Who is research for? An observation from Papua New Guinea

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Rooney, Dick
Papoutsaki, Evangelia
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Conference Contribution - Oral Presentation
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
higher education
developing countries
Papua New Guinea
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Rooney, D., & Papoutsaki, E. (2004, December). Who Is research for? An observation from Papua New Guinea. Paper presented at the First Colloquium of the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge, Paris.
Higher Education is central to the creation of the intellectual capacity on which knowledge production and utilization depend and the promotion of life long learning practices necessary to update people’s knowledge and skills (World Bank, 2002: 1). While most developed nations are in the process of acclimatizing their higher education systems to new challenges presented by globalisation, the increasing importance of knowledge as a main driver for growth and the information and communication revolution, most developing countries are left behind struggling with difficulties arising from inadequate responses to old but persisting challenges. Sustainable expansion of higher education, reduction of inequalities of access and gender, improvement of educational quality through updated curricula and relevance to their society’s needs and inconsistent planning and funding on an-ad hoc basis are some of the challenges that most of these countries continue to face. Most developing countries having inherited the colonisers’ educational systems are still facing the challenge of shaping higher education systems that are indigenous or adapted to their national needs. With the increasing internationalization of higher education, these countries are ill prepared to absorb and appropriate yet more foreign influences and demands from international organizations to integrate in an international accreditation and quality assurance framework. The needs of institutions to develop within a global academic and research community and thereby adopt the predominant Western models of higher education and the developmental needs of these countries are often clashing, posing a dilemma between satisfying market forces and the need to nurture education within the socio-cultural specificities of the country. Higher education in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is experiencing the same pressures and challenges, amplified further by colonial legacies, the country’s neo-colonial relationship with its previous colonial master, a lack of indigenous intellectual traditions, a rather anomalous situation where Christian churches have become major education providers and a difficult socio-economic and cultural environment that promotes inequalities in terms of access. This paper approaches the question of higher education and research in a developing country through the Papua New Guinean case. It explores the westernization of academic quality within the PNG higher education system and the hybridity of the university sector where different actors force knowledge to be created for the needs of a small formal economy rather than for the development needs of the country. Colonial legacies and neo-colonial practices provide the conceptual framework.
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Dick Rooney, Evangelia Papoutsaki
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