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Background Information – the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands are situated in the southwest Pacific. The islands stretch in a double chain 1,400-km in a southeast direction from Bougainville in Papua New Guinea to the northwestern border of the Republic of Vanuatu.

There are six main islands: Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira (San Christobal), New Georgia and Santa Isabel. These six large islands together with hundreds of smaller islands and coral atolls make the total land area of some 23,369 sq. km. The total sea area however is 1,632,964 sq. km.

The Solomon Islands lie within the equatorial climate zone. The weather is therefore generally warm and humid with modifying effects from regular sea breezes. Daytime temperatures are usually from 28-30 degrees Celsius and those at night could go down to 22 degrees. The average annual rainfall is from 3000mm to 3500mm. The Solomon Islands is within the tropical cyclone zone and does experience regular destructive visits from cyclones.

Archaeological exploration is at its infant stage in the Solomon Islands. However, evidence of early inhabitants found so far date back to 3,500 years ago. These early inhabitants are believed to have migrated from the many islands of South East Asia and Papua New Guinea.

The first European to visit the Solomon Islands was a Spanish adventurer, Alvaro de Mendana who sailed from the Spanish colony of Peru. He landed in the islands in 1568, and called them "The Isles of Solomon" after King Solomon because his expedition found alluvial gold in rivers on Guadalcanal. Today gold is actually mined on Guadalcanal.

The islands were then "lost" for another two hundred years until the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century when other explorers rediscovered the islands. Thereafter, first whalers, then businessmen, planters and missionaries arrived in large numbers. The businessmen and planters interest led to the enslaving (blackbirding) of islanders to work in the cane fields of Fiji and Queensland. This was stopped by the British when they declared a Protectorate over the islands in 1893.

From the declaration of a Protectorate to the granting of independence on the 7th July 1978, the two main concerns of the colonial government were to ensure the enforcement of British law and order and to ensure that the Protectorate government remained self-sufficient financially. To this end government efforts were directed almost entirely to the operation of police posts, administration offices and the alienation of land from custom landowners to lease to planters for commercial interests. Very little was done in the areas of education, health and social welfare. These areas were left to the Missionaries and were taken up by government only after independence in 1978.

While Solomon Islanders are predominantly Melanesian, there are other ethnic groups within the total population.

Table 1 Ethnic Composition within Solomon Islands

Ethnic Group 1970 1976 1986
Melanesian 149,627 183,665 268,536
Polynesian 6,399 7,821 10,661
Micronesian/Kiribati 2,362 2,753 3,929
European 1,280 1,359 1,107
Chinese 577 452 379
Other 713 773 564
  160,998 196,823 285,176

Source: SI 1993 Statistical Year Book

One of the important characteristics of the Solomon Islands is its uneven distribution. For services such as education this has caused problems with regards to delivery of services and the ability to fully utilise such facilities as classrooms and libraries. Table 2 gives the distribution of population by Province according to the latest information of 1992.

Table 2 Population by Province

Choiseul 3,837 15,600
Western 5,475 51,357
Isabel 4,136 17,061
Central 615 19,898
Rennell/Bellona 671 1,756
Guadalcanal 5,336 63,633
Honiara 22 39,633
Malaita 4,225 87,258
Makira 3,188 26,070
Ships   N/A

Source: SI 1993 Statistical YearBook

The population structure by age group is shown in Table 3. This is shown as a percentage of the Solomon Islands population according to the census figures for 1976 and 1986 as well as projected ones for 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011.

Table 3 Population Structure by Age Group as a Percentage of SI population

Age Group 1976 1986 1996 2001 2006 2011
0 – 14 yrs 48 47 44 42 41 39
15 – 59 yrs 47 48 52 53 55 56
60+ yrs 5 5 4 5 4 5

Source: SI Statistical Year Book 1993

The most recent census was held in 1986, thirteen years ago. Another census is planned to be carried out in 2000. Hopefully a better understanding of current population indicators and dynamics will be available then. In the meantime, demographic indicators calculated from the last two censuses are given in Table 4.

Table 4 Dermographic Indicators from Census Statistics

Indicator Census Year  
  1976 1986
Sex ratio 109 108
Crude Birth Rates/1000/year 44.6 42
Total Fertility Rate 7.3 6.1
Crude Death Rate/1000/year 11.7 10
Infant Mortality Rate 46 38
Life Expectancy M 54 59.9
F 54 61.4
Rate of Natural Increase 3.3 3.1

Source: SI Statistical YearBook 1993

With regard to education, the introduction of formal school systems was made by various church denominations in early 1990’s. The aims and objectives of education as seen by religious groups during those times were to enable people to read the bible. The Colonial government took advantage of scholars who went through some form of schooling provided by Christian religious groups for its purposes.

The first review and recommendations for a country wide education system for Solomon Islands was produced for the Colonial government by Mr Graves in 1940. World War II interrupted this. So nothing happened. In 1973 a report called "Education for What? " was produced. The report was a major review with broad consultation throughout Solomon Islands. On the basis of this a government White Paper was duly produced which influenced educational thinking, the education structure and even the Education Act 1978 which has survived to date.

These reports and plans however tended to concentrate more on prescribing what an appropriate education for Solomon Islands should be. They were rather less concerned with the concept of education for all. They tended to be more concerned with the preservation of the status quo.

Other departmental internal reviews, policy statements and plans of actions have been undertaken since the 1973 major education review.

1. Education for All, Goals and Targets

The goals and objectives referred to in this report mainly cover educational developments in early childhood education, primary/basic education, learning achievements and outcomes, adult literacy and educational training skills.

These were spelled out by the National Coalition Partnership (NCP) government when they came to power in 1993.However; the Alliance Party government which was in power from 1989-1992 had similar aims and objectives in the same areas of educational development.

The concept of Education for All was first used as a policy objective by the Alliance Party Government which came to power in 1989. A study was therefore called to report on the extent of the problem which faced the country in trying to achieve the objective of Education for All. To this extent the concept of Education for All was focused on during this decade (1990 -1999). The world conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand 1990’s, which declared that the aim for all countries should be to target Education for All was therefore in line with the education government policy already in place. Commitment to Education for All was already a national goal.

The core goals of policy statements and master plans in educational development thereafter were and still are, Education for All, with all the consequent requirements.

A policy statement from the National Coalition Partnership (NPC) government which came to power in July, 1993 stated that:

The government recognises that education is the right of all citizens and will ensure that it is available to all. There will be a major national review of the education system in Solomon Islands paying special attention to syllabus development, quality training and skills development.

Targets and goals were set. These are outlined here and grouped according to the education sector to which they refer.

1.1 Early Childhood Education

1.1.1 The government of the day would improve the quality and efficiency of early childhood education from both national and provisional levels.

1.1.2 Financial and technical assistance would be made available to improve the provision of early years schooling.

1.1.3 A curriculum would be developed for early childhood education.

1.1.4 It is government’s prime goal to strengthen partnership between the government, NGOs’, churches, provinces, communities and other private groups who are seen as having the financial capacity and ability in providing opportunities which would enable every child to have access to early childhood and primary education.

In terms of objectives the government prepares and adopts moves to clarify roles of each party within the spirit of partnership.

The government will identify areas of expansion both within the early childhood and primary systems and standardise the magnitude of expansion.

It will co-ordinate and assist literacy efforts for early childhood education.

The government will identify and secure financial support through grant in aid or make special budget allocation for partnership assistance

1.2 Primary Education

In the early 1990’s the government of the day was committed to improve the quality and efficiency of primary education by setting the following goals and targets for primary education:

1.2.1 Primary and Secondary education will continue to be developed and expanded in order to increase intakes. The government intends to formulate policy for standardise enrolment in all primary schools determined by official teacher pupil ratio.

1.2.2 The government will encourage and promote the establishment of private primary schools.

1.2.3 A major review will be conducted into primary and secondary schools curriculum.

1.2.4 It is government’s goal to lower the teacher/pupil ration from 1:36 to 1:30.

1.2.5 It is government’s objective to centralise all primary school grants and utilise to facilitate all primary school on equal basis.

1.2.6 It also aims to recruit required personnel for primary division and necessary facilities and space.

1.2.7 In conjunction with the goals and objectives already stated the government will determine and identify affordable number of primary schools in consultation with provinces, communities and education authorities.

1.2.8 It will review and make equal deployment of trained teachers and phase out untrained teachers through training, redundancy or restructuring of the teaching Services.

1.2.9 The government will also establish effective administrative machinery to order and deliver materials to schools and to formulate plans for ongoing inservice training for all primary school teachers.

1.2.10 It is government objective to support management-training programme and secure opportunities locally or abroad for primary school head teachers.

1.3 Learning Achievements and Outcomes

There were no set targets in learning achievements. The primary targets if achieved would in fact improve learning achievements since more pupils would enrol and complete primary schooling. No specific literacy targets were set for the 15 – 24 year old youth. The issue of measuring learning achievement is one of great importance. It is important because teachers wish to check if aims and objectives of curricular, which they taught, are achieved. Teachers would also want to identify quick learners from weaker ones. By understanding the level of learning achievement teachers and authorities could assist with supportive services to improve the learning achievement issue. An ongoing internal activity in learning environments is academic counselling or taking extra time to assist learners in need.

Learning achievement is discussed in this report with focus on early childhood education and primary sector of the school system. This is because basic education for all only goes up to the end of primary education in Solomon Islands. There are two areas of assessment, which measure the learning achievement. One is internal school assessment and the other is the external national examinations system.

1.4 Adult Literacy

Although no specific targets were set for adult literacy those set for training in essential skills often included a literacy component so the community education goals which are in the next section refer to this objective too.

1.5 Training for Essential Skills

The broad goals and objectives which were emphasised by the government in what they termed Community Education were as follows:

1.5.1 The government would strengthen and facilitate the Community Education Division of the Ministry of Education and Training so that it was able to effectively provide skill-training opportunities for community and out of school population. The Community Education Division would be strengthened to ensure effective co-ordination of vocational skill training and literacy programmes for the ‘out of school’ population including women, youth and pupils in special schools.

1.5.2 The Ministry of Education and Training would maintain firm linkages in literacy and other community education programmes and activities nationally, regionally and internationally.

1.5.3 The government will facilitate quality control of community education staff and programmes within the Ministry of Education and Training

In order to achieve these three goals the government set specific targets

To recruit qualified community education staff for ministry of education and training headquarters and provinces.

To increase annual budget allocation to all stakeholders in community education.

To secure funds locally and for overseas for facilities and equipment, office spaces, and staff houses in Honiara and in provinces.

To develop training programmes for community education administration staff and Rural Training Centre (RTC) teaching staff and other Community Education agencies staff.

To encourage enrolment for Community Advance Studies.

1.5.4 Through Rural Training Centres (RTCs), Non-governmental Organisation (NGOs) and Churches would co-ordinate distance learning programmes in consultation with the School of General Studies of the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE) and the provinces.

1.5.5 To organise a national forum on Community Education for All with Community education organisations taking part.

1.5.6 To establish a firm network between Solomon Islands Community Education Council and other international and regional Community Education Associations and Councils.

1.5.7 To revive the Community Education Newsletter and distribute widely into rural schools and communities.

1.5.8 To contribute financially to vocational training programmes organised by other organisations such as the Ministry of Labour, Rural Training Centres (RTCs) and other related groups. The Solomon Islands National Youth Congress will be re-organised and restructured.

1.5.9 To decentralise provincial training programmes and projects. Especially project appraisal, implementation and monitoring.

1.5.10 To re-direct the national youth development fund to strive a balance between training and funding of income generation projects.

1.5.11 To develop educational programmes with a focus on vocational skills in key areas such as agriculture, fishing, small engine maintenance, traditional crafts, boat/canoe building and woodwork. In addition, home maintenance and domestic skills e.g. Nutrition cooking, health care, house construction should be included in educational programmes.

1.5.12 To encourage cultural and traditional training

1.5.13 Training resources, particularly involving expertise will be drawn from the most appropriate village, church, and non-government organisation (NGO) and government resource available. Formal education and training institutions have a responsibility to contribute in a community-based way to these local-training programmes.

The above initiatives indicated the Solomon Islands government seriousness to address further provisions towards providing more opportunities for youths and adults to develop learning in basic education and other essential skills.

1.6 Education for Better Living

There were no specific goals or targets set although many of the targets set in Training in Essential Skills described above would inevitably affect the quality of life.

EFA Strategy and Plans of Action

Following the Jomtien Conference (1990), Solomon Islands integrated an Education for All (EFA) agenda into their existing plan of action. Education aspects for integration included:

Expansion of early childhood education;

Expansion of primary schools to ensure universal access to primary education;

Improvement in learning achievements;

Lowering of the illiteracy rate;

Expansion of access to facilitate provision for basic education in life skills training; and

Acquisition of basic skills for better living.

