CHAPTER 5 - PROBLEMS OF REFORM AND THE CULTURE OF BUREAUCRACY [in PNG]
In "Problems of Devolution of PNG Education" -by - Dr Gabriel Kulwaum, Adminstrator, Manus Province, PNG
CHAPTER FIVE: PROBLEMS OF REFORM AND THE CULTURE OF BUREAUCRACY
The central aim of the research reported and discussed here is to determine the nature of the problems associated with the implementation of the policy of devolution in PNG education. The interviews conducted have been based on the assumption that the educational community in PNG already acknowledges that such problems exist, even if its understanding of the nature, the scope, and the origins of these problems varies. The research is designed to elucidate some contrasting views that are held in PNG in an attempt to explain them in terms of a wider theoretical framework which is unavailable to those participants. In this chapter, I argue that the data collected for this research project serve to support the view that the bureaucratic rationality inherited from PNG's colonial past, and reproduced through the current style of administration, not only constitutes a major barrier to an effective implementation of the policy of devolution in PNG education; but also that it does so in a historically specific way. Bureaucratic rationality in PNG operates in ways that are filtered through a range of local practices which modify the ways in which administrators approach their tasks.
This chapter is organised around four theoretical themes. The first of these involves an explication of the idea of bureaucratic rationality, and the way it poses problems for democracy and democratic reforms. The second theme relates to the way the operations of bureaucratic rationality in PNG education are mediated by a range of other factors indigenous to PNG. The third theme focuses on the legacy of colonialism, specifically in the manner in which it ascribes power to the Bigmen, who have been thoroughly socialised into a bureaucratic mode of thinking through their western education and training. And the fourth theme relates to the views that the Bigmen hold concerning PNG education and its development. It is argued that these views favour a western definition of educational development which is largely insensitive to local conditions.
Tensions between Bureaucracy and Democracy
That these are difficulties associated with the implementation of the policy of devolution in PNG education should hardly be surprising in view of the theoretical literature that exists on the difficult relationship between democracy and bureaucracy. Much of this literature is based on the classic work of Max Weber (1949) which suggests that bureaucratic rationality poses a major barrier to democratic governance. In his influential work, After Virtue, MacIntyre (1981) states that our world has increasingly become bureaucratised; and that our social and political institutions have also become remote from the people they are supposed to serve. Such institutions have become unresponsive and insensitive to the needs of the people. MacIntyre also suggests that this has led to human relationships becoming "functionally motivated by self-interest" rather than being based on a sense of belonging to a community. Indeed, a sense of community has been lost. He argues that bureaucratic institutions have replaced the organic and dialectical communities which once informed the perceptions human beings had of themselves, of others and of their social relationships.
MacIntyre (1981) maintains that bureaucratic rationality is based on a fundamental distinction between facts and values. Bureaucratic rationality assumes that values are personal and subjective; and that they therefore cannot be assessed, debated, refuted and modified. In the bureaucracy, the significance of morality is denied. Since an individual is assumed to possess his or her own unique set of values, bureaucracy attempts to eschew values, rendering social relations as matters of technical rather than moral consideration. In this arrangement, human relationships are manipulated as means to some ends in which people do not feel morally obliged to deal with each other as people with feelings and preferences. Instead, people are manipulated to satisfy broader organisational ends. However, MacIntyre argues:
Bureaucracy thus inevitably involves manipulation so that tasks can be performed efficiently and effectively. But if, as MacIntyre argues, manipulation is at the heart of bureaucratic rationality, then it is likely to pose major problems to democratic projects.
Like MacIntyre, Rizvi (1986) also views bureaucracy and its mode of thinking as a major barrier to democratic reform. However, Rizvi argues that bureaucracy should be understood as both structure and process. As a structure it defines its functions in a hierarchical way. It is constructed in such a way as to oblige those who work in a bureaucracy to perform routine functions as dictated by some external authority. Bureaucracy is thus believed to be a neutral instrument through which social and political agendas are mediated and realised. As such, it is assumed that bureaucracy can respond equally and fairly to any set of values which is implicit in any given policy. Bureaucracy also dictates how problems should be conceptualised and resolved through an application of rules and procedures to achieve some given ends in an efficient and effective manner. As a process it approaches problems from a particular technical point of view. It views social relationships as problems to be negotiated, rather than as issues of public morale and cultural life.
Rizvi argues that in this Western Enlightenment, bureaucracy is a mode of thinking which has become internalised in our consciousness so much that it has become difficult to imagine alternative modes of thought. Following Weber, he contends that bureaucracy is a social system, and so it is maintained through certain social acts and through the socialisation of its members to acquire certain values--to do certain things and to behave in a certain manner. Bureaucracy encourages the use of certain language and certain motivations, and represents a particular way of viewing human relationships. It forces people who work within it to define relationships in terms of their institutional roles and hierarchical arrangements. This encourages relationships between a bureaucracy and its clients to be seen as depersonalised: spontaneous interpersonal interactions are not encouraged. Moreover, bureaucracy does not encourage innovation in the way people deal with each other. These characteristics of bureaucratic rationality have profound implications for the possibilities of democratic reform. As Rizvi (1989:74) argues:
Smith (1984) argues that bureaucracy also determines who can or cannot participate in decision-making. Those lower down the bureaucratic hierarchy are not permitted to participate in any significant way. Smith contends that these limits inhibit the chance of internal democratisation of public administration. These include: the political needs of public administrators, professional elitism, the folkways (culture) of public organisations, the uncertainty of the environment, and the threat of competition, politically costly models of organisational change.
First, Smith argues that the politics of bureaucracy, which are mostly about power contests, constrain senior public administrators from encouraging other workers to participate in decision making. Smith (1984:460) argues:
Instead of sharing power to make decisions, senior public administrators often devise protective strategies such as forming a clique and maintaining secrecy, putting up a united front to confront any innovation which is regarded as a challenge to the status quo initiated from outside their group. They also seek to ensure that the experiences and knowledge they accumulate are not shared with other workers so that a relationship of dependence is created. This provides them with authority and further legitimises their decisions to reject any changes that they have not themselves initiated.
Second, Smith contends that unequal power arrangement continues to be maintained by professionalisation of positions within the bureaucracy. He maintains that to be recruited and appointed and to occupy positions, bureaucracy requires that new recruits possess special training, knowledge and skills of a particular kind suited not only to the nature of the work that the recruits will be required to do, but also to the judgement concerning their capacity to adapt to bureaucratic culture. Smith suggests that this culture of bureaucracy not only allows professional elites to hold particular positions and to participate in particular decision-making processes, but also restricts others who do not have these qualifications. He also suggests that the professional elites often monopolise power in decision-making through the development of their own distinctive professional ethics and discipline. Smith (1984:461) argues:
Third, Smith maintains that the folkways of bureaucracy do not encourage the development of an individual who is "more thinking and reflective, broadminded, democratic, and problem-oriented personality type" (p. 462). He argues that some of the factors which contribute to the favouring of certain personality types by the bureaucracy relates to the standardised procedures used for routinised consultation practices and the organisational vocabulary which makes communication difficult. The use of the "bureaucratic vocabulary may be used to insulate the administrator from outside pressures by affording him a smokescreen of technical competence which is reassuring to the public" (p. 463). Smith (1984:463) suggests:
Fourth, Smith contends that bureaucracies fear that democratised decision-making processes would provide flexibility in the bureaucratic arrangements, which would in turn destabilise the organisation and might create environmental uncertainty. Such flexibility is considered undesirable because it is assumed that it makes the prediction of outcomes less likely. And since uniformity and predicability are central features of a bureaucracy, public administrators seek to maintain stability and hence the status quo not only in their own best interests but allegedly in the interests of the public as well. However, this account of intransigence should not be taken to suggest that bureaucracy is always opposed to change. Often bureaucracy welcomes changes, but it does so only within the framework of its own terms. As Smith (1984:464) argues:
As Smith suggests, a barrier to genuine organisational democracy in public administration relates to the emergence of a range of innovative models of organisational change which are becoming readily available in response to demands for democratic reforms. However, he maintains that public administrators only select those models of organisational change which do not alter the power arrangements, and which will work against their interests. Smith (1984:467) maintains:
Hummel (1987) has also suggested a number of ways in which bureaucratic rationality poses a major barrier to democratic reform. He contends that the structuring of bureaucratic work is inimical to the development of reciprocal and communal human relations. He suggests that bureaucracy impacts on human life socially, culturally, psychologically, cognitively and politically.
Socially, bureaucracy breaks down reciprocal human relations natural to community and re-arranges them into artificial relations of hierarchy or top-down control. Bureaucratic relationships are defined in terms of divisions of labour rather than of interpersonal relations. Hierarchically arranged relationships fragment the fabric of the society which holds it together. Hummel (1987:258) argues:
Culturally, Hummel maintains that the internal values of bureaucracy do not only contradict, but are also insensitive to what he calls "the foundation values of culture at large". He suggests that unlike bureaucracy where values can be known only to the top and only then distributed through a hierarchical division of labour, the society knows its values through direct consent and participation by people. In society, values manifest themselves in cultural action, while in bureaucracy they are formalised and mandated through organisational power relationships. Hummel (1987:259) contends:
Psychologically, Hummel suggests that bureaucracy affects the conscience of individuals and defines their identities in terms of a hierarchy and division of labour. Individual identity and personality are expected to be suppressed in a bureaucracy which seeks to define people's identity in a determined fashion. This often causes considerable anxiety which in turn can be manipulated by the public managers interested in suppressing the workers. Hummel (1987:258) maintains:
Linguistically, the language of bureaucracy assumes that social and cultural problems need to be clearly defined and solved in a technical fashion. The communicative style is of bureaucracy instructive and unidirectional. Bureaucrats communicate in a top-down manner, rather than listen to the voices of others. This is so because as a technical instrument, bureaucracy cannot manage dialogue: it can only respond favourably or unfavourably to particular demands. Hummel (1987:15) argues:
Hummel concludes therefore that bureaucracy relates to politics in a particular manner, becoming an instrument of control through which political aspirations are managed. As Hummel (1987:258) suggests:
Thompson (1983) contends that some form of bureaucracy would appear to be essential through which human activities can be organised in mass society. Like other democratic theorists, he accepts that bureaucracy presents threats to democratic ideals and practices. However, despite this account of bureaucratic rationality, it is difficult to imagine that a complex modern society could operate without bureaucracy. This romantic vision of a communal society without bureaucracy has repeatedly been shown to be an implausible alternative. Thompson (1983) argues:
Yet some way of reconciling these competing values appears necessary. However, as Thompson (1983) insists, "democratic theorists still have not formulated a satisfactory response to the challenge bureaucratic powers pose to democratic government" (p.235). He maintains that any attempts to "democratise" bureaucracy will not result in its disappearance: some forms of bureaucracy will persist and continue to challenge democratic ideals and practices. Indeed, as Thompson argues, paradoxically, it has not been proven that democratic reforms would be able to produce the outcomes they often promise without reliance on bureaucracy. He maintains:
Thompson concludes therefore that attempts to democratise organisations have remained trapped within Weber's original formulation of the dilemma between democracy and bureaucracy. Democratic theorists have responded to this dilemma by seeking "to tame bureaucracy through democratic controls" (Thompson, 1983:96). However, these controls have proven to be insufficient as bureaucratic values and practices have remained dominant. Although democratic reforms have been introduced, an issue which remains to be resolved concerns the notion of democratic responsibility. It has to do with the legitimacy and the accountability of participation in decision-making. The introduction and implementation of reform models, such as hierarchical, professionalist, pluralist and participatory, have not resolved the question of the locus of democratic responsibilities since with each of these models, bureaucrats and professionals continue to dominate and dictate the outcomes of participation in decision-making in the policy processes.
While various models of democratic reforms aim to maximise the opportunities for the legislators to make decisions on public policy issues, on behalf of the people, ultimately they need bureaucracy to secure advice on how people ought to be consulted, and which of their preferences should be given significance. In such cases there is no clear demarcation in the democratic responsibility between the bureaucrats and the politicians. Thompson (1983:97) argues:
What Thompson's arguments demonstrate is that despite many decades of democratic reforms, we do not seem to have advanced on a position first articulated by Weber. Each of the characteristics which Weber identified with bureaucratic rationality seems to pose problems for the policies of devolution.
In contrast with some recent management theorists, who offer a structural-functionalist reading of Weber (for example, Hoy and Miskel, 1987), Max Weber is best regarded as the most outspoken critic of bureaucracy. He regards bureaucracy as a form of organisation; as having technical superiority over other forms of organisations. Weber (1968:73) argues:
However, Weber also suggests that bureaucracy should be viewed as a mode of thinking and a form of social relationship. Bureaucratic rationality, he believes, has a number of characteristics which demarcate it from other forms of organisational thinking.
First, in a bureaucracy, roles and responsibilities are defined and organised under different categories of specific functions; and these functions are rigidly arranged in a hierarchical fashion. Individuals working in a bureaucracy are required to perform tasks that are already predetermined. They are not required to show any new initiatives or innovations outside the framework of their duty statements. Weber (1968:897) argues that: "Bureaucracy is the means of transforming social action into organised action". A bureaucracy's hierarchical arrangement of functional responsibilities implies relationships which restrict initiatives and innovations. Weber suggests that bureaucracy thus suppresses the development of the potential of people.
Second, the relationships between people who work in a bureaucracy are defined strictly in terms of their roles and responsibilities. Relationships are thus based on divisions of labour and expertise rather than on interpersonal considerations. People are expected to communicate to each other on the basis of the role they occupy and nature of functions they are required to perform. Thus a bureaucracy is characterised by impersonal social relationships.
Third, in a bureaucracy, powers are centralised at the top of the hierarchy. Weber (1968:1393) suggests that in the modern state "the actual ruler is necessarily and unavoidably the bureaucracy ..." (p.1393). Authority to coordinate the functions of the bureaucracy and make policy and administrative decisions is vested in defined and established positions rather in particular persons. Senior positions have more power and authority as compared to positions at a lower level in the hierarchy in the organisation.
Fourth, within a bureaucracy, the functional responsibilities and relationships, and the general working of the organisation, are dictated by prescribed rules and regulations. Weber (1968:1002) maintains:
In most cases these rules and regulations are incorporated into duty statements, or more recently, in performance indicators for the officials. It is assumed that this enables predictable and standardised management of procedures and outcomes. It also ensures the routinisation of operations within a bureaucracy which prevents spontaneity and most forms of innovation. Officials are required to be impersonal in their dealings with each other to enable effective coordination of roles as conditions for the smooth operation of the organisation; and they are obliged to suppress their personal feelings or views, even and perhaps especially on topics which are the subject of their work.
Fifth, in dealing with people in the community, it is expected that a bureaucracy communicates with the public in an impersonal manner; in which the personal values and attitudes of neither the officials nor the people are taken into account. It is assumed that the bureaucracy maintains its neutrality. However, as Weber points out, attempts to maintain neutrality often run the risk of making bureaucracy irresponsive and insensitive to the needs of the individual and the community.
Sixth, bureaucracy is characterised by its own official language. The language used in the bureaucracy is uni-directional and authoritative, legitimised and used by its own self-assured "authority". This authority is expressed in the form of policy decisions or instructions which are usually followed in a chain of command from the most senior persons to subordinates. The language of bureaucracy is not necessarily the language of the public. As Weber (1968:1393) argues, ["In the use of bureaucratic language] bureaucratic administration tends to exclude the public, to hide its knowledge ..." For the public to express its views on any subject, it is expected to use the language of the bureaucracy, on the tacit terms of bureaucratic relations. This often makes members of the public feel inadequate, alienated and inferior. The language used by the officials in a bureaucracy is also dictated by rules, regulations and procedures. It is instructive rather than consultative. It does not permit open dialogue.
Seventh, bureaucracies operate on the belief that administration is content-free. It is assumed that the process of administration can be separated from the subject matter of administration. Administration is assumed to be a generic activity. For instance, it is assumed that educational administration can easily be separated from education. This is to say that the knowledge and skills of public administration could be used to administer any field of endeavour, including education. Officials could thus move freely from one department to another and still be competent to perform the job effectively. It is assumed that administrative procedures are universal and therefore are relevant and applicable to any field.
Eighth, on the assumption that bureaucracies are believed to be value-free, independent of particular moral or political concerns, bureaucracy itself is thought to be merely a technical instrument and not a cultural phenomenon. When applied neutrally, it is thought that the personal values or preferences of individual officials should not be relevant to their work in a bureaucracy.
According to Weber, each of these characteristics of bureaucracy poses particular problems for democracy and for democratic reforms. Thus this theoretical discussion of bureaucratic rationality provides a useful framework within which it is possible to present the particular problems of devolution in PNG education. In what follows, I present the data I have collected to show the extent to which, and how, bureaucratic rationality--inscribed in PNG public administration through its colonial history--acts as a major barrier to its policy of devolution.
Bureaucratic Rationality and PNG Education Reforms
Like most Third World countries PNG obtained its political independence (in PNG's case from Australia) with a promise to its people of a set of new political aspirations. To seek to realise these aspirations, PNG instituted a range of democratic reforms not only in education but across the public sectors. The policy of devolution was one of these reforms. This policy sought to overturn the centralised colonial administration and replace it with a devolved system of government. However, for PNG to be able to do this it needed the cooperation of the highly centralised bureaucracy which it had inherited from Australia at the time of independence. Democratic reforms in education had to filter through this bureaucracy. Thus, the dichotomies, or the tensions between bureaucracy and democracy that Weber has so elegantly described were already present in PNG. Most of the reform initiatives in the educational bureaucracy have had to negotiate these dilemmas. In the post-independence period the persistence of bureaucratic rationality has proved a major barrier to reform. However, bureaucratic rationality has not always worked in the way Weber describes, rather it has been mediated through PNG's colonial legacy. Thus problems of devolution in PNG education have been framed by bureaucratic rationality in a number of historically specific ways.
The data collected for this research project reveal that the explanations for the problems experienced in instituting devolution in PNG education vary greatly--ranging from the trivial to the profound. However, perhaps the most often-stated explanation given of the problems of devolution relates to the inability of PNG educational bureaucracy to respond effectively to national and regional priorities. Almost all the interviews identify the intransigence of PNG's educational bureaucracy as a major problem which should be addressed if effective progress is to be achieved. According to a senior public servant at the national level, the problem resides in a bureaucratic culture, inherited from the colonial days, that persists, and defines the ways most public servants approach their tasks in PNG. He suggests that:
Hierarchy and Centralisation of Power
PNG education bureaucracy involves a hierarchy of clearly defined roles and responsibilities. In PNG the central government has the responsibility for the development of the overall framework of educational policies, through the work of its National Education Board (NEB). But within this framework once the policies have been determined, the Provincial Education Board (PEB) and School Boards of Management (BOM) enjoy a great deal of autonomy to interpret the way in which national policies reflect provincial and local needs and aspirations. Authorities such as the National Department of Education, Provincial Divisions of Education and local schools on the other hand, have been designated "implementing" agencies with already clearly defined functions. In this hierarchical structure the tasks of the Chairman of the Boards and the administrators such as the Secretary and the Assistant Secretaries for Education on the one hand, and the officers at the middle-level management both at the national and provincial levels, on the other, are already predetermined and are dictated by rigid arrangements of functional responsibilities. Actions outside the framework of these responsibilities are often prevented by higher-ranking officials. The system is constructed to discourage initiatives from the officers at the lower ranks, who are often in the most direct contact with the people. Referring to this hierarchical arrangements of functions, a senior officer at the provincial level in Manus complains:
On the other hand, senior officers at the national level insist on a bureaucratic chain of command. It is argued that the lack of hierarchical arrangements of functions which does not define tasks according to specifications and their allocation to particular officers could cause lack of direction, confusion, frustration and indecisiveness on what the officers should do and how they should perform these functions. So while it is readily acknowledged that a hierarchical arrangement of functions could inhibit initiatives, it is nevertheless maintained that the hierarchical compartmentalisation of functions is necessary to provide direction for the implementation of policy decisions, and thus avoid ambiguity in realising them. Some bureaucrats at the national level believe that there is too much flexibility in the arrangements of curriculum functions which results from a direction from the top. A contract expatriate public servant serving in the National Department of Education complains:
People at the local levels, on the one hand, appear to have little doubt that powers to participate in decision-making in PNG continue to rest at the apex of the hierarchy in the educational bureaucracy, either based in Port Moresby or within the provincial divisions of education. A number of interviewees in Manus believe that such centralisation of power serves not only to discourage participation and to make people feel indifferent; but also fails to accommodate the dynamic views about education and culture from the community. Many politicians appear also to recognise that PNG education bureaucracy is not responsive and sensitive to the needs and problems of the people at the locus of action. One of the senior politicians at the national level argues:
Of course, the authority to make administrative decisions is vested in the approved and classified senior positions in the bureaucracy rather than in the people who occupy them. Power is thus centralised and the authority to make significant policy decisions rests with the National Secretary for Education and the provincial assistant secretaries, who are in a hierarchical relationship to each other, even though provincial assistant secretaries are also accountable to PEBs. Because of this ambiguous accountability relationship, officers at the provincial divisions of education often use the national guidelines to assert authority over the PEB. As one member of the PEB in Manus argued, although policy decisions are assumed to be made by PEB, when it comes to implementing these decisions they are often frustrated by the provincial bureaucracy, which is also a division of education of the national Department of Education. He expresses this concern in the following manner:
Issues of power-sharing and democratic accountability raise another set of issues in PNG, which cannot be incorporated within the Weberian ideal type of bureaucracy. In PNG, the officials working at all levels of educational bureaucracy, whether it is national, provincial or local, feel caught between their bureaucratic responsibility and their obligation to their family members and tribes. They thus have divided loyalties when it comes to decision-making on matters which directly affect their children. Administrators are often expected to share their bureaucratic powers with members of their family. The practice of "wantokism" is thus a dominant aspect of decision-making processes in PNG educational bureaucracy, which in most cases is incompatible with the values of Weberian view of bureaucracy like neutrality and objectivity.
