Seeking transformative partnerships: schools, university and the practicum in Papua New Guinea

Kula-Semos, Maretta (2009) Seeking transformative partnerships: schools, university and the practicum in Papua New Guinea. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Contemporary Papua New Guinea is shaped by geographical isolation, population expansion, a predominant subsistence economy, by colonial, and post-colonial histories, and by neocolonialism in the context of globalization. Within this context, education, economic, and social goals, institutionally constituted, are shaped by bureaucracy and a regime of policy. Recent developments in teacher education, nationally and internationally, highlight the importance of partnerships. While the system itself is highly westernised partnerships that are effective in promoting quality teacher education for the full range of social groups in PNG society will need to recognise and respond to Indigenous knowledges and understandings of partnerships.

This study explores the problematic, yet critical nature of teacher education partnerships in PNG in the context of globalised policy and post-colonial reform agendas. On the one hand, teacher education institutions operate as state controlled policy and reform sites to promote government goals of economic development. On the other hand, teacher education institutions are also expected to fulfil their educational roles as democratic sites that promote issues of social justice. Within that context partnerships are intended to add to capacity building through the enhancement of teaching and learning, research, scholarship and community engagement in a modern university context.

The study involves two distinct components. Firstly, it documents and analyses historical partnerships in teacher education. Secondly, it examines contemporary teacher education partnerships including the place of western and Indigenous knowledge systems through key teacher education documents from the University of Goroka (UOG).

The study engages both critical and postcolonial lenses drawing largely from Kincheloe and McLaren’s (1994) conceptual framework of critical theory to identify and analyse power relations that are social and historically constituted, and further to uncover the role of language as central to the formation of relations of power. Critical theory provides the framework for uncovering power relations embedded in discourse. Postcolonial theory provides the context for an analysis of knowledge and power from an Indigenous perspective. Discourse as power is examined in three ways; essentially dominant as ‘power over’, mutually shared as ‘power with’, and intrinsically generated as ‘power-from-within’. The study draws on Fairclough’s (1992, 1995) three-dimensional framework of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to analyse key policy reform and enactment documents, specific to the secondary teacher education sector in PNG from 1997 – 2005. It does so, firstly, to uncover how the discourses of university teacher education programs position schoolteachers in teacher education, secondly, to ascertain how university teacher education programs conceptualise partnerships, and thirdly, to highlight and establish the need for socially transformative partnerships in the context of PNG.

Reform discourses, articulated in UOG’s mission and vision statements, and embodied in its curriculum and pedagogy through course programs and the teaching practice handbook, as well as through curriculum review reports, consistently affirmed the dominant university position through ‘power over’ discourses to shape the nature of teacher education programs, including partnerships. Colonial discourses largely shape partnerships as cooperative agreements of shared understandings to serve a common purpose. Schoolteachers are positioned as cooperative and obligatory public servants. Post-colonial discourses extend beyond to establish bureaucratic systems that shape partnerships as regulated mechanisms whereby schoolteachers’ roles and responsibilities are defined and monitored. Scientific, technical, and rationalistic knowledge shape teacher education programs with focus on training teachers to transmit knowledge. More recently neocolonial partnership discourses are largely conceived as marketing networks that function like business ventures. Schoolteachers are positioned as professional workers serving State goals of economic rationalisation as they engage in discourses of marketisation and new knowledge economy.

Although teacher education policy texts draw from globalised policy reform agendas to reflect international practices, fundamentally the notion of partnerships in PNG is shaped by social practices of relationships constituted by wider political, social, moral, spiritual, and ethical domains of Indigenous societies. In post-colonial PNG binary oppositions, like formal / informal, English / vernaculars, and partnerships / relationships, exist paradoxically hence the contentious nature of partnerships and marginalisation of schoolteachers. As Thaman (2001) contends, “traditional cultural values underpin much of what people emphasize and think about” (p.1) and so in the contexts of formal schooling, many teachers occupy culturally ambiguous positions (Thaman, 2001).

For PNG, schoolteachers serve in communities where they are constantly engaged in social relationships with others. In important respects, their experience of power is ‘power with’; one of sharing in relationship with others. The pre-colonial Barter Trade system in PNG provides the context for a reconceptualised modern Indigenous teacher learning framework of social transformation. Consequently a transformation of Indigenous Melanesian knowledges and wisdom is conceived through a theorising of Pasin. Drawing on notions of ‘power-from-within’ and ‘power with’ Pasin conceives learning as social practice of participation and interaction. Pasin entails four interrelated cycles of learning; Lainim Pasin to know, Soim Pasin to do, Skelim Pasin to reflect, Stretim Pasin to resolve, which collectively encompass Luksave Pasin to become. Pasin LukSave constitutes and is constituted by social reciprocity which shapes the nature of the relationship. In a modern university context, Pasin is inherently an optimistic outlook hence the study also draws from the framework of robust hope (Halpin, 1997, 2003). The central significance is the emphasis placed on integration of Indigenous Melanesian knowledges and western knowledge system with the possibility of transformative partnership models of inquiry communities in teacher education.

Power and how it operates remains an under-explored area in education, especially in PNG education. To address this issue, the study of how teacher education documents construct partnerships examines structural, ideological, and discursive power, with the view to transforming dominant practices. The study is limited to the case of UOG in PNG consequently; it has no capacity to generalise to other institutions or contexts. However, its analysis of the way power operates in the problematic relationship between western knowledge and Indigenous Melanesian knowledges and wisdom in the teacher education program at UOG, proffers the possibility of a transformation of the relationships between these knowledge systems, the institution and the communities it serves. This understanding offers insights into the possible relationships between Indigenous Melanesian knowledges and western knowledge and practice that are potentially of wider value.

Item ID: 15463
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: teacher education, University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea, schools, schoolteachers, transformative partnerships, indigenous knowledge systems, western knowledge systems, power, policy, relationships, postcolonial theory, critical theory, discourse analysis, Pasin
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2011 03:07
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators @ 70%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200204 Cultural Theory @ 30%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930202 Teacher and Instructor Development @ 100%
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