National standards/local implementation: Case studies of differing perceptions of national education standards in Papua New Guinea

Tapo, Michael Francis (2004) National standards/local implementation: Case studies of differing perceptions of national education standards in Papua New Guinea. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This research investigated teachers'perceptions, understandings and implementation of education standards in elementary and primary schools in Papua New Guinea. The main research question and two sub-questions were designed to explore teachers' perceptions and understanding of national standards. This exploration engaged teachers in identifying factors which they believed influenced their professional work. This study also explored stakeholders' perceptions of teachers' interpretations of national education standards.

This study adopted social constructivist epistemology, symbolic interactionism, and ethnographic case study methodology. This provided the basis for its theoretical framework to purposefully understand human interactions within their culture and context. Social constructivism accommodates situated learning, a conceptual framework which was adapted to interrogate understanding and implementation of national education standards. A variety of research methods were used to elicit teachers' and stakeholders' perceptions and experiences of their professional world. These methods included in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, documentary analysis, field notes and observations. Most of the focus group discussions engaged participants to "tell their stories", thus storytelling became an avenue for eliciting teachers' and stakeholders'perceptions. Workshops conducted for teachers became another important strategy for data collection.

Two schools, one rural and one urban, became case studies to understand national education standards as an external phenomenon. A total of 595 participants were involved in this study including teachers and pupils, parents and community members, school board members, members of curriculum committees, and policy makers.

The study found numerous contextual factors influenced teachers' understandings, interpretation and implementation of standards at the school level. Foremost, teachers' own knowledge of formal education standards was deficient thus influencing their commitment to and enthusiasm in their professional work. Teachers' content knowledge and pedagogical skills influenced their ability to translate content standards into clear benchmarks for pupils' learning. The absence of effective monitoring systems of teachers' performance contributed to pupils' superficial assessment reports and of uncoordinated mastery of subject content and performance skills. The absence of effective school leadership affected teachers' commitment, attitudes and professionalism. This generated a culture of isolationism acute in both schools. Teachers were performing to hierarchically externally imposed requirements, and in the process, overlooked essential knowledge and skills that were needed to improve quality of students' learning.

The national education standards are an inherited policy from the colonial administration. This study found that successful implementation of education standards is highly dependent on the social and cultural expectations of Papua New Guinea's rapidly changing society. At the local level, education standards are highly influenced by teachers' professionalism, provincial education boards and community expectations. This is compounded by the mismatch of priorities and policies between the national and provincial education divisions. Such a practice impacts negatively on the successful implementation of educational reform agendas.

The study implies that a reconsideration of national education standards is necessary. This process will involve a rethinking of teacher education programmes, dismantling previous assumptions of national standards and local implementation, and accommodating challenges presented by economic, political, social and cultural change in Papua New Guinea.

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ID Code: 15919
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lidstone, John & McLean, Sandra
Keywords: national education standards, Papua New Guinea, implementation, Standards Perspective, teachers perception, social constructivist epistemology, symbolic interactionism, ethnographic case study methodology.
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Michael Francis Tapo
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:53
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2015 05:33

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