2 minute read

Marshall Islands

Official Country Name: Republic of the Marshall Islands
Region: Oceania
Population: 68,126
Language(s): English, Marshallese, Japanese
Literacy Rate: 93%

The Marshall Islands is a "double chain" of 34 coral islands and more than 800 reefs located about halfway between Hawaii and Papua, New Guinea, with a land area of 70 square miles and a population of about 68,126 people (2000 estimate). The island of Kwajalein is used by the United States as a missile tracking station; the islands of Bikini and Enewetak are uninhabited because of nuclear contamination from atomic and hydrogen bomb testing between 1946 and 1958. Germany unsuccessfully tried to colonize the islands in 1885; they were claimed by Japan in 1914. After several battles against the Japanese in World War II, the United States seized the Marshall Islands and, in 1947, the United Nations made them a U.S. trust territory. In 1986 the islands became a self-governing republic under the Compact of Free Association with the United States, which specified that the Marshall Islands would receive military and economic aid and that the United States would have full responsibility for defense.

Marshallese, a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian family, is the official language, but English is widely spoken. A complex class structure exists in Marshallese society. Each inhabited atoll has a local government. Education is modeled after the U.S. system; most funding for education comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Office of Education.

The public schools in the Marshall Islands come under the administration of the Minister of Education and Secretary of Education. Seventy-five public elementary schools, one middle school, and two secondary schools enrolled more than 10,000 students. Twenty-six elementary and 10 secondary private schools, mostly affiliated with Protestant churches, served approximately 5,000 students. Education is compulsory from ages 6 to 14 (or completion of the eighth grade), with instruction in both Marshallese and English. Secondary education is not universal, and public high schools are selective. A number of the public schools need repair and have no electricity. The College of the Marshall Islands, a two-year institution, is also located in Majuro and serves 431 students.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, January 2001. Available from http://www.cia.gov.

Douglas, Norman, and Ngaire Douglas. Pacific Island Yearbook, 16th ed. North Ryde, NSW, Australia: Angus & Robertson, 1989.

RMI Online. "Education in the Marshall Islands," December 2000. Available from http://www. rmiembassyus.org.

—Richard E. Mezo

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education Reference