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Official Country Name: Republic of Vanuatu
Region: Oceania
Population: 189,618
Language(s): English, French, Bislama (Bichelama)
Literacy Rate: 53%

The Republic of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) comprises approximately 70 islands in the South Pacific and is located west of Fiji. Vanuatu's population of 189,618 people (in 2001) includes 94 percent Melanesian and 4 percent French. The British and French jointly governed Vanuatu before it achieved independence in 1980. This dual governance created diverse educational systems that utilize both English and French languages; however, Bislama (the native language) is practiced in some primary schools.

The Ministry of Education administers the formal system of education, which consists of six years of primary education, four years of junior secondary education, and three years of senior secondary education. Only the first six years are compulsory, leading to an adult literacy rate of 64 percent (1995). Government expenditures on public and private education were 19.2 percent of the annual budget and 4.4 percent of the gross national product in 1990.

Students from grades one to seven attend primary school. In 1990, some 26,267 (96 percent) children in this grade range were enrolled in the 78 primary schools. The ratio of female to male teachers in primary school was 2:3. Junior secondary school includes students from grade 8 to 10 and senior secondary school includes grade 11 to 13. Only 20 to 25 percent of students graduating from primary school continue to junior secondary education. In 1990, some 3,799 (17 percent) of students in this age group were enrolled in one of the 14 secondary schools. Female to male teacher ratios were 3:7 in 1990.

A Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate will be introduced to senior secondary students (for both English-speaking and French-speaking) at grade 12. After passing the examination, students complete the last year of foundation studies before admission to the University of the South Pacific. Tertiary (higher) education requires students to go overseas as there is no university in Vanuatu.


International Encyclopedia of National Systems of Education, 2nd. Ed. New Jersey: Pergamon Publications, 1995.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2001. New York: Press Publishing Co., 2001.

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

—Kon-zue Lee and
Sanna J. Thompson

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