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Education and the "New" Inequality in Papua New Guinea
PATRICIA LYONS JOHNSON
Pennsylvania State University Thisarticlearguesthatstudies ofgrowing socioeconomic stratificationin Papua New Guinea have ignored or dismissed gender as a source of inequality. The article focuses on educational opportunity as the key to wealth and political power and shows that the most educationallydisadvantagedgroup in Papua New Guinea is rural women. Data from national censuses, the author'sfield work,and literatureconcerningstratificationare used to supporttheargument. EDUCATION, GENDER INEQUALITY,PAPUA NEW GUINEA Over the last 15 years in Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.),a body of literature has emerged concerned with the process of increasing socioeconomic differentiation that has accompanied political independence (Amarshi et al. 1979; Bray and Smith 1985; Gerritsen 1981; Howlett 1980; May 1985a). While the relative classlessness of precolonial societies has inspired debate, there is consensus that postcolonial P.N.G. is experiencing increasing disparities in education, wealth, political power, and the general set of benefits at least theoretically associated with development and modernization. Studies of this phenomenon have examined inequality in several spheres: among races and regions; among groups within the urban sector; between the urban and rural sectors; and, within the rural sector, between the "big peasantry" (Fitzpatrick 1980) and the rest of the rural population. Despite divergent opinions as to the relative importance of particular spheres, there does appear to be at least tacit agreement that the important focus of current study is the growing inequality among men. Increasing disparities between men and women have received very little attention. I will argue in this article that what Molyneux (1977:57) defines as androcentrism, "a theoretical and ideological bias which focuses principally and sometimes exclusively on male subjects and on the relations constituted between them," has either obscured or dismissed the fact that in the area of education, which in P.N.G. comprises an integral strand in the web of wealth and political power, it is rural females who have constituted the most disadvantaged segment of the population. My argument will be based on the literature, on data from the Papua New Guinea...