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Community Teacher Education in Papua New Guinea

Chapters 3 & 4 - are from the complete text of Dennis McLaughlin and Tom O’Donoghue, Book:  Community Teacher Education in Papua New Guinea; August 1996. 133p. A4. ISBN 9980-84-066-8. K20. (overseasUS$20) * as approved for use by authors *

Chapters 3 & 4:  "directions the policy makers have plotted for teacher education for the future"

Chapter 3 - Teacher Education:  The Future
Chapter 4 - Teacher Education:  i. Pacific Perspectivies


The previous two chapters have provided some understanding of the background of PNG teacher education. It is now appropriate to explore the directions the policy makers have plotted for teacher education for the future. At a time when it is not uncommon to hear that the quality of education in the developing world is deteriorating (Heyneman, 1989) it is important to consider what PNG is doing to improve the quality of learning at the community school level and by implication at the community teacher college level. Throughout the 1980s the emphasis was on in-service education and the production of suitable programs, textbooks and pedagogical material. Since 1990 the spotlight has firmly focussed on community teacher education. Currently, one of the major policies of the National Education Board (NEB) is that the overall quality of education is to be improved by improving the quality of teacher education within the context of a 3 year program of preparation. Policies provide a guide to the course the educational system is supposed to take. This chapter focuses on the contemporary policy offered for the improvement of community school teacher education in PNG. In achieving this aim three broad issues invite further scrutiny. First, the emergence of this matter as an educational agenda issue is outlined. Secondly, the formulation and authorisation of the present policy is addressed in relation to selection and curriculum. Thirdly, the neglect of policies relating to staff is examined. Cognisance is taken wherever possible of Dunn's (1981) criteria of good policy: adequacy, appropriateness, effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness.



Since Independence in 1975 the great educational goal of PNG has been Universal Primary Education (UPE) and this has led to a creditable rate of expansion of the community school system. Yet, over the past decade, because of population growth, there has been only a slight rise in gross enrolment rates for Grades I to 6 from 68% to 74%. Nevertheless, successive governments throughout the 1980s have indicated a willingness to commit to education a significant proportion of the national budget. However, the indications were that UPE could be achieved by 1999 only by increasing the number of teachers. It was also acknowledged that the quality of teacher education needed improvement (McNamara, 1989).

As chapter two has detailed, teacher education is a relatively new concept in PNG. Until recently most educators spoke of teacher training, and training is what they attempted to do. This had its origins in the work of the various Christian missions which was begun in the late nineteenth century for the purpose of training indigenous pastors and teachers in basic literacy and Bible-teaching skills, and there appears to have been very little professional content.

Currently there are nine pre-service colleges for the education of community school teachers. They each recruit students from all over the country in an effort to create a common Papua New Guinean identity amongst those from culturally disparate groups, and in the hope that they in turn, as teachers, will develop a national consciousness amongst their pupils. All of the colleges, apart from one government institution, are conducted by church agencies with government assistance. Each college is linked by its governing council to the National Education Board (NEB). In February 1991, all colleges replaced their 2 year course of teacher preparation with a 3 year program.

The improvement of the quality of community school teacher education, in particular by extending the length of the pre-service course to 3 years, is a matter which has been struggling to find a place on the educational agenda of PNG for some time. The diffusion of Beeby's (1966) views throughout much of the South Pacific in the late 1960s and into the 1970s was influential in this respect, particularly his argument that the key to any education system's progress is the ability of its teachers to promote change and that this ability is itself dependent on the teachers' level of general education and the quality of their professional training. With such ideas in mind, individuals such as Ebbeck (1971) have, since the 1970s, been arguing that teacher education programs needed to be of at least 3 years duration in order for there to be any worthwhile qualitative improvements. The founding fathers of the nation maintained this argument (National Planning Committee of Cabinet, 1974), as did the Education Plan 1976-80 (National Education Strategy, 1979). However, government priorities dictated that energies and funds were channelled into improving access to community school education and into the localisation of community school staff and teachers' college staff.

This, however, is not to deny that there were developments aimed at improving the quality of teacher education. These focused on the fact that the colleges had generated their own curricula very much in isolation from each other (Arp, 1978; McLaughlin, 1990a). With Australian Government finance, the Teacher Education Division (TED) of the National Department of Education (NDOE) sponsored workshops between 1977 and 1980 which resulted in a set of course national objectives and associated curriculum documents. Since then, these largely behav-ioural objectives have been developed and enlarged upon and there is consensus that they were appropriate for a lecturer staff who were mostly mission personnel or volunteers with only initial teacher training qualifications (Leach, 1972; McLaughlin, 1990a).

It was in the middle of the 1980s, a time of world-wide economic recession when levels of educational expenditure in many developing countries (Heyneman, 1989), including PNG, were being reduced, that the nation's horizons became sufficiently enlarged to entertain seriously such possibilities as lengthening the period of teacher education. The source of the new outlook was the advent of significant developments in mining. Since 1972 the Panguna mine at Bougainville, the world's largest known deposit of low-grade copper, had been producing 17% of national govern-ment revenue. This ceased to be the lone source of revenue when, in 1984, at Ok Tedi near the Irian Jaya border, exploitation began of a mountain of copper topped by a cap of gold. It was also becoming apparent that PNG could become one of the Western world's largest producers of gold, and the existence of large quantities of oil and gas was being publicised. On the basis of this new resource for national wealth, educationalists began to speak seriously not only of achieving UPE by 1999 by increasing the intake to the teachers' colleges, but also of improving the quality of teacher education in a new 3 year program. In 1985 the PNG government, through the NEB, directed the Secretary of Education to investigate the most expeditious means of introducing a 3 year program in community school teachers' colleges. This initiated developments which led to the TED and NDOE's Research and Evaluation Unit jointly sponsoring the Teacher Educa-tion Research Project (TERP). In 1989, a task force was established to suggest appropriate cost-effective courses of action to improve the quality of community school teacher education. Since then, policies relating primarily to selection, curriculum and staff development have been proposed and have been adopted to varying degrees. Each of these will now be critiqued.


In 1989, the World Bank argued that at least two criteria should be considered in admitting applicants to teacher training, namely, they should be interested in teaching and they should have a sound knowledge of secondary subjects. Like many other developing countries (Ghani, 1986), PNG has not been successful in applying these criteria. The results in the grade ten examination taken at the end of 4 years of high schooling are the single most important criteria in the selection (McLaughlin, 1988, p. 15) and the indications are that the standard is not sufficiently high, with students lacking a basic grasp of fundamental knowledge in their school subjects (Avalos, 1989, p. 110). The situation is compounded by both `push' and `pull' factors. Many of the better students have a wide range of options open to them because of the expansion in the economy and the Government's commitment to rapid localisation (McNamara, 1989, p. 45). Associated with this is the considerable disparity between the commencing salary of new community school teachers and other professionals; a situation not uncommon in the developing world, as has been noted in relation to such widely separated areas as English speaking Africa (World Bank, 1988) and Chile (Nunez, 1989).

The `push' factors, namely, those pushing students away from teaching as a career, though not necessarily in any other direction, are numerous. Community unwilling-ness in certain districts to help the teacher, coupled with a lack of appreciation of the benefits of education (McNamara, 1989, p. 36), contrasts sharply with the apparently insatiable demand for education in certain African countries (Samoff, 1990). Conditions of work is another factor. Throughout much of the developing world rural teachers in particular often have the worst conditions of service (Dove, 1986 ; Caillods & Postlethwaite, 1989). The poor quality of staff housing is one such problem in PNG. Some not untypical scenes have been described as follows:

Daru:  Daru has four community schools and one high school, being Daru High School. In the research it was revealed that several teachers were inhabitants of houses that were a health hazard and unfit for human dwelling.

