About Papua New Guinea


This information is to provide answers to some of the common questions asked about living in Papua New Guinea and teaching in IEA schools.


Note that details of employment conditions are for general information only. While we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any statement contained in this publication, every effort is made to ensure the information is regularly updated. Specific details regarding appointments will be provided to successful applicants.

The International Education Agency (IEA) is a private non-profit company responsible for the management of twenty schools throughout the country. Each school is controlled by a Board of Governors elected by the parents. Schools are managed by Principals who are each responsible to the IEA Executive Director. The IEA curriculum has been developed in line with current international curriculum trends and can be viewed at www.iea.ac.pg.

IEA schools in Papua New Guinea educate over 6000 expatriate and citizen pupils and employ around 300 teachers. IEA schools receive no government funding and school fees are dictated by the costs of operating the schools.


Papua New Guinea is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and is 160 kilometres north of Australia. The western half of the island is West Papua, a province of Indonesia. Papua New Guinea comprises both the mainland and some 600 offshore islands. It has a total land area of 462,800 square kilometres and is about the same size as Thailand.

Papua New Guinea is relatively young and its geography is diverse and characterized by high mountain ranges, deep valleys and swift rivers in the interior and open plains, tropical forests and swampy inlets in the coastal region.

Located just south of the equator, Papua New Guinea experiences a moderate tropical climate with levels of seasonal rainfall. Port Moresby may experience an annual rainfall of 1000mm (39in) while Lae experiences over 4500mm (176in). In extreme rainfall areas, such as West New Britain, the annual rainfall can exceed 6m (20ft) a year. In the highlands temperatures can range from a low of four degrees Celsius to a high of 32 degrees Celsius. The lowland, coastal and island areas have an average daily temperature of 27 degrees Celsius.

Papua New Guinea has a population of around 6 million. The majority of people live in the highland valleys and many isolated villages. Apart from the National Capital District (NCD), population density is relatively low with around 15 percent of the population living in the major urban areas. The major city and capital of the country is Port Moresby with a population of over 300,000. There are over 750 languages in PNG (representing about one third of the world’s indigenous languages). This dizzying array has brought about the need for a lingua franca, and Tok Pisin (Pidgin) has gained importance and prestige in recent years and is great fun to learn. Borrowing words from many languages, it is primarily derived from English and German, but only covers about 1300 words. English is the official language of government, education and business. Hiri Motu is the third official language.

PNG is made up of over 800 tribal groups. In appearance the people vary from region to region and their lifestyles reflect considerable cultural diversity and degrees of ‘westernisation’. Papua New Guineans are friendly and welcoming and it is worth making the effort to meet the people and learn something of their customs.

Living in Papua New Guinea

PNG is a country in the midst of unparalleled social change. As such it suffers a higher crime rate than would be expected in Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom. As a result, PNG sometimes attracts bad press, and although much of it is scare-mongering, it is wise to remember that PNG has the same problems – urban unemployment and rising crime rate – facing many emerging nations. Security measures such as bars on windows, dead locks and security fencing and lighting may seem a little intrusive but are required. It is important to realise that security awareness is a way of life and does restrict your lifestyle to a certain extent. Most people soon adjust to the simple precautions required to live in PNG and rarely face problems.  A majority of teachers recruited to IEA schools apply to stay for a second contract and exit surveys indicate that they thoroughly enjoy their time in PNG.

Accommodation is provided for overseas recruited teachers rent free. Furniture is provided including refrigerator, stove and washing machine and reasonable utility charges are covered by the school. Virtually all newcomers will need to buy a motor vehicle soon after arrival in PNG. New residents of PNG are allowed three months to obtain a PNG driver’s license which is renewed every three years. If you hold a foreign driver’s license you can be issued with a PNG license without taking a driving test. There is a limited road network outside the towns but air travel makes all centres accessible. You should be able to buy a reliable second hand vehicle for similar prices to those in your home country.

A wide range of overseas goods is available in the main centres. Many stores carry a comprehensive stock of merchandise. The pharmacies provide a good range of cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. There are supermarkets that carry a wide range of local and imported food and household items.

The cost of living varies with the locality. In Port Moresby, for example, many of the fruits and vegetables are imported and are fairly expensive. However, in the rest of the country, most vegetables are for sale at reasonable prices at the local markets. Freezer foods are in reasonable supply but will cost more than in your home country. Inexpensive domestic help is available in almost all centres and the cost of one such helper is included as part of the overseas recruited teachers’ entitlement package. Domestics can attend to all aspects of housework and gardening, and can mind small children, but they do not generally cook.

In PNG it is important to choose modest clothing that is cool, easy to wash and not likely to fade quickly. Synthetics can be uncomfortable and hot in the tropics. Dress in PNG is generally informal. The usual daytime wear for men is a short sleeved open-necked shirt and trousers or shorts with socks, sandals or shoes. Ties are worn but are not obligatory. Suitable day time clothing for women includes sleeveless dresses or light cotton blouses and skirts or trousers.

There are two local television station which broadcasts to major centres. Most houses are connected to satellite dishes or cable networks with a range of stations from Australia and Asia. The telecommunications system, especially using mobile phones, is generally good and you can dial most countries directly. There is no house delivery for mail in Papua New Guinea. Mail can be sent care of the school or you can hire a private Post Office Box in your centre. Mail deliveries are regular and usually reliable though a little slow. For urgent international deliveries PNG is well served by couriers. The Internet is widely available but is a little slower than in  developed countries. This can mean that services like video phone calls using for example, Skype may not work properly.

Most religious denominations are represented in PNG though not necessarily in every centre. There are branches of the following organisations in some towns: Rotary, Lions, Apex, Boys Scouting Association, Civil Defence, CWA, Girl Guides, Hospital Volunteer Association, Red Cross, St. John Ambulance. In most large towns you will find a wide variety of interest groups, sporting and social clubs.

Medical Matters

The hospitals in the main centres are large but are not as well equipped as those in developed countries. There are private practitioners in the larger towns and most expatriates seeking medical attention would visit a private doctor or private hospital rather than go to the outpatients section of the hospital. If, in the opinion of your doctor and one specialist doctor, an illness cannot be treated in PNG then a patient may be referred to a doctor in Cairns, Northern Queensland (Australia).Dental facilities outside the main centres are limited. Anybody coming to PNG should certainly have a full dental check and follow-up treatment before leaving the home country.

Newcomers to PNG may consider immunisation against cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis and hepatitis B. While malaria is endemic in the coastal areas in PNG, there is some controversy whether anti-malarials have long term effectiveness. You would be wise to seek medical advice. The incidence of HIV/Aids is very high and appropriate precautions are vital.

Teachers recruited from overseas are covered under a Medical and Emergency Repatriation Insurance Policy with the premium paid by IEA. The Insurance covers a significant proportion of medical expenses and emergency medical travel to the nearest point in Australia with required facilities if treatment is not available in PNG. The IEA arranges a Personal Accident Insurance Policy that includes provision for salary continuance where a teacher is suffering from illness or injury caused by accident and all sick leave credits have been used.

Teaching in Papua New Guinea

Expatriate teachers sign a two year Contract of Employment with the IEA detailing employment conditions. Once an offer has been made and verbally accepted, a detailed letter of appointment is sent to each teacher being offered contract employment. This is a legally binding document until the contract has been signed.

A visa is required before initial entry to PNG. The IEA makes arrangements for the issuing of visas after recruitment, but it is up to the individual recruit to contact their local PNG Consulate or High Commission to apply for the visa. The IEA provides information and guidance for this process. Visas can take a number of weeks to finalise as authorization has to come from the Department of Immigration in Port Moresby.

PNG has a localization program that requires employers to employ suitably qualified Papua New Guinean citizens if possible. Spouses of employees will find it virtually impossible to obtain employment.

Leave fares for overseas recruits are paid for the teacher and accompanying dependants listed on the contract from the place of employment in PNG to the place of recreation leave specified in the contract, normally the place of recruitment.

There are usually four ten week terms in the school year, which starts in the third or last week of January. There is a one to two week vacation after first term, a three week vacation in July after second term and one week vacation after third term. Christmas vacation is around six weeks.

Most school days start at about 8am and finish between 2pm and 3pm, although this varies slightly from school to school.

Full school fees are paid for dependent children listed in the contract and attending IEA schools in PNG. For listed dependent children, between the ages of 11 years and 19 years, attending school overseas, school and boarding fees will be reimbursed up to the level of the fee approved for Port Moresby International School. Dependent children attending secondary schools overseas are also entitled to an annual leave fare up to the value of the airfare they would have received had they been resident with the parents in PNG.

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