SEATTLE — Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation formerly known as the Ellice Islands. It is situated midway between Hawaii and Australia and its closest neighbors are Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji. “Tuvalu” means “group of eight,” it was called this because the nation was originally comprised of eight inhabited islands. Present day Tuvalu, however, is made up of four reef islands and five atolls. The total land area is just ten square miles, making Tuvalu the fourth-smallest country on earth behind Vatican City, Monaco and Nauru.
Government-funded education in Tuvalu is organized under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture. According to Commonwealth Education, “the government’s strategy for education aims to raise standards in teaching and learning; enhance the relevance of the curriculum; ensure adequate availability of education for special needs and strengthen management of the education system.”
Even though it is small, Tuvalu provides plenty of opportunities for its approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Education in Tuvalu includes free and compulsory primary education from age six to 15. Each island has a primary education facility and the island of Vaitupu has one state secondary boarding school as well as one private secondary school run by the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu.
Education is Tuvalu also offers vocational and technical training. The Maritime Training Institute on Funafuti, which was founded in 1979, trains those seeking employment on ships and fishing boats, and also offers in-service training for serving maritime workers. Another technical school, the Technical Education Center, offers training in building trades. Tuvalu is partnered with the regional University of the South Pacific, which has campuses on Suva, Fiji and Funafuti.
Community Training Centres (CTCs) are part of every primary school on every island. The CTCs offer vocational education in areas outside of maritime education. The CTCs offer basic training in carpentry, gardening, farming and sewing and cooking. These classes are offered to those who successfully complete Class 8 in order to move onto secondary education. However, at the end of their studies students in CTCs are encouraged to apply to continue on to secondary education whether at Motufoua Secondary School or the Maritime Training Institute. Both adults and children are given the opportunity to attend classes at the CTCs.
In 2002, the adult literacy rate was 99 percent. In 2007, the youth literacy rate (ages 15 to 24) rose from 95 percent to 98.6 percent. The percentage of children staying in school and reaching grade five also rose from 72.7 percent in 2000 to 91.2 percent in 2004. The government made significant strides from the 1990s to today in making education in Tuvalu a top priority. The education system is steadily increasing its number of successful students.
– Karyn Adams