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Information and data for this report was provided by senior personnel of Government/Non-Government and private sectors, church leaders, Youth Groups, Womens Groups, other Associations and the media (radio, television and the newspaper) with regard to educational services (formal and non-formal) that they provide towards realising the goal, "Education for All" by year 2,000.

This report has also benefited from technical advice obtained from the Statistics Department. Annual reports, National Development and Strategic Plans, Examination Records, Projects' Reports, Census Report. UNICEF & UNESCO Bulletins also provided invaluable information and data.

Two oral surveys were conducted to obtain the following

(a) number of children in Class 1 in 1999 who have had early Childhood Education

(b) interviewing children, youth and adults in rural and urban locations in Tongatapu (only)

The writer was assisted by a visit by Mrs Celia Barelle and Mrs Ada Pannet, Mobile Team (UNESCO) and two Workshops organized by UNESCO (Apia) and the Pacific RTAG


Tonga, an independent Kingdom, has a population of over 97,000. The census figure of 1996 was 97,784. There are 150 islands of which only 36 are inhabited.

The formal education system is divided into three stages: Primary or elementary school (six years), secondary school (7 years) and post-secondary (generally 6 months to three years depending on the type of training offered).

Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 14, or unless a child has completed six years of primary education. At present, primary education is free, but could be subject to fee paying if prescribed by the Minister of Education under the powers granted to him by the Education Act of 1974. Schools are established on every habitable island where there are children of compulsory school age.

The administration of Tonga's education system is highly centralised. Most of the decisions relating to Education are vested in the Minister of Education through the powers bestowed on him by the Education Act of 1974, from issues relating to educational aims and objectives, syllabi, prescriptions, school curricula, examinations, teaching methods and contents, evaluation procedures to regulations pertaining to teacher appointments, to dismissal and admission of pupils to public schools.

Responsibilities for Education are shared by Government and non-government (mainly religious) organisations as shown:

Table 1


Government Schools

Non-Government Schools
















+ USP, Atenisi, University of the Nations

Year : Annual Report 1997

Source: Attendance Officers Record

It can be seen from the above table, the government is responsible for educating 93% of primary school-aged children and the remaining 7% are managed by Church Education Systems. Access is 100% and participation rate is estimated at 99.9%. Those who do

not attend school are either severely handicapped or terminally ill.

On the other hand the majority of students [about 77%] studying at secondary level are in non-government schools and only 23% in Government schools. The non-government schools, with the exception of one, receive a government subsidy of T$50 per student per year. They also have the privilege to apply for importation of educational materials and equipment free of duty. Participation rate is approximately 100% up to the age of 16 years or form 5 level.

At Post secondary level the government is responsible for over 50% of the facilities and training and the remainder are managed by non-government and private organisations.



This is a review of the overall major decisions taken and actions undertaken by all actors involved in EFA issues, since the World Conference in Jomtien, Thailand (1990).

This assessment covers both public and private programmes, activities and services, both in school and out of school that aim to meet Basic Learning Needs of Children, Youth and Adults as defined in the World Declaration on 'Education for All'.

This report also addresses major changes and achievements in terms of the six dimensions of the EFA Assessment exercise of education in primary, secondary and post secondary.

The long term goals and targets decided by the National Authorities for the development of Education in the decade were laid down in two National Development Plans (1990 - 1995) and one Strategic Development Plan (7), (1996 - 2000) basically.

Source: Strategic Development Plan

Other additional goals were set when a need was identified and these goals are referred to under each specific level.

1.1 Expansion of Early Childhood care and developmental activities

Early Childhood Education is administered by the Tongan Pre School Association, a non government organization established in 1986. There is no government policy for this level of education and the Pre-school education aimed at the following:

upgrading of the standards and the quality of

(a) teachers

(b) programmes

(c) centres

(ii) to obtain assistance and recognition from Government

1.2 Primary

Tonga has been internationally recognized as one of the first few Pacific Island countries to have attained universal primary education. On that basis, the focus has been more on the plans and strategies for enhancing the quality of educational provisions already in place in the country.

At the primary level, the long term goals are to ensure that at the end of universal primary education for six years:

(a) every child will have developed pride in himself/herself,

his/her community, his/her country and will have developed a sense of identity

(b) every child will have developed a love of learning, books and reading and a thirst for knowledge

(c) every child will be ready for secondary education by attaining a high level of proficiency in Tongan and English literacy, numeracy and mastering the basic skills and knowledge in all subjects and will have developed positive attitudes to all subjects.

(d) every child will be well-disciplined, believe in God and know that he or she is a Tongan, will be spiritually emotionally, mentally and physically healthy and live in a healthy environment.

The Secondary Schools Programmes continued to enhance the basic skills laid down in the Primary Schools. Those skills are further developed in the formal and non-formal programmes offered by Government and other sectors. The decision makers of the Ministry of Education after the Jomtien Conference declared 1990 - 2000 to be a

Literacy Decade and to make every day a "Special Day" for every child in the Kingdom.

1.3 Learning Achievement and Outcomes

Special emphasis on quality learning to :

improve literacy

improve numeracy

upgrade teachers skills

help teachers with assessment of their teaching and the children’s learning

improