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Education Sector focused on key reforms towards independence-readiness

Reforms in the Bougainville Education System towards independence-readiness will see more focus from the government investing in a need-based human resource development approach. ABG Minister for Education and Member for Ioro Constituency Hon Theonila Roka Matbob, announced this in parliament last week, stating it as the vision for the Education sector in Bougainville. Minister Matbob said that this Vision will be guided through four key strategies including: 1. The design and roll-out of the ABG School Fee Assistance Scheme (SFAS) program from 2022 to 2025 through a project management approach 2. The establishment of stronger ties with key partners in education through strategic stakeholder engagements 3. Effectively communicating and disseminating relevant information on the status of education in Bougainville for mass mobilization of the people through public awareness and policy education 4. Encouraging better cooperation between the Ministry and Department of Education as a check and balance between politics and public administration for clear political direction and effective policy implementation Minister Matbob explained that under the strategy of the ABG SFAS program, her Ministry has developed a Handbook capturing key guidelines, operating procedures and governance mechanisms to effectively manage the implementation of the SFAS program, and that it will be further protected through relevant legislation to ensure its continuity. This year, the ABG appropriated K2million in its 2022 Budget for the SFAS program. Minister Matbob confirmed that of this K2million funding, K1.5million has been used to assist students at the tertiary level of education, while the remaining K500,000 will be allocated to FODE and TVET assistance within Bougainville. Other key activities being progressed in the Education sector include several policy reforms in the education structure and curriculum space. Minister Matbob explained that the Department of Education will facilitate structural reforms that will see changes in the current structure of nine years of basic education, to 13 years in the full cycle of education. This means the new structure will be 1-6-6; one year of pre-school, six years of primary education and six years of secondary education. Minister Matbob reported that planning workshops have been held at the national, regional and district levels to prepare the Education department for this change, and called for continued funding assistance to support infrastructure particularly at the secondary level, teacher training and curriculum development. To complement the structural reform, the Department of Education is also progressing curriculum reforms that will see the transition from Outcome-Based Curriculum to Standard-Based Curriculum (SBC). Minister Matbob said that the Department has trained teachers at all levels over the recent years, and the Department will be taking an incremental approach to implement the SBC beginning with Elementary schools in the region. Under the Curriculum reform, the Department will also be introducing a new subject of Christian, Citizenship and Values Education that aims to instill Christian and Citizenship values in young Bougainville children who can be able to live meaningful lives as they grow, while also minimizing social issues faced in society. Under the 2021 Sharp Agreement, the Department of Education has drawn down several key powers and functions from the National Department of Education, including the most recent drawdown of the Government Tuition Fee Subsidy Policy. Minister Matbob clarified that there are other remaining powers yet to be drawn down to Bougainville, adding that once these powers are transferred to Bougainville, it will trigger the review of the Bougainville Education Act 2013 and the enactment of the Bougainville Teaching Service Bill in parliament before December 2023.

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