Karkar:  Our Karkar Island trip was an experience. There are twenty schools of which nineteen are community schools. The road condition was such that we were forced to miss several schools although we managed to cover eleven of them. The situation in some schools was so terrible that even one look at 50 yards would give you an impression of what the inside was like. Some of the teachers' houses were a shocker.

Madang-North Coast Survey:  The houses of some teachers were dilapi-dated. Certain schools on the North Coast were described as disastrous and unhygienic (PNGTA, 1990).

There appears also to be a serious problem of morale amongst serving teachers due to the possibility of being posted to remote areas or to areas with serious law and order problems. This, in turn, lessens the attractiveness of teaching as a career.

It is difficult to know what any democratic nation could do to try to surmount these problems. The 1989 Task Force (McNamara, 1989) recommended that more stringent selection criteria be devised, that Grade 12 leavers be selected wherever possible, and that a recruitment campaign aimed at projecting the reality of the teaching situation and the challenges it offers, be mounted. However, in PNG's Western-style democracy, it is difficult to see how appeals to the notion of service in the interest of one's country could triumph over the forces of the free market. Also the proposal on Grade 12 leavers downplays the fact that the pool is very limited. In 1984 it was recommended that the output of Grade 12 leavers be increased from 800 to 3200 by 1990 to meet the needs of higher education (Bacchus, 1984) but by 1990 it had reached only 980 (Commission for Higher Education, 1990, p.15). This situation appears unlikely to change in the near future. Accordingly, the challenge to the teachers' colleges is to improve the quality of their courses for a student body which will exhibit many of the characteristics of those who are at present passing through the system.

One of the most useful recommendations of the Task Force, given the present realities in PNG, is its restatement of Ross's (1988) suggestion that some form of aptitude-attitude test be administered as part of admission procedures (McNamara, 1989, p. 44), since the motivation to teach is generally recognised as being crucial to good teaching and to remaining within the profession. Interviewing, which is a common enough admission procedure in developed countries, might also help to assess motivation. Indeed, there is much to recommend the suggestion of Avalos (1990, p. 18) that the more motivated applicant, even if less qualified, be preferred to the brighter student who would rather do something else if the option was available. However, these proposals have not been tran-slated into policy.

The other major recommendation of the Task Force relating to selection is that there be an increase in college enrolment from the 1989 level of 1650 to 4150 by 1999 in order to meet the requirements of UPE. As well as not addressing where these extra numbers could be drawn from, given the small pool of high school graduates, this proposal also assumed that the country's vast resources of copper, gold, oil and gas would continue to finance Government expenditure. Since then, however, the closure of the Bougainville mine due to the political crisis on that island, along with the collapse of cocoa, copra and coffee prices on the world markets have caused severe economic challenges to the government. These developments threw most government plans into disarray and led to vicious cuts in public expenditure and a 10% devaluation of the national currency. Accordingly, the NEB decided at its meeting of 31 August 1990 that there could be no immediate expansion of UPE. However, in order to maintain its commitment to improving the quality of teacher education it was also decided to change the duration of the teacher education program to 3 years commencing in 1991. At the same time it was contended that the state of the national economy dictated that for some years to come the total number of students in the colleges at any one time could not exceed the current level, and that in order to meet this requirement the 1991 first year intake would have to be less than in 1990. This response, it is arguable, was the appropriate one, not only because of financial restrictions but also as a holding operation while the NDOE addressed the anomalous situation where, in a country with aspirations towards UPE only 62% of college graduates succeed in obtaining teaching positions in their first year (Commission for Higher Education, 1990, p. 44). The reasons for this situation are complex and relate to such matters as training being a national responsibility while placement is a provincial one, politicians diverting educational funds for political gain and communities failing to provide school buildings. However, it is necessary that they be tackled immediately in order to create the environment and the school places necessary for the new 3 year educated graduates to significantly improve the quantity and quality of educational provision.


During 1990 the NEB announced the establishment of an Association of Teacher Education (ATE) to develop structures for a new 3 year program of teacher education commencing in 1991, and on 20 May 1990 it invited the colleges to forward their views on this matter to the ATE. While their submissions reflected the major differences between them in terms of agency philosophy, physical and human resources, geographical location and student body, all of the colleges expressed dissatisfaction with the behavioural objectives approach to the design of college curriculum. The feeling was that the time had come to develop instead a curriculum which would be consistent with PNG's official Christian humanistic philosophy of education, namely, Integral Human Development (Matane, 1986). (See chapter 6 for a detailed discussion of the effects of the behavioural objectives curriculum on teacher education). This was recognised by the ATE at its first round of meetings on 24-26 July 1990 and was translated into a set of guiding principles for course design published under the title Towards a New Three Year Curriculum for Community School Teacher Education (ATE, 1990).

The most striking principle is that teacher education in both teaching-subject areas and pedagogy should continue uninterrupted over the 3 years. While all colleges had expressed a desire for such a course, there was support in some quarters for a sandwich course, as popularised in other developing countries in the 1970s (Hawes, 1979a). Such a view envisaged one year of field experience as a provisionally qualified teacher sandwiched between a first and final teachers' college year as a means of providing the base of personal experience considered essential as a foundation for the professional development of theoretical perspectives (Matane, 1986; Modakewau, 1989, p. 16). The ATE, however, did well to reject this approach. In doing so it is likely that it took cognisance of the logistical constraints to effective placement and field supervision in the second year (McNamara, 1989, p. 80) and the possibility of increased wastage if students encountered serious difficulties during this period. However, the Association is also likely to have been influenced by the problems associated with the introduction of sandwich and distance education approaches to teacher education in such developing countries as Zimbabwe (Dzvimbo, 1990), Tanzania (King, 1983) and Sri Lanka (Tato & Nielsen, 1990).

The ATE also stressed the importance of student teachers developing their content knowledge. It has been demonstrated that student teachers and beginning teachers in PNG do not know enough about the subjects which they teach (Avalos, 1989, p.104; Otto, 1989; Pearse et al., 1990). The argument has been made that from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s teacher education "went through what we may call an academic stage" which proved to be inappropriate and, with the encouragement of the TED, colleges "got back to teaching primary school methods and have not tried to continue with secondary content" (Penias & Quartermaine, 1981, p. 10). While this approach may have been appropriate in the 1970's, it was not in the 1980's and certainly not in the 1990's:

Students are being trained not educated. We are happy if they can perform satisfactorily in a classroom, but we fail to use a methodology that might allow them to see beyond this. I'd be surprised if the majority ever reads a book in their spare time (McLaughlin, 1988).

If the quality of teaching is to be improved, teachers have to move beyond the level of being practitioners imparting pre-ordained subject matter to one where they can choose appropriate content to meet various situations. Thus, they would need an understanding of the concepts of their subjects beyond the mastery of basics. In emphasising this point the ATE demonstrated its appreciation of present realities.

