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PNG has not done much to improve its literacy rate since independence, Lae MP Bart Philemon said yesterday.

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 7, 1998 - Post-Courier)--- Officially launching the 1998 National Literacy Week, Mr. Philemon said studies carried out since independence have shown that PNG has achieved "negative improvement in adult literacy between the 1970s and 1990s despite the fact that Papua New Guinea is one of the highest spenders in education in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Recent studies have indicated that the last several years have been ones when Papua New Guinea lost ground faster than it made gains in the extension of the basic right of education to all citizens.

"This shows very clearly that our drive for the national literacy and awareness programs has so far failed to make much impact in reducing our level of illiteracy since we gained independence over 20 years ago," Mr. Philemon said.

"It will take more than just free education policy to reverse the long standing trend of poor performance to date on literacy." He called on the government now and in future not to lose sight of the enormous challenge facing the country at this time which is to help those "who cannot share the joy of experiencing the power of reading because they are not literate."

Mr. Philemon challenged the nation to give books to the children to read. He said, "Through reading, we acquire information and accumulate new knowledge."

Highlighting surveys done on literacy levels in PNG, Mr. Philemon said close to two million Papua New Guineans are illiterate and most of these are women.

The week-long activities will end on Friday with the announcing of winners of the 1998 National Literacy Essay Competition run by the Post-Courier and the Department of Education.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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