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Total Recurrent Expenditure





 Total Education Expenditure





 Total Primary Expenditure





Ratio %





Total Development Expenditure





Education Development Expenditure









Ratio %





Government Expenditure on Education

Source: Ministry of Education, Training and Technology, Tarawa






Total Recurrent Expenditure















Maint. Ed





Ed. Instr Mat










USP Grant





Teach. Travel




















* Included in the above sub-head

Breakdown of Education Expenditure (by components) (%)

Table 9: Government Expenditure on Education, Kiribati

Source: Ministry of Education, Training and Technology, Tarawa

6.3 Learning Achievement

Using the external examination results as an indicator of learning achievements, one gets the following picture for the 1990 and 1994 academic years:















Total Sat




















Ratio %










Girls Sat




















Ratio %










Table 10: Examination Results 1990, 1994

Source: Ministry of Education, Training and Technology, Tarawa

While there is not much difference in the proportion of students passing these examinations in the two years under scrutiny, the trend to ‘push-out’ about 30% of candidates at CEE and again at JSC and about 50% at the KNC continues. The wastage in terms of human potential here is serious as there are only limited opportunities for those who do not pass these examinations to move into any other useful direction in search of a gainful occupation.

Another objective indicator of standards in literacy and numeracy are the results of the PILL tests. The PILL 1 test was administered to 1327 class 4 students in 1994 and PILL 2 to 846 class 6 students in 1995. It is not possible to reveal the date collected from this test for Kiribati due to an agreed position of confidentiality between BELS and the program countries. However, the general picture for the eleven BELS program Pacific Island countries, based on the summary of the 1994 PILL 1 results from the eleven countries is provided as Appendix 7.

The PILL tests have alerted the authorities in Kiribati to the need for monitoring national and school standards in literacy and numeracy. The METT sees the recent plans in teacher education, curriculum reformation, upgrading conditions of learning in schools and BELS activities, among others, as constituting positive action towards enhancing the standards in basics in Kiribati.

Kiribati shares with the other Pacific Island countries a rather heavy reliance on norm-referenced classroom tests and external examinations in assessing learning achievements of its students. The examinations have to date served the necessary function of selection for the limited places at the secondary level and the tertiary institutions. The establishment of a regional institution, the south Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA) in the eighties has boosted the efforts of Pacific Island countries to run their own examinations at the secondary level and to join in the regional examination - the Pacific Secondary Senior Certificate (PSSC) which is for form six students.

An assessment of learning achievement in Kiribati therefore comes from its local examinations the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) which marks the entry to the secondary school into form one, the Kiribati Junior Certificate (KJC) which is administered at the end of form three, the Kiribati School Certificate (KSC) which comes at form five and finally, the SPBEA administered PSSC at form six.

Being a member of BELS, Kiribati also participates in the new Pacific Islands Literacy Levels (PILL) test 1 for class four and test 2 for class six.

6.4 Adults/Literacy

Adult literacy had been in the government agenda but never really accorded the level of attention it deserves. Only recently in the early 1990’s that received some focus in government major programs and other key stakeholders. Technically the following programs were premised to develop and promote the acquisition of useful life survival skills related to agriculture, fishing and other forms of cash generating activities. The object underlying these efforts is educational awareness on environmental, population and cultural/traditional issues. They represent an array of activities involving different stakeholders including the Non-formal section of the Ministry of Education, Training and Technology; the Health education Unit of the Ministry of Health and Family Planning; the Fisheries and Agriculture outer-island program of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Development; the Environmental Public awareness program of the Ministry of Environment and Social Welfare and Women’s Interest groups all have developed and delivered a wide range of adult literacy programs. These programs took a wide range of approach including workshops, seminars, radio programs, posters and pamphlets. Although it is a comprehensive approach it lacks proper co-ordination each program placed different focus with varying level of impacts. The main thrust is geared to empower the out-of-school population; especially those living in the outer-islands that are marginalised because of their geographical remoteness from the urban centers. Naturally they have limited access to quality education and modern medical services. Another positive aspect in the area of adult literacy is the continuing increase in the number of enrolments at the USP distance education unit and growing demand for vocational courses offered at the Tarawa Technical institute.

6.5 Educational Training Skills:

Training in essential skills is pursued through the national institutions set up for teacher education, technical education, and agriculture and marine studies. It is also beginning to provide for coordination of plans and activities for skills training through non-formal education and is currently involved in piloting a project on Rural Training Centers jointly with the Church organizations.

Given the geography of Kiribati, the choice of developing Marine Training Center is proving a sound economical initiative. Since 1989, there has been a significant diversification of training programs conducted at this institution. The size of the country, its limited resources and the relative short history of independence, perhaps all contribute toward a situation in the country which drastically limits opportunities for paid employment and the scope for private initiative. The government as a significant sector of economic activity, therefore, acknowledges village work, in its Development Plan Seven.

The need to find a viable alternative path to the formal "academic" education (that has taken a stronghold in Kiribati although it leads to frustrations in the face of limited employment opportunities) is a perennial issue in Kiribati. The problem of helping some 90% of school leavers who will not find a paid job has remained critical. One response from the communities in the rural areas to the problem was to establish rural training centers (RTCs). In most cases island churches without any outside help have started these. By 1992, eleven RTCs were established, eight by the Roman Catholic and three by the Kiribati Protestant Church. Though a strong community-based concept, RTCs established in this way were neither controlled nor properly coordinated. In one island in the Gilbert group called Nikunau, for example, three different RTCs were established simultaneously by the Roman Catholic, Kiribati Protestant Church and the Government.

Following joint meetings of the principal education providers in the country in 1992, a more centrally coordinated plan of a three-year trial period for three strategically established RTCs (one each by the RC, KPC and the Government) is now being implemented. An official statement described the arrangement as a result of ‘a warm and cozy relationship and a genuine spirit of partnership between METT and the two principal Churches’.

There are a number of serious problems that have affected the RTC so far. Shortage of funds and qualified staff, and lack of active support from the community and students have been recorded by the Steering Committee helping the METT to coordinate the RTCs. The Committee noted:

As we cannot do much without funds, we decided to consider this year (1993) as a planning year and we hope that in 1994, we will be able to successfully implement plans that we laid in 1993.

St Joseph’s Center was closed for a while in June 1993 when its students stopped attending because youths on Marakei were busy practicing and rehearsing dancing for the opening of the church in Betio. (The Center reopened two months later after METT intervention).

Raorao RTC also closed much earlier because fees were considered very high ($30.00 per term of 10 weeks).

The Island Church Council (KPC Onotoa) is reluctant to start again until they find qualified instructors to teach in their center. (Progressive Report, 13 December 1993)

The situation had not really changed in 1998. The METT continues to search for funds through outside assistance and in the meantime, RTCs are functioning minimally. At a more formal level, both TTI and MTC have contributed towards training of skilled personnel in Kiribati. On average, TTI has had trebled its enrolment of 250 in 1987 to 800 plus in 1998.

MTC output for the period 1990 to 1998 had been in the areas of fishery training courses for Japan Tuna fishing vessels and basic seaman ship courses for local and overseas vessels. The development of a separate Fishing Training Center for Japan Tuna fishing vessel in 1995 had increased more places for young Kiribati men working on Japanese long line and poling fishing boats. In 1998 the FTC has also offered training for purseine fishermen’s.