The ATE also recognised that because of their multilingual backgrounds, students' basic skills in English and mathematics are weak, and it proposed that all lecturing staff should play a part in improving them. Such an approach is a major improve-ment on previous policy which centred on the controversial `basic skills' course. Kenehe (1981) reported that in a country with more than 800 languages most community school teachers and a large number of high school teachers did not speak English well enough to be able to teach the language effectively. The principals of the teachers' colleges also expressed concern about the standard in mathematics and developed a remedial course of 2 weeks duration to bring students up to a common level in both areas. Out of this modest innovation grew a large national examination which was taken in the middle of Year I and which was controlled by the TED. Students failing to obtain the minimum pass mark in the examination had their courses terminated.

By the end of the 1980s considerable controversy had developed about the purpose, appropriateness and impact of the basic skills examination (Wingfield, 1987; McLaughlin, 1988; Yeoman, 1988). It was contended that pressure to pass it was encouraging short-term learning and the neglect of other studies. Also, the examinations were not designed according to sound principles of test construction and lacked validity and reliability. Chapter 7 examines this sad era in PNG's education history. The NEB abolished the examination for all students commencing in 1991 and subsequent years. Furthermore, through its entrenched and isolated attitude, the TED may have caused its own demise. On 18 February 1991 it was renamed the Staff Development and Training Division, thus having its functions narrowed to only one of a number which it had previously held.

In the interest of balance it is also important to highlight the lack of clarity in some of the ATE's guiding principles. In particular, it is stated that teachers should be prepared `to guide discovery learning' and `to value child-centred education'. There is certainly a need to move away from the dominance of didactic methods, i.e. teacher oriented, mass directed, lecture style, pupils listening or looking at work on the chalkboard. However, there is the danger that the ATE could be seen as advocating approaches to teaching that may be currently inappropriate for PNG (Beeby, 1979, p.143; Guthrie, 1986). (See Chapter 6 for further discussion on this point). The adoption by the teacher of a formal style of teaching (Guthrie,1986) rather than an activity based one may be most appropriate for an authoritarian society like PNG (Larking, 1974) where semi-educated communities expect the teachers to `know' and where repeated failures to answer difficult questions could threaten prestige. Guthrie's (1983) proposal in relation to high school education, namely, that there should not so much be a changing of formal teachers and a formal system to other styles but rather one of helping both to improve the quality of their formalism should now be applied to the community school situa-tion. It could be argued that a thoughtful knowledgeable formal teacher is what is appropriate for today's PNG schools.

Another unsatisfactory guiding principle is that 'subject integration will operate where possible'. If the ATE had in mind that the academic subjects should be taught in the integrated mode, it underestimated what is involved. In reality this means constant, complex and intensive staff planning with staff members being enabled to perceive an holistic approach to the curriculum and their roles in achieving the necessary integration. This requires highly qualified and experienced staff of a type which, as the next section of this chapter demonstrates, is currently not available in PNG. Also, if there is a major effort to be made to address the problem of students' lack of content knowledge, cognisance must be taken of the position that knowledge is not just complex, but is logically ordered so as to facilitate understanding. The danger is that the ATE's document could be interpreted as giving licence to colleges to offer many of their courses in subject-matter knowledge as integrated units cutting across the distinct forms of knowledge at the expense of giving students a solid grounding in the fundamental concepts and methods of investigation of the various forms.

Finally, the inclusion of community development as an area of study for student teachers raises a number of questions. Any proper course in educational studies should sensitise students to the importance of establishing good community rela-tionships. Course work in agriculture, health and social studies should also be oriented so that it enables student teachers to "integrate many areas of knowledge around projects relating to real life situations in the community" (ATE, 1990, p. 10). However, the ATE wishes the colleges to go beyond this, as the following objectives for the community development course indicate: To provide students with the means of promoting the growth and development of people and of enhancing the unity and self-reliance of communi-ties, such as understanding of group-dynamics, principles of adult learning, knowledge about organisational change and development . . . Through means of research skills in collecting and analysing data, and techniques of planning, implementation and evaluation, to lay the foundation for the successful undertaking of development projects (ATE, 1990, p. 11). It is clear that the ATE sees the teachers of the future playing a major role in community development. For some time, however, it has been argued that it is too much to expect of the teacher in the developing world that he or she should "evolve into a Robinson Crusoe with missionary tendencies" (Hawes, 1979b, p.55). Furthermore, even if one could justify such a role for teachers it is arguable that the necessary education and training should be an in-service rather than a pre-service activity given the low level of general education of teachers' college entrants. Given that the ATE has not set out how much time should be allocated to the community development strand, it is to be hoped that the colleges with their long experience of life in the field will give it the minimum of attention.


A quality college program is not sufficient on its own for the development of quality teachers. The availability of quality lecturers is also important. Unfortu-nately, while TERP and the Task Force have indicated that the colleges are well on their way towards localisation and have identified the number of expatriate lectur-ers that will need to be employed if and when there is an expansion of student intake, they failed to produce any data about how teaching is conducted in the colleges.

It is true that inferences can be made about the quality of college teaching from TERP's judgements about the quality of beginning teachers and its questioning of students about their experiences of teaching. In particular, it can be inferred that college lecturers do not promote sufficiently students' knowledge of their academic subjects, do not promote critical reflection, and are overly verbose in their teaching with regard to pedagogical subjects. However, by not being explicit on these matters and by not giving them priority in the research reports the impression was conveyed that the major and most immediate task was to produce a new college curriculum. Subsequent policy and its implementation seems to have been guided by this line.

Throughout an 18 month period from mid 1989 to the end of 1990 O'Donoghue (1992a) was engaged in class-room observations and informal discussions in one teachers' college, and the findings certainly support the inferences outlined above. Furthermore, while it is recognised that one cannot generalise with any degree of certainty for all colleges from one case study, it seems reasonable to conclude that lecturing in all of them is largely along the same lines since the teachers who are produced are all very much in the same mould (Avalos, 1989, p. 104). Lecturers keep excellent order in the class-room, students are kept busy, and they are rarely given cause to believe that there is a higher level of understanding which their lecturers do not have and which they themselves might aspire to. Amongst the frequently observed methods which serve this function is the `question and "correct" answer exchange', particularly at the beginning and end of lectures. Rarely are questions posed requiring lengthy responses and a high level of cognitive functioning. Furthermore, while extensive use during this section of lectures is made of plans, diagrams, pictures and paragraphs on the chalkboard, what is usually sought is simply naming, labelling and cloze-test type of activities.

Much time is also taken up with note-taking. Students often spend 20 minutes taking down in statement form from the chalkboard what they had just revised orally in question-and-answer form. Quite often lectures can be taken up almost totally with note-taking, with the lecturer writing on the chalkboard and the students, without receiving any explanation on the content, copying it down at high speed. The situation can sometimes reach the ridiculous with lecturers giving out notes about the notes.

Another way in which students are kept busy is through the system of continuous assessment. Throughout each term they are regularly presented with examinations, largely of a yes/no and multiple-choice variety and much time is spent memorising for them, thus reducing the time available for private reading which might develop their cognitive abilities. The development of such abilities is also hindered by lecturers' inability or unwillingness to promote student-lecturer interactions. In particular, there is a great lack of usage of such strategies as `building on students' responses.

In general, the interest appears to be in student ability to formulate and demon-strate answers rather than generate critical questions. It is arguable that the promotion of dialogue is essential for the promotion of such higher order thinking activities as problem formulation, problem-solving and critical inquiry (Perrott, 1988). However, very little meaningful dialogue occurs between lecturers and students, and lecturers dominate class-room talk and demonstrate the propensity to view students as a group or cohort.

