Thursday, 16 October 2014


This is a very historic strategy in terms of education in the world. It presents Mastery Learning to students and teachers.

We may trace Mastery Learning back through the centuries as teachers practised students in skills until these were mastered. The skills and knowledge were revised regularly until students used the skills and recalled the knowledge.

But the Mastery Learning as we know it today goes back as far as the 1950s. At that time, the world was facing the Cold War between the USA and USSR. Josef Stalin had brought his country through World War 2 with a massive increase in industrialization and enormous loss of life to citizens of the nation.

But the US government always assumed that the US was ahead of the Soviet Union economically and politically. But there was a shock on the way when the USSR put the satellite Sputnik into space.

This was seen as major ideological victory which put into question the American way of life. Democracy was seen to have been defeated by Communism, a rather knee jerk reaction on the part of the US.

The system had to be changed to lift the standard of education. Dr Benjamin Bloom and others saw that skills had to be passed to children in a more systematic way. So he developed the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives based on Mastery Learning.

It was intended that education be organized to help all students to master skills. The approach to Mastery Learning has never changed and is used as the basis of learning in our school in Port Moresby.

But Mastery Learning did not last long in the United States. There were those who said that the US would not overtake the USSR by teaching the basics to all average students.

What was needed was a strategy that did not dumb down education but prepared engineers and rocket scientists. The strategy was abandoned and replaced by ..... Outcome Based Education.

The basics were now secondary to higher learning. Students did not need to learn the basics as these would be acquired in the process of higher learning.

Students learned to read by reading and write by writing. Education slowly crashed across the world including Papua New Guinea.

Now the wheel is turning back to the basics. Students across PNG will be required to spell, use a wide range of vocabulary and learn to write.

But sadly, so many students in this country do not know how to express ideas in any way more than baby talk:

Hunting a big bird

Last Friday afternoon, two of my friend and I went hunting for birds.
We hunt and hunt but we did not kill any bird.
Suddenly one of my friends saw a big brown bird
And started to shout “A bird, A big bird”.
We took out our catapult and chased the bird.
I took a stone and put it in my catapult and shot it on its eye
And it fell down and died.
We took it home. We cooked it nicely and we ate it.

We have now taken the nation back to Mastery Learning of writing skills. The basic strategy is to produce extended lists of pattern drills to be mastered. Each exercise grows out of the exercise before and the basis of the exercise to come.

Our book and those to follow will provide the template for writing skills in Papua New Guinea and other countries in which the books are sold.

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