Aligning SDG targets and indicators in PNG Education plans and Policies

By Aquino Saklo – Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

PEAN commends Anglicare PNG for being the leading organization in Providing Adult Literacy programs and Life Skills serving the marginalized population in PNG. During her speach she highlighted the following.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) 4 aims “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The target is that by 2030, all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women achieve literacy and numeracy (SDG Target 4.6). While appreciating UNSDG on Education Goal 4 and its priority in promoting lifelong learning, the interpretation and translation of this concept at country level is a hurdle for policy makers. Defining education goals at the national level is necessary as different interpretations contributed to the education goal from different national context and languages leading to its adoption. In implementing the millennium development goals/EFA, adult literacy has been the most neglected in the past fifteen years due to various assumptions at policy levels. The opponents of this sub-sector know too well that educated parents encourage their children to remain in school; hence retention and attaining gender parity can be complemented by recognizing this sub-sector, yet they have assumed that educating adults is a waste of resources. The SDG4 is a driver for global citizenship by 2030, and this poses a huge challenge for PNG if the world is financially and ICT driven while we continue to struggle because of policy biases that create barriers for learning.

Ms. Kare pointed out that Papua New Guinea has too many policies that remain to be translated into results. She said The word ‘literacy’ is well captured in some of the policies but lack specificity. In the Medium Term Development Plan which preceded the current plan, literacy was articulated but only in formal schools. The National Education Plan 2010-2019 has made mention of adult literacy yet this sub-sector remain the lowest of priority in policy and financing. The PNG Vision 2050 Pillar 1 is not friendly to adult literacy despite the fact that majority people are rural-based, and are confronted with globalization issues of climate change, land mobilization, trade and resource development, environmental degradation, disaster management and food security including poverty and diseases. The SDG4 is therefore a welcome reminder to policy makers to revisit adult literacy, an area that has potential to complement the education indicators and address service delivery priority of the Government. The adult literacy is not confined to ‘women-only club’ as some opponents argue, nor is it limited to old people; more findings show that it is as inclusive as possible, accommodating for early learners, youth and adults. Adult literacy is not only about reading and writing as some policy specialists think it to be insignificant; it satisfies the desire to go further and build confidence for many of the learners regardless of age and sex.

She further highlighted that  PEAN joined the Global Education Community during the post 2015 discussions leading up to the World Education Forum (Korea, 2015) to voice our concern on the lack of recognition of adult literacy. She said PEAN firmly believe from evidence across the country that adult literacy is an opportunity for community education , information and service delivery hub for the local and district level governments. However, PEAN acknowledges that in order for adult literacy to make this difference, lifelong learning in SDG 4 need to be defined in the policy and must be contextualized at the national level to achieve specific target 4.6. She said PEAN knows from past experience that ‘lifelong learning’ may become another policy hurdle, hence a barrier to realise the potential it may have on the national education system in the country. (C1) Quality education and lifelong learning in the PNG Education System must complement each other as this is “key transformative and mutually reinforcing actions” (UN SG Report July 2013) to realize SDG4 and its targets. It is in the best interest of the Government to be in the top 50 countries in the HDI and to arrive at smart, healthy, wealthy and wise Papua New Guinea thirty-six years from today.

Ms. Kare also pointed out that Lessons learnt in the past 15 years left ‘unfinished businesses’ in education, contributed partly by lack of policy and financing support. In addition, the possible negative attitudes of policy makers in implementing adult literacy because they assumed that adult literacy learners were ‘women-only’ club, adults-only program and the possible attitude that it is insignificant compared to formal literacy, show that literacy in schools are still at crisis level. PEAN believes that the recognition of adult literacy programs with policy support and financing will improve the literacy crisis, gender parity, retention of students and the general quality education. Furthermore, it will enable parents to get more interested in school management issues to eliminate cheating and teachers with attitude problems. This been said, PEAN continue to articulate to expand on the Review of the National Adult Literacy Policy to be known as the National Lifelong Learning Policy and Financing of this Policy while urging the Department of Education to define lifelong learning that is tailored to national context to improve education indicators and targets in SDG4.

Ms. Kare  than made a call for the National Government through the Department of education align its plans and policies with SDG4 targets and indicators. she also said, Life Long Learning must be the new approach to addressing ADULT LITERACY and must be included in the Policies.