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Papua New Guinea, officially known as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a sovereign country in Oceania, occupying the eastern portion of the Island of New Guinea, as well as several offshore islands. The country has a total geographic area of 178,700 square miles and is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean in a region defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. The capital and largest city in Papua New Guinea is Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea has an estimated population of 6.1 million—a population that is one of the most ethnically diverse in the world. There are literally hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the majority being from the group known as Papuans, whose ancestors arrived in the New Guinea region tens of thousands of years ago. Today there are many remote Papuan tribes of whom we still know very little, as they continue to have only marginal contact with the outside world. The other major group in the country is known as the Austonesians, with roots dating back some 4,000 years. The remainder of the country’s population is comprised of people from China, Europe, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Papua New Guinea is also one of the world’s most linguistically diverse countries, with over 820 indigenous languages spoken there, together representing about twelve percent of the world’s total. Despite the many languages spoken throughout the country, official status is given only to the English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu languages in Papua New Guinea. English is not widely spoken by the people colloquially, but it is the language used in government, education and for international business. Tok Pisin is the lingua franca and the most commonly spoken language in most of Papua New Guinea, and Enya, although not one of three official languages is the most widely spoken indigenous language in the country. The Papa New Guinean constitution allows for free religious expression, and 96 percent of the population self-identifies as members of the Christian Church. The Muslim community represents the largest religious minority in Papua New Guinea.
Education in Papua New Guinea
Education in Papua New Guinea is managed by the nineteen provinces and two district organizational units. Education is free at the country’s public schools through secondary school, and while school is compulsory until the end of the six primary grades this mandate is not really enforced.
In total, the education system in Papua New Guinea includes 2,600 community schools, providing primary education to students in grades one through six; 120 provincial high schools, serving students in grades seven through ten; 4 national high schools, which are the only high schools in Papua New Guinea offering full-time grades 11 and 12; one College of Distance Education, grades 7-10; one Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (matriculation studies); and a limited number of private institutions that provide education from preschool through the twelfth grade.
Higher education in Papua New Guinea is provided by 7 universities, where students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in a limited number of academic and technical fields.
Despite recent gains in education over the last decade, a large proportion of the Papua New Guinean population remains illiterate, particularly women and those living in the more remote regions of the country who have limited access to schools.