Under the leadership of the Prime Minister Rt Hon.Peter O’Neill, CMG, MP the National Executive Council has approved the policy submission on Reforming, Transforming and Unifying the Higher Education System in Papua New Guinea on the 18th of October 2017by the National Executive Council Decision Number NG25/2017. The Government of Papua New Guinea through the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) developed a strategic plan which aims at introducing necessary changes to the Higher Education Sector, one of the most critical changes in higher education is the recognition that increasing access to Higher Education Institutions (HEI) is not enough. The objective of this strategic plan is to help as many students as possible to gain entry to universities or colleges, to offer a quality of education and most importantly, help them succeed once they have enrolled. That fundamental reorientation in focus is profound. It means that the DHERST together with Higher Education Institutions will work to implement the Higher Education Strategic Plan and develop and implement its own strategies that will best enable students to meet their educational goals, whether they are pursuing a degree or striving toward some other educational objective hence contributing to the economic and social development of the country.
The Government working through the DHERST will reform, transform and unify the Higher Education sector in Papua New Guinea to energize and unlock the minds and potential of young citizens for brighter economic prospects is one of the Governments' primary objectives, and it becomes the principal strategy of the DHERST. The quality of education at all levels is crucial for increasing PNG’s human and economic development, prosperity and competitiveness. The Government of today with my leadership as the Minister responsible for the reform those activities has tasked the DHERST to implement the strategy 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 much-needed expertise in research, science and technology, including intermediate and higher level vocational and technical skills. The reform in the higher education sector considers technical and vocational training as an integral part of the higher education sector and recognizes it as a crucial factor in skills development and in fostering research, science, technology and innovation, particularly in the application, adaptation and use of technologies. The building of a skilled workforce with the capacity to replace current scores of skilled expatriate workers also has significant sustainable benefits to the PNG economy and community.
The Government of PNG (GoPNG) is investing in the higher education sector, as a critical enabler to enhance the economic and social developments of PNG and to implement the Vision 2050 to transform our people and our nation by reforming our mindsets and attitudes. This strategic plan will provide the direction to reform, transform, unify and align our institutions and systems to make ‘Papua New Guinea become a smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy Society by 2050. Thus, the Government is making a long-term investment in the higher education sector, and it sees it as a necessary and proper investment.
National Executive Council directed the DHERST to implement the Higher and Technical Education Strategic Implementation Plan 2017-2038. A roadmap to achieve the aims of the Higher and Technical Education Sector in Papua New Guinea, the PNG National Qualifications Framework and Relative Funding Model.
Therefore, I am delighted to formally open the workshop which aims to create a new structure of the DHERST so it can have the capacity to serve and felicitate implementation of reforms, transformation and unification of the higher education system in Papua New Guinea.
As Jesus Christ said in Matthew 9.17: "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved."
Let Jesus' words be for us a guiding philosophy for this restructuring process. The Department’s structure must be designed in a manner that supports the objectives of the Strategic Plan and considers NEC Decision Number NG25/2017. All of its divisions and functions must be of the right type and placed in the correct location so that the entire system works well together to serve all Higher Education Institutions and facilitate necessary developments. We cannot implement NEC directives in the current organizational structure as Jesus said new purpose, a new strategic plan requires a new organizational structure.
The design of a new structure needs to support the purpose of the Department hence every division and section within it must serve a particular purpose. The mission of the Department is to serve and facilitate developments in the Higher Education Sector in PNG.
The other task is to develop the right organizational culture. The DHERST’s culture must be dynamic. As often we will shift, incrementally and continuously, in response to external and internal changes. Thus, creating an organizational culture is complicated as it must be open to the possibility that culture change can be managed as a continuous process rather than through significant shifts and this is only possible if we create DHERST’s culture based on Christian principles and the Departments’ core values as such: Honesty, Integrity, Accountability, Respect, Wisdom and Responsibility.
I would like to see that the Higher Education Sector in PNG embraces eLearning and considers all benefits for learners that are available in the cloud. Therefore, research must be at the heart of the Sector and the Department. Research must influence and advice learning and teaching as well as the decisions we will make in the Department. Please ensure that we create e-Department.
Thank you for your willingness to take those tasks. May the Lord bless your work and guide you in this very challenging task.
HON. PILA NININGI, MP, LLB
Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology