While international and Pacific scholarship suggests that communities can play a significant role in improving access to schooling as well as school funding, infrastructure, and resources, there is little research on how school-community relations shape the implementation of fee-free education policies. This is particularly the case in the Pacific region. In Papua New Guinea, communities play a significant role in determining school funding, infrastructure, and access, but their role in implementing the country's fee-free education policy (introduced in 2012) is poorly understood. Drawing on data from two provinces with very different capacities for service delivery, this paper shows that school-community relations vary significantly, and are crucial for managing challenges associated with the country's tuition fee-free (TFF) policy, particularly in regards to access to schooling and improving school funding, infrastructure, and resources. While communities have helped advance the TFF policy's goals, conflict over land, the charging of fees, and the board of management (BOM)—a key local governance body— has, in some cases, undermined national efforts to increase enrollments and make up for the loss of school income from tuition fees. This paper argues that academics and policy makers need to pay greater attention to the sustainability of fee-free education policies, geographical variation, and the improvement of school-community relations. Doing so will require overcoming the tendency to focus on national-level indicators of success associated with fee-free education policies.
|Publication status||Published - 2019|