Building flexible further education pathways in rural PNG

In rural and remote PNG, teachers and community health workers of the future are closing the education gap with Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE).

Recent changes in the PNG Government’s minimum entry qualifications for tertiary training of teachers and health workers precluded many who wanted to enter these professions from doing so, effectively denying local communities access to these vital skills in the long-term. KTF’s solution was to introduce FODE at Kokoda College, a state-of-the-art secondary and tertiary institution located in remote Kou Kou Village, Oro Province.

Since 2018, Kokoda College has been upgrading students’ qualifications from Grade 10 to Grade 12, the new minimum entry requirement to for elementary teaching and community health work. Currently, a cohort of 125 students from the surrounding regions are upgrading their qualifications to Grade 12 standard and are committed to long-term career pathways in these vital fields.

To overcome the challenges of distance – some students from the Mt Koiari region walk three days across mountains and swollen rivers to attend the College – KTF has embraced flexibility and innovation to deliver Grade 10, 11 and 12 courses.

Students at Kokoda College are supervised by KTF’s head lecturer, as well as a group of subject-specialist tutors and study at a self-determined pace and complete as many modules as their skills enable them to. Student support officers with special skills in gender and inclusive education on campus also support the students during their candidature.

Kokoda College was the first FODE Centre in PNG to digitise the FODE curriculum; and all students are given a tablet and solar powered charging station to support their studies. Students rotate between face-to-face group lectures, one-on-one tutoring, and self-directed study at home. They share their time between campus and home every term.

KTF believe it is vital to offer innovative, community-based solutions to people on long-term pathways into teaching and health work and to support them to return to remote communities across the province and deliver urgently needed services. Kokoda College’s FODE program is doing just that, with the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program.

Anita Russell