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Education in Palau

Recently, the northern Pacific island nation of Palau hosted its 25th Education Convention from July 23 to July 25, with approximately 530 public and private school teachers attending. The convention follows years of progress in improving education in Palau by increasing enrollment rates, creating primary school retention programs and prolonging the average school life for both boys and girls. All these factors allow Palau to further develop its education system.

Education in Palau and Gender

Surprisingly, girls and young women in Palau have at times had higher enrollment rates than boys and men, according to a 2008 analysis by UNICEF. The Ministry of Education of Palau even stated, “…gender disparity is not an issue in Palau. If there are any cases of gender disparity, they would involve males rather than females.”

The numbers are telling. According to the Ministry in 2005, the adjusted ratio of women to men with post-secondary education was 1.11, and the ratio of girls to boys in secondary school and primary school was 1.23 and 0.92, respectively. Furthermore, according to Palau Census Data as cited in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) status report, a larger proportion of Palau women have reached higher education than men for a college degree since 2000, an associate degree since 2005 and a bachelor degree since 1990.

Only 1.5 percent of women 25 years old and over have no education background compared to 2 percent for men in the same age group. In the same category, 81.5 percent of women have one to four years of college education, while the number only stands at 75 percent for men.

Palau has outperformed some Pacific island countries in such efforts. The Global Partnership for Education states that in Papua New Guinea, for example, the 2016 primary completion rate for boys and girls was 84.7 and 73.5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Palau’s 2014 primary completion rate for boys and girls was 96.947 and 94.69 percent, respectively. Although the Pacific Education for All effort lists various concerns of gender equity, low enrollment rates and high dropout rates for many Pacific island countries, many of these metrics do not apply to Palau.

Other Improvements Still Needed

While efforts to offer better girls’ education in Palau have been successful, other metrics for assessing the education system in Palau show that there is still room for improvement: The CIA World Factbook states that the school life expectancy for women in primary to tertiary education is 18 years compared to 16 for men. Further, the male literacy rate is 96.8 percent compared while the female literacy rate is 86 percent.

Other areas of the education system require further attention. Improving the quality of instruction is one of Palau’s top priorities, as the U.S. National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Excellence reported in 2016 that instructors scored “relatively low” on reading, writing and math skills in an assessment test. The accompanying survey found that the teachers scored particularly low on data analysis and probability; the report additionally found that teachers who scored higher had higher levels of education, taught upper-level schoolchildren and had higher reported proficiency in English.

Other indicators show weaknesses in the education system. In 2016, the student to teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools was 12:1, suggesting the possibility of overworked teachers who may not be able to give personalized attention. In primary schools in 2018, the CBE -– Life Sciences Education found that only 40 percent of teachers possessed a high school diploma. According to UNICEF, in 2015, 29 percent possessed an Associate of Arts or Science degree, and only 9 percent possessed a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Sciences. Past just the teachers, many schools do not even have adequate funding for school supplies and many buildings are in desperate need of renovations.

Tertiary education opportunities are also limited, given the small nature of Palau’s education system. With only one public high school in the country, many students attend private schools. Should students choose to attend college, the country only has one––Palau Community College (PCC). Though scholarships to attend the University of California San Diego are available, little data on tertiary education in Palau indicates few opportunities for students to expand on their education following high school.

Given that Palau has a matrilineal society and aforementioned indicators demonstrate successes in improving girls’ education in Palau and the country’s high regard for education, the main challenge is not to achieve gender parity in education but to generally boost the quality of education.

To address these concerns, the Ministry of Education has made calls for Palau schools to begin formal accreditation processes to bring more international attention to the country. Accompanying this have been efforts to implement teacher certification procedures. Studies have found varying results in English language teaching proficiency that underscore a greater need to establish training requirements for teachers and offering more opportunities for students to engage in a variety of fields, including STEM collaborations with PCC. To achieve this, the Palau government passed legislation requiring that teachers participate in a teacher preparation program at PCC.

Shaping the Landscape

International movements, organizations and regional efforts, alongside national educational improvement programs, have all helped Palau maintain high enrollment rates for girls and women and generally improve the education system. Palau’s educational achievements come almost two decades after the 2000 World Education Forum sparked Educational for All, an international movement calling for nations across the world to identify and achieve six educational goals.