Overall, lecturers tend to adopt many of the authoritarian approaches adopted by community school teachers towards their pupils. To a certain extent, this can be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of lecturers are drawn from the ranks of community school teachers. The more usual route for those selected is to spend a year at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), a year as an associate lecturer in a teachers' college and a year at a university in Australia, after which they graduate with a diploma or degree. This has been financed under the Australian aid program AIDAB. Up until the late 1980's this program was not successful in developing the knowledge base of lecturers in their subject specialisms (McLaughlin, 1989). With the change to a new Australian university in 1991, it was anticipated that this problem might have been addressed. (Chapter 6 argues that this is still a major factor impeding quality in education and teacher education). The present staff members in the colleges, however, are in immediate need of in-service education. In particular, they need a return to basics in their specialisations and a grounding in the fundamental concepts and methods of investigation. Courses in adult teaching methods and techniques for the promotion of higher order thinking and creativity are important. However, while present lecturers have been introduced to such strategies, they revert to those they used as community school teachers because of an insufficient grasp of the subject matter.


This chapter has drawn attention to current policy aimed at improving the quality of community school teacher education in PNG. In particular, it has centred on policy relating to selection, curriculum and staff. With respect to selection, it has been argued that economic realities along with conditions in the field will ensure that the academic standard of those entering the colleges is unlikely to improve in the near future. Accordingly, the challenge to the colleges is to improve the quality of their courses for a student body which will continue to be of average quality. Attention has centred on the change in the course length from 2 years to 3 years. In February 1991 all of the teachers' colleges commenced teaching programs broadly based on the ATE's guiding principles for course design. While a number of these principles lacked clarity it is acknowledged that the ATE was in its infancy when it first met in July 1990, and it was immediately under pressure to give directions to the colleges so that they could begin planning to commence the following February. Constant communication between the ATE and the colleges was kept open through UPNG's Professor of Education (chair of the Association), and the process of clarification was ongoing as the colleges encountered problems of interpretation during course development. While it might be argued that this approach was piecemeal, it is likely that it was most appropriate for the situation. Certainly the colleges rejected the `top-down' authoritarian ap-proach of the TED which was increasingly trying to shape the curriculum of all colleges in one mould. The progress reports submitted to the ATE in October 1990 indicated that the colleges were responding positively to the new freedom and were enjoying the challenge and professional responsibility in the planning of their programs.

The decision by the ATE to develop a loose set of guidelines quickly rather than spend a long period developing them with great clarity is also likely to have arisen out of an appreciation of the political realities in PNG and a knowledge that if a 3 year program was not introduced as quickly as possible a change of government might result in it being shelved for a decade. The challenge now for the ATE is to maintain the enthusiasm and co-operation which has been generated through consultation and negotiation and ensure that the courses of the various colleges are comparable, yet not necessarily the same. Such diversity should, in turn, ensure that future community school teachers will be able to share a variety of experiences conducive to the promotion of the professional development of each other. An even greater challenge, however, is to ensure that steps are taken to strengthen lecturers' knowledge in the fundamentals of their subjects, to broaden their knowledge base and to promote higher level thinking within their subject areas. Unless this area is addressed then all other developments will be built upon a shaky foundation and the quality of teacher education is unlikely to improve.COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER 4COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER 4 In any study of teacher education in Papua New Guinea, it is useful to explore similar issues in the context of neighbouring developing countries. This provides a perspective that is often neglected by those facing daily PNG realities. Such a study can generate some cautious insights about particular PNG problems. Moreover, it can provide much optimism by demonstrating that PNG is facing many of its educational problems better than some of its neighbours. Consequently, it is appropriate to address teacher education in the Pacific Islands. The importance of the quality of primary education for economic development and for the later transmission of technical skills (Heynemann & White, 1986, p.v) has lately been recognised. This has given support to the argument that the provision of quality community teachers should be given priority in the development of the educational systems of developing countries. Accordingly, the emergence of a number of expositions on the state of pre-service primary school teacher education throughout the developing world is timely (Avalos, 1991; Dove, 1986; Lockheed & Verspoor, 1991). The following chapter is offered as a contribution to this field by concentrating on the situation in the South Pacific island nations. Firstly, a general background is outlined. Secondly, the present state of pre-service primary teacher education in the South Pacific island nations is considered. Finally, attention is focused on the future role that developed countries might take in attempting to improve the situation in these nations by improving the quality of their teacher educators. Attention is paid to Australia in this respect since it has emerged as the major aid donor in the South Pacific.



The Pacific Ocean is the world's largest body of water, covering over 35 per cent of its surface and containing thousands of islands. Some of these islands remain the dependencies of France. Others have gained a measure of self-government but are still under the protection of a metropolitan power (Thomas & Postlethwaite 1984, p.7). However, from those islands that were formerly part of the British Empire, nine independent sovereign states have been created: Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru. Between them these states are representative of the three sectors into which anthropologists classify the indigenous people of the Pacific, namely, Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.

The new states of the South Pacific are beautiful and exotic. However, they are also faced with problems.

The huge distances involved make transport and communication, both within their own territories and between them and the outside world, difficult and costly. This, coupled with the smallness and scattered nature of their land areas and populations, puts the achievement of significant economies of scale in a wide range of economic, social and administrative activities beyond reach. As a consequence, these activities are either too impractical and non-viable to undertake at all, or, if they are undertaken, are inefficient and even more costly (Maglen, 1990, pp.83-84).

Furthermore, apart from the mineral wealth of PNG and Nauru, the region is poor in natural resources. All of these factors have caused problems with the transition process from traditional self-sufficient island communities to modern ones (Maglen, 1990, pp.83-84). Nevertheless, the nations in question are pursuing the process and education is accepted as a key element in the human resource development component of their associated national plans. In doing so, they are also mindful that the hypothesis which argues that increased educational investment is an automatic guarantee of increased growth is one that has been discredited (Throsby & Maglen, 1990, p.91).

Particular emphasis is now being placed on the development of primary education in the South Pacific island nations. This is understandable since the research indicates that primary education increases productivity in all sectors of the economy in developing countries; that it can have such significant socio-economic effects as reduced fertility, improved health and nutrition and higher agricultural yields even when school quality is low; and that the economic returns to investment are greater than those arising from other levels of education (Colclough, 1986). At the same time, educationalists are aware of the increasing emergence of a substantial body of evidence from developing countries that improvements in the quality of education, and in particular in the quality of the teaching force, are important in raising achievement levels in schools (Throsby & Gannicott, 1990).

This is not to argue that it is only in the last decade that the importance of producing quality teachers in the developing world has been recognised; rather, it is to note that it is since then that international educational organisations and particular developing countries have begun to stress the matter in their policy. In the 1960s, Beeby (1966), an acclaimed educationalist, identified the teacher as the key to improving the overall quality of education through promoting changes in classroom practice. Lewis (1970), Chang (1971) and Maraj (1974) have extended Beeby's position to teacher education.

Within the last fifteen years, convincing evidence has emerged to support this argument (Husen, Saha & Noonan, 1978; Heynemann & White, 1986). Accordingly, an exposition on the present state of pre-service primary teacher education in those South Pacific island nations which were once part of the British Empire is timely. It is also timely in light of a recent Unesco survey (1992) which indicates that, contrary to common understandings about the high rate of literacy in the Pacific, literacy levels in many Pacific Island nations have actually fallen. These levels do not reach the assumed 95 per cent literacy rate quoted in international statistics and the standard of functional literacy of upper primary school children is unsatisfactory. Clearly, there is a need to improve the quality of primary teacher education in the South Pacific.


