SEATTLE — The northern Pacific island of Palau, also referred to as The Republic of Palau, is comprised of about 200 volcanic and coral islands, many of which are surrounded by a single barrier reef. The country was a United Nations trust territory administered by the U.S. for 47 years, but became independent in 1994.
Education in Palau is strongly influenced by the U.S. school system, with compulsory learning occurring from the ages of 6 to 14. In the public school system there are approximately 20 elementary schools and two high schools; many of these schools are deteriorating and lack furniture and basic equipment. In 1990, there were 369 students enrolled in private schools and 1,756 enrollments in public schools.
About two out of three students attend one of two public high schools, with the rest attending several private schools. There are currently no places in Palau where one can receive a university education, except for a long-distance learning program through the University of South Pacific and San Diego State University.
Although the issues of education in Palau is not as dire as other, less developed and more poverty stricken nations, there are still things that can be done to improve the situation. The most significant solution being undertaken is the Forum Basic Education Action Plan (FBEAP) which was developed in May 2001 by the Pacific Islands Forum and aims to achieve Pacific goals of universal and equitable educational participation and achievement, and to improve the overall quality of education in Palau.
The vision set by FBEAP follows the principles stated in the action plan:
“Basic education as the fundamental building block for society should engender the broader life skills that lead to social cohesion and provide the foundations for vocational callings, higher education, and lifelong learning. These when combined with enhanced employment opportunities create a high level of personal and societal security and development.”
The plan aims to accomplish this by bringing improvements to the teaching staff, curriculum programs, instructional materials, assessment procedures, as well as improvements to the schools themselves, improving the management and facilities.
Additionally, the plan seeks to improve the community by bettering relationships with communities and stakeholders, and improving the participation of all stakeholders in the planning and delivery of education. If these problems are addressed, it will greatly increase the educational standards of Palau and allow for many new opportunities for its inhabitants.
– Drew Fox