6.6 Quality of Life

The momentum of the last government’s effort to foster development through partnership as a vehicle to promote the concept of quality of life was further boosted in 1994 by the current Tito’s government new policy to upgrade the living standard of all I-Kiribati. In achieving this goal government embarked on a broad and diverse range of activities, programs, projects and initiatives through various government and non-government agencies. The main thrusts include: Government subsidy on copra price, school fees, private school staff salaries; price control on basic items; increased number of adult education program on breast feeding, nutrition, domestic violence, environmental and population issues; HIV/AIDS and sexual transmittable disease, leprosy and tuberculosis campaign, public health clinic on hypertension and diabetes; increased access to clean water; establishment of a women’s development and clearing-house center that provides household training, legal rights advice, health clinics and support; strengthening of a village bank scheme, relaxed policy on personal development loan to promote cottage enterprise, promotion of youth projects, strengthening support to non-governmental organizations, increased opportunities to vocational and further education through non-formal and extra mural modes and increased service to the disadvantage communities; more regular services to the remote outer islands; improved management in medical services and supplies to the wider population; strengthening of basic education system; further strengthening of government’s outreach program, outer island infrastructure improvements on the outer island roads and other communication and transport network; increased number of nurses and paramedical personnel; intensive workshops on reproductive education and promotion of local produce, vegetable gardening and development of medium scale fish farming in the outer-islands.

As well, UNESCO Apia’s two year youth program which began with the training of a core group of four young people from each of thirteen Pacific Island countries resulted in a National Youth forum and other activities which have contributed to education for better living for youth.

Ministry of Health and Family Planning adult education programs and efforts;

- Village Bank Scheme

Non-Government Agencies programs and efforts;

7.Effectiveness of EFA strategy, plan and program

The Government is currently engaged in appraisals of its current system and in formulation of a new structure aimed at giving every child free education up to Class 6 and up to Form 3.

Limited human and financial resources are real constraints in Kiribati. These limit the capacity of the education system to move fast enough to attend to the numerous plans and proposals that have been drawn up in the last four to five years concerning EFA. The amalgamation of primary schools in rural areas, the enforcement of the compulsory attendance regulation, policy on Early Childhood Development and non-formal education and upgrading the TTC are some aspects which fall in this category.

8.Main problems encountered and anticipated

The national Development Plan Seven anticipated numerous problems and constraints implementing the suggested programs and strategies. It stated for example, that:

There is no coordination between divisions and headquarters activities. The heads of divisions are not clear about their role regarding implementation and execution of policies.

There is no proper and regular monitoring of implementation activities. There is very little communication with church education authorities on matters of national interest.

Education is literally taken as only a school responsibility with only a minimal support from the parents.

It is also noted that there was widespread shortage of resource materials in schools, which adversely affected the quality of learning teaching in classrooms. It was the sub-standard physical facilities in schools, which were a matter of much concern. It was pointed out that in 1992 36.2% of the existing classrooms were temporary structures and 14% were seen as semi-permanent, leaving only 47.7% (259 out of 542 classrooms) as permanent. Furthermore, of the 103 primary schools, 10 had no writing surface, 31 no seating surface, 9 no chalkboard, 35 no lockable cupboard, 80 no cabinet, 26 no pin boards and 70 no toilets (DP Table 19.4).

Local education authority work within the constraints imposed by the scattered nature of Kiribati’s population, its limited resources and isolation. Kiribati was designated a least developed country by UN in 1987 and its GDP per head is one the lowest in the Pacific Islands: $696 in 1989. (Pacific Year book, 1994). These are facts of reality for the Kiribati people. In educational matters, the locals are fully aware of the communication and transport difficulties, isolation and its impact on professional growth of teachers and additional expenses involved in meeting the needs of rural teachers and schools.

Within this context, the Development Plan described the task of developing ‘relevant’ curriculum as quite formidable.

The curriculum for primary classes requires a continuous review in the light of the past experience. The enormity of the task and the meagre resources available make this the most challenging constraint. Consequently, education at the upper primary schools remains unbalanced and ‘examination-orientated’ (page 239, Development Plan).

Other problems encountered included: (as listed in the Review of the Kiribati:NZODA TEQIP Project and Study of Education in Kiribati, April 1999)

Personnel changes: as people become more qualified they are more likely to move to other positions. Absence of staff and members of Government, for conferences, meetings or study, has resulted in people taking on addition and/or different duties. When there have been a lot of people in acting/relieving positions this has slowed down decision-making. Officials at METT are aware of those people currently undertaking tertiary study in the education area and the potential positions they could take up on their return to Kiribati. Ensuring trained and qualified staff are available for senior positions in education in Kiribati is a long term process.

