Favourite titles

Favourite titles
Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

An open university for all

Lets us refresh our minds with a suggestion made by a certain professor at UPNG during the 70s about outdoor lectures and learning for all.

That professor, whose name slips the storyboard’s mind, suggested that an airport terminal would serve as an excellent venue for lectures, what with people going and coming or transiting, while waiting to board an aircraft. In that time and space, consider a lecture on environmental issues, the gender divide, population statistics, HIV/AIDS, the spread of TB, malaria, excessive landowner migrations, carbon trade, poor public transport systems, the country’s youth threatening to go astray as early as ages 6 to 10...the list goes on.

How fortunate a traveller would be to again witness and hear the sound of a lecture at a busy airport terminal as those usually observed in a vigorous academic environment. Besides, should that professor of the 70s return to the Waigani campus today he would be relieved to learn of UPNG’s outreach programs and resource centres nationwide, an idea he might have envisaged as a scant possibility in his time.

Part of that suggestion of the professor’s, however distinct, has indeed taken a positive step today through the inception of UPNG’s Open College, a.k.a. Open Campus, Distance Education, University Centres and Help Resource Centres throughout the country. This is an area of academic enterprise where our so-called premier university of the Pacific is seen to be performing its best, in answering the literacy and resource development needs of much of the nation’s population, particularly its young generation. For those “home scholars” who might regret that they have missed out in our current education system of tertiary entrance selections, this is an ideal place for them where they are given the opportunity to continue with school.

And they will learn a great deal in subjects covering virtually all of the academic disciplines. Programs range from Certificate in Tertiary and Community Studies to Diplomas and even qualifications proper to accede to the main campus as degree students.

Yet, not all of these study programs are far removed by way of significance from the program content of those found at the mainstream campus. And neither can a professor worry that he may not be performing enough by way of community service and outreach program demands. Nor should he fear the risk of losing points himself as far as the necessities of assessment and accreditation on his performances go. One or two of his regular or mainstream courses, for example, are already represented at the campuses or centres of the Open College throughout the country. That means that as much as offering his regular courses at the main campus of UPNG, the professor can let out that sigh of relief as these same courses are externalized to the extent that certain versions or variations of them are also being taught at these campuses of the Open College. He may occasionally pay a visit to various University centres to see how his courses are fairing and who is studying them. But in this day and age when modern technology gives allowances for easier communication at a wider scale, what more could our professor anticipate than a phone call from a learner from the Milne Bay Uni Centre or the Lihir Resource Centre asking after definitions of literary techniques and devices.

Our educators might want to pay some attention to this aspect of scholarship which is targeted to the young who have difficulties in fitting into the mainstream education system. A closer examination of the Open College and its activities reveals that the country’s younger generations, being the most vulnerable in the nation’s progress towards a more safer and prosperous entity, is being well catered for in, as noted earlier, virtually all areas of academic pursuits ranging from the humanities to business studies, law and the medical and pure sciences. 

Literature, let us note with relief, alongside other subjects offered as regulars at any university, are offered in these open college campuses as well. A recent visit to the NCD Open College campus by the storyboard found one literature course offered there. Familiarizations on how the course itself is fairing will come later when the first batch of assignments are received and read through, but the storyboard’s meeting with the director of the Open College proved to be not just an eye opener for someone from the main campus but an encouraging one.

Students or learners there are treated with special regard. Left alone to work on the given texts consisting of study guides, resource books and course outlines, they are more or less their own bosses, masters of their own destiny, as it were, and are happy to be studying in that manner. Therein lie some of the answers to what we can do for our youth today. The classroom environs and the dreaded roll call on who is present and who is cutting classes are missing. A tutor is not described as a teacher, instructor or educator but rather as a mentor, a companion, in the learner’s venture into discovering new things by way of gaining an education. Beside the texts themselves, a student or learner from these open college campuses can also, if he or she is studying at the NCD campus, for example, gain access to the use of the laboratory facilities or the library of the Waigani main campus. 

All this put into a single package proves less costly for parents wishing to send their children to the Open College. Fees set at K200.00 per course for each semester coupled with a surcharge of K50.00 for each will probably keep parents away from meddling with their annual savings by visiting the banks for loans, but that is the story of what an open university for all is all about. No one misses out in this type of partnership activity.  

[This, of course, is a Papua New Guinean experience, first published in the National Weekender of the National newspaper of Papua New Guinea, March/April 2010.]

No comments: