The Government of Papua New Guinea introduced the tuition fee-free policy in 2012, which effectively eliminates tuition fees from elementary school to Grade 10 as part of the Basic Universal Education Plan 2010–2019. The policy, combined with the reintroduction of a national scholarship programme, aims to address poor school attendance. Papua New Guinea’s net primary school enrolment rate is 63% for males and 56.5% for females (UNICEF, 2017), which is the lowest in the Asia Pacific Region. There is significant variation in enrolment rates across provinces. The mean years of schooling in Papua New Guinea for females aged 25 years and above is only 3.2, compared to 9.8 in Fiji and 10.3 in Samoa (United Nations Development Programme, 2017a). These policies have not been supported by improved school infrastructure, increased number of teachers or improved teacher training and curriculum upgrades required to improve the quality of education. Adult literacy is reported as 57.3% (2000). Furthermore, only half of all women aged 15 years and above and two thirds of all men aged 15 years and above have ever attended school. Adolescent girls in school suffer the most, with higher levels of absenteeism. Factors contributing to this are household duties, the low value of women in many parts of Papua New Guinea, and the lack of sanitation facilities to meet the needs of menstruating women.

Tertiary education rates (university and non-university) are also low, with only an estimated 1% of the 19–24-year age cohort enrolled in higher education (in 2013 there were 9316, and in 2010 there were 6993). The proportion of Nursing, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences graduates of the total higher education graduates across 2010–2013 was 8% (Department of Higher Education Research Science and Technology, 2015).

See also: Education in Papua New Guinea

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