Upon the University of Goroka receiving full status in 1997, the School of Science and Technology has been striving for excellence. The School has diversified its programs on offer in response to new client needs and Government policy guided by PNG Vision 2050, and UOG Vision and Mission. Courses have been designed and introduced to achieve the objectives articulated in one of the pillars of PNG Vision 2050: ‘Wealth Creation, Natural Resources and Growth Nodes. An example is the new B.Sc. Program in Environmental Science offered by the Division of Biological Sciences. Under the UOG Vision framework, the school is striving to be the leading school of Science & Technology in the Pacific and is committed to the development of a climate of excellence. The School believes this will foster transformation of lives, organizations & communities in the Pacific and beyond. In order to achieve these objectives the School needs a team of highly qualified and competent academic staff. Efforts are now in progress to recruit senior academic staff; in particular, senior lecturers in Physics and Chemistry disciplines; and a Professor of Mathematics.
The University has successfully secured 104 new positions for academic and support staff which is pending funding from the Treasury Department. Another approach to raising the academic standards is by collaborating with distinguished universities.
INDUSTRIAL TRAINING & PRACTICUM
Industrial training and practicum of students have improved with more industry organisations participating in the program. The School shares a practice partnership for its students with NARI, FPDA, NSI, CIC, HRCN, Health Clinics, Goroka Base Hospital, Clinton Foundation, PNG IMR, Telikom PNG, Agriculture Industries, Chemical Industries, Technical Colleges, and Secondary and High Schools in Papua New Guinea.
Our students have been able to improve their knowledge of workplace practice and have acquired new skills and hands-on experience.
The School has embraced directions given by the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, and the University Council to achieve international standards of education. All the courses are being re-designed in line with the National Qualifications Framework and course structures have been put into the standard template.
The School has two Research centres namely, Centre for Natural Resources and Research Development (CNRRD) and Glen Lean Ethno-mathematics Centre (GLEC). These centres support and enhance teaching through research for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and to facilitate research activities of students undertaking postgraduate studies.
The CNRRD was established in partnership with the National Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL), and SOST in 2002 with the aim to provide:
• An analytical service for testing soil, water, foods, animal feeds, biological materials and extracts;
• Pilot scale processing, extraction and refinement facilities for natural and agricultural products such as mushroom and food crops; and
• Information, advice and training in the following areas: Resource identification, Resource characterization, Processing, Market research, Project financing, Project management, Implementation and management of quality systems.
GLEC was initially established to complement and advance academic activities of staff through research within the Mathematics & Computing Division, based on the motto of “Promoting the advancement of indigenous mathematical knowledge through Teaching, Research and Preservation of Ethno-mathematics heritage of Papua New Guinea”. Professor Geoffrey Saxe from the University of California, Berkley Campus, USA officially opened the centre in 2001.
Some of the major challenges faced by the School are due to regular large increases in student enrolment over the recent years, stagnant or decreasing Government grant to the University, lack of adequate number of permanent academic and support staff, and limited teaching and learning facilities.
Because of the country’s large pool of school leavers and non-school leavers, and comparatively limited number of tertiary education institutions, SOST is forced to increase its enrolment. Increased student enrollment puts a strain on teaching and learning resources and may affect the quality of the programs.
The way forward
The future growth and strengthening of SOST rests on short term and long term strategic planning and implementation with emphasis on capacity building. The laboratory and lecture facilities for Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and Agriculture urgently require immediate upgrading. The Health Sciences are the only division with state of the art facilities, thanks to the Government of Australia. More than 90% of laboratories, lecture rooms and staff offices now in use are remnants of facilities built in the 60s and 70s for the Diploma programs in teaching. Much has happened since then and SOST is a School that needs better facilities.
The three main areas perceived as being crucial for the way forward for SOST are; strengthening of teaching and learning infrastructure including improving staff numbers in SOST, increased funding through Government grant or internal revenue, and establishment of links with sister universities from the region to foster research, student staff exchange and best practice.
Dr. Sam Najike
Dean - School of Science and Technology