Before giving consideration to what might be done to improve the quality of teacher education in the South Pacific island nations, it is appropriate to engage in an analysis or construct a "grounded representation of day-to-day reality" (Stenhouse, 1979, p. 9), of teacher education in the island nations.

Such analysis can be undertaken and the results can better inform decision making. Furthermore, the challenge is to communicate it using a narrative style (Crossley, 1992, p. 44). This style of reporting has an advantage over a largely quantitative and statistical approach in that it can speak more plainly to the readers. This is particularly important where it is hoped that these readers include practitioners, administrators and policy makers in developing countries since they "are unlikely to have the benefit of advanced higher education or research training to assist them in interpretation" (Crossley 1992, p. 44).

This chapter attempts to adopt such a perspective in presenting an overview of pre-service primary school teacher education in those South Pacific island nations under consideration. This, in turn, constitutes a framework for a more thorough analysis at the individual country level. The framework is built around the three central concepts of "motivation", "general academic background" and "pedagogical skill development". These are taken from Lockheed and Verspoor (1991, p.91) who argue that in order to improve the quality of primary school education in the developing world, policies must be designed to improve the motivation of all teachers, raise the level of knowledge of prospective teachers and increase their pedagogical skills.


In the South Pacific island nations, as in many other developing nations (Ghani 1986), teacher education, and particularly primary school teacher education, does not attract the highest calibre recruits. Because of the expansion in their economies and government policies of rapid localisation, very few students who have completed six years of post-primary education take up places in a primary teachers' college. Not until economic opportunities shrink the job opportunities outside teaching is it likely that the quality of college intake will improve significantly. Furthermore, it appears that a certain number of those who train as teachers are drawn to more attractive positions in both the public and private sectors; a situation not uncommon in the developing world (World Bank, 1988).

Teacher attrition is also a major problem throughout the Pacific Islands' region.

As fast as the colleges train teachers there are more who leave the service due to difficult working conditions and problems in forming a career (Fox, 1992, p.109).

The matter of low salary in teaching relative to other occupations (World Bank 1988) is also a demotivating factor. In PNG there is a considerable disparity between the commencing salary of new community school teachers and other professionals. In the Solomon Islands, primary teachers' salaries are up to SI$1000 lower than equivalent administrative grades in the public service. Teachers there are also poorly paid in comparison to employees in the private sector (McMaster, 1987, p.158). The quality of teacher-education candidates in Fiji had risen dramatically during the previous decade, partly because of a marked improvement in teachers' salaries (Mangubhai, 1984, p. 193). In fact, "the incomes of headteachers and principals as well as teachers increased so much as to make the teaching profession very attractive". Since the two military coups of 1987, the teaching sector has lost many teachers.

Throughout the region as a whole there are also factors operating alongside the financial one which make teaching unattractive. Poor working conditions exist throughout the region. Gannicott and McGavin (1990, p.78), in considering the extent to which conditions are made difficult for teachers in the Solomon Islands because schools are poorly equipped with teaching aids, learning materials and consumables, quote a school principal as follows:

The toilet and washing buildings are unusable, and the dormitories are in bad condition. We so need more classrooms, an office, library and storage space. We had laboratory tests done last year which proved our water is unhealthy....Many of the children developed diarrhoea or dysentery at the end of the first term because of bad drinking water. Toilet facilities are non-existent, so children often relieve themselves in the school area.

In Fiji the situation is complicated by the fact that rural ethnic Fijian schools are much more poorly equipped with textbooks, libraries and equipment than the mainly urban Indian Fijian schools (Gannicott 1990, p.18). Also, most of the ethnic Fijian schools have very few books other than basic textbooks. In Western Samoa, even the junior high schools are almost totally devoid of materials of all kinds for the teaching of practical subjects such as agriculture, and classrooms contain no piped water supply, no storage provision, no preparation area and no drainage (Gannicott 1990, p.32).

In Vanuatu, "schools have been under-resourced with teaching materials and supplies and maintenance expenditure have been minimal" (McMahon 1990, p.60), while teachers struggle "against isolation from colleagues and sources of professional advancement" (Thomas & Postlethwaite 1984, p.157). French-medium schools in the country are generally better equipped than English-speaking schools but both are lacking in basic equipment and teaching materials. In 1985 and 1986, only 24 per cent of English-medium and 32 per cent of French-medium schools had adequate desks and chairs for their students, while less than 20 per cent of the English-medium and 44 per cent of the French-medium schools surveyed had sufficient textbooks and teaching manuals (Vanuatu National Planning & Statistics Office 1989). Similarly, in Kiribati, in a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in 1988, it was found that 75 per cent of classrooms were ill-maintained, 120 of the 462 teachers had no tables or chairs, 4000 pupils had no desks or chairs and 39 per cent of classrooms were of temporary construction (Kiribati National Planning Office 1988, p. 243).

In PNG it is not unusual for beginning teachers posted to rural areas to find that the schools have no desks and chairs (O'Donoghue, 1993, p.188). Indeed, many teachers, feel they are well off if the floors of the classrooms are made of concrete. Some common features of schools are chipped chalkboards and open sides rather than windows. Libraries, where they exist, are generally stocked with a few old and worn books. Another common dispiriting condition is the lack of teaching materials. While attractive and relevant text books have been produced in recent years, the teacher may be posted to a school where the books have not arrived or where they are in short supply. The former is due to the difficulties with transportation while the latter can be attributed to such factors as poor distribution from provincial education offices once the books have arrived from Port Moresby, poor storage facilities in the schools, and the destructive powers of humidity and vermin.

Given the situation as portrayed so far, it is not surprising that teacher attrition is high throughout the South Pacific islands' region and, furthermore, that much classroom time is lost through unscheduled school closures and teacher absences. This is aggravated further by administrative inadequacies. Accordingly, while it is desirable that the quality of the education which is offered in the teachers' colleges should improve, it is most unlikely in the short term at least that this, in turn, will lead to an improvement in the quality of the calibre of the students on entry.


Throughout the developing world most countries require that candidates for entry to teacher training institutions have an education of between 10 and 20 years (Avalos, 1991a, p.7). This means that they will have had a number of years of secondary schooling before commencing their training. However, the problem is that, overall, the general educational competence in the developing world, even among secondary school graduates, is not high and even appears to have fallen in the last decade (Lockheed & Verspoor 1991, p.94). In the Solomon Islands, on average across the secondary school system, the level of educational achievement is low, particularly in English, mathematics and science (Gannicott & McGavin 1990). Moreover, students selected for overseas tertiary study often need to undertake remedial training to prepare them to standards required by overseas institutions (McMaster, 1987). Similarly, in Vanuatu "there is considerable scope for improvement in the quality of learning achievement in the lower secondary grades" (McMahon, 1990), with achievement levels in mathematics and science being particularly weak. PNG participated in the Second International Science Study comparing science achievement across 26 countries. It concluded that "the indications so far are that students are graduating after 12 years of schooling with a wide, but perhaps by international standards rather shallow understanding of basic science" (Wilson, 1991, p.110).

Relatively speaking, the situation is better in Tonga and Western Samoa, two countries which pride themselves in their early achievement of literacy. However, a survey of primary schools in Tonga has discovered major problems in learning by pupils (Gannicott, 1990, p.xiii). Similar grounds for concern about the quality of Western Samoan education have also been identified:

An indicative piece of evidence is the poor performance of Western Samoan tertiary students in New Zealand....Western Samoan students studying in New Zealand are the cream of the highly selective educational system. If the products of that elite system are not receiving a basic education up to international standards, there cannot fail to be concerns about the quality of schooling received by the vast majority of pupils who do not go through the senior secondary or tertiary system.

