School and Education in Papua New Guinea

There is no compulsory schooling in Papua New Guinea. The children start in the 9-year elementary school when they are 7 years old. The high school is 4 years old. In 2001, 73% of the relevant age group attended primary school. English is the language of instruction for many children. There are two universities and several teacher schools in the country. According to UNESCO, approx. 44% of the adult population illiterate (2001).

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Papua New Guinea was populated by Melanesian peoples already 2-3 thousand years BCE The population has traditionally been spread over the dense tropical rainforest and isolated from the outside world. Many of the residents of the Highlands, where a third of the population lives, knew neither the wheel nor the metal utensils before Europeans entered the Highlands in 1930. Thus, over a short period of time, the country has moved from the Stone Age to the Plastic Age, and is currently experiencing an economic boom based on the extraction of its mineral resources – copper, gold, oil and hardwood.

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Papua New Guinea Country Flag

Papua New Guinea flag source:

The present Papua New Guinea is formed by merging the Papua Territory – a British protectorate that was under Australian administration from 1906 – and New Guinea, which until World War I was a German colony. Subsequently, it was administered by Australia under the mandate of the League of Nations and later the United Nations. The process of self-government began in 1964 and culminated with the country’s independence in 1975. That same year, the island of Bougainville tried to disengage. It has rich gold and copper resources and its population is more closely related to the population of the Solomon Islands. Australia continues to play a key role in the country – through investment, military assistance and financial assistance.

The country is a parliamentary democracy, but the political parties are more built on charismatic people and regional supporters than on ideological differences. Despite considerable apparent instability, the fact that no party has the overweight has led the government to be based on consensus.

While the country has close links to Australia, it plays a kind of leadership role among the states of the South Pacific. In 1979, it sent its military forces to crush an insurgency attempt on the island of EspĂ­ritu Santo in the Republic of Vanuatu led by Jemmy Stevens, who otherwise had support from the French authorities and from North American economic interests.

In May 1988, the country signed an agreement with Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to preserve traditional Melanesian culture. At the same time, it declared its support for Kanaky’s independence. Relations with Indonesia that have occupied the western part of the island of New Guinea (Irian Jaya province) are characterized by conflicts. In the Indonesian province, the guerrilla movement operates Frit Papua. During extensive maneuvers carried out by the Indonesian military in 1984, 12,000 residents sought refuge in Papua New Guinea.

The labor market is similar to the Australian with minimum wages negotiated every 3 years, and at the same time they are adjusted with the development of inflation. The indigenous communities own 98% of the land. Their economy is increasingly opening up to the outside world, and the extraction of natural resources causes significant damage to the environment.