With the 2006-2016 Ministry of Education’s 10-year plan to improve the quality of instruction, children have access to education from first grade until the end of high school, with compulsory primary and secondary education. The nation’s Early Childhood Comprehensive System and Head Start program––modeled similarly to American programs––provide support for families, medical services and works with Human Services and the Department of Health to help primary care providers, teachers, caregivers and families holistically care for 400 children and their development.

The ever-increasing access women have to financial stability and a wider variety of careers and roles in society throughout the past few decades have not been linked directly to women surpassing men in educational performance and attainment, according to the U.N. The 2005 census shows that women have a higher life expectancy than men, and though women are still less likely to be employed than men are, women’s median income is greater ($9,740) than that of men ($8,417). Women have “dominated” the judiciary in Palau and roles in public boards, but have yet to achieve equity in politics at the national level.

With the 25th convention coming up, the opportunities are endless for how Palau can build off its successes in creating more educational opportunities for both genders, particularly girls, by improving the overall quality of education and allowing for that education to carry over into careers and contributions to Palau society.

Jeongyoon Han
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Palau

For 18 years, the Republic of Palau, an island country in Micronesia, has worked with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to improve the lives of families living below the poverty line. Together, the government and the FAO are combatting issues of hunger in Palau in the following ways:

  1. Palau first partnered with the FAO in 1999. The cooperation between the country and the FAO to reduce hunger has helped increase production and productivity of farming systems, and contributes primarily to support local food production.
  2. Palau has received assistance from the FAO through the 2013-2017 Country Programming Framework (CPF) for the Pacific sub-region. The four-year plan focuses on improving legislation, food quality and safety and production of ecologically sustainable agriculture in 14 Pacific Island countries. In Palau, these plans are priorities for the National Master Development Plan 2020 and the Medium Term Development Strategy 2009-2014.
  3. Goals for the FAO CPF for Palau include robust legislative and strategic planning frameworks, increased production of agriculture and aquaculture and improved market access.
  4. To support local food production, the FAO has been working diligently to develop policy and planning for the country’s fisheries. Seafood is a primary food source in Palau, and many people find employment in the marine sector.
  5. Additionally, the FAO has sought to strengthen the country’s agriculture sector in connection with the tourism industry and domestic markets. With approval from Palau’s Bureau of Agriculture and the Tourism Office, the plan will also increase farm management and marketing.
  6. Subsistence crop production of taro, cassava, sweet potato, banana and coconut is the main agricultural system in Palau. Both rural and urban women are the dominant growers and harvesters of these crops. Most of the harvest feeds families and the country’s small commercial sub-sector in local markets and farms.
  7. In 2015, the FAO held training events in Palau as part of targeting agriculture and domestic farming practices. Participants received training in basic farm financial analysis and recordkeeping. They also trained to be able to advise smaller, local farmers in marketing and value addition.

As a result of the partnership with the FAO, the government and local agricultural workers are striving more and more for a better life. With the progress already made, reducing hunger in Palau appears to be successful.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Unsplash

Common Diseases in Palau

Palau is a small island of about 18,000 citizens located in the western Pacific Ocean. Among its neighbours are Guam, New Guinea and the Philippines. The Republic of Palau only recently gained sovereignty in October of 1994. The country is so small that there is only one major hospital that provides healthcare to all citizens; in fact, more remote parts of the country are served by field dispensaries of this hospital or by private clinics. Disease control is critical for Palau’s small population. The following are five facts about common diseases in Palau.

  1. As the developing nation of Palau undergoes political, economic and cultural transitions, health emphasis has shifted from communicable diseases to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs currently cause 78 percent of deaths in Palau – a number which is still expected to rise.
  2. Three out of four Palauan adults are overweight or obese, often leading to high blood pressure and elevated blood glucose – these are associated with hypertension and diabetes, respectively. However, hypertension and diabetes, already common diseases in Palau, are often under-diagnosed.
  3. One quarter of adult Palauan men smoke, and three of five Palauan adults chew tobacco. Tobacco usage is tied to the advent of four major NCDs: cancer, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and diabetes. The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has partnered with the Palauan government to implement mechanisms for tobacco control and develop a five-year NCD plan.
  4. In Palau, over 40 percent of adult males binge drink, while young females binge drink even more than their adult counterparts. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to acquiring more than 60 different diseases. Among them are liver disease and cardiovascular disease, both common diseases in Palau. Fortunately, Palau has an NCD Prevention and Control Strategic Plan of Action that includes the goal of reducing harmful alcohol use by 10 percent by 2020.
  5. One major challenge to strengthening the health system in Palau is the lack of healthcare employees. Even the majority of existing healthcare workers are underprepared. This begs the solution of more thorough medical schools and training programs, as well as better access to necessary medical materials. Most important is a heightened recruitment process for the healthcare system. These are some of the goals of the WHO’s strategic plan for Palau.

Although it is disheartening to see development tied to a slew of new diseases and causes of death, NCDs are fortunately preventable as they are chiefly associated with lifestyle choices. Palau’s Ministry of Health is clearly aware of these health problems and is taking necessary and effective steps toward making progress in controlling them, including developing a comprehensive five-year plan.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Google

Palau Refugees
The Republic of Palau, a small island group in the Pacific, forms the far-western chain of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia. The country is doing surprisingly well in terms of its refugee population, which began decreasing rapidly in 2009. It is now at its lowest rate of refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the UNHCR. Here are 10 facts about Palau refugees and how the country handles those in need of sanctuary.

  1. Because of Palau’s small numbers of asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons, and internally displaced persons, Palau is not a participant of either the Status of Refugees 1951 Convention, or the Status of Stateless Persons 1954 Convention. This means that Palau is not protected under this treaty.
  2. Despite not being a signatory of these conventions, Palau commendably took in 11 refugees from Myanmar, known as Uighars, in 2009. These 10 men and 1 woman fled from Myanmar for fear of arrest after their political outcry. They moved from Malaysia to the Philippines, resting finally in Palau because of its openness and visa-free entry.
  3. While the refugees awaited their asylum acceptance, a local Roman Catholic church housed and fed them. During their stay, a spokeswoman for the refugees said that they finally felt free in Palau.
  4. Palau President Johnson Toribiong said upon the guests’ arrival, “It’s our age-old tradition to receive those in need whenever they somehow arrive on our shores.” The government and Palau locals selflessly gave the Uighars hope of asylum and temporary relief from arrest.
  5. Palau made an official agreement with the U.S. in 2009 upon the arrival of the Uighars that it would extend its small island to the refugees as home. A long-standing friendship with the U.S. aided President Toribiong’s acceptance of the Uighars as part of both countries’ human rights system.
  6. Toribiong vehemently dismissed allegations upon the Uighars’ arrival that the government of Palau accepted the 10 men and 1 woman as part of a reported pact between the U.S. and Palau, where the former would be paid $200 million. Toribiong claimed Palau’s goodwill was spurred only by its humanitarian nature.
  7. Palau’s reputation of accepting all displaced or endangered people is reflected in its population, which is comprised of 20,000 natives and some 6,000 foreign citizens, including 445 Bangladeshi Muslims.
  8. The UNHCR noted that Palau’s involvement with the Pacific Immigration Directors’ Conference will only increase the collective and national response to issues of refugee acceptance and protection.
  9. As a Pacific Island country, Palau remains under watch for its own displaced persons, due to climatic factors such as rising sea levels, frequent severe storms, and increased salinization. In the case of such an event, the population is protected by the IASC Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster, co-lead by UNHCR and OHCHR to support the country in case of displacement.
  10. A recent 2016 Palau Human Rights Report states that Palau continues to respect the law of Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons. The law allows for internal movement, emigration, and foreign travel for all Palau residents.

It appears that Palau is doing well as it has low numbers of internal refugees, and welcomes others in need of assistance and asylum. The situation of Palau refugees show that the country is progressing past the immigration turmoil of many other countries.

Olivia Cyr
Photo: Flickr


Considering that it gained sovereignty 23 years ago, there is much work to be done regarding education in Palau. The Republic of Palau, which proclaimed independence from the United States in 1994 (after becoming a post-World War II trust territory), is comprised of 16 states. It lies 722 nautical miles east of Guam in the Pacific and consists of more than 200 islands spread out over 177 miles.

Teacher training greatly impacts education in Palau. In 2013, the Ministry of Education in Palau directed all teachers to take a practice teacher certification test from the Educational Testing Service called the Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST). The test contributes to one of the initiatives in the Master Plan for Educational Improvement for 2006–16 established by the Ministry.

The test measured skills in reading, writing and mathematics to determine whether the teachers were qualified to teach. The results were unsatisfactory. The average scores were 29 percent in math, 43 percent in reading and 35 percent in writing. Only 62 percent of the teachers reported having earned a postsecondary degree, and teachers with seven or more years of experience scored lower than their peers. Not only did teachers with less experience score better, but they also reported higher English proficiency, levels of education and tended to teach upper elementary or high school students.

In 2015, 60 percent of elementary teachers claimed high school as their highest level of education. Compare that with Palauan high school teachers: 36 percent earned an associate’s degree and 50 percent earned a bachelor’s degree. While these figures are low, the 2015 figures are higher than those from 2014.

Despite these shortcomings, Palauan census records reveal astonishing improvements in student retention and college education. In 2015, not quite 21 percent of those 25 or older went beyond a high school education. By the time of this report, the percentage of those who attended one to three years of college had also greatly increased, to nearly 64 percent for those 25 or older. This means that college education in Palauan teachers has risen by 45 percent since the year 2000.

While there is much progress left to be made in the arena of Palauan education, it appears to be on the right track, particularly as the country has made its development a priority. Its last plan was not incredibly successful, but it now has a place from which to build. If Palau continues to utilize the PPST, develops additional training for teachers and accepts some of the more highly-educated citizens into its ranks, it is possible for Palau to continue to drastically improve its educational system.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

What Are the World's Fastest Growing Economies?
Though the U.S. is known as the world’s largest economy, many of the world’s fastest growing economies are those of developing nations. Among factors such as foreign aid, increased tourism and more trade, developing nations become some of the world’s fastest growing economies as more people are lifted out of poverty and become consumers.

Here are five of the world’s fastest growing economies based on World Bank data from 2013-2015 (the most recent data available):

  1. Ireland
    · 2013: 1.4%
    · 2014: 5.2%
    · 2015: 7.8%
    After the world financial crisis of 2007-2009, the economic activity in Ireland dropped sharply. After reaching the world’s largest budget deficit in 2010, Ireland accepted a loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to provide capital to its banking sector. In addition to the loan, lower taxes and increased public spending helped Ireland’s economy recover and reach the EU’s highest growth rate for 2014 and 2015. Low corporation taxes also attracted multinational companies to Ireland.
  2. Ethiopia
    · 2013: 9.9%
    · 2014: 10.3%
    · 2015: 10.2%
    The economy of Ethiopia has grown quickly for the past decade. This is mostly due to progress in Ethiopia’s agriculture and service industries. New infrastructure connecting previously isolated regions of the country also fuels economic growth. Rich in ancient cultures, Ethiopia is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations, providing millions of jobs to Ethiopians.
    However, as of 2014, nearly 30 percent of Ethiopians still lived below the poverty line. Ethiopia is still susceptible to droughts, with a severe drought occurring from 2014-2015. Droughts can be catastrophic for the 80 percent of Ethiopians that are employed in the agriculture industry.
  3. Palau
    · 2013: -2.4%
    · 2014: 4.2%
    · 2015: 9.4%
    Expanded air travel to the Pacific has increased tourist traffic in the island nation. While tourism is the main contributor to the economy of Palau, it also thrives from trade and fishing. Palau exports shellfish, tuna, copra (dried coconut kernels for oil making) and garments. Palau has also received about $700 million in aid from the U.S. from 1994-2009 under the Compact of Free Association, in exchange for unrestricted access to Palau’s land and waterways for strategic purposes.
  4. Ivory Coast
    · 2013: 8.7%
    · 2014: 7.9%
    · 2015: 8.6%
    The West African country is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans. It is also a large producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Over two-thirds of Ivory Coast’s population is employed in agriculture or related activities.
    Though Ivory Coast was plagued by a recession in the ‘90s, a civil war from 2002-2007 and sporadic violence in years following, the country has remained mostly peaceful since 2011. This has attracted foreign investors and promoted economic growth. While the poverty rate has decreased, 46 percent of the population still lives in poverty and a small number of arms still remain in the nation.
  5. Uzbekistan
    · 2013: 8%
    · 2014: 8.1%
    · 2015: 8%
    Formerly part of the Soviet Union, the government of Uzbekistan still operates a command economy, regulating production and prices. Economic growth in Uzbekistan is driven mainly by state-led investments. The majority of the population lives in rural areas and the main focus of agriculture is cotton. Uzbekistan also exports gold and natural gas.

