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Thursday 18 February 2016 | Published in Regional


PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s universities are facing accusations that a “culture of corruption” causing to their brightest students missing out on places.

A free education policy introduced in 2012 has led to an increasing number of high school graduates competing for university places.

Students like college graduate Josephine Laka said that was leading to a process rigged in the favour of the wealthy elite.

“Here in PNG most students don’t go through the system the correct way, but through bribery,” she said.

“The parents with lots of money, put their children through the schools through bribery. That’s how they select the students.”

PNG’s Minister for Higher Education, Malakai Tabar, said it was up to the universities to determine who they would accept.

He said there had been no increase in grades needed to secure a place – but there were simply less places available.

“In 2014 we had 19,000 students, in 2015 we had 23,500 graduate students,” he said.

“So the number of students has effectively grown – and if, for example, the medical school here wants the top 300 students and they’ve got those students, there’s nothing they can do.”

The vice-chancellor of Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Dr Albert Schram, said many parents were concerned their children were not getting places despite high marks.

“The simple answer is that the campuses are full,” he said.

He said his university was implementing policies to make the system a fairer one – both in terms of selection and for those who do land a place.

“Last year we’ve taken a number of measures to make the selection process more transparent,” he said.

“There’s a very subtle corruption in the classrooms where teachers pretend to teach and students pretend to learn.

“That is what we are investigating internally.”

The PNG government said it was building a new university and other education institutions to help address the lack of places.

“We’ve got a new university that we will be building, the Western Pacific University, we have two institutions of higher education that will eventually become universities,” Tabar said.

Dr Schram said PNG’s poor education system was preventing the country from further development.

“Having an inadequate educational outcome at all levels, whether it be primary, secondary, or tertiary, is holding back the development of the country, absolutely,” he said.

- Pacific Beat