With funding from UNICEF, a Programme for the development of Early Childhood Education began in 1991. A consultant was engaged with a local counterpart. The initial task was to develop curriculum and resource materials. In 1993, Early Childhood Education became a priority area in the National Coalition Partnership Government’s plan of action. Activities are still ongoing.

Few primary schools were established after 1990. Others were amalgamated and many primary schools expanded by adding new streams to existing ones. This was strongly supported by the Government in its plan of action in 1993. Its focus was to increase its access. Activities continued but have not been consolidated.

Main components of the Basic Education Life Skills (BELLS) Programme, address issues related to quality in educational development. The Pacific Island Literacy Levels (PILLS) tests are given to ensure that pupils are assessed on reading, writing and competency in Mathematics. Those identified at risk are then assisted.

The issue of literacy is addressed adequately since the National Coalition Partnership Government came into power in 1993. The New Zealand Government offered financial and technical assistance to assist the Programme.

With Government assistance to Rural Training Centres and initiatives taken by Non-Governmental Organisations, the issues of life skills training and acquisition of basic skills for better living for youth and adults, are addressed. The present Government which came to power in 1997 has strongly emphasised partnerships in education and has put youth policy as a priority.

3. EFA Management and Decision –Making

The principal law under which the present education policy and administrative structure is established is the Education Act, 1978. This empowers the implementation of activities leading to fulfilment of educational goals and objectives highlighted above. In addition to the Education Act 1978 the following policies also contain provision which empowers educational activities:

The Solomon Islands Independence Order, 1979 is normally referred to as the "constitution ". This order provides for the establishment, powers, and functions of the Public Service Commission which is responsible for the appointment, promotion and discipline of all public services officers including those serving as education officers with the National Education System.

The Public Service Act, 1988

This is an Act of Parliament which confers powers to the minister responsible for the Public Service to make rules and regulations upon the terms and conditions of employment of public service officers including education officers. Supplementary to above acts there are also provisions which empower authorities to activate educational activities, which are geared towards achieving educational goals, aims and objectives.

It needs to be emphasised that the focus on Education for All (EFA) has not been addressed in isolation from the rest of education development in Solomon Islands following the world declaration on Education for All adopted at Jomtien in 1990. Therefore special management criteria did not need to be put in place since the goals and targets set for EFA were part of the usual work of the Ministry of Education.

Government programmes for action were already in force when the declaration was made. Attention in Solomon Islands had particularly been drawn to the school population since it was noted that the drop-out rate amongst pupils was very high. The Secondary schools system was targeted for expansion and attention was focused too on tertiary education by plans to improve The Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE). However that it must be added that there was a primary education expansion project implemented during the 1980s and this was funded by the World Bank. The project addressed issues of increased access, quality, teacher training and the supply of school materials. Infrastructure development at primary school level was significant throughout the country under this project.

In Solomon Islands it is the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development which determines education policy matters through the Minister for Education. All policy matters must be approved by cabinet. The Education Act 1978 empowers the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development as the main controlling authority to make decisions on educational development, management and administration in Solomon Islands.

The main areas I education which are controlled by government through the Ministry of Education are

curriculum development

approval of new schools

registration of new schools

registration of new teachers

setting of national examinations

de-registration of schools

disciplining of teachers

Tertiary Education

general policy guidelines

As stipulated in the Education act the National Education board (NEB) is appointed by the Minister of Education to advise him on important issues related to education in the country. There are also many committees and Boards involved in decision-making when addressing educational issues. These include:

The National Curriculum Committee

The National Examination Board

The National training Unit

The Teaching Service Commission

The Minister if Education also has the authority to convene special board meetings, at his discretion as the need arises.

It is important to note that the membership of the above committees and boards is broad. Different communities as well as people from all different walks of life are represented.

Apart from the Ministry of Education and the different committees and boards involved it must be noted that there are ten local governments, hence ten authorities which also have an important role to play in the education process. There are eight church organisations who own schools; hence another eight authorities are involved. The Chinese Association and Honiara International School accounts for two more authorities. Ss, in all there are twenty education authorities involved therefore in Solomon Islands.

