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Brief History of Port Moresby International School

Written by Ms. Diana McManus, HOD - English Department


The year 2010 marks the 33rd anniversary of the International Education Agency (IEA) of Papua New Guinea, a private organization which owns and administers twenty one schools throughout the nation, most of which are primary schools. At the top of Bava Street, benched into the leafy foothills above Boroko, lies the attractive campus of Port Moresby International School, one of the two fully fledged secondary schools under the IEA’s umbrella,  the other being Coronation College in Lae. Some other schools go to Grade 10 and one to Grade 11.

Port Moresby International School had its beginnings back in 1960 which was still in the colonial era. It was then known as Port Moresby High School (POM High), built primarily to cater for the sons and daughters of expatriates, although there were a few Papuans enrolled. Most of the students were expatriates as well as the teachers, a fact well documented in the early school magazines, named Frigate Bird until 1971 when the name changed to Hereva, Motu for‘Talk’. Schools in those days were either mission schools or government schools, either T (Territory) schools or A (Australian) schools whose curriculums and accreditation were linked to the New South Wales education system. All schools fell under the auspices of the National Department of Education.

One of the early Principals from 1969 - 72, Ian Mackellar, wrote in a reflective letter dated 14/11/1993, “There were four houses adjacent to Boroko East, four above the High School, plus our residence. Grounds were completely open - various Goilalas/Chimbus strolled through each day, often collecting water, going to and from the settlement over the hill. The idea of security guards was beyond comprehension.”

In 1974 PMIS became one of a few “common curriculum” schools which developed before the IEA came into being, a curriculum to span the needs of both the international community and the PNG community.

Steve Mead, DirectorSteve Mead, Executive Director of the IEA, recalls coming to teach at POM High in 1974, where he was Subject Master of Science, then later of Maths. He was also the staff rep at the time, leading the vanguard for change in the school. “At that time all the buildings lining the top of the oval were completed, as well as the Hall (built in 1970), the Office, and some buildings along the campus roadway. I used to teach in Room 6, which is now one of the English rooms, or right down the back of the school. Science was taught in the old Maths buildings. We trudged up there through a long, muddy path from the Office at the front. The current library, CDT (Design & Technology) and science buildings did not exist then. CDT (built in 1981) used to be taught in the current Music building.” The science block, with its modern labs, was built later and the Library, which is the centerpiece of the campus, came into existence in 1980 as the Resource Centre.

In 1977 the International Education Agency was formed and was associated with the Department of Education. It undertook the management of a number of schools throughout the infant nation, including POM High. Mr Mead was part of the founding Board of Directors of IEA, as a teacher rep. and went on to become head of IEA which now operates as an independent company. Each school has a Certificate of Incorporation with the PNG Registrar of Companies.

Colin BColin Brown, Principal (1985-94)rown became the longest serving Principal of Port Moresby International High School as it became known, (1985 – 1994) ushering in major organizational changes in the way the school was structured. One of his achievements was to amalgamate PMIS with Boroko East  in  1994 and create a K-12 school which had three discrete sections, each with it’s own Head, Primary (Years Pre – 4 ), the Middle School (Years 5 – 8) and the High School (Years 9 – 12) and an overarching Director. He introduced the international curriculums on offer today and had the school affiliated with the European Council of International Schools, an affiliation of private international schools with a common purpose.  To reflect the new direction, the school was renamed Port Moresby International School (PMIS) in 1994, and the school magazine changed its name to Sivurai Buka (Story Book).

Lionel Melville, now Principal of IEA TAFE, started his association with the school in 1985 as the National Dept of Education, Secondary Inspector. Every teacher, including expats had to be inspected by the government for PNG registration. He succeeded Allan Kelly as Principal of Gordons School before a brief stint as Principal/ Director of PMIS before becoming Manager of IEA property and assets. He has fond memories of the school.

“It was a great multi-cultural mix of students and staff. It was an exciting school with the UN Concert and Independence Day celebrations. The Juniors from Boroko East came across and joined in the major sports/cultural days.  PMIS, being the largest of the IEA schools and the wealthiest was a very powerful part of the IEA. But as the number of expats reduced and the emphasis on the school has changed, all these other factors have changed too.”