The situation is aggravated, not just in Western Samoa but in all of the South Pacific island nations by the fact that it is largely from the pool of those secondary school graduates who do not constitute the "cream" that the primary teacher training institutions draw their applicants.

The first determinant of teachers' effectiveness appears to be their general academic preparation (Lockheed & Verspoor, 1991, p.92). Within the South Pacific island nations, however, where the quality of even the best graduates of the secondary schools is not high, the situation is that those who enter primary school teachers' colleges are not the best candidates from within that pool of graduates. Moreover, the entry levels for pre-service trainees to teachers' colleges in Tuvalu, Tonga, Western Samoa and Fiji fall below the optimum for post-senior secondary entrance (Fox, 1992, p.109). In PNG, the results in the examination taken at the end of four years of high schooling are the single most important criteria in the selection (McLaughlin 1988, p.15) and the indications are that the standard is not sufficiently high, with students lacking a basic grasp of fundamental knowledge in school subjects (Avalos, 1989, p.110). Sadly, few students who have completed six years of post-community education take up a place in a teachers' college (McNamara 1989).

Vanuatu would appear to have problems, with 35 per cent of primary teachers being untrained (McMahon, 1990). The situation in Solomon Islands (Fox, 1992, p.109) is similar:

In Solomon Islands new teachers for the primary schools are trained at the... School of Education and Cultural Studies. About 20 % come in from Form 3 "pushouts" who have had a year's Foundation Studies, another 20% are Form 5 School certificate graduates and about 60% are untrained teachers.

In addition, as late as 1986, untrained and partly-trained teachers accounted for 38 per cent of primary teachers in the Solomon Islands, "substantially prejudicing the quality of primary education" (McMaster, 1990). The situation in Fiji is complicated still further by the fact that ethnic Fijian teachers have a lower standard of educational attainment than Indian Fijian teachers. The strong majority of teachers, whether Indian Fijian or ethnic Fijian, have received training but there are clear differences in their levels of basic education (Gannicott, 1990). At primary level, nearly 40 per cent of ethnic Fijian teachers have no more than Form 4 secondary education whereas only one quarter of Indian Fijian teachers finished school at this level. Moreover, it is the more highly qualified of the two groups which has been leaving the country since the military coups of 1987.


Teachers in the developing world who possess a wide repertoire of skills seem to teach better than those with a limited repertoire (Lockheed & Verspoor, 1991). The implications for effective preservice teacher education are threefold. Each of these implications will now be considered in turn in the case of the South Pacific island nations.

The first implication is that effective preservice teacher education must be concerned with producing teachers who are competent in the subject matter of the school curriculum. It appears that, in general, teachers' colleges in the South Pacific island nations are not very successful in this respect. In Vanuatu, for example, many of the teachers at the village level "struggle manfully with instruction but have themselves a poor base of knowledge and have exhausted the little they have to offer" (Thomas & Postlethwaite, 1984, p.157). The situation in Tonga is a little better (Thomas & Postlethwaite, 1984, p.253). In PNG, teachers do not appear to have a solid grounding in subject content (Roberts & Kada, 1979; Otto, 1989; Pearse, 1990; Fife, 1993. Kian, 1996)

The second implication is that effective preservice education must facilitate the acquisition of pedagogical skills such that teachers can elucidate the knowledge in new ways, recognise and partition it and clothe it in activities, emotions, metaphors, exercises, examples and demonstrations so that it can be understood by the students. These pedagogical skills include classroom management and organisation, appreciation of each student's characteristics and preconceptions, formal and informal evaluation of students, personal reflection and critical self-analysis.

PNG is a good example to take to illustrate the extent to which the teachers' colleges in the South Pacific island nations have been unable to produce teachers with such flexible pedagogical skills. As has been noted in the previous chapter the Teacher Education Division (TED) of the National Department of Education (NDOE) structures PNG teacher education through a national set of course objectives. Up until 1991, these largely behavioural objectives were developed and enlarged upon. They emphasised the study of the many technical aspects of teaching to the relative neglect of content. As a result, teachers were not equipped with the mental apparatus for challenging the effectiveness on their teaching and on the educational system of the nation. The outcome was teachers who tended to use a traditional style of teaching which was teacher oriented, mass directed and of a lecture style format where the class spent a large proportion of time listening to the teacher or looking at work being done on the chalkboard. Teachers' colleges were not successful in producing teachers who could use a variety of teaching techniques. Other preservice training weaknesses which prevailed were in the areas of questioning skills, assessment and evaluation, attending to slow learners, programming and timetabling, and making, using and improvising with teaching aids.

A new three year program was commenced in PNG in 1991 with the intention of addressing the various problems identified and producing teachers with more flexible pedagogical skills. However, if a similar experience in Fiji is instructive, it is likely that it will be many years before it will lead to any significant change. Here, new flexible teaching approaches were advocated throughout the 1970s but they were not adopted by all teachers. Accordingly, the situation in the early 1980s was such that there continued to be classrooms in which pupils memorised the teachers' lectures and notes (Thomas & Postlethwaite 1984, p.189).

The third implication is that effective preservice education must encourage practice teaching under the supervision of an experienced and capable teacher in a manner not designed to indoctrinate student teachers to behave in rigid, prescribed ways but to encourage them to think about how to teach and why they are teaching in that way. However, for practising primary teachers in the South Pacific island nations to adopt such a role would be very difficult given that their own practices are, in general, very inflexible and uninventive. In Vanuatu, for example, in both French and English schools, the teaching methods have been described as being " formal and stilted", with detailed lesson notes being provided for most subjects (Thomas & Postlethwaite, 1984, p.156). However, the research in PNG has probably been the most comprehensive in illustrating the existence of a large deficit in this respect. A national survey of practice teachers concluded that although students tried to carry out a well-structured lesson plan, the concern for the parts diluted the concern for the substance of the lesson and so little teaching of new knowledge occurred and there was little concern for the pupils' learning difficulties (Department of Education, 1989, p.1). While student teachers wrote objectives, they did not make the purpose of the lessons clear to the pupils. Also, even though they used a questioning strategy and group organisation, pupil participation "remained unnatural and mechanistic" yet student teachers were satisfied after practice teaching with their teaching performance. They are simply reproducing the prevailing style of teaching found in community schools (Avalos, 1989, p.179). The class teachers, who have a supervisory role, are facilitating this by socialising the student teachers into the existing reality.


While the situation portrayed is challenging, there is evidence for optimism. Currently PNG is attempting to reform not only teacher education but its total educational system. These reforms are aimed at providing greater equity and social justice and, if implemented, will involve structural and curricular changes. Already a new three year primary school teacher education program has been introduced to replace the previous two year program. Emphasis is now placed on promoting the general education of students as well as the art of teaching (Stenhouse, 1984). Moreover a new stress is placed on subject matter content with the intention of promoting deep learning (Marton, Hounsell & Entwistle, 1984). Also, the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) continues to provide opportunities for teachers' college lecturers without a degree to upgrade their qualifications by enrolling in first degree studies on a part time basis through its provincial centres while a master's degree involving extensive summer school work over 3-4 years has been instituted.

