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Tuvalu has a geography of nine coral islands spread over ten square miles in the southern Pacific Ocean. This geography has been a major factor in the limited development of their educational system. Although nearly 40 percent of Tuvalu's residents live on Fanafuti, the island that serves as the nation's capital, the other residents are scattered among the eight remaining atolls, which are accessible only by boat. Education officials in Tuvalu, which gained its independence from Britain in 1978, adopted the Education for Life (EFL) program in 1988, hoping a more accessible and standardized system of education would boost the island nation's economic development.
To fund its educational overhaul, Tuvalu secured financial assistance from Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Japan, France, and other countries. Efforts began in the 1990s to increase free compulsory education, and begins at age six, from eight years to ten years. The island nation also began upgrading its classrooms, an initiative scheduled to be completed in 2004. To secure a base of more qualified teachers, Tuvalu started sending residents who wished to become primary school teachers to international institutes of higher education. The secondary school operated by the Tuvalu Christian Church was merged into Tuvalu's only other secondary school in 1998 as a means of saving operational costs. Plans for a Technical Education Center that will offer training in carpentry, engineering, plumbing, and secretarial work were also launched. This new center would be the third institution of higher education in Tuvalu; the University of South Pacific Extension Center and Tuvalu Maritime School already offer limited vocational, degree, and continuing education programs to residents.
Tuvalu spent 22 percent of its recurrent national budget on education in 1998, compared to 16 percent in 1990. The island nation received a financial boost in 2000 by licensing its internet address extension to a California-based company for US$50 million. The government is spending a portion of the money on internet connections for the islands, as well as computer education for secondary students.
McLaughlin, Kevin. "Tiny Island Nation Reaps Dot-Com Riches." Business 2.0. 6 September 2000. Available from http://www.business2.com.
World Education Forum. "The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports: Tuvalu." Paris: UNESCO, 2000. Available from http://www2.unesco.org.
—AnnaMarie L. Sheldon