Challenging gender inequity in Papua new guinea higher education.

Year: 2012

Author: Tuaru, Velepat, Dall'Alba, Gloria, Pendergast, Donna

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper examines the barriers to gender equity in higher education in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is based on research that is motivated by imperatives at three levels: personal, national and international. The paper begins by outlining the national and international contexts that frame this research study, with relevance to equity imperatives in higher education in PNG.

Importantly, this study acknowledges the potential contribution of PNG's matrilineal and patrilineal societies for adopting positive cultural values towards proposing sustainable and equitable gender strategies in higher education. The study employs gender and feminist theory as a theoretical framework for determining feasible and sustainable strategies in addressing barriers to gender equity in PNG higher education. The three conceptual frameworks adopted are: a Gender Inclusive Curriculum, Cultural Competence and a Strength Based Framework. These frameworks reinforce the need for multimethod approaches in pursuing this research.

The study involves intensive investigation within two universities in PNG. It is based on survey and document analysis methodology. Surveys were administered to samples of university lecturers, administrators and students, while a content analysis of relevant policies and documents was also carried out. The survey responses and content analysis revealed the types of barriers to gender equity that are encountered in PNG higher education. These barriers can be classified as social, economic, cultural, educational and political, in line with barriers identified from the research literature. A striking finding was the pervasive, deeply entrenched cultural beliefs held by decision-makers and those in authority, which position women as secondary, serving to marginalize and impede their progress. The study also revealed a lack of understanding of the concepts of gender equity and inclusive curriculum among the university staff and students.

This study is significant because it is the first of its kind in PNG. It is aimed firmly at better understanding the reasons for gender inequity in higher education and, importantly, in recommending proactive strategies for addressing these inequities. It has the potential to point the way to a significant cultural shift in higher education within PNG.