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Official Country Name: Federated States of Micronesia
Region: Oceania
Population: 133,144
Language(s): English, Trukese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosrean
Literacy Rate: 89%

Public education in the western Pacific archipelago most commonly known as Micronesia began early in the twentieth century. The first educational program of Micronesia was launched as part of an effort by German colonizers to mold island inhabitants into citizens willing and able to assimilate a more European work ethic and the desire for financial gain. Children began attending school at the age of 6 and were required to continue their studies until the age of 13.

When the Japanese occupied Micronesia during World War I and set up their own public school system there, learning the Japanese language became the focus in Micronesian classrooms. Schools were eventually established in each of the six island groups, with a minimum requirement of three years of instruction for children aged 8 to 14. The school day lasted roughly six hours, and the curriculum was expanded beyond the Japanese language to include moral and vocational education, mathematics, geography, and exercise. Like their German predecessors, Japanese authorities wished the natives of Micronesia to adopt their value system.

By the end of the 1920s, despite the logistical difficulties in reaching the more rural communities, nearly 50 percent of all school aged children were enrolled in school, a fact that reflects the widespread belief among the island inhabitants that education was a means of achieving wealth and power.

At the end of World War II, a United Nations Trusteeship Agreement gave the United States administrative authority over the Micronesian islands—which had become known as the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (TTPI)—and also the responsibility for helping the people of TTPI become self-reliant. Part of this agreement charged the United States with the task of advancing the education of the residents of TTPI. Efforts to this end began in earnest when U.S. President John F. Kennedy established the Accelerated Elementary School Construction Program in 1962, which doubled the education budget of TTPI from $7.5 million that year to $15 million in 1963 to $17.5 million in 1964. As a result, primary school enrollment increased nearly twofold from 15,119 students at the beginning of the decade to 28,906 students by 1970. Secondary school enrollment soared from 335 students to 5,726 students over the same time period, and college graduates in TTPI grew from 117 people to 595 people. Education was now based upon the U.S. model.

In 1979, TTPI split into several entities. Four island groups—Kusaie (Kosrae), Ponape (Pohnpei), Truk (Chuuk), and Yap—were colonized as the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), an independent state that relied heavily on the U.S. for financial support and military defense. Although FSM became a fully self-governing entity in 1986, its schools remained modeled after those in the United States.

Eight years of public schooling is mandatory in FSM. Roughly 76 percent of all residents receive some sort of public education, according to a 1994 Census, with 30.3 percent completing some elementary school, 15.1 percent completing some high school, 13.6 percent holding a high school diploma, 7.5 completing some college, 6.1 percent holding an associates degree, 3.1 percent holding a bachelors degree, and 1.6 percent pursuing graduate studies.

Students begin primary schooling, which is free, at the age of six. The eight-year curriculum includes science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, and physical education. Religious groups also offer private schooling.

Public secondary education is available free of charge. Residents may also attend private secondary schools such as Pohnpei Agricultural and Trade School and Xavier High School in Chuuk.

The College of Micronesia-FSM is the only institution of higher education in the country. It offers various two- and three-year associate degree programs. In the late 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a land grant to the College of Micronesia to construct a campus in Pohnpei. Many students seeking higher education attend the University of Guam.

When the government of FSM was first established in 1979, a Division of Education was created as part of the Department of Social Services. In 1992, FSM's Congress passed PL 7-97, which called for the establishment of a full-fledged Department of Education, complete with four divisions: Curriculum, Standards, Testing, and Evaluation; Vocational Education Manpower Development and Training; Postsecondary and Scholarship; and Federal Community and Foreign Assistance.

The National Literacy Act of 1991 established a grant that allowed for the creation of the FSM Adult Education Program two years later. The program offers adult education and literacy training to adults in Micronesia.

Having adopted the educational models of first the Germans, then the Japanese, and finally the Americans, Micronesia has found itself the subject of debate regarding what type of education actually best meets the needs of its residents. Because the economy there has not kept pace with the increasing costs of its growing educational system, Micronesia struggles to maintain facilities, offer adequate compensation to teachers, and purchase educational materials. Graduates also have difficulty finding jobs that utilize their education, and many relocate to other countries. Some scholars argue that these difficulties support the notion that education in FSM should be scaled back to stay in better step with the economy, while others assert that such difficulties don't outweigh the rights of the islanders to have access to a public education system that allows them to compete in an increasingly global economy. At the onset of the twenty-first century, the University of Ohio, with financing from the United States, was researching ways to identify the curriculum most appropriate for FSM.


Colletta, Nat J. "American Schools for the Natives of Ponape." Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University, 1972.

Federated States of Micronesia. FSM Education. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 2001. Available from http://www.fsmgov.org.

Federated States of Micronesia Department of Education. FSM Adult Education and Literacy. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 2001. Available from http://www.literacynet.org.

Hezel, Francis X. "The Price of Education in Micronesia." Ethnies: Droits de L'homme et Peuples Autochtones 8-10 (Spring 1989): 24-29.

Rechebei, Elizabeth D. "Micronesia and Education: The Future." Paper presented at Sasakawa Peace Foundation Seminar, Tokyo, December 1999.

—AnnaMarie L. Sheldon

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