Intrerview: David Arore

What is the strategic direction of human resources development in Papua New Guinea?

DAVID ARORE: The education department is divided into two separate divisions – basic and higher education. At the higher education level our strategy is geared towards empowering our students to find a place in the country’s labour market, especially within the booming petroleum and mining sectors. Not long ago we sent our first batch of 100 students to Australia specifically to learn trade skills in courses ranging from six months to two years at a cost of PGK5m ($2.38m). The courses focus specifically on trade, technical and vocational training. We also recently launched our labour force policy, which is geared towards generating quality students and a labour force that is relevant to the country’s economic needs. The universities are doing their part in training academics and professionals while we pursue technical and vocational training programmes.

In what ways is the ministry working to develop the sector’s infrastructure, particularly for RST?

ARORE: Malaysia’s minister of education has invited us for a visit to explore new education opportunities. Traditionally our educational partners have been Australia and New Zealand, so this new direction will open up interesting alternatives. It will be beneficial for us to study the success stories of South-east Asian countries, whose strategies we could adapt to develop our skilled labour and help minimise the cost of educating our students.

The government lacks a coordinated effort in RST. There are missing links within our various organisations and no clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities. To confront this issue we have been trying to work together with private companies and public institutions and have created an RST council to connect our research organisations, private and public companies and education institutions. For instance, the education department is responsible for the infrastructure development of technical colleges, teacher and nursing colleges, and the Department of Labour has several of its own scholarship training programmes. What we really need, however, is a strong coordinating body that will bring together the organisations and departments that are involved in research and education.

How are incentives are being used to attract private capital into the educational sector?

ARORE: The policy of the government is to move towards public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements. We are interested in learning from the Malaysian example and have been inviting private investors into PPP arrangements whereby they can set up private educational institutions and work with our existing private and government entities. This PPP framework is specifically aimed at higher education and research. Over the years the government has deregulated and relaxed the requirements for private investment in education and we are pushing for tax incentives and tax credit schemes for companies that provide extensive vocational training. These are the type of reforms we strive for.

Can the educational system rise to the challenge of the government’s 2050 vision?

ARORE: We enjoy taking on new challenges. Our current strengths and advantages are clearly in the mining and energy sectors, so we must prepare our labour pool specifically for those needs. We discussed different ways to achieve this goal with our colleagues from Malaysia and have decided that what we need to do is to define our targets and start offering specific programmes, degrees and technical courses in the petroleum, mining and engineering sectors. We are seeking advice on how best to take advantage of the country’s current situation, perhaps through the establishment of polytechnics, vocational training centres or an open university.