Bank. 22 December.
Paraide, Daniel. 1999a. Papua New Guinea. In Crowl 1999a.
Paraide, Daniel. 1999b. Phone conversation with the Librarian, National Library of Papua New Guinea. 16 July.
Prasad, Jagdish. 1999. Phone conversation with the Principal Education Officer/Primary, Fiji. 16 July.
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). 1998. Pacific Islands Populations. Report prepared by the SPC for the International Conference on Population and Development, 5-13 September 1994, Cairo. Revised edition. Noumea: Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
South Pacific Forum Secretariat (SPFS). 1998. South Pacific Trade Directory/ Annuaire Commercial du Pacifique Sud 1998/99. Suva: South Pacific Forum Secretariat.
Willis, Ruby. 1999. Phone conversation with the , Nauru. 16 July.
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