The Solomon Islands is investigating the possibility of following a similar path to PNG in upgrading the quality of its teacher education programs by increasing the length of such programs to three years . Also, the government teacher education college has a 3-year staff development plan which is reviewed annually (Sanga & Kii, 1992, p.93). Currently, the emphasis is on obtaining specialised training as well as training for higher qualifications for selected lecturers to enable them to offer academic leadership in subject areas.

In Fiji, the Ministry of Education regularly provides short courses for teacher educators, organises for them to participate in seminars and workshops, and provides opportunities for them to work with expatriate staff (Prasad, 1992, p.18). There are plans to upgrade teacher educators' qualifications in the Republic of Kiribati to degree level and to organise for the small number of teacher educators who have degrees to obtain Masters' level qualifications (Tabanga, 1992, p.25). Sadly, in Nauru it is accepted that there is no real possibility in the immediate future of training Nauruan teachers to be teacher educators. Accordingly, future training will continue to be conducted by expatriates (Gaiyabu, 1992, p.37). Vanuatu, in contrast, is considering the possibility of raising the minimum entry level to primary teacher education courses from Year 10 to Year 12, of extending the length of the course from two years to three years, and of sending appropriate teacher educators overseas to study for higher qualifications (Baereleo, 1992, p.84).

The remainder of this chapter centres on the involvement of Australia, since in recent years it has emerged as the major aid donor in the South Pacific (Maglen, 1990, p.84). This includes aid from both government and non-government agencies. The non-government agencies, and in particular, the Christian Missions, have made a considerable contribution to teacher education with limited resources.

Australia's increasing interest in the development of the South Pacific island nations is inseparable from foreign policy priorities. Programs are designed to promote economic development and growth, primarily for humanitarian reasons but also `to complement Australia's strategic, economic and foreign policy interests' (AIDAB, 1987, p.2). Financial aid for educational purposes has come to be regarded as crucial to the achievement of these objectives. Amongst such aid is that which is given for the improvement of primary teacher education.

The aid which has been made available for the improvement of community school teacher education has been for projects designed for facilitating improvements in specific countries. From 1973 to 1989, upgrading professional education for community school teachers' college lecturers in PNG, the majority of whom were not degree holders, was conducted through the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB) (currently called AusAID) within the School of Education at Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE). Up until 1986 the course of study at CCAE formed an integral part of the award of the Diploma in Education Studies (Tertiary) by the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) (Burke, 1992, p.3). In 1986 lecturers gain a bachelor's degree at UPNG which incorporated one year of study at CCAE under a joint campus agreement. The following year a complementary project commenced to recruit as well as upgrade the qualifications of selected former non-graduate community school teachers to become CTC lecturers. This was also achieved through the split campus arrangement and led to the award of B.Ed. (Tertiary) (Burke, 1992, p.3). In 1989, following an AIDAB (1989, p.vii) review which expressed some dissatisfaction with the results of the program, CCAE's role was awarded to the Brisbane College of Advanced Education, which soon after amalgamated with the recently established Queensland University of Technology (QUT). A significant feature of QUT's involvement has been the inclusion of an in-country in-service component for serving lecturers. The team responsible for this displayed foresight when, as one of their strategies, they initiated the establishment of collegial networks amongst the lecturers to encourage them to support each other. Furthermore, there is some evidence to indicate the success of the initiative (Elliott & Burke, 1992, p.193).

In 1991-92 AIDAB also became involved in a number of other projects in the South Pacific island nations aimed at improving the quality of teacher education. In Fiji, a project was commenced to re-establish the Nasinu Teachers' College and to provide advisers for in-service programs and institutional development work (AIDAB, 1992, p.17). In the Solomon Islands, a five-year education project was commenced with other donors and it included a component aimed at upgrading the quality of teacher education (AIDAB, 1992, p.20). Similarly, in Vanuatu a community and secondary curriculum and teacher training project was established (AIDAB, 1992, p.22). Overall, these developments are part of the general trend where Pacific Island nations, in common with other developing countries, are continually turning to aid to address their development needs. In fact, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Development, 1988; 1989), the South Pacific now is, at least on a per capita basis, by far the most aided region in the world.

To note Australian involvement in projects designed to improve community teacher education in the South Pacific Island nations, is not to suggest that the nature of this involvement is beyond criticism. Regarding Australian educational aid in general, Throsby and Maglen (1990, pp. 91-92) have been critical of the fact that the overall pattern of its distribution results in a high proportion of the expenditure going to Australian educational institutions, to Australian suppliers of goods and services and to Australian staff and advisers working in the countries in question. In contrast, Luteru and Teasdale (1993) while recognising that this is a problematic situation, are dismissive of the simplistic alternative plans which are regularly proposed. In particular, they note that disillusionment in Pacific Island nations with the lack of results from aid appears to be misplaced. They go on to argue that it is quite unrealistic to expect aid to raise gross national product, solve human resource and training problems, close the gap between rich and poor, generate employment opportunities through education and expand the economies of the Pacific Islands.

Regarding the proportion of aid which goes to teacher education, Throsby and Maglen (1990, p. 95) state:

Tertiary education has consistently been the dominant educational sector as a recipient of Australian aid, even when the overseas student cost component is ignored. Vocational and technical education has always received a major share. Aid to school level education in the Pacific Island countries has been relatively unimportant, though it has grown in significance since the early 1980s. A relatively small share has been spent on teacher training and that amount has been diminishing in recent years.

This situation is disturbing in light of the evidence already noted which points to the importance of primary schooling in establishing the fundamentals of educational development and also in light of the evidence which indicates that an emphasis on vocational education is misguided since it is neither as effective nor as cheap as vocational training carried out on the job (Psacharopoulos & Woodhall, 1985; The World Bank, 1980, pp. 44-45; 1988, p.64).

Overall, then, it is arguable that a significantly greater proportion of Australia's education aid should be allocated to projects concerned with improving the quality of primary teacher education. The major question is one of how the aid should be allocated. Clearly, any contribution to improving the quality of the buildings and facilities of the teachers' colleges throughout the region would be worthwhile. Equally welcome would be any assistance aimed at improving the quality of courses for a student body whose academic standard on entering the colleges is unlikely to improve in the near future. However, Dove's (1986, p.273) argument that the quality of pre-service teacher educators is one of the most critical factors in improving teacher quality and that "systematic measures to provide for the training of trainers would have a greatly beneficial multiplier effect", highlights the major front on which developments should be centred. The difficulty is that the concept of "quality" is problematic.

A Swedish national statement on "quality" to the OECD in 1984, argued that the "meaning of quality is unclear, and the term is variously used by different interests" (Istance & Lowe, 1991, p. 35). It was because of the realisation that there is such ambiguity about the concept of "quality" that the Higher Education Council in Australia (1992, p.6) was led away from trying to define it per se and towards an argument for the development of frameworks that "would encourage institutions to meet criteria understandable and acceptable to all the stakeholders, and to encourage them to strive for excellence". Avalos (1991a, p.23), in considering the improvement of the quality of teacher education in developing countries, argues along similar lines. It is to a consideration of how, from such a perspective, the quality of pre-service teacher educators in the South Pacific island nations can be improved that the next section of this chapter is concerned.


If one adapts the position of the Higher Education Council in Australia to considerations on the improvement of the quality of education in the developing world, a number of frameworks exist. For example, Beeby (1966, p.10) provides a framework for critiquing quality in primary education at the classroom level:

This obviously embraces such measurable skills as ability in the 3 R's, and the acquisition of a given range of facts about history, geography, hygiene and the like. Less measurable but equally acceptable are habits of industry, tidiness, and accuracy, and attitudes of respect for authority and love of country.