The new look school was to be one which catered for everyone. Over the years PMIS has certainly changed the flavour of its intake. Today, of its 800+ students, about 85% are PNG citizens, and this is reflected in the staffing of the school as well.  It offers a curriculum which emphasizes educational pathways for Papua New Guineans who wish to pursue tertiary education or employment in their home country, as well as opportunities for all students to gain entry into international tertiary institutions. PMIS continues to review its structure to suit the needs of its clientele. In 2000 it reverted to being a discrete high school from Year 9 -12 with Mrs Sue Hinchliffe as Principal, who was succeeded by John Sloan, and expanded to Years 7 – 12.

The school has three curriculums which underpin the courses offered. Intake begins at Year 7, and PNG citizens, like their national school counterparts, sit for the Certificate of Basic Education at the end of Year 8. In the middle school students are required to nominate whether or not they desire Australian accreditation. The school is aligned with the Australian Capital Territory’s education system and is bound by the regulations and standards control of the ACT Board of Secondary School Studies. Some courses lead only to attainment of the PNG School Certificate (SC) or PNG Higher School Certificate (HSC).  Other courses are tailored towards attaining an ACT SC or HSC as well as the PNG Certificates. At Year 10 level students may elect to sit for the International General Certificate of Education (IGCSE), a Cambridge University administered examination. At Senior level students also have the opportunity to aim for the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB). PMIS is the only school in PNG to offer the IB program.

The International Baccalaureate is a very rigorous course which is recognized worldwide. It is administered by the IB Organisation based in both Bern, Switzerland and Cardiff, Wales. Attainment of the IB Diploma, or even an IB Certificate in selected subjects, gives intending tertiary students an edge over others competing for tertiary level entry. It consists of six subjects which link to a central core subject called The Theory of Knowledge (TOK). In addition to the exams and assignments relating to their subjects, students are also required to produce a 4,000 word Extended Essay, with the help of their nominated supervisor, which demonstrates advanced research skills and logic. Finally, throughout the two year course, students must perform a hundred hours of service in the CAS Program (Creativity, Action and Service).

The IB CAS Program is actually linked to much of what is regarded as a normal part of PMIS school life which involves many of its students, not just the IB group. Each year PMIS stages an excellent School Musical at the Moresby Arts Theatre, for many years directed by the inexhaustible energy of Mrs Jenny Ramamurthy. This year it is the highly acclaimed  High School Musical which will be playing at MAT shortly from Wednesday 28th March until Saturday 31st. Past musicals include Friday Knight Fever, When the West Was Warped, West Side Story, to name a few. The musical and the huge, evening, outdoor United Nations concert, held annually on the school’s oval, are only two ways in which the Creativity demands of the CAS program may be fulfilled.  The school has some enviable facilities, amongst which is arguably the best oval in PNG. Even the national rugby team uses it for practice. School Athletics Sports, which used to be held in the Hubert Murray Stadium, are now held here. Last year the UN Concert entertained around 10,000 people who enjoyed the secure environment, food stalls and family entertainment. This was provided by the different cultural groups within the school, supported admirably by their wider communities who entrust them with their hopes for the future. This event is almost entirely organized by the year 12s.

Outdoor Education is a unique senior subject at PMIS. Its aim is to develop the confidence and skills of students, physical, mental and organisational, to enable them to participate in or establish extreme sports or tourism outlets. Many of the CAS students express their Action obligations through the activities of the Outdoor Ed. Course, such as walking the Kokoda Track, climbing Mount Wilhelm, bushwalking, rock climbing, canoeing, wake boarding. Some assist in organizing the school’s sports carnivals. Years ago swimming carnivals took place at Taurama Pool and swimming was a popular sport. Christina Broman of 2A wrote, in 1966, “After a long and dusty drive the bus reaches Ela Beach where the swimming students pile out…..they swim in the pool or in the sea., but when it is low tide some gather shells on the reef or run along the sand…..When time is up, Miss Murphy blows a whistle…then there is a charge for the nearest shop before the bus comes to take students back to school.”

