As the Minister responsible for higher and technical education in Papua New Guinea, it is incumbent upon my Ministry and Department to reform, transform and unify this key sector to meet demands and reflect the aspirations of our time and age.
Higher and technical education refers to a diverse and growing set of post-secondary education, such as universities, colleges, technical training institutes, community colleges, nursing schools, research laboratories, distance learning centres and many more—which form a network of institutions that prepare students for application of knowledge at an advanced level.
At this juncture, I must thank the O’Neill-Abel government for entrusting me to oversee this long-term investment of our country. Our people are a valuable asset and investing in our human resources through the higher education sector essentially addresses a key tenet underpinning Vision 2050. This focus will provide direction in reforming and aligning our institutions and systems to make Papua New Guinea become a smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy society by 2050 and beyond.
In line with National Executive Council Decision No 54/1995, the recent NEC Decision No 25/2017 calls for an immediate transfer of all higher education institutions and functions under various departments, including the Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Labour and Industrial Relations, and Department of Transport, to the authority of the DHERST and its governing Act, the Higher Education (General Provisions) Act 2014.
NEC Decision 25/2017 supports the government’s intention to reform higher education institutions (HEIs), build their capacities and improve the quality of education and training to produce quality graduates to foster and enhance socio-economic development, growth and move the country into the top 50 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index by the year 2050 as aspired in PNG Vision 2050.
Our reform agenda aims to energize and unlock the minds and potential of our young people for brighter economic prospects to implement national objectives, address labour market needs and be prepared for the 21st Century's ICT requirements and innovative new industries and the global economic shift and demand. These are some of the primary objectives of the DHERST as specified in the Higher and Technical Education Strategic Implementation Plan 2017-2038.
It is further envisage's the needs in skills, knowledge and values. It will also accelerate the ability of the middle-class population to contribute to the social and economic development of the country to achieve a middle-income economy by 2030 and become a Smart, Wise, Fair, Healthy and Happy society by the year 2050 as aspired in PNG Vision 2050.
The DHERST has a strategy in place that aims at refining and providing greater focus in the implementation of the PNG’s Government Education Sector Policy. It will contribute to the acceleration of economic growth through the provision of sorely needed research and expertise in science and technology, including intermediate and higher level vocational and technical skills to build capacity for a skilled workforce to replace the current large numbers of expatriate skilled workers and enable significant sustainable benefits to the PNG economy and community.
The introduction of a single Papua New Guinea National Qualifications Framework (PNGNQF) is an urgent response to the emerging needs of learners at different post-secondary levels. Papua New Guinea's education system has several independent sub-systems that are mostly detached from each other, fragmented and demonstrate little transparency or mobility between them.
At present, there is no explicit distinction or articulation of awards offered in technical and vocational education training (TVET), university education and even initial training, continuing training or recognition of prior learning. Currently, switching from one training path or profile to another is impossible. For post-secondary learners, the recognition of acquired skills is essential as well as the transfer of credit for these skills, regardless of the form of vocational training involved.
The PNGNQF provides answers to hopes and aspirations of many citizens who wish to continue their studies in an education system that cannot facilitate such academic progress. The PNGNQF assists each learner in achieving his or her academic goals, eliminating the need for citizens to repeat units or subject matters needlessly and at a very high price, and fosters greater efficiency and uniformity.
The quality of education at all levels is critical to increasing PNG's human and economic development, prosperity and competitiveness. However, insufficient allocation of resources to HEIs over the years has negatively impacted on the capacity to supply a much-needed skills base, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The TVET Needs Analysis Report (2011) highlighted serious concerns for technical colleges relating to fragmentation, lack of capacity regarding policy development, research, evaluation and strategic planning.
Higher and technical education leads to higher income, lower unemployment rate, better health, longer life, faster technology creation and adoption, reduced crime, greater tolerance, increased civic involvement and substantial government economic benefits as it also leads to more tax revenue which has direct effects on economic growth.
The building of a skilled workforce with the capacity to replace current large numbers of expatriate skilled workers also has significant sustainable benefits to the future of PNG's economy. With the continued, stable political leadership of our current government, together with the strategic foresight and ardent governance at the DHERST, we will continue to build on capacity development and financial support in guaranteeing autonomy for institutions for the innovative development of scientific and technological skills to enhance economic and social developments in PNG. This will see the creation of new industries attracting both local and foreign investors and provide more employment opportunities for our people.
I thank all stakeholders and partners in your unwavering support and concerted effort in ensuring and managing the change for the sector and the country’s better future.
God bless Papua New Guinea!
HON. PILA NININGI, LLB, MP
Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (2017 – Current)