|Official Country Name:||Republic of Fiji|
|Language(s):||English, Fijian, Hindustani|
Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is a nation and archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean that is part of the Melanesian Island group. It is comprised of 540 islets and 300 islands of which about 100 are inhabited. All the islands are volcanic in origin, and the largest of these are Vanua Levu and Viti Levu where the capital city of Suva is located.
Formerly a British colony, Fiji became independent in 1970. According to a July 2000 estimate, the total population of the islands is 832,494. The population consists of: Fijian (51 percent), the indigenous group whose heritage is a mixed Melanesian-Polynesian stock; Asian Indians (44 percent), descendants of laborers brought to the islands by the British in the nineteenth century to work on the sugar plantations; and European, Chinese, and other Pacific Islanders (5 percent).
The Indian population outnumbered the Fijians in the early 1980s and dominated both government and politics. However, this changed in 1987 after a coup and the creation of a new constitution that favored the Fijian ethnic group. This change in the power structure resulted in a large Indian emigration, which in turn shifted the population to a Fijian majority. However, the constitution was amended in 1997—granting access to political power to all groups.
Fiji has a high literacy rate (91.6 percent) and, although there is no compulsory education, more than 85 percent of the children between the ages of 6 to 13 attend primary school. Schooling is free and provided by both public and church-run schools. Generally, the Fijian and Hindu children attend separate schools, reflecting the political split that exists in the nation.
The structure of the Fijian educational system is divided into primary school, secondary school, and higher education. The language of instruction is English.
The primary school system consists of 8 years of schooling and is attended by children from the ages of 6 to 14 years. Upon completion of primary school, a certificate is awarded and the student is eligible to take the Secondary School Examination.
Entry into the secondary school system, which is a total of five years, is determined by a competitive examination. Students passing the exam then follow a three-year course that leads to the Fiji School Leaving Certificate and the opportunity to attend senior secondary school. At the end of this level, they may take the Form VII examination, which covers four or five subjects. Successful completion of this process gains students access to higher education.
The University of the South Pacific, called the crossroads of the South Pacific because it serves ten English speaking territories in the South Pacific, is the major provider of higher education. Admission to the university requires a secondary school diploma, and all students must take a one-year foundation course at the university regardless of their major. Financing for the university is derived from school fees, funds from the Fiji government and other territories, and aid from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Ministry of Education, Women, and Culture is the administering body.
In addition to the university, the Fiji also has teachertraining colleges, as well as medical, technological, and agricultural schools. Primary school teachers are trained for two years, whereas secondary school teachers train for three years; they then have the option to receive a diploma in education or read for a bachelor's degree in arts or science and continue for an additional year to earn a postgraduate certificate of education.
The Fiji Polytechnic School offers training in various trades, apprenticeship courses, and other courses that lead to diplomas in engineering, hotel catering, and business studies. Some of the course offerings can also lead to several City and Guilds of London Institute Examinations.
In addition to the traditional educational system, Fiji also offers the opportunity to obtain an education through distance learning. The University Extension Service provides centers and a network of terminals in most regional areas. For students taking non-credit courses, no formal qualifications are necessary. However, students who enroll in the credit courses may be awarded the appropriate degree or certificate upon successful completion of their studies through the extension services.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.
International Association of Universities (IAU). "Educational System-Fiji," 1996. Available from http://ftp.unesco.org/.
—Jean Boris Wynn
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