Monday, January 21, 2013


Photo: Wewak in East Sepik in the northern part of PNG. It is a coastal town with sandy beaches.

INTRODUCTION TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA (PNG) … In case, you are a visitor to this page and may not be knowledgeable about PNG, here are tidbits. 
PNG is in the Pacific, just north of Australia.
The indigenous people of PNG are Melanesians. But there are some groups of people who have more Polynesian features. Their languages have words that are similar to the words in languages of people to the east of the Pacific. Those people live mainly in the southern part of the country, as where the capital Port Moresby is situated.
PNG has 6.12 million people and is the most populous nation in the Pacific only after Australia – which has 22.8 million. New Zealand, Fiji and Solomon Islands have 4.4 million, 849,000 and 523,000 respectively – the next three largest nations in the Pacific.
Some sites/sources say PNG has about 850 different languages.
One of our academics and former minister in the national government, Professor John Waiko, recently said PNG has 1,100 different languages. (I was not too sure if the historian meant 1,100 different dialects?)
PNG has four different regions – Mamose (along the northern coast), Highlands, Southern/Papua (where Port Moresby is) and Islands (which includes the islands).
Officially PNG has three main languages – English, Tok Pisin (Pidgin) and Motu.
Students from Grade 3 up are taught in English. All colleges, training institutes including the six universities in the country (four of which are government-owned) use English as the language of instruction. (See NOTE below.)
When I went to Nouméa last year (2012), many of the locals there thought we in PNG learned everything in French.
I was also overwhelmed in browsing through magazines, newspaper and textbooks and realising that everything was written in French.

NOTE: Before the now-controversial Outcomes-Based Education curriculum (OBE) was used, students started school at prep or Grade 1 level learning English and everything else was taught in English.
With the introduction of OBE in the 1990s, students in prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2 learned how to read, write and count in different dialects, and started learning English in Grade 3 onwards.
The present government is working towards phasing out OBE.

(More about PNG coming up later.)  

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