SEATTLE — The Micronesian region is an Oceanic region that encompasses five politically sovereign states. These states include the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). This small group of islands is situated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.
The level of education within the Micronesian region is relatively uniform throughout each state. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to focus on the entirety of the region’s education.
According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a branch of the United Nations that researches improvements in education around the world, the literacy rate on the Marshall Islands was 98.48 percent in 2015. In Palau, the literacy rate was 99.81 percent in the same year. UNESCO did not have data on Kiribati, Nauru, or the FSM.
Education on the islands tends to be compulsory between the ages of six and 16. Elementary education is free. A gap in education in Micronesia with respect to the differing states becomes apparent when looking at different levels of education.
The UNESCO’s Pacific Education for All 2015 Review shows high primary education enrollment rates on the islands. However, children being at grade levels inconsistent with their age appears to be a common problem in the Pacific Island states. Another concern is the high level of students that drop out of school. In 2011, more than 65 percent of youth ages 14-25 were not enrolled in school or working on the Marshall Islands. For girls, teen pregnancy is a common reason for dropping out of school.
Less than 20 percent of Micronesians have completed some college. If pursuing a college degree, Micronesians usually do distance learning courses or study abroad in Guam, Hawaii, or the U.S. mainland. The main college on the Micronesian islands is the College of Micronesia.
Despite the slow rate at which college attendance is growing, education in Micronesia is making tremendous improvements. Outside assistance has been vital in nurturing the quality and access to education in Micronesia.
Australia has been partnering with the Nauru Department of Education in order to improve the quality of teaching and increase school enrollment in Nauru. According to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this partnership has resulted in an increase in Nauruan school children enrollment from 2,851 in 2006 to 3,026 in 2011. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the entirety of Nauru’s population was approximately 9,591 in 2016.
Other agencies have been instrumental in assisting with the improvement of education in Micronesia. Mathematics and Culture in Micronesia: Integrating Societal Experiences (MACIMISE) is a project spearheaded by the University of Hawaii Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) that seeks to increase the mathematics levels of children within eight different Micronesian island groups. This five-year, grant-funded project helped develop and test culturally sensitive curriculum in the area of mathematics.
As more data is collected about the state of education in Micronesia, proper avenues for improving the region’s quality of education can be identified.
— Rebeca Ilisoi