While the Samoan education system has achieved much over the years, the oceanic nation still has room to grow, especially in terms of dropout and retention rates. Here are six facts about education in Samoa.
- The Education Sector of Samoa serves a population of approximately 193,000 on a land area of 2,820 square kilometers, comprising the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i and eight small islands. Samoa is a lower middle-income country with a GDP of nearly $761 million in 2015 with a life expectancy of 73.4 years and a Gender Development Index (GDI) of 0.956 (in comparison, the U.S. has a GDI of 0.995).
- According to a 2012 UNESCO report, 99 percent of adult Samoans are literate, compared to the Pacific average of 71 percent and the global average of 84 percent.
- Early childhood education in Samoa is provided mainly by nongovernmental organizations. The participation rate remains low, with the actual number assumed to be higher due to community‐run, unregistered pre‐schools. Little is known about how these informal early childhood educations perform or how they compare to federally funded programs.
- Primary school enrollment rates are high, and most children go on to complete the full cycle of eight years of primary education. Secondary school participation rates have room for improvement, with 50.6 percent of boys and 69.5 percent of girls of secondary school age attending secondary school. Of those attending secondary school, however, graduation rates were above 90 percent in May 2016.
- Recent Samoan national reports highlight education as a critical issue in the perpetuation of rural poverty. The 2013 Samoa Hardship and Poverty Report described a strong correlation between poverty, vulnerability status and the level of education of Samoan citizens. The analysis found that males with no tertiary education in urban areas are more likely to be vulnerable to poverty than other demographics. While only 12 percent of Samoans are formally employed, and most live off of informal wages, low-paid employment opportunities in both formal and informal sectors, which do not require any training beyond a secondary education, tend to be male-dominated and concentrated in urban areas.
- Informal educational programs play an important role in the delivery of basic education. These include ‘ā’oga faifeau,’ or religious programs, that supplement regular education and nongovernment organizations that provide second chance educational programs for dropouts. Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture has recently begun incorporating practical subjects and vocational education and training programs to meet the learning needs of both students and the economy.
Compared to the Pacific community and even a majority of the world population, Samoan schools demonstrate characteristics of effective education programs. However, increased emphasis on secondary school retention and the role of informal and vocational education could possibly improve the quality and effectiveness of education in Samoa.
– Casie Wilson