Though these are only the top five of the world’s fastest growing economies from 2013-2015, many other developing nations are not far behind. The economies of Nauru, Laos, India, Tanzania, Cambodia, Burma and the Dominican Republic have also grown quickly in recent years.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Ethical Vacation Destinations
Recently becoming the world’s largest industry, travel is one of the hottest commodities on the market. With a trillion-dollar annual footprint, the travel business has major economic and political power. However, not all destinations are created equal. Where you, as a traveler, choose to journey can either encourage best practice behavior from mindful countries, or support the harmful tourist industries of their irresponsible counterparts.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that seeks to use tourism to protect human rights and the environment. Every year, Ethical Traveler compiles a list of 10 developing countries with vibrant tourism industries that will put your traveling expenses to good use.

The countries that made the list are those that scored best in the categories of support of human rights, preservation of the environment, social welfare and animal welfare. According to Ethical Traveler, “Each country selected as a Best Ethical Destination also offers the opportunity to experience unspoiled natural beauty, and to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.”

This year’s winners may surprise you; the majority of these unusual destinations are off the beaten path, but promise an outstanding vacation with values you can feel good about. Here are the 10 most ethical vacation destinations.

The Bahamas

These islands prioritize conservation and sustainability, as shown by the efforts to establish new Marine Protected Areas and the expansion of a number of protected acres in a major National Park. The Bahamas made great strides to combat human trafficking this year, with the first prosecution under human trafficking law.

Barbados

Cited by Ethical Traveler as a “best practice model for the Caribbean,” Barbados promotes sustainable tourism while protecting its coastline. The child mortality rate in Barbados is particularly low, and this nation received the highest possible score in the categories of Political Rights and Civil Liberties –higher even than some developed countries.

Cape Verde

This country has the goal of making energy 100 percent renewable over the next two decades. Cape Verde is also an outstanding example of an African country with stellar attention to political and civil rights, with laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and holding its first Gay Pride Week this year — the second to take place in all of Africa.

Dominica

This island boasts unspoiled forests and native species. An emphasis on protecting wildlife includes the preservation of native frog and iguana populations, along with a valiant effort to save endemic mountain chickens, which only inhabit two islands in the world. Dominica has expanded solar power across the island, and has the goal of being energy-independent and carbon negative by 2020.

Latvia

Of the winning destinations, Latvia scored the highest in environmental protection. This nation has been acknowledged as one of the top performers in the world in both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. Not only does this country have a pristine environmental record, it is the highest ranked of the 10 countries in gender equality.

Lithuania

Like Latvia, Lithuania is a leader in environmental and animal protection. Lithuania made strides in social welfare this year by reaching it’s Millennium Development Goal for under 5 mortality rate, which has dropped by a whopping 52 percent since 2000.

Mauritius

This year Mauritius announced an impressive renewable energy goal, aiming for 35 percent renewable use over the next two decades. The U.N. praised Mauritius for having made ‘substantial progress’ in social welfare this year, due to their improvements in property rights and labor freedom.

Palau

In Palau, 28.2 percent of precious marine and terrestrial area is protected – the highest percentage out of all the countries on this list. Press freedom in Palau is impressive; this country prides itself on exemplary freedom of press for a developing country.

Uruguay

Uruguay is in the process of building 21 wind farms, and is working toward the goal of 90 percent renewable electricity by 2015. Uruguay dominates the category of human rights, with laws passed this year allowing marriage equality and the legalization of steps toward ending unsafe abortions. This country’s equality ranking was second only to Chile.

By visiting the destinations on this list, travelers can reward developing countries for their promotion of sustainable tourism and ethical laws. The additional economic support from tourism will allow these nations to continue improving their countries, and protect the valuable natural resources that make them such appealing places to explore.

Grace Flaherty 

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Ethical Traveler
Photo: BBC