In PNG, "wantokism" in a literal sense means "friends". But it also has a deeper meaning which suggests nepotism, which in PNG is not regarded as harshly as it is in Australia. As such, most of people I interviewed believed that nepotism greatly influences the nature and outcomes of policy and administrative decisions. In most cases officials in the education bureaucracy feel it necessary to fulfil their tribal and family obligations often by offering "favours" to members of their tribe. However, most interviewees also recognised the need to maintain neutrality and objectivity in an education bureaucracy. To ensure that the problem of nepotism is tackled, the rigid and central bureaucracies have appointed "outsiders" to the local officers in the villages. But, in a context of the policy of devolution, this has created its own paradox, as one of the Chairmen of a Board of Management in Manus maintains:
So while bureaucratic thinking requires neutrality and objectivity, the "wantok" system demands a less hierarchical and more cooperative system, consistent with PNG's cultural traditions. When administrators whom the villagers do not know are sent from the provincial or national offices they are viewed with extreme suspicion. The villagers prefer a system of devolution where educational bureaucracy is in line with their traditional patterns of social relations, and where administrative practices are consistent with local customs.
Administrators at the local level are therefore required to make a range of compromises to be accountable to the bureaucratic lines of authority, yet to remain loyal to local traditions and personal networks. As a senior public servant contends:
Thus, an ambivalence lies at the heart of their relationships to both the central office and the local community. To avoid ambiguity of roles PNG bureaucracy has sought to bring clarity to what each officer must do--in order to avoid misunderstandings. It has been argued that the clarity of roles would contribute to costs savings in terms of resources like time, funds and materials. But attempts to clarify roles have led to the institutionalisation of bureaucratic impersonality. For example, the attempts to redefine the role of school inspector in response to the democratic reforms in education have caused considerable confusion. As an expatriate school inspector alleges:
In an educational bureaucracy where administrative functions and decision-making processes are based on "wantokism" the question of accountability arises. In the hierarchical arrangement, it is possible to hold bureaucrats like the national secretary, assistant secretaries and headmasters responsible for not executing the functions of local school administration, provincial education division and national department of education or even the statutory bodies like BOM, PEB, and NEB. However, when an educational bureaucracy is organised around less hierarchical arrangements; when power and authority are not classified in a precise fashion, and when the organisational goals and objectives are not stated clearly, it is often difficult to establish lines of accountability, and perhaps even to determine what the problems are and who is responsible for these problems. Many of the senior officers of the Department of Education at the central level thus maintain that both hierarchical arrangement of functions and some centralisation of powers are necessary. One of the senior officers at the National Department of Education, who is a strong proponent, of centralisation, argues:
He goes on to suggest:
What this discussion reveals is that there is a strong desire at the central level of PNG's educational bureaucracy for a more streamlined bureaucratic system which is strongly resisted in the villages where the traditional system of "wantokism" prevails.
Roles and Impersonal Communication
As with Weberian ideal type, in PNG educational bureaucracy, the roles of its officials are clearly defined, the terms of which have been determined at the central level. The bureaucracy recruits, appoints, and engages officials on a full time basis. Each official, depending on his or her qualifications, is attached to different levels of the bureaucracy. This bureaucratic framework thus dictates what the official's roles are and how they should execute their specialised tasks. Each official has a specific area of responsibility as determined by their duty statements. Each is identified, recognised and referred to the people in the organisation and to the broader community, by the titles they have been allocated by the educational bureaucracy, and often not by the names given to them at birth.
These defined roles determine the form of social relationships between the officials who are charged with different functional responsibilities. The officials are expected to communicate with each other on the basis of their functions, rather on the basis of any friendship. In PNG educational bureaucracy, personal relationships are discouraged. The bureaucrats are expected to relate to each other on the basis of roles and responsibilities rather than as people with divergent values, feelings, opinions and choices. The bureaucracy treats people as tools of its overall purpose to be used and manipulated to achieve its organisational goals and objectives. In a small country like PNG, and especially at village level, this bureaucratic requirement creates many problems as officials struggle to figure out whether, and the extent to which, they should define themselves bureaucratically and still be able to enjoy good relationships with the community they serve. Such lack of clarity has resulted in sour relationships. As one of the senior public servants in Port Moresby argues:
In a bureaucracy the relationship between its officials and the community is supposed to be impersonal. In PNG the officials are expected to communicate with the members of the village community, namely the farmers and fishermen who are also parents, in an impersonal manner. They are required to deal with their problems by constructing them as "cases", "situations" and "events" (Hummel, 1986). While the members of the community have learnt to expect them to act in an impersonal way, they are often discouraged and frustrated by their behaviour. The bureaucrats often do not realise how it is possible for them to insert fears in the minds of the members of the community. This fear often prevents the community from seeking vital information which might be relevant for the planning, co-ordination, implementation and evaluation of policy decisions at the different levels of educational organisations. The impersonal relationships also create apathy and discourage the members of the community from fully participating in decision-making in their educational development. They become the subjects of development rather than agents of development. As a senior politician at the national level, and a strong supporter of the policy of devolution, argues:
However, the ability of the villagers to make their own decisions is severely constrained by the use of English as the only language of policy deliberation. The PNG educational bureaucracy has decided to select English, from more than 700 languages spoken in the country, as the official language of the organisation. The English language is also used as the language of instruction in PNG schools. However, the use of English does not only imply the creation of impersonal relationships at all levels of PNG educational bureaucracy and among its officials, but it also limits the active participation in processes of decision-making of parents in the village community who are not comfortable with English. All of the policy documents in PNG education are written in English. It acts as a discriminatory instrument and serves to reinforce the distance between the PNG educational bureaucracy and the communities it is supposed to serve. Within the bureaucracy, officials have two languages: the formal language of policy communication and the informal language of everyday talk. Policy work is thus disconnected from informal dialogue about education. This has the effect of preventing the development of genuine human relationships among the people in their work place. Personal relationships are not only suppressed in the bureaucratic working environment, but they also formalise the separation of life inside from life outside the bureaucracy.
In preparing a report recently on educational reforms in PNG, an expatriate academic consultant admitted that expatriates' English language skills gave them an advantage over local applicants in securing consultancy contracts, because inevitably one of the selection criteria is expertise in written English. The emphasis on English language also means that analyses of educational issues are conducted in particular terms which, because of PNG's colonial history, become readily accepted. Referring to this report, an expatriate academic maintains:
What this observation reveals is that the use of English, a colonial legacy, still enjoys a privileged status.
