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Official Country Name: Kiribati
Region: Oceania
Population: 91,985
Language(s): English, Gilbertese
Literacy Rate: NA

The Republic of Kiribati consists of 33 coral islands and is located in the central Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Kiribati gained independence from Britain in 1979 and has a population of 91,985 people (July 2000 est.). Kiribati are generally described as Micronesian, and many speak Gilbertese, a Micronesian dialect, on the islands surrounding the capital island of Tarawa. However, English is the official language and is most commonly spoken on Tarawa and is understood in all government offices.

Education in Kiribati is free and compulsory for ages 6 to 13. Primary education includes the first seven years: classes one to six. The 110 government-funded primary schools throughout the islands enroll 17,594 students (approximately 49 percent female) and employ 727 teachers (approximately 62 percent female). In 1997, some 75 students were retained in a primary grade because of inadequate academic performance. Educational attainment in Kiribati is largely restricted to the primary level; this is principally the result of a lack of availability and cost of secondary and tertiary schools on the islands.

Secondary education (classes 7 through 11) placements are competitive and based on scores from a National Entrance Examination. Less than 20 percent of primary school children receive any secondary education. In 1997, there were 1,901 students enrolled in secondary schools. Students who wish to continue to receive education beyond the primary level, but are unable to find placement in a secondary school, may continue for another three years in Classes 7-9.

In 2001 there were 6 academic secondary schools, which employed 192 teachers throughout the republic, providing technical, professional, and administrative training. These include the Catholic Senior College on North Tarawa, the Catholic Junior College on Abaiang, the Hiram Bingham High School on Beru, the Seventh Day Adventist on Abemama, the South Tarawa-Moroni High School (Mormon), and the King George V (boys' section) and Elaine Bernacchi (girls' section) on Tarawa.

Since 1973, the University of the South Pacific has had an extension site in Kiribati. It is connected to the main campus in Fiji via satellite and radio telephones. However, most students from Kiribati attend the University of the South Pacific in New Zealand or Australia on funded scholarships. Other institutions of higher learning include the Tarawa Technical Institute, which offers technical and vocational courses; a maritime training school, which prepares students for careers at sea; a teacher training college, which produces the majority of teachers on the islands; and a nurse training school.

The Ministry of Education oversees education in Kiribati. Control of educational issues is given to the Minister of Education who appoints a permanent secretary. Administration is centralized with little authority given to individual schools. The government, churches, and parents provide funding for the educational system. In 1993, educational expenditures accounted for approximately 25 percent of the national budget. Curriculum development for the schools is conducted through the Ministry's Curriculum Development Center in Tarawa. As of April 2001, Kiribati had not participated in any international or local research studies to assess the effectiveness and provision of education in the republic. However, the literacy rate was estimated to be about 90 percent.


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

Kiribati: Education, 1996. Available from http://www.collectors.co.nz/kiribati/education.html.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

—Greg Forehand and Sanna J. Thompson

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