4. Co-operation in Education For All (EFA)

Under the Education Act, 1978 the Minister of Education may give approval to groups or individuals to run schools and registered as authorities to run such schools. Under this provision there are twenty-one authorities operating schools in Solomon Islands, There are eight Christian denominated groups, ten local government authorities and three private organisations. All education authorities by law have to comply with curriculum and other educational standards set by the Department of Education and Human Resource development, the national government ministry which is responsible for such standards. Non-government organisations (NGO) such as the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) conduct very good educational programmes which focus mostly on skills for basic living. It is worthwhile to mention the National Education Board (NEB) here because it plays a major role in the education system in Solomon Islands. The National Education Board advises the Minister of Education and Human Resource Development on educational issues such as payment of school fees, deployment of teachers and other important education issues affecting the country as a whole. Members of the board are appointed by the Minister of Education.

It is noted therefore that various education authorities along with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development administer education in Solomon Islands. Hence developments in basic education for all (EFA) is the agenda for all stakeholders in the development of education as a whole. Thus, co-operation in EFA has been the responsibility of not only the Ministry of Education but also twenty education authorities too as partners in education development in Solomon Islands.

It is interesting to note that the government took a major role in establishing pre-classes in schools from 1990 onwards. However kindies and playgroups which make up the early childhood education component was left to private groups and controlling authorities. This trend in education al development is also applicable in basic education and life skill training which is mostly conducted by church groups and a few communities.

It is just recently that the government has engaged fully in all sectors of education development. The government now follows policies on Early Childhood Education, Community Education and Education for Public Awareness.

IT is important to highlight the co-operation given by international organisations and donor friends. To mention a few, UNICEF have funded development of an Early Childhood Education curriculum and New Zealand have funded the adult literacy programme. The Peace Corps, VSO and other voluntary organisations have co-operated in many ways in the development of EFA related activities.

Investment in Education For All Since 1990

The Solomon Islands government has allocated much of its national budget to education since 1990. It has spent more in Education compared to other government sectors except for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

The table below shows the national recurrent budget estimates from 1990 to 1998 with the education component as a percentage of the overall government expenditure:

Table 5 To Show National Expenditure by year with Education Expenditure seen as a percentage of the gross


National Expenditure

Education Expenditure

& of National Expenditure














289,214, 163



















Source: National Budget Estimates 1990 - 1998

The budget seen in table 5, over a period of eight years, reflects government overall spending on education. It unfortunately does not focus on any particular area of spending. The estimates cover intended spending on the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE), Early Childhood Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Vocational/Community Education, Tertiary Education (Overseas) and contributions to the University of the South pacific (USP).

The developmental budget are excluded from this report since this is mostly determined by aid donors and loans from the World Bank and other financial institutions.

It is not clear how much development partners in education have spent on education in the Solomon Islands.

There are twenty education authorities administering schools with grants provided by government. However their financial contributions towards running the schools are not known. The Seventh Day Adventist Church for example is one of the church groups who have spent significantly in running their schools.

Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and in particular, the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) have spent generously in the area of Education Awareness Campaigns and also in the field of education for achieving a better quality of life.

Table 6 below shows SIDT’s expenditure

Table of Expenditure of SIDT showing Budget and Related Activities

Budget Line Amount SI$ Percent %
SIDT’s Outreach Programme 1,019,587 100
Space Cost 122,855 12
People’s Centres 290,211 28
Training 54,904 5
Organisations 285,839 28
Travel 36,520 4
Volunteers 73,649 7
Total 863,978 84
Special Programmes    
Women in Development 13,413 1
Link magazine and Publication 38,836 4
Village Project Support 36,237 4
Theatre Teams 40,378 4
Organisational Outreach 26,745 3
Total 155,609 16

Source: SIDT 1993 Summary Report

In reference to private sector investment in education there are two privately run schools in Honiara. This trend may grow rapidly in the future.

There are also four medical clinics privately financed along with two pharmacies.

Private companies have paid for scholarships and assisted in paying school fees of those pupils whose parents could not afford to pay.

International development partners cannot be overlooked since many international organisations have in one way or another contributed to the financing of education in the Solomon Islands. This includes United Nations agencies, various foundations and trusts and various countries in particular.

From this it can be seen that there was not a dedicated amount of money to bring forward EFA over the last decade. However since EFA was high on the Education Ministry’s agenda a large proportion of the budget available from various sources worked towards the targets set at the beginning of the decade.

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