The use of the English language also precludes active participation in decision-making processes by those officials who feel inadequate in using English as a form of written communication. It is clear that such feelings of inadequacy are often exploited by the contract expatriates and those indigenous officers who are assumed to have mastered a superior level of verbal and written communication in English. Many indigenous senior executives prefer that expatriate officers prepare policy documents and their policy speeches, so continuing to give expatriates considerable power over not only the indigenous officers but also the locals with whom they cannot communicate directly.
The use of English is thus an aspect of PNG's colonial legacy which has become accepted as integral to PNG's bureaucratic culture. However, in the context of a policy of devolution, it has frustrated participation in decision-making by the indigenous people at the community level. It has led to a certain alienation of the community from political and administrative processes. Many now feel that they lack the confidence to participate fully in the decision-making processes. As an educational administrator working in the national Department of Education maintains:
Similar sentiments, are expressed by other senior public servants.
So it seems that not only expatriates exploit the inadequacy of the indigenes in the use of English, but also the indigenous administrators who use their competence in English to restrict the community participation in decision-making. Most Papua New Guineans are illiterate in terms of reading and writing in English. Not surprisingly therefore the community feels inadequate and the pattern of apathy and alienation continues. English has become a language of power in PNG, and constitutes a major communication barrier to the community's participation in decision-making.
In Weber's ideal bureaucracy, roles are defined by formally prescribed rules and regulations governing the conduct of work. Often these are written down in duty statements or in the specification of the duties of, and the performance expectations for, each administrator. In PNG public administration, such rules and regulations have been inherited from the colonial period. So while PNG has initiated policy reforms in education, it continues to maintain the inherited administrative system devised by Australia. It continues to keep the legislation, rules and procedures which were written by Australian administrators to ensure the smooth operation of the PNG education system. The PNG education system is currently regulated by such acts as the PNG Education Act, the Teaching Service Act and Regulations, and the Provincial Education Act. Although since independence, some attempts have been made to revise these Acts and rules, the principles and the basic assumptions upon which they are based still remain the same as they were in the colonial days. The changes to the laws, rules and procedures are mostly symbolic, and have not been revised to any great extent to facilitate the implementation of the policy of devolution.
The relationships of the officials in the education bureaucracy are not only clearly defined, but they are also strictly controlled by laws, rules and regulations, and procedures. These determine what each official should say and how they should relay information to others. The functional responsibilities of officials are both directly and indirectly controlled by these dictates. Their commitment to particular educational policies is not necessarily informed by moral obligations or commitment to principles, but by the laws, rules and regulations, and procedures that govern their work in a bureaucracy. Bureaucratic position dictates the kind of social and professional relationships officials are expected to have with each other, and more significantly with the community. Thus their modes of communication with the community are determined as much by expectation as by any informal or spontaneous relationship they might enjoy. Of course, in the context of a commitment to genuine devolution, such a bureaucratic approach could frustrate consultation with the community. Certainly, a bureaucratic view of consultation does not encourage and therefore limits, the community's opportunities to participate in and contribute to the decision-making process.
The principle underlying the policy of devolution suggests that any decision made with neither consultation with nor consensus from the community is not likely to be responsive or sensitive to the needs and the problems of the people. But equally the outcomes of decisions reached through symbolic consultation, which has been undertaken simply to meet certain bureaucratic requirements, would similarly be unsound. One of the senior politicians in Manus suggests:
According to this politician, genuine consultation is not possible because many administrators are able to hide behind outmoded bureaucratic rules and regulations. Since these rules and regulations are legal dictates, they provide positive directions for the officials to perform their specific functions in a particular way. Arguably, without these dictates, officials would not hold consultations so confidently in such a way that they are directed towards an already determined policy solution. Laws, rules, regulations and procedures are clearly necessary, but they often prevent innovative thinking and action when the activities of officials become so routine that they cease listening. Resorting to rules and regulations is also useful to officers who lack the professional maturity to deal with the diversity and complexity of situations. According to a senior education officer in Port Moresby, rules and regulations often serve as a substitute for the creative community work that the policy of devolution demands. This officer argues:
Traditional western bureaucracy operates on the assumption that administration is content-free. In the case of education, there is an assumption that educational administration can be separated from education, and that people trained in administrative technologies can apply this knowledge in any field. This view of bureaucracy has been thoroughly internalised in Papua New Guinean educational administration. It is assumed that educational governance should operate like any other form of governance, that is, the general principles of management are applicable in the same way in different organisations and in different contexts. For instance, it is assumed that the administration of the National Education Department should operate in a similar way to the Department of Personnel Management (DPM).
What this bureaucratic view of administration overlooks, however, is the fact that educational administration in PNG operates in entirely different social, political and cultural contexts to those that are applicable in western countries. In PNG administration can never be content-free because the nation's cultural traditions dictate that means and ends are inseparable. To achieve the goals of education in PNG requires special knowledge, skills and specific experiences which are applicable only to education as it is organised in the villages. The expertise which is essential for the governance of education in such local sites is not necessarily desirable and applicable to say, the organisation of a National Department of Health. Yet the underlying assumption of generic management has resulted in the transfer of officials from other departments in the PNG national public service to the National Department of Education and provincial Divisions of Education. Also, people with expertise in administration of education in the provinces and villages have been transferred to other departments where their skills are minimal. What has resulted from this is a shortage of qualified staff with special knowledge and expertise in education, as well as with the desirable and relevant attitudes required for the task of educational development. As one of the education officers from the National Department of Education argues:
One of the Papua New Guinean Teachers' Association's (PNGTA) senior officials recognises the problem associated with content-free educational administration and expresses the Association's views in the strongest terms. He alleges:
As I have argued earlier, in the PNG educational bureaucracy the notion that educational administration could be separated from education is highly problematic. Related to this problem is another assumption of bureaucratic rationality that bureaucracy should aspire to be value-neutral. The educational bureaucracy should eschew moral and political concerns, should focus instead on the design, approval and implementation of the curriculum that had been established in order to maintain national educational standards. It is generally feared at the central office that an educational bureaucracy which accommodates regional and provincial differences could lead to a decline in standards in education. It is assumed that if the informed and standardised curriculum is diluted by devolution of authority to modify curriculum prescriptions, then the local community would not allow the nation to "develop" economically. One senior education officer, who is also responsible for the coordination of all curriculum matters in Manus, encounters the dilemma of whether to implement the national curriculum as prescribed by the National Department of Education or to interpret the curriculum so that it could be more responsive to regional and local situations and priorities. She maintains:
Administrators working at provincial and village levels are confronted with this dilemma of having to respond to both the national and local agendas at the same time. They must avoid making personal value-judgements and preferences, yet they have to decide almost daily when to overlook the national prescription in order to accommodate local concerns. Educational administrators face the dilemma of when to maintain bureaucratic neutrality and when to respond sympathetically to the moral and political concerns of the community. Invariably, they find it difficult to maintain neutrality because in local villages these administrators are not only officials, but also members of the local closely knit family, tribe, and wider community in which they live. They bring their own cultural values and biases into the decision-making process and the performance of administrative tasks.
As the PNG educational bureaucracy is supposed to be content-free and value-neutral, it is organised around a distinction between those responsible for policy-making and those who are expected to implement these policies. The policy makers are charged with the responsibilities to make educational policies, while the administrators are obliged to institute these policies even if these policies do not reflect their own values or the moral and political concerns of the community. However, this approach has the effect of allowing neither the community nor the local administrators an active role in decision-making. The policies are simply given; and in such a context a definition of devolution as decentralisation is necessarily implied. However, in practice such a policy-operations distinction is hard to maintain, since those who have been denied any form of participation in decision-making do not always support the policies. It has long been recognised that those who feel that they not part of policy decisions frustrate the implementation process.
Traditionally, the emphasis on a content-free and value-neutral approach to educational governance was stressed on the grounds that it would increase efficiency and effectiveness and avoid nepotism and favouritism. In PNG, it is often argued that for the educational bureaucracy to consider consultation with the seven hundred different ethnic groups in the nation in order to negotiate and to reach political settlement, would not only be time consuming, but would also require a lot of other resources. Reaching settlement would not be practicable as it would involve satisfying the diverse and often conflicting interests of regional and tribal groups. Politically, it would be too costly for the government in power if the educational bureaucracy could not satisfy the factional demands that are made by local tribes in the decision-making consultations.
The demands from regional, provincial, ethnic and professional groups put considerable pressure on educational administrators to make decisions in the best interests of all groups. However, in PNG, where "wantokism" is an essential part of the social organisation of the community, this is difficult to achieve. The administrators are often pressured into making decisions that are not necessarily in the best interests of the organisation, but likely to favour their regions, provinces, tribes, families, friends, professional associations and political parties, and therefore some other groups who do not have these "wantok" links with the administration could be disadvantaged. These problems are now widely recognised at the provincial level, even by those who are committed to the policy of devolution. As one of the senior officers in Manus warns:
On the other hand, in an effort to avoid such dilemmas and problems many people involved in PNG education, especially at the central office, are now proposing a greater measure of centralisation. Consultation, it is argued, is not only less efficient and effective, but also fraught with many such cultural and political dangers.
Culture of Dependency
In the previous section, I have argued that the system of the governance of education in PNG was constructed during its colonial period; and that despite a range of new policies, it has remained unchanged after independence. It continues to be based on the assumptions of bureaucratic rationality which conflict, in a variety of ways, not only with the traditional modes of social and cultural life in PNG, but also with the nation's policy of devolution. It has become clearer that the PNG educational bureaucracy is an historical construction, which has gradually replaced the indigenous patterns of educational administration. This has meant that the educational functions of the indigenous communities, which were once self-reliant, have been replaced by the current nationally coordinated PNG educational system. The roles which were once performed by the community have now been taken over by the highly centralised educational bureaucracy operating from the centre in Port Moresby or Waigani.
So complete has this transformation from village control of education to the bureaucratisation of education been that a culture of dependency has emerged. The villagers now feel incapable, unqualified and too unimportant to have any say in educational decision-making, even when opportunities exist. A whole tradition of self-education is being lost, as a hand-out mentality has developed. The Regional Director of Education recognises this as a major problem, and has initiated restructuring in the Department of Education in Manus. He argues that the basic reason for this restructuring is to help the community to reassert its traditional role over educational matters and to participate "in helping themselves rather than becoming heavily dependent on the government for hand-outs". He maintains:
Over the years, not only before independence but afterwards as well, the community has come to depend on the educational bureaucracy to satisfy its educational needs. The bureaucracy provides policy directions, but it also mobilises the resources to realise its educational goals and objectives. In this relationship the recipients of educational services continue to be dependent on the educational bureaucracy to decide their needs and how these needs should be met. The recipients are denied real participation in deciding issues of either the means or the ends. They either have little or no input at all in deciding their preferences for educational development. To a large extent, they have become merely onlookers rather than active participants. A senior politician and strong supporter of devolution argues:
This culture of dependency, which has also engendered political apathy, has paradoxically served to suggest that local communities do not want devolution, and are happy for the PNG educational bureaucracy to maintain a pattern of uniformity in PNG's system of education. Such a call for uniformity encourages a standardisation of administrative operations, making it easier for the central bureaucracy to control and manage educational functions at lower levels. From the point of view of central administrators, such an approach to management allows predicability in the attainment of educational goals which have already been set by the central educational bureaucracy. A politician who is sceptical about the merits of a centralised system of education nevertheless admits:
So on the other hand, provincial politicians recognise that without a degree of standardisation and predictability, efficiency and equity could not be achieved; and yet they also realise that such a bureaucratic management of education means that people lose their confidence to participate fully in the decision-making processes, reproducing a culture of dependency--no longer dependent on the colonial masters but on a new bureaucratic class, constituted in PNG by the Bigmen.
From the point of view of the ordinary people, a new form of "colonialism" has emerged, taking on "new expressions" and characteristics. Colonialism continues to have a significant impact in the PNG development process, since any new policy initiative in education taken up by the PNG Government is mediated by a complex set of colonial legacies. These legacies are now articulated in the work of the PNG Bigmen and the role they play in the development of education in PNG.
As I have already shown, before independence PNG was governed by Australia through a highly centralised system of administration operating directly from the centre in Port Moresby. Such a system required people with relevant knowledge and appropriate skills and values to develop and coordinate the nation's infrastructure. Initially, Australian nationals from the Commonwealth Public Service were recruited and appointed to perform this task. At independence the PNG Government not only retained the services of many of these Australians, but it also sought to engage, through AIDAB, new Australian contract officers, consultants, and technical advisers to work in the PNG Public Service and Teaching Service Commission, as well as in commerce and trade. In terms of the way administrative tasks are to be performed, there was clearly a shortage of indigenous human resources. Indigenous officers did not begin to be trained and to occupy a limited number of clerical posts under the guidance of colonial officers until after World War II.
Because Australia was prepared to grant PNG independence, it was obliged to "train" Papua New Guineans in order to develop an administrative class which could govern the country. The gradual training of the indigenous officers also came about as pressures mounted from inside and outside Australia to prepare the locals to run their own affairs. However, it was assumed that the training of locals required them to become socialised into the same bureaucratic modes of thinking upon which the practices of colonial administration were based. Such training was both both systematic and spontaneous, with locals learning the ethos of bureaucratic practice from their expatriate superior officers in the workplace. It was stressed that indigenous officers needed to learn not only administrative rules and regulations but also the values that only a formal western education and professional training could provide. The training of indigenous officers has become more intensive in the post-independence era; much of it continues to take place through AIDAB up to the present day. AIDAB is one of the main training agencies for Papua New Guinean educational administrators, and thus continues to play an important role in the formulation of the Bigmen who are now given the responsibility for the implementation of democratic reforms in PNG. Their administrative values and their views of education are thus likely to be a key factor in any examination of the policy of devolution in PNG.