Workloads: people are usually working with full workloads. The addition of training through donor programs increased that workload. It is important that training be delivered at the best possible time for staff involved and that the training is recognized as part of their work requirements.

Distance: the geography of Kiribati creates difficulties for delivering programs across the country.

Communications: poor communications limits the effectiveness and efficiency of developments. Increased and improved communications between agencies would greatly improve the effectiveness of processes and work done.

Untrained teachers: There is still a large number of untrained teachers working in schools (78% of the temporary teachers in primary schools in 1997 were untrained, these untrained temporary teachers were 25% of the primary teacher workforce). It will take some time before the graduates from the Kiribati Teacher College will replace all the untrained teachers.

Data gathering and analysis: there is a good base of data collected in education. There is little or no analysis of the data in official documents, other than in studies sponsored by donors. It is clear that there is some analysis of data done and some forward planning by officials. However, because this is not usually recorded for public information, other than in the strategic plans which are used to apply for resources and funding, few people in education have access to analysis of data unless they do their own. Analysis of data by key educational agencies and institutions is a critical tool in evaluation and is also important as a basis for forward planning by politicians, officials and educators.

9. Public awareness, political will and national capacities

The new Government elected in 1994 had generally endorsed the broad educational goal of providing education for all and is focusing on:

  1. assisting primary education and reducing teacher shortages;
  2. restructuring the education system with 6-year primary, 3-year junior secondary and 3-4 year secondary education,

  3. establishing junior secondary schools across the country and subsidizing fees at Forms 1-3;

  4. upgrading teacher education; and

  5. increasing the number of overseas tertiary scholarships.

There is evidence of increased public interest in basic education in Kiribati. This is matched well by the efforts of the Government, which is giving education a high priority for development funding from external sources. The point on the capacity of the system is worth reiterating here. In order to successfully launch the numerous education plans that are now in the pipeline, there is an urgent need to enhance the management and administrative capacity of the Ministry of Education. This can be achieved by expanding the establishment of senior staff at the Ministry headquarters in Tarawa and in the field, and perhaps by creating a special unit within METT for planning and development.

10. General assessment of progress and prospects

The growth of education in Kiribati has been steady. The collaboration between the Government and the non-government organizations, the churches in particular, has been an outstanding contribution factor in the success achieved to date in education in Kiribati. Future progress needs to build on this foundation of cooperation, supplemented by resources from the donor funding.

The recent reviews have outlined areas of concern in moving towards EFA. These include the consolidation of the work being done by the non-governmental in the area of ECD and non-formal education, urgent upgrading of primary teacher education and curriculum and enhancing the standards of achievement in basics through upgrading schools and classroom resources, and consistent monitoring of achievement in key areas such as literacy and numeracy.

A key factor in the movement forward is the leadership and the management capacity of the Ministry of Education. There is an obvious need for expansion in staffing at the senior management level in order to avoid the withering of valuable programs due to a shortage of human resources to implement them. The mid-term Evaluation Team of BELS (1995) also arrived at a similar position in terms of sustaining assisted projects in Kiribati:

Successful human resources development from an assisted phase to a sustainable outcome is a somewhat unpredictable process. In the educational setting, key variables maximizing the probability of success are the presence of professional indigenous staff of high quality, the identification of a clear policy on the sustainable end-point sought, the use of a sound delivery system, strong commitment from Governments, and above all strong quality leadership from the Chief Executive Officers of the Ministries of Education (BELS MTE Report, 1995).

This view remains true of the Ministry of Education. The good news in education in Kiribati can be summarized as:

Likewise, more junior secondary on outer islands are meeting the same goal.

The increased number of qualified teachers is especially pleasing. Improved access at all levels of learning has been accomplished in the Education for All decade.

School facilities and resources, while not at the level desired, have none-the-less improved over the last ten years.

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