Education in Papua New Guinea

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  • 2011 literacy rate of people ages 15 and above: 62.4%
  • 2008-2012:
    • Pre-primary school participation, gross enrollment ratio (female): 98.5%
    • Pre-primary school participation, gross enrollment ratio (male): 101%
    • Primary school participation, gross enrollment ratio (female): 56.5%
    • Primary school participation, gross enrollment ratio (male): 63.4%
  • 2007:
    • 2,851 government elementary schools with a total enrollment of 175,439 children
    • 2,622 elementary schools with 155,274 children enrolled were administered by churches
Sources: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, World Bank Data Papua New Guinea, UNICEF At A Glance: Papua New Guinea

Basic education is free and compulsory in Papua New Guinea for students aged 6-14 years. The Department of Education Papua New guinea published a national educational plan in 2004 titled “Achieving a Better Future” meant to guide the nation’s educational development from 2005-2014. The main objectives of this plan include: universal access to education; improved retention rates; improvement of teacher deployment for primary schools; improvement of quality, curriculum and teacher development for secondary schools; and emphasis on shorter, more concise vocational courses. The plan also includes issues of teacher education, management within the Department of Education (including representation from communities), and financing of the plan. National Goals and Directives of the Constitution influenced the national education plan. These goals and directives include:

  • Integral human development;
  • Equality and participation;
  • National sovereignty and self-reliance;
  • Natural resources and environment; and
  • Papua New Guinea ways.

In addition, the National Executive Council (NEC) of Papua New Guinea developed a framework in 2009 for long-term development. This "Papua New Guinea Vision 2050" emphasizes human capital development, gender, and youth and people empowerment as one of the seven strategic focus areas. The ultimate goal of the strategies is to make Papua New Guinea among the top 50 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index.

National Department of Education

At the central level, the National Department of Education is responsible for school education and the preparation and implementation of education plans, including policy on core functions relating to curriculum, standards, teacher education, staff development and in-service training, and special education. The Secretary for Education coordinates the implementation of education policies and ensures their implementation in the provinces and local-level governments. The current Education Minister is Nick Kuman, and the current acting Secretary for Education is Dr. Michael F. Tapo.

In 2009 the Department of Education developed a strategic plan for 2010-2019 to establish universal basic education (UBE). The overarching goal of the UBE plan is: all children of school age must enroll in school, complete nine years of basic education and should have learned skills, knowledge and values covered in the basic education curriculum. This curriculum varies with each level of education and is organized into learning areas and subjects such as: culture and community; language; mathematics; personal development; and science.

Papua New Guinea has a decentralized education system under Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government which gives the provinces responsibility over planning, financing, staffing and maintaining general education institutions up to Grade 12. This includes pre-school, elementary, primary, and secondary and vocational schools.

Source: Papua New Guinea Department of Education

Levels of Instruction

Preschool education, including elementary education, is not compulsory. The full-time program involves one preparatory year—known as Prep or EP—followed by two years of elementary education, often referred to as Elementary 1 (E1) and Elementary 2 (E2). Children begin elementary school at age 6 and instruction is in a language that they already speak (e.g. there is not a bilingual component). For three years they develop the basis for sound literacy and numeracy skills, family and community values (such as discipline), personal health care and respect for others.

At 9 years of age children continue their basic education in a primary school, lasting six years. This is the second stage of basic education. In primary school, children begin a bilingual program that teaches students to have the skills to contribute to their communities and use English to understand basic social, scientific, technological and personal concepts and value learning after grade 8. Primary school is divided into lower (grade 3 to 5) and upper primary (grades 6 to 8).

Students who complete elementary and primary schooling may attend secondary schools for Grades 9 to 12. It is divided into lower (grades 9 and 10) and upper secondary (grades 11 and 12). The aim of secondary education is for students to reach their personal potential to lead productive lives as members of the local, national, and international community and partake in further quality education and training, with the benefit of a wide range of subject matter and work to be applied to everyday life.

Vocational education is offered to promote skills that meet the needs of the immediate community. Traditionally, vocational education has been a provincial responsibility. Admission to vocational training centers is for pupils who have successfully completed the basic education program (through grade 8).

Post-secondary and higher education is provided at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), the University of Technology, University of Goroka, Divine Word University, Pacific Adventist University and a number of colleges and specialized training institutes. Primary teacher training colleges offer a three-year diploma course for grade 12 graduates. At the UPNG, courses leading to the award of a bachelor’s degree normally take four years of study. A bachelor’s degree with honors requires an additional year. The University of Technology awards a Bachelor of Technology degree after three to five years of study. The UPNG offers a four-year course leading to the Bachelor of Education degree. A one-year postgraduate diploma in education is also offered. The University of Goroka offers undergraduate and post graduate degree programs in secondary education while Divine Word University offers a wide range of undergraduate and post graduate degree programs.

Source: World Data on Education- Papua New Guinea

Teacher Profession

In 2002, there were approximately 2,679 teaching staff at the pre-primary level, including in public and private programs. In 2006, 14,860 teachers taught in primary institutions, including public and private.

Higher Education in Mobility

  • 2,063 Papuan students studied abroad in 2012.
  • 47% of Papuan outbound students study in the Gambia. Other top destinations include Australia and New Zealand.


This page primarily comprises excerpts from the World Data on Education- Papua New Guinea Country Report. In addition, the following resources were consulted: