DP61 The challenges of providing free education in Papua New Guinea

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 61

By Grant Walton, Tara Davda and Peter Kanaparo

August 2017

Introduced in 2012, the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) policy has become a flagship policy of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government. Since 2012, further changes to this policy have been introduced; these changes continue to reduce financial barriers to school attendance and attempt to recentralise control of education funding. What have these policy changes meant for schools, administrators, non-governmental service providers (such as the church), and other key stakeholders? This paper draws on qualitative and quantitative research conducted in 2012 and 2016 in East New Britain and Gulf provinces – the former performs relatively well in delivering services, the latter relatively poorly. Interviews were conducted with education representatives, community members, government and church officials and other stakeholders to assess the impact of PNG’s fourth and most enduring attempt at providing free education. Researchers visited 10 schools, four district administrations and two provincial administrations. The research approach allows for a comparison of progress and regress in these schools between 2012 and 2016. It is argued that while the TFF policy has helped improve access and strengthened school autonomy, recent policy reforms have threatened school-community relations, undermined school quality and weakened conditions for effective service provision. The paper will provide recommendations about how PNG policy makers and others might address some of the challenges.

Walton, G., Davda, T. & Kanaparo, P. 2017, ‘The challenges of providing free education in Papua New Guinea’, Discussion Paper No. 61, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Karen Downing

Karen Downing is Research Communications Coordinator at the Development Policy Centre.