|Subject: A case study of perhaps unsurmountable weaknesses in our education system
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Date Posted: 11:42:54 01/05/00 Wed
To use someone such as Sam Yuimb as a case study may be considered picking on him. That being true, all case studies would have to be viewed the same. I wish to use him as an illustrative example of something the has become very prevalent in our society. I hope that anyone who reads this will see at the end of this essay that I am trying to be objective in my analysis and the only reason why I use him is a case study is that he is familiar to all Papua New Guineans on the internet.
All outward indications of Samson Yuimb are that of an educated person. He has many tools acquired through the formal education system that can be applied to solve problems he and his clan faces. One example is Sam's use of internet development tools to establish a presence on the world wide web with which he is trying to raise funds and attract tourists to his area.
In addition, there are indications that Sam listens to criticism. You sometimes will see him change his viewpoint on an issue after someone points out a weakness in his argument. That is a good sign of willingness to continue taking in facts and information with which to judge an issue. Such people tend to build their capacity even after leaving school.
These things, all put together, however, lead to an often unexpected result from Sam's activities. Firstly, it appears that his efforts to solve problems don't in the end, lead to significant results, and when he applies his experience and information to talk about an issue, the result is often surprisingly superficial. Secondly, it appears that his efforts produce significant friction with other interneters. You cannot say that this result is just a side effect of using the internet and participating in cyber discussion forums. A poster named "Heidi" pointed this out in fact on the Wantoks Forum (www.niugini.com/wwwboard) to Mr Yuimb on 3 January 2000. She suggests that it is features about Sam himself that produce the reaction that is almost unique to Sam. Certainly no one on the Wantoks Forum in memory has ever generated dislike to the extent that someone would make up and publicise a false pornographic web page about that person as occurred with Sam recently.
One such factor in creating friction and apparent dislike is Mr Yuimb's tendency toward a very strong self promotion. In most societies, that produces a kickback effect. The "tall poppy" term, despite its common application to the melanesian situation, actually originated to explain the very same phenomenon in western societies. Tall poppies that rise through selfpromotion are the ones invariably cut down. Tall poppies which grow through fertilisation by others promoting that person and their work are rarely cut down in any society. Should anyone try to swing the axe, there are always supporters of the poppy to grab the axe away. Few such people come to Mr Yuimb's defense and the likely explanation is because he tends towards elevating himself through self-promotion. Allowing others to judge his work and promote Mr Yuimb would require considerable patience on the part of Sam, which he probably does not have.
That, however, is a factor of inherent personality. I want to dwell more on other factors, those related to the environment around us, specifically the educational environment. While Sam has acquired many educational tools to draw upon to meet the challenges in his and his relatives'/clan's life, it is clear that these tools often are not effectively used, or don't achieve the desired results. One evidence of this is Sam's common inability to influence others towards his viewpoint. Partly this is due to his frequent changing of opinion (thus, no one believes that he really believes in his viewpoint). However, I think that a more important factor is the nature of his arguments, both the few facts he pulls in to justify his belief, plus the way he puts together facts and information.
The other specific evidence of Sam's ineffective use of tools acquired through his western education is his apparent inability to either attract tourists or raise money for his Foundation despite using the internet tools he learned. Because he does tend to promote himself and his accomplishments strongly, the absence of talk concerning the tourists he has attracted or the money he has raised (in fact, apparently he has removed an accounting of money raised from his website) is strong evidence that the tools he has applied are not working in the way he had hoped.
Why these failures with applying the tools of western formal education? It is far from being unique to Sam. It is a phenomenon seen repeatedly, even amongst Papua New Guineans with the highest level of formal education. You see an westerner with almost identical level of formal education use the same tools and come up with a more effective result than a Papua New Guinean in the same position. This was especially seen during the localisation process within PNG government departments. I am not saying that it was the result every time. However I am saying that all too often the Papua New Guinean armed with formal education in the end did not seem to have the same ability to apply those educational tools to meet the challenges in their lives, including their jobs.
On this forum I would like to offer some theories as to why these difference exist. I believe that Papua New Guineans are increasingly unable to apply their western education as productively as westerners who went through what seems to be the same educational system. I believe this problem was less so 20 years ago, but is becoming progressively more apparent today, with Mr Yuimb being a product of that system and an illustration of the result.
Here are my explanations:
1. More Papua New Guineans are not getting a westernised education. I believe this is the most obvious explanation. Only those who grew up in a western system can be the best at teaching a western style system of education. Those who learned in the western education system but live in a non-western system begin to mix the two. The western side becomes less sharp, and students absorb it less sharply.
2. Our surroundings are not western but melanesian. This was not always the case, as witnessed by students who went extensively through the Catholic educational system. When our minds are most flexible, it is when we are young. Today, young people learning a western style curriculum are still almost always surrounded by a melanesian environment especially after class.
3. Our informal education does not strengthen our formal education along western lines. In western countries, kids receive extensive informal education from their parents and others that almost totals as much as the formal education side. Papua New Guinean students, if they even receive that degree of informal education today, are not getting it from a western perspective.
3. Insufficient criticism from others on how we apply our educational tools to solve our problems. Sometimes this is because we tend not to be confrontational and hold our opinions to ourselves (less so on the internet but still present). It is also due to the fact that the potential critics themselves may not have much experience applying western education to solve melanesian problems.
In summary, Sam Yuimb is trying to apply western education tools and information. His applications tend to fail, which results in the challenge not being met and the problem not being solved. This cannot be blamed on a closed mind, because he seems to incorporate new information. It cannot be blamed on insufficient years spent in a western education system, because he has gone to school and been exposed to a western education environment for some years. The deficiency also cannot be blamed on personality factors sometimes attributed to Mr Yuimb, because those relate more to other people's reactions to his techniques and not the effectiveness of the techniques themselves.
Instead, it is more probable that Mr Yuimb, when he was young and his mind most impressionable, received a western formal education during classroom hours but insufficient backup of western education experiences and skills obtained informally through the surrounding environment and through his parents. Thus, in the end, Mr Yimb ended up with insufficient capacity in western thought processes. The amount of background information and experience normally required and usually possessed by westerners themselves is achieved only by a full-time western influence at a young age. I suspect that Mr Yuimb's exposure to a western influence was partial only.
The bottom line is that this insufficient western education which becomes more prevalent today in PNG, cannot be reversed. Thus, it exposes Papua New Guineans to a competitive world in which anyone who does not have the money or the good fortune to live in the city, and be exposed nearly full time to western influences, are nearly always likely to lose and western people to win. Why do we bother to compete in a game we will always lose in? Should we not consider a rejection of western education altogether, or will we follow the rat race to the point of utter rejection amongst the population at large?
That is the end of this essay and comments are welcome.
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