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Official Country Name: Independent State of Western Samoa
Region: Oceania
Population: 179,466
Language(s): Samoan (Polynesian), English
Literacy Rate: 97%

The Independent State of Samoa, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, comprises nine islands that are volcanic in origin. The capital is Apia and is located on Upolu. The government is described as being a constitutional monarchy, and Samoan and English are the official languages. As of July 2000, approximately 179,466 people were in the country, and the literacy rate was 97 percent.

In 1900 Samoa was appropriated by Germany. During World War I, the armed forces of New Zealand occupied the country. After the war, Samoa remained under the control of New Zealand for the next 41 years. In 1961 the people voted for independence, and the United Nations General Assembly voted to terminate the trusteeship. Western Samoa became independent on January 1, 1962.

In 1995, the government formalized its education plan, which ensures a policy framework and strategy for educational development across the area. The documents include segments on early childhood education, primary education, secondary education, teacher education, special needs education, department and school management, as well as postsecondary education and training.

The Samoan educational system is patterned after that of New Zealand. In 1994, school attendance was made mandatory for all children from 5 to 14 years of age or until completion of the eighth grade. There are 139 primary schools, 21 junior secondary schools, and 4 senior secondary schools that are administered by the Director of Education and four assistant directors. The Department of Education is headquartered in Malifa.

Twenty-two educational districts are attended to by 23 field administrators. The people are responsible for supervising staff performance, staffing of schools, and transferring of teachers. They also oversee school administration and educational programs. Families and the government share the responsibility of school financing. The government is liable for the salaries of teaching and administrative personnel, while the village or district owns the school buildings and equipment.

There are 38 nongovernmental schools that are run by their own directors and school boards. These schools are largely self-financed, but some funds do come from the government. The villages that own them run the primary and junior secondary schools. School committees, which are called Komiti fa'atino oAoga, are the school managers. The committee consists of the principal, inspector, pastor (pulenu'u), and villagers.

There are 157 schools located throughout the country. Primary school enrollment is approximately 36,000 students. Forty-eight percent of the students are female; however, their attendance is irregular. Some of the schools are overcrowded and in a state of disrepair.

During the first six years, students are taught in Samoan, with English being introduced orally during the third year. In the seventh and eighth years, English is the language of instruction.

After eight years of school, students take a national examination. The rationale behind the exam is the need to rank students for selection into secondary schools.

Throughout the secondary education system, the mode of instruction is English. Samoan can be taken as a separate course. The secondary program is five years in duration and is divided into a three-year junior secondary program, which is followed by a two-year senior secondary program. Entry into the senior secondary program is highly selective.

Progress through the system is tied to three examinations. The tests are administered locally, utilizing trained examiners with assistance provided by the South Pacific Board of Educational Assessment team. Students in their thirteenth year are given the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. Performance in this test is instrumental in determining the students' academic future; the most successful gain entry into the university preparatory year.

The National University of Samoa (Le Iunivesite Aoao O Samoa) was created in 1984 with 45 students who were actually in the university preparatory year. The first degree, a Bachelor's in Education, was offered in 1987. In 2001, the university offers bachelors degrees in Samoan studies, English, history, sociology, geography, education, and commerce. The institution also offers certificates and diplomas in various disciplines, and there is one graduate program in teaching.

Tuition at the university is very reasonable. Students who are citizens of Samoa are charged $60 per course for degree programs, while international students pay $150.

It appears that Samoan education is in the midst of a growth period. Since 1995 they have established minimum standards for buildings, furniture, restrooms, equipment, and water supplies. The system is also enforcing established teacher-learner ratios. Additionally, there is a program to facilitate the development and distribution of curriculum materials to grades one through eight, and a pre-service and in-service teacher training program focusing on literacy and bilingual teaching methods has been developed. However, some of the school facilities are still in poor condition and inadequately equipped, and many of the teachers are under-trained.


Chandra, Subhas. Catholic Education in Western Samoa: A Review. SUVA, Institute of Education University of the South Pacific, 1990.

Howe, K.R. Where the Waves Fall: A New South Sea Islands History, from the First Settlement to Colonial Rule. Hawaii, 1984.

Johnson, R.T. Observations of Western Samoan Culture and Education. Unpublished manuscript. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Bureau of Educational Research, 1962.

National University of Samoa, 2001. Available from

—Morgan Peterson

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over 6 years ago

Can you give an explanation between the school system in American Samoa compare to Western Samoa in a matter of tuition.Can you elaborate more on how each students finance their schooling and the life they lived by,comparing to students in American Samoa as well as the life they have."TUITION"?..pls,thank you!

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about 4 years ago

In 1994, school attendance was made mandatory for all children from 5 to 14 years of age or until completion of the eighth grade.

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almost 6 years ago

Sandy, Unsure whether you are a Samoan or not, however, my understanding is, there is no financial assistance available to the children compared to that of American Samoa. Each student has to pay his/her own way unless he/she is on scholarship grants. there is no free school transport/buses and not even a free breakfast like some of the schools in American Samoa. it is a beautiful country with beatuful and smart children!!

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almost 7 years ago

samoa is an awesome place

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about 6 years ago

Schools in Samoa faces problems like for instance, the lack of resources used. a lot of students in Samoa are smart but this is the only issue that drag down the standard of education for students. Please consider this issue for a better future for Samoa. Thank You

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about 6 years ago

Translation of Pulenu'u is incorrect. A Pastor is a faifeau.

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over 6 years ago

samons are losers

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over 2 years ago

Hi, I know this information is dated but could you please provide a link to the resources you've referenced? I'm having trouble finding it.

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9 months ago

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over 6 years ago

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15 days ago

It is a shame that potential kids that are studying in Samoa cannot have access to services featured in the educational system that other countries have such as student support services (which would be very helpful), and yet the government nor the education department cannot provide or at least prioritize our education systems more. Even proper teachers that are actually qualified should be a key priority within teaching facilities. The future is in education, and we need to instill knowledge within our kids. The world moves forward, so does education and the growth of Samoa.