Caution on 40 years of mistakes in higher education

Papua New Guinea must invest more on higher education and research and avoid the mistakes of the past 40 years of independence, said Mr Simon Kenehe, the former chairman of the Commission of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.

Mr Kenehe told staff and students of Divine Word University in Madang recently that PNG failed in many areas of its development and growth since independence mainly because the government had not prioritised on investing in higher education and research.

Mr Kenehe highlighted this in a speech to mark the 19th Foundation Day of DWU Friday 21 August, 2015 and he commended DWU for continuing to be innovative and introducing new programs  in areas where there were needs.

He said the result of PNG not investing more on higher education and research is its dependency on foreign investment and export of raw materials cheaply.

“The consequence of lack of priority investment in human capital development over the past four decades, is that, we have been playing into the hands of multinational corporations and other cunning foreign investors who employed highly skilled and trained foreign experts in the fields of science, engineering, technology, mathematics, ICT, international finance, corporate law, managerial finance and other skills,” Mr Kenehe said.

“In other words, those foreign companies are taking full advantage of PNG’s deficits in those skills, know-how and expertise,” he observed.

He said successive PNG governments have been content with basing the national economy on export of raw materials and consequently forfeited the potential gains of increased iinvestment in local skilled manpower.

“The government also does not appear to clearly understand the relationship between PNG’s export of under-valued raw materials and its under-investment in human capital investment.

“By continuing to export its under-value raw materials, it also exports skilled jobs, forfeits foreign exchange revenues, quality infrastructures, minimization of its import costs, and shuns technology transfer,” Mr Kenehe said.

Mr Kenehe said the way forward is for the government to invest in tertiary education.

“The government must invest more money in higher and technical education to narrow the current human capital deficit.

“Unless the country invests in this important area, the economy will continue to be dominated by foreign business owners and investors,” Mr Kenehe said.

He said countries that have deliberately invested in human capital have grown their economy and thereby improved the quality of life of their citizens.

Mr Kenehe recommended that PNG make genuine effort to invest in human capital development as the nation works towards meeting the targets set in Vision 2050.

He commended DWU for its growth and innovation to offer new programs and contribute to the human capital growth of PNG over the years.

Mr Kenehe praised the University for changing its Faculty of Health Sciences to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and introducing the new Department of Medicine to the faculty recently.

He said such a bold decision by DWU can only be good for the country in the long run as it is population is growing.

Mr Kenehe said PNG has one of the highest population growth rates in the Asia-Pacific region and it was only logical that universities like DWU expand their programs and offer medicine that would be offered by the newly introduced department.

He challenged the University to invest in science and engineering programs to help grow the national economy.

Mr Kenehe praised Prime Minister O’Neill for visiting India as that country has much to teach PNG about the value of investing in science and technological education in where it is reaping the fruits as one of the fastest growing economies with a growing middle class.

The Foundation Day was commemorated a day before the annual Cultural Day hosted by the Student Representative Council. Students representing 17 of the 22 provinces took part in a lively display of traditional bilas (dressing), singing and dancing. Provinces that were not represented were Eastern Highlands, Chimbu, Enga, Southern Highlands and Hela.