Traditional forms of education in PNG were multi-purpose, with one fundamental function being socialisation. However, in the education of the Bigmen the traditional forms of education have been overturned, and replaced by a western education imposed upon a class of people by PNG's colonial masters. Indeed, so extensive has been their transformation that western education has come to be viewed by most Third World countries as a panacea for most of their social, economic and political problems. It is assumed that it would take the people out of their misery into a condition of enlightenment and civilisation (Carnoy, 1978). In PNG most of the community now shares these views on what western education can do for them. As a Chairman of the Board of Management suggests:
As in most Third World countries, western education in PNG is also thought to be essential for nation-building. It was in terms of this view that in the late 1960s the Australian government policy on PNG education began to put considerable emphasis on educational development. As I have already discussed in Chapter 3, in the 1960s the Australian colonial administration began to expand PNG's primary and secondary education. At the same time a university was established and began to enrol PNG students who had graduated from local secondary schools, as well as mature-age students who were already in the workforce in the national public service. This shift in educational policy from a gradualist approach to rapid expansion in primary, secondary and higher education aimed to provide human resource requirements, not only for the public service, but also for the private sector. Indeed, most of the interviewees for this research were products of this Australian education policy for PNG. They had to go through this largely western education system in order to qualify for employment in central and provincial public bureaucracies. Many of them now hold senior positions and are regarded as Bigmen. Most of these Bigmen have been thoroughly socialised into the norms of a western-style bureaucracy and subscribe to western notions of development. They also assume that without a centralised bureaucracy it would be difficult to realise PNG's national aspirations for development and to attain its educational goals and objectives. These beliefs represent a part of the total cultural package which were directly transplanted in PNG during the Australian colonial rule. Formal schooling was a key element in this package which was not always sensitive to the local environment and PNG's diverse cultures. Thus, the Australian education system that was instituted in PNG could not be separated from its political and economic context. As Carnoy (1978:15) argues:
With the spread of capitalism in PNG, the Australian education system imposed on PNG has become dominant, gradually replacing the values and practices of once-autonomous and self-reliant indigenous education. The Bigmen through their socialisation into a colonial bureaucracy have come to internalise the values and practices of their former colonial rulers--not only through their schooling and formal education--they were also socialised through their work experiences mostly with Australian public servants (Dwivedi et al, 1991). Most Papua New Guineans did not only copy their Australian counterparts' work ethos, but they also imitated their work habits. In this way, the Bigmen have been very much influenced by the stereotype image of authority and leadership inherent in the former kiaps. Before independence the kiaps--the white field officers--were the only key colonial officials who were directly involved with the local people in the implementation of PNG policies on behalf of Australian colonial administration. In the post-independence period, the Bigmen largely continue to use kiap as the role model to define their values and work practices. This role model has been particularly significant in educational administrators, given the importance Papua New Guineans attach to western forms of education as a way to economic and social advancement.
The Bigmen did not only learn the "secrets" of educational administration from the kiaps but they continued to be trained by expatriate Australians, who at the time of independence were considered as indispensable by the PNG government. Many have thus remained in the country serving as policy advisers and key administrators. These expatriates continue to provide on-the-job work experiences and in-house training to the indigenous officers who either work alongside or are supervised by them. It is in these social and professional interactions that the bureaucratic modes of thinking are transferred and become internalised in the consciousness of local officers. As one of the indigenous senior school inspectors in Manus pointed out:
In a way that statement is highly significant. It is through these ideological and hegemonic operations that Australia has continued to have a strong hold on PNG's destiny.
Australia has also continued to maintain its ideological presence in PNG through the work of AIDAB. In a sense AIDAB serves a contradictory function in PNG. On the one hand, it provides much-needed resources that PNG desperately needs. However on the other hand, AIDAB now works not simply to provide aid, but also to steer PNG's development in Australia's own regional and economic interests. Its work may be viewed as a form of "neo-colonialism", characterised by "new expressions" of colonialism through arguably the benevolent activities of AIDAB. Australia is not reluctant to express strong views about how PNG should develop, and its aid programs are often contingent upon strict conditions. For example, in an opening address to Australia-PNG Aid Forum, the Minister for Development, Cooperation and Pacific Island Affairs Gordon Bilney, (1993:13) argued:
AIDAB's educational programs have mostly consisted of AIDAB's human-resource training programs. Its assistance to the Department of Personnel Management in PNG has offered training opportunities for indigenous officers to study in Australian universities and colleges, as much as to participate in local in-service programs. While the intentions behind these programs have been to provide a highly qualified manpower for the country's economy, they have also served to reinforce and to perpetuate particular modes of thinking, since such training programs seldom consider local issues, but seek to include instead generic managerial skills. Most of the graduates who have completed training programs in Australia have returned to serve in key policy and administrative positions in the PNG education bureaucracy, often determined to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in Australia. Understandably, however, many of them find it frustrating when local conditions and resources make it difficult for them to apply their generic management skills, which are often based on a rationalist view of policy development, implementation and evaluation. Such a view is not sensitive to cultural contingencies and complexities. Having internalised the values and practices of western norms of bureaucracy, the Bigmen find it difficult to understand the difficulties they experience in translating and implementing policies developed rationally at the central office. When their own views about education and how it should be administered are not easily implemented in local sites, they often feel that the policies of devolution, for example, have failed, and that the problems lie with communities rather than with the policies. As one of the senior public servants in the National Department of Education argues:
Views of Education and Education Governance
Because of their education and training in bureaucratic rationality the Bigmen often regard education as being neutral, able to be implemented in the same way as other public policies. Moreover, they assume a particular view of education which has been derived and mediated through the processes of colonialism. Mostly the Bigmen are convinced that western education is a panacea to the nation's social ills. They have mostly accepted the ideological view which suggests that it is only through western education the "primitives" will become civilised and become human beings like the whiteman; the heathen will be converted and become Christians; the ignorant will become knowledgeable; the sick and the dying will become healthy and live longer; the lazy will become employed and participative thus becoming useful members of the communities; the homeless will be housed; the poor will become wealthy; and the slaves of traditions will be liberated and attain their freedom and exercise their individual, community and divine rights and duties. This view of education might be seen as somewhat exaggerated, but the interviews conducted for this research largely confirm this romantic image. It is held particularly by those Bigmen who have acquired their power through the new institutions of western education. It is consistent with what Matane (1986:1) in his report, The Philosophy of Education, found of what a father expected from his son after receiving western education:
The romantic view of education in PNG is directly linked to western notions of development. It is assumed by many urban parents, and most of the Bigmen, that the only way to achieve western perceptions of development, and in particular to gain material benefits, is above all to institutionalise an Australian system of education.
However, such a view is being increasingly questioned especially in the villages and provinces. In the context of the policy of devolution in education it has resulted in major conflicts for the Bigmen who face the dilemmas on one hand of wishing to adhere to a romantic image of education and the principles of bureaucratic rationality, and on other hand having to implement the policy of devolution which requires them to be sensitive to the wishes of local communities. Such tensions are filtered down and also experienced by teachers, principals, BOM members and the community at large. As one of the chairmen of the BOM interviewed maintains:
The tension that exists in the romantic western enlightenment views the Bigmen hold on education and educational administration on the one hand, and the policy of devolution on the other hand can be illustrated in PNG schools in the contexts of pedagogy and curriculum; how these should be administered at the school level; the evaluation of students and their programs, and the relationship between the school and the community.
