3 minute read


Official Country Name: Kingdom of Tonga
Region: Oceania
Population: 102,321
Language(s): Tongan, English
Literacy Rate: 98.5%

The Kingdom of Tonga is located in the central South Pacific, east of Fiji and south of Samoa, and comprises more than 150 islands. Tonga is the only remaining Polynesian monarchy, and it has a population of 110,000 citizens (2000 estimate). Tongan, universally spoken, is a dialect of Polynesian; English, which is taught as a second language in schools, is used mainly for business. Wesleyan missionaries introduced formal education into Tonga in 1826, followed by Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations beginning in 1846. The educational system still reflects this colonial/missionary history.

Primary education has been compulsory in Tonga since 1876 and is free for students between the ages of 6 and 14. Education consists of six years at the primary level, three years at the junior secondary level, and three years at the senior secondary level. The first eight years are compulsory. Of the 115 primary schools (1994), 104 were government schools, while 11 were church schools, with a total of 16,540 students and 701 teachers. In 1993, the student to teacher ratio among primary schools was 22:1, with 7 percent of the teachers being females.

In 1994, there were 47 general secondary schools or colleges, with a total of 15,702 students and 809 teachers. There were 8 technical and vocational colleges with 614 students and 45 teachers. The only teacher training college had 210 students and 22 teachers. Churches sponsored the majority of these schools. The student to teacher ratio among secondary schools averaged 18:1 in 1993 with 79 percent of the teachers being females.

Tertiary institutions include: the Institute for Vocational Education and Training, the Polytechnical Institute, the Teacher's College, Queen Salote School of Nursing, and the Tonga Police Training School. In 1985, a total of 705 students were enrolled in these programs: 211 in education, 100 in humanities, 192 in social sciences, 127 in natural sciences, and 75 in medical schools. Of these students, 308 were male and 397 were female. In 1990, there were 230 Tongan students studying overseas on government scholarships.

In 1992, education expenditures totaled 8.8 million pa'anga. Of this sum, 3.4 million was allocated to primary education, 2.1 million to secondary education, 0.6 million to tertiary education, and 2.6 million was not distributed. These public expenditures on education translated to 4.7 percent of the gross national product, or 17.3 percent of total government disbursement. Tongans view education as important and have a near-universal literacy rate (98.5 percent in 1996) that is among the highest in the Pacific.

The Government's Ministry of Education oversees the management of government schools in all provinces, including primary, secondary, and tertiary schools. In addition, it manages the adherence of private schools to the national laws on education and the National Examination programs. Annual examinations are required for placement of primary school students into government schools; the Tonga School Certificate is the national examination for secondary school students at their fifth year, and the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate examination is given at the sixth year. Examinations and assessments are developed internally or delegated to an external source, but they are monitored and coordinated by this unit of government. Examinations are set in the English language with a strong emphasis at the college level on maintaining knowledge and skills of the Tongan culture.


Regional Surveys of the World, The Far East and Australasia 2000, 31st Ed. London: Europa Publications, 2000.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization: Institute for Statistics, September 2000. Available from http://unescostat.unesco.org.

The Statesman's Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures, and Economies of the World, 13th Ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.

Tonga on the Net. Convictions and Schools, 2001. Available from http://www.tongatapu.net.to.

—Sanna J. Thompson

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education Reference