Encouraging service to the community has always been a part of the school’s philosophy and its Interact Club works tirelessly to bring relief to others less fortunate than ourselves. CAS students may become a part of the Club’s activities, or work on the Cheshire Homes Sausage sizzle at Foodworld. At present they are part of a wider group of students who have undertaken to paint the Boroko Police Station as a community service. They may also organize and participate in fundraising activities for charity, such as Casual Clothes days, school dances and cake stalls. Another important service to the community is the annual Independence Day Celebration which enables the wider school community to take pride in the country’s achievements since 1975. This is largely organized by the students.

With this emphasis on excellence, collaboration, problem solving, self-motivation and ethical behaviour, a vision which is shared by all the IEA schools, it is not surprising that PMIS achieves excellent academic results and graduates go on to become community leaders.  A couple of the more illustrious past students of the school include Commonwealth Games Medal winner Ryan Pini, and also Stephen Fleming, Captain of the New Zealand cricket team.

Mr. Richard Kassman who is now  Chairman of the PMIS Board of Governors, recalls the days when he was one of the few Papuans attending Port Moresby High School before Independence. “When I was in Grade 8, our Home Teacher was Carol Kidu who was then a young Social Science teacher there. We used to have our home meetings in a room up behind the cannon (which incidentally is still on the grounds of PMIS, hidden by the school’s lush greenery). She was white and we were scared to death of her. But she jollied us along and wouldn’t stand any nonsense, and in the end we all just fell in love with her.” The now Dame Carol Kidu began teaching at POM High in 1971, and continued to teach there throughout the seventies with various breaks to accommodate family life.

Mr. Kassman went on to be elected School Captain of Port Moresby High School in his last year of school, 1975. Interestingly, twenty years later his son Jonathon was also elected School Captain of PMIS. Being head prefect for the young Richard was a source of pride and responsibility, a far cry from the vision he had as a beginning student. “When I was in Grade 8 Jason Pini’s mother was school captain. We used to think she was very nice, and wouldn’t it be good to be a prefect, because you might end up with a nice girl like her.”

The PMIS of today is keeping abreast of the changing needs of our nation, and, indeed, of the world. Its technology courses are second to none. The school has five dedicated IT rooms filled with computers, and courses which will equip our students with the technological skills to survive in the modern world.  Using the Internet as a communication tool is vital. Graphic design and various publishing tools are taught, as well as the mechanics and ethics of computer use.

There is no doubt that PMIS is a special experience for students because of its international flavour which celebrates diversity, and the values it promotes. Indeed many of the more recent PMIS international graduates who are spread throughout the world at various universities have created an internet chat line to maintain their strong links of friendship created through the opportunities the school offers. Perhaps this is the beginnings of what may expand to become the PMIS Alumni, an opportunity to bring everyone home, albeit electronically in some cases.

Principals of PMIS since its inception are as follows:

Jack Riley              1960- 62
John Newnham     1963 - 66
Norm Wells           1967 - 68
Ian Mackellar        1969 - 72
Peter Wrigley        1973 - 75
Lloyd Willington   1976
Joy Bear                 1977 - 78
I. Wakeham            1979 - 80
B. Gascoine           1981
Terry Riles             1982 - 84
Colin Brown            1985 - 94
Chris Bowman       1995 - 97
Michael Cheevers     1998 - 99
Dianne Korare (Head of School during the latter two principalships)  
Steve Garret  (Director) & Sue Hinchliffe (Principal)           2000-2001
John Sloan              2002 – 2006
Wayne Ible             2007 - 2008
Christopher West 2009 - present


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PMIS Photos

Circa 1960s

PMIS Landscape Aerial Shot


PMIS school buildings





Building the current Arts/Music blocks



PMIS staff houses



Toilet block





Woodwork room



PMIS TEaching Staff 1966



PMIS 3B boys 1966



"The PMIS of today
is keeping abreast
of the changing
needs of our nation,
and indeed,
of the world."



Copyright, last date updated 05/11/2010.  If you have comments regarding the web site, please email