He argues that there is yet much more to quality at the primary school level but suggests that these are the preconditions essential for it to be deepened. Similarly, a useful framework for approaching the development of programs aimed at improving the quality of teacher educators can be deduced from Dove's (1986, p.273) emphasis on the need to develop professional teacher educators as a major precondition for quality teacher education to flourish.

Within the field of education studies there is an abundant literature concerned with the aspiration, need and ways for teaching to be considered as a true profession (Howsam, 1976, pp.139-154) although theorists have differed as to the number of criteria involved (Case, Lanler & Miskel, 1986, p.36-43). Howsam (1976, pp.5-7), however, infers that the exact recipe does not matter for there is general agreement on the essentials. McKernan's (1991, pp. 35-55) criteria are most comprehensive in that they appear to encompass a wide variety of other positions. The criteria are as follows: qualifications; theoretical knowledge; commitment to continuing education; code of ethics; commitment to service; self autonomy; and an association with restrictive entry. Collectively, these constitute a useful framework for shaping a balanced approach to future Australian assistance aimed at raising the quality of teacher educators in the South Pacific island nations.

Regarding qualifications, the argument (McKernan 1991, p.50) is that a minimum requirement for professional educators should be a university degree in their main subject area(s) together with a diploma in education studies. Strike (1990) sees value in such a requirement as it gives status to educators. Similarly, Avalos (1991a, p.48) has argued that raising the value of their profession has been a long-standing aspiration of teachers in the developing world, and one of the ways for this to happen is for training programs to become qualitatively different from those of a secondary school. Associated with this is McKernan's (1991, p.50) second argument: that as a result of acquiring a degree a professional educator should be in possession of a body of specialised knowledge that supports and makes sense of teaching from both pedagogical and subject discipline perspectives. From the considerations of the previous section of this chapter it is little clear that Australian aid should be focused on promoting development on both of these interrelated fronts.

McKernan (1991, p.51) also contends that a commitment to recurrent training is at the heart of the quest for professionalism. To devise in-service programs aimed at inculcating such a commitment constitutes a particular challenge for future Australian-aided programs and will require the harnessing of much experience and creativity. It also has quite a number of other implications. For example, the development of a culture such that it will become commonplace for lecturers to read books and journals pertinent to teacher education necessitates as a precondition, the provision of assistance to rectify the situation whereby teachers' college libraries throughout the region suffer low funding resulting in an insufficient supply of qualified library staff and subscriptions not being made to publishers of the latest academic books and professional journals. Assistance should also be given towards the dissemination of in-country educational journals throughout the whole region and the encouragement of regional newspapers to increase the amount of coverage which they give to education, to communicate the results of educational research and to improve the quality of commentary on educational issues.

McKernan's fourth criterion is based on the argument that because professional educators are placed in positions of trust and responsibility with regard to the students they teach, they must be governed by a code of ethics drawn up and monitored by the members of the profession (McKernan 1991, p.51). Such a code, though common in the medical and legal professions, is rarely found in education. The challenge in professional development programs is to engage teacher educators in the development of such a code and to produce a lecturing force which has a commitment to it, not as an external form of control, but rather in terms which might indicate that they have reached the stage of viewing the ethical behaviour required of a professional as the product of one's own exercise of mind and conscience.

McKernan's (1991, p.47) fifth criterion arises out of the argument that professional educators who view work in the context of educational institutions, community and society may be termed extended professionals as opposed to restricted professionals whose work is focused only on the "classroom". The contention within the present context is that teacher educators need to be extended professionals because of their role as leaders in education influencing curriculum development, pedagogical practice and the professional development of teachers. Also, they "need to work at showing they care" (McKernan 1991, p.51). To date, very little research has been undertaken on this aspect of teacher education in the South Pacific island nations. Accordingly, this is also an area that merits the investment of research time and finance.

McKernan's (1991, p.47) sixth criterion is based on the argument that in democratic societies it is the teacher educators who should make decisions about the development of the teacher yet in order to make such decisions they must be professionals with superior expertise. As Strike (1990, pp. 101-102) ) puts it, professionals base their professionalism not on a bound set of competencies but on a large store of knowledge that is deep and flexible enough to allow them to operate as reflective practitioners. Unfortunately, the limited evidence available (O'Donoghue, 1992) indicates that teacher educators in the South Pacific islands' region are in need of development in this respect, namely, of having their reflective capacities developed. This constitutes another challenge for those responsible for the development of programs for the improvement of the quality of teacher education, particularly since, the dominant framework for Pacific knowledge production is one both where knowledge is revealed, not individually created and where "questions are dangerous" (Lindstrom, 1990, p.11).

McKernan's final criterion highlights the need for an association with restrictive entry to facilitate the "professionalisation" of teacher education. Hoyle (1980, pp.44-45) defines professionalisation as "the process whereby an occupation increasingly meets the criteria attributed to a profession" and much of the literature (Jensen, 1989; Wilenski 1964, pp.137-158) emphasises that professionalisation depends to a large extent on a collectively organised profession persuading its clients and the state to recognise, honour and reward its services. It might be argued that the Institute of Education (IOE) of the University of the South Pacific (USP) already fulfils such a function with regard to all of the countries under consideration apart from PNG.- Also in PNG, there has been for a number of years muted discussions about the possible establishment of a National Institute of Teacher Education, a self-regulating, professional association of teacher educators, possibly along the lines of the British Columbia College of Teachers (Grimmet, 1991).

This section began by suggesting that a useful framework for approaching the development of programs aimed at improving the quality of teacher educators can be deduced from Dove's (1986, p.273) emphasis on the need to develop professional teacher educators as a major precondition for quality teacher education to flourish. Furthermore, it was contended that the framework was to be found in McKernan's (1991, pp.35-55) criteria for defining teaching as a profession, namely, qualifications; theoretical knowledge; commitment to continuing education; code of ethics; commitment to service; self autonomy; and an association with restrictive entry. The argument was that these constitute a useful framework for shaping a balanced approach to future Australian assistance aimed at raising the quality of teacher educators in the South Pacific island nations.


Since the 1980s research on education in developing countries has recognised the importance of the quality of primary education for economic development and for the later transmission of technical skills (Heynemann & White 1986, p.v). As a consequence of such recognition, support has been given to the argument that the provision of quality primary teachers should be given priority in the development of the educational systems of developing countries. This, in turn, has led to the emergence of a number of expositions on the present state of pre-service primary teacher education throughout the developing world (Lockheed & Verspoor 1991).

The chapter has been offered as a contribution of significance to the field by concentrating on the situation in the South Pacific island nations. Firstly, a general background was outlined. Secondly, the present state of pre-service primary school teacher education in the South Pacific island nations was considered. Finally, attention was focused on the future role that Australia might take in attempting to improve the situation in these nations by concentrating on attempting to improve the quality of their teacher educators.

Chapter 1 - Teacher Education:  Its Roots:  a 40 thousand year education tradition
Chapter 2 - Teacher Education:  The Past
Chapter 3 - Teacher Education:  The Future
Chapter 4 - Teacher Education:  i. Pacific Perspectivies
Chapter 5 - Improving Education:  Policy issues
Chapter 6 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Pedagogical problems
Chapter 7 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Political Intrigues
Chapter 8 - Improving Teacher Education:  Contextual Realities
Chapter 9 - Improving Teacher Education:  .i.  Teacher Educators

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