Before the crisis of 1988-1998, ARoB had one of the top education systems in PNG with high performing international and Catholic mission schools and technical training colleges. In 1988 ARoB was ranked second lowest in terms of the proportion of population without any schooling. However, the almost decade long crisis meant the loss of a large portion of educated adults and resulted in a “lost generation” of children who have not received any formal education at elementary, primary and secondary school levels. While some makeshift schools with untrained teachers existed during the crisis, many schools were burnt down and teachers fled, leaving little resources behind to rehabilitate the education system post-crisis.
Despite these challenges, ARoB education indicators give a positive picture in comparison to national averages. The National Statistical Office Census (2000) reports shows ARoB literacy rates are well above the national PNG average (ARoB: 76.70%, National: 56.20%). However, when compared to other countries, PNG’s adult literacy rate is regarded as one of the lowest in Asia and Pacific.
The ARoB literacy rates figures above do not give a true picture of educational outcomes. Today some schools remain understaffed and under-resourced. Large portions of the illiterate ‘lost generation’ have been unable to access social support or alternative education options or benefit from external resources and opportunities and are left to face the economic challenges resulting from years of civil strife. While the younger generation have more educational opportunities today, still many do not attend school.
On 29 April 2014 the Bougainville Education Act was passed, which, in conjunction with the Bougainville Public Services Act (2014) saw the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Division of Education become the Bougainville Education Department (BED) and meant that the Papua New Guinea Education Act no longer applied to ARoB. The BED is guided by the Bougainville Education Plan, Sustainability and Self Reliance (2007-2016) which presents the outcomes for education in ARoB and the strategies used for achieving them from 2006 - 2015.