The South Pacific nation of Tuvalu is comprised of only 11,000 citizens. Tuvalu’s small population and its remote location require a specialized economy. Tuvaluan citizens work in tourism, agriculture, an increasingly respected internet domain and a prevalent maritime industry. However, education in Tuvalu is seeing a rising failure rate compared to Australia and other neighboring countries.
Tuvaluan children attend primary school starting at age seven. Nearly a sixth of Tuvalu attends one of the 11 primary schools across the small country. Despite the high percentage of Tuvaluans in primary school, there is a relatively small teacher-to-student ratio — nearly 1:18 — and the country enjoys a 99 percent literacy rate.
Education in Tuvalu is compulsory for seven years and is free for its students. The accessibility of primary education is an incredible advantage for its citizens and paves the way for further education.
While not compulsory, Tuvalu offers a strong secondary education system. Secondary schools such as the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute strive to integrate Tuvaluans into their seafaring industry. For students who don’t excel academically, Tuvalu has created vocational schools that help train students with technical skills for other jobs throughout the country.
On the far end of the spectrum, Tuvalu provides Community Training Centres for students who are unable to pass entry exams for secondary schools. Education in Tuvalu, therefore, allows training for every citizen. Despite this, failure rates are rising, putting a strain on the national economy.
Increasing Failure Rates
While the population has grown in Tuvalu, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased. Since 2012, Tuvalu’s GDP has shrunk from an all-time high of nearly $40 million by nine percent. This may be explained, in part, by the increasing failure rates in Tuvaluan schools. In recent years, 40 percent of students applying for secondary education have failed their entrance examinations.
This discrepancy makes it clear that while students are required to go to primary school, a large portion of students are not taking advantage of the accessibility of secondary education in Tuvalu. Options at that point are scant; failing students are either pushed out of the educational system or must retake higher levels of primary school in order to achieve the required results.
What Can be Done
Education in Tuvalu allows for easily accessible training. However, the increasing failure rates from primary schools are mirrored by a decreasing GDP. Educators are being brought in from neighboring countries, and Tuvaluans are experiencing the consequences of a decreasing economy.
Due to Tuvalu’s small population and specialized economy, options are limited for the 40 percent of failing students. Tuvalu would benefit from legislation and organizations that strive to raise pass rates among its students. It is vital that the country’s pass rates and GDP rise along with an increasing population.
– Eric Paulsen