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Education in Kiribati: Access for Older Students

Kiribati is dedicated to providing the best educational system for its children. Education in Kiribati was improved with the National Development Strategy, which was created to provide universal education to students in primary and secondary school. This means that students who attend primary school (grades 1-6) and Junior Secondary School (grades 7-9) will not have to pay, which takes an enormous financial burden off their parents.

This system is designed to take children out of the workforce, and so far it has been a large success. By 2005, there were 18,138 students enrolled in primary school. This number slowly declined to 16,710 by the year 2013, then quickly grew to 18,208 for the year 2014.

Not only does this program introduce children to education, but it also retains a very high percentage of students. Nearly 88 percent of those that participate in primary schooling move on to Junior Secondary School.

The issue that arises with education in Kiribati is when students move onto Senior Secondary School. The first obstacle that students must overcome if they wish to continue their education is passing the Junior Secondary Certificate Examination. As with most examinations, not everyone will pass, and this limits how many students can move on.

For those who have passed the exam and wish to move on, money is the next issue. As mentioned, while primary and Junior Secondary School are paid for by the government, Senior Secondary School is not. These school fees can be too much for a family to afford, even though the Kiribati government does provide some scholarships to students.

The third issue for incoming students is finding a school they can attend. Most Senior Secondary Schools are on the South Tarawa island. For students who are in other areas of Kiribati, like the Outer Islands, this means they must find a relative in the South Tarawa area or board at the school. This transportation and new residence can also cause a great financial burden on the family, which may be why only about one-third of students move onto the Senior level.

In the past several years, the government has taken steps to address the issues with education in Kiribati. In 2009, Kiribati and Australia agreed to a Partnership for Development, which concentrates on growing access to education, improving the education curriculums and developing workforce skills in students. Kiribati also launched its own Education Improvement Plan the following year, a ten-year plan which focuses on some of the same areas, but also on improving government policies and services. These programs show that Kiribati is committed to addressing the obstacles to education in the country and ensuring that all children can access it.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr