About Papua New Guinea

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The island nation of Papua New Guinea is located in the Oceania/Melanesia region of the South Pacific, just north of Australia.  It occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea – the second largest island in the world – as well as many smaller islands off the coast.

Climate and Population

The climate in PNG is very tropical, with monsoon rains happening throughout much of the year.  The lowlands along the coast are hot and humid, and the interior highlands enjoy very moderate temperatures year-round.

The approximately seven million people of PNG make up more than 800 distinct language groups, each with its own cultures and traditions.  Because of the rugged, mountainous terrain throughout much of the country, these groups have historically been very isolated.

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In recent years, there has been significant migration into urban areas, including the capital city, Port Moresby.  With the advent of affordable mobile telephones in the late 2000s, communication has greatly increased.

Agricultural exports include coffee, cocoa, and copra (a coconut product), and large mining operations produce gold, silver, copper, and liquid natural gas.  Most of the population practices subsistence farming, using slash-and-burn techniques.

Language and People

Because the country is so linguistically diverse, a trade language, Tok Pisin or Melanesian Pidgin, has developed and is used throughout much of the country.  Small pockets of the country (less than 4% of the population) use English or Hiri Motu as trade languages.

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The tribal culture is very strong, with most people holding a strong sense of responsibility to not only their immediate family but to the wider community as dictated by blood lines.  The median age is approximately 22 years, and only 9% of the population is more than 55 years old.

Most of the country professes to be Christian and the country is very welcoming of Christian organisations and missions.  However, traditional religions including animism, witchcraft, and ancestor worship still exist and often influence the people’s understanding of Christian truths.  Many communities have New Testaments in their languages, but about 300 viable languages still have nothing and need to have translation work begun.

Education

The education system in PNG ideally includes three years of “elementary” education beginning at about age 6 followed by six years of “primary” education, taking children up through grade 8.  Students who pass Grade 8 exams may continue on to Secondary school which is divided into lower (grades 9-10) and upper (grades 11-12) levels.

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Education is not compulsory and has associated fees, and therefore many children do not enrol in school.  In 2009, approximately 55% of elementary-aged children and 8% of secondary age children were enrolled.  The government has recently begun taking steps to reduce the cost of education for PNG students.

The people of PNG have a strong sense of national pride.  The country was granted its independence from Australia in September 1975.

The information above was compiled from the following sources:

CIA World Factbook, Papua New Guinea

UN Data, PNG Country Profile

US Aid, PNG Country Profile

PNG Department of Education

UNICEF, PNG Student Profile