Vanuatu is an island nation located north of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of 83 separate islands and six distinct provinces. Because Vanuatu was occupied by several European nations during its colonial period, it has retained three national languages: English, French and Bislama. Bislama is described as a form of Pidgin English that formed naturally from contact with the French and English; it has become a native language to the islands and is still practiced widely. Even with all the culture from many nations still within the country, education in Vanuatu is unremarkable.

Education in Vanuatu is only compulsory for the first six years of primary education. While the Ministry of Education offers four years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education, after the first six years many students leave their education behind without learning useful skills to benefit their future lives. Some remote tribal areas do not benefit from an education at all.

According to the Nations Encyclopedia, in 1999, 96 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled in school. Although a seemingly promising number, by the end of that same year, only 23 percent of those same students were eligible to attend a secondary school.

The citizens of Vanuatu could be capable of fluency in three languages within their homes and yet the literacy rate is very low, at 64 percent. In an effort to combat this, the Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP) or also commonly known as the Book Flood Project, was formed.

The VANLEP program “endeavors to promote and enhance current efforts in upgrading education in [Vanuatu] and… in increasing literacy levels among children living in rural areas.” The program is making efforts to achieve these goals by stimulating learning environments by providing schools with books for children of all ages — known as a book flood. The program also helps to train parents and teachers to be the best they can be in order to help the children learn. The program aims to update the school curriculum and create partnerships with communities and schools to best benefit the children via a communal learning mentality.

Education in Vanuatu has its struggles, but it is making an effort to enlighten and encourage its students to reach their fullest potential. As the literacy rates increase, the entire country will benefit from a full and focused education.

Karyn Adams

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