The education of children and young people with vision impairment in Papua New Guinea

Aiwa, James Drekore (2013) The education of children and young people with vision impairment in Papua New Guinea. Professional Doctorate (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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This Doctor of Education dissertation consists of a portfolio of reports on four research projects organised around a research focus on the education of children and young people with vision impairment (VI) in Papua New Guinea (PNG), plus a linking paper.

The first study was an auto-ethnographic investigation into the researcher's educational journey from Indigenous Yuri child living in the highlands of PNG to Doctor of Education candidate at James Cook University in Australia. The researcher reflects on his lived personal experiences of being a teacher of children with VI and gaining a western education. Data relating to the researcher's personal stories, memory, self-observation, self-reflective information plus external information gained through interviews with the researcher's Mother and Yuri elders, were collected, interpreted and analysed using triangulation. The analysis helps the reader gain a deeper insight into Yuri cultural understanding and Yuri relationships between self and others of similarity, others of difference and others of opposition. This research not only demonstrates that it is possible for an individual from a 'so called' disadvantaged background to achieve within the western academy, it also details how such development takes place. The study therefore provides a valuable model to inform the design and provision of education services in PNG, particularly for children and young people with VI.

The second study involves a survey of the literature on the education of children with VI in PNG. To better understand the current state of education provision of children with VI, the country context is discussed, followed by a general overview of education in PNG. The education for children and young people with special educational needs was recognised in 1993 by the National Executive Council (NEC) and adopted as special education policy. Despite there being a well-established PNG National Department of Education (NDoE) policy to support the inclusion of children with VI the reality is only a small percentage of the projected eligible children actually receive specialist services. The WHO definition highlights the point that children with VI comprise two groups: those with low vision (visual acuity <6/18) and those who are legally blind (visual acuity <3/60), whereas the educational definition focuses on the impact of vision impairment on learning and educational needs. Coupling the WHO definition with the educational definition enabled the researcher to make the conjecture that the small number of children who receive support services in PNG are Braille using and functionally blind. This means that large numbers of children with VI are not being identified, particularly those with low vision. Given the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) has recently identified PNG as a focus country for their global campaign on education for all children with VI, this research is both timely and necessary to drive policy forward, to stimulate action and to monitor progress.

The purpose of the third study was to use a qualitative research methodology to investigate what gaining an education in PNG was like for five former students with vision impairment who received specialist educational services during their schooling. Participants came from each of the four geographical regions where Special Education Resource Centres (SERCs) are located (Mt. Sion SERC Goroka in the Highlands, Callan SERC Rabaul in Island, Callan SERC Wewak in Momase, and St John SERC in Southern). Participants were interviewed in their natural setting using semistructured interviews and were conducted in a language suitable to each participant. Therefore, a mixture of English and Tok Pisin was used. In particular the study examined the former students' social and educational experiences, to find out about what kinds of accommodations and modifications were made for them and whether these were inclusive and offered an appropriate education. Results indicate that there was a difference in quality of service for the four students who were functionally blind compared to that provided for the one student with low vision. The four functionally blind students had to leave their families to attend school whereas the student with low vision continued to live in his local community. The students who were functionally blind were provided with alternative media such as Braille however no specialist provisions were made available for the student with low vision. All five students reported a lack of service provision that focused on developing independence such as Orientation and Mobility and only one student who was functionally blind, the recipient of sponsorship by an Australian, felt he was able to reach his highest potential.

The fourth study used a quantitative research methodology. A survey questionnaire consisting of 16 questions plus a section for written comments was forwarded to 124 Special Education Resource Centre (SERC) teachers. There was a response rate of 83% (n=103). Respondents rated questions using a five point Likert scale from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). Results indicate the majority of the 366 students with vision impairment who received specialist services in 2009 are Braille using and legally blind, with students with low vision seriously neglected. Teachers in the survey identified problems as: negative attitudes of parents and regular teachers, an over focus on disability rather than student ability, the need for specialist pre-service and in-service training and a lack of resources to support student transition to secondary and tertiary education.

Item ID: 31798
Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate (Research))
Keywords: Papua New Guinea; Special education services; vision impaired students; needs analysis; service provision
Date Deposited: 07 May 2014 02:10
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130312 Special Education and Disability @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939907 Special Needs Education @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939906 Pacific Peoples Education @ 50%
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