In PNG schools, curriculum with the exception of some areas, is mostly a national function. The National Ministry of Education and its national department have direct control over curriculum policies, their design, implementation and evaluation. The centre in Port Moresby has absolute control over core subjects such as the teaching of English language, Science and Mathematics. It is assumed that the national Department of Education, since it has relevant knowledge, expertise, and human and physical resources, should be solely responsible for all matters relating to core curriculum. By implication, it is also assumed by the Bigmen that the regions and schools do not have the appropriate expertise and resources and thus do not have the capacity to deal with curriculum. This bureaucratic mode of thinking thus dictates and limits the role that PNG schools have been given in curriculum development, implementation and evaluation. Most teachers in PNG schools do not participate in decision-making on curriculum issues; they are not only expected but also directed to teach the centrally prescribed curriculum by the school inspectors. A chairman of a BOM maintains:
The processes of curriculum development and implementation are thus one directional, coming from the centre to the schools on the periphery. The curriculum policies, the strategy and the resources in implementing and evaluating them, are controlled and mostly dominated by the expatriate consultants and advisers at the centre, and implemented by the Bigmen in the provinces and villages. As a senior PNGTA representative suggests:
The dominant role played by the Bigmen and the expatriates thus biases the curriculum, making it irresponsive and insensitive to the needs of the schools and the local communities and in particular the needs of the children in the villages who have to cope with what is for them a foreign "way of thinking". The school curriculum imposed from the centre also "de-professionalises" the teachers since it comes to them in a "ready-made recipe" form. The PNG curriculum does not recognise teachers' professional expertise or values. In schools the curriculum is distributed and received in packages. It is already structured into units and specific lessons and these lessons are expected to be taught. The teachers at schools do not have much say on what, how and when these subjects should be taught. Teachers who act outside this framework are not only discouraged, but also penalised. The structure of the curriculum and pedagogy in PNG schools thus does not encourage teachers' initiatives, nor does it recognise the community values. Teachers are thus unable to accommodate within the curriculum the cultural traditions which nevertheless exist within the school community. Instead, the needs of the school and its surrounding cultural environment are either suppressed or given a minimal amount of recognition in the curriculum processes, since the centre in Port Moresby expects the schools to conform to a uniform set of educational ideas which are assumed to be essential to realise the needs of the nation. There is thus a conflict between what are perceived to be national priorities and what the schools and provinces want for their children and the community. A senior provincial public servant in Manus expresses his frustration in the following way:
Paradoxically, however, the key principles underlying PNG curriculum policies emphasise that schools must prepare the children to return to the community so that they become useful and contributing members of the community. At the same time, however, it is also argued that the purposes of schooling must articulate with the national needs in terms of training of manpower to serve in the economic sectors. There is thus a fundamental tension that persists within the PNG curriculum: it advocates schooling for community development and simultaneously proposes schooling for economic development. This tension is often resolved in favour of a romantic western enlightenment view that most Bigmen hold.
It is also interesting to note that in PNG schools the students are taught to remain passive: they are expected to listen and accept what is taught and not to raise questions on what is being instructed. It is expected that the teachers teach and students learn--it is one-way communication which does not encourage open dialogue between the teachers and the learners. This form of teaching also suppresses critical thinking and it also does not help to develop the potential of the individual students. This pedagogic style discourages the development of a democratic citizenry. This in turn leads to the problems of devolution in PNG education where both administrators and members of the community lack the necessary confidence to engage at the local level in the processes of educational decision-making, readily accepting instead national dictates and the views of the Bigmen.
In PNG schools, the systems of supervision, monitoring and evaluation are hierarchically administered. Since the National Department of Education in Port Moresby is ultimately responsible for the design of the curriculum, it retains the mechanisms of evaluation. It centrally appoints the school inspectors who are charged with the responsibilities of evaluating the outcomes of schooling. They also have additional responsibility for administering the curriculum on behalf of educational bureaucracy at the provincial level. Evaluation is based on criteria selected by the centre rather than on criteria negotiated, defined and supported by the school and the community. Moreover, the outcomes of schooling are measured in terms of outcome-based efficiency and effectiveness rather than in terms of any community values that might be based on the principles of caring and sharing.
The performance of PNG schools is thus measured in economic terms rather than in terms of community values. Having learned their craft from educational experts, the PNG Bigmen believe that the success and failure of schools can only be measured in quantitative rather than qualitative terms. A school is assessed as being successful if it spends less resources and increases its enrolment intake of school-age population, reduces the attrition rate, and produces an increasing number of graduates annually. Those schools with a large number of students who do not complete their schooling and who have dropped out from schools and do not get employment in the modern economic sectors are viewed as failures. In such instances, for a student to return to the community is viewed by the Bigmen as something undesirable and perhaps even shameful. Such attitudes have implications for the school-community relationship, and so influential are attitudes of the Bigmen that many villagers whose young members do not complete schooling and who return to the traditional life style instead, believe that such "failures" bring their community shame. As a chairman of a BOM in Manus says:
Because most schools in PNG are located in rural areas, it might be expected that the community would see the school as belonging to it. However this is not always the case because most parents link the idea of a school to the bureaucratic structures of the modern PNG State. The school is thus seen as an extension of either provincial or national headquarters of the Department of Education. This community perception is not only dictated by the bureaucratic links which the schools have with the State, but it has also to do with the attitudes and practices of the officials who direct the operations of the schools from the central and provincial offices. At the school level, it is expected that the BOM would be responsible for local policy-making, planning, budgeting and general maintenance. However in practice the members of the BOM and community do not perform these functions: the officials of the education bureaucracy continue to do these things because they clearly have greater resources and the expertise, sometimes preventing member of BOMs from participating effectively in decision-making. This has created a marked degree of tension between the Bigmen and the communities which they are supposed to serve. Members of BOMs feel that their contribution to educational decision-making can not be realised if the Bigmen manipulate the processes to ensure that central dictates are followed. They feel their role is reduced to a symbolic one, as their participation is increasingly "managed" to deliver certain outcomes.
As they recognise their impotence, the communities withdraw their active support for schools. Many of them feel that the Government policy of schools-as-belonging-to-the-community is merely symbolic. To the extent that school activities are run separately from the community, they are not responsive to the actual issues encountered by the community. As a Chairman of BOM in Manus maintains:
This sentiment reveals the extent to which apathy among community members is not natural, but created by the lack of responsiveness by the Bigmen and the educational bureaucracy to the needs of the community and the lack of sensitivity to the actual cultural and social circumstances in which villagers actually live.
In this chapter, I have argued that this lack of sensitivity and responsiveness is conditioned by the colonial legacies that defined the organisation of education in PNG. It is a function of the bureaucratic rationality which regards education as something neutral to implement rather than an aspect of the social and cultural life of people. I have suggested that the Bigmen who manage PNG education have become socialised into the norms of bureaucracy and of a western education in which they have been trained. However, as a theoretical idea which serves to explain the problems of devolution, bureaucratic rationality applies to PNG educational governance in an historically and culturally specific way. It is mediated through the experiences of colonialism. In the next chapter, I develop this argument further by looking at the way centre-periphery relations are conceptualised and practised in PNG; and the way resources are distributed and managed in PNG education to ensure both equity and development across the diverse range of cultural groups that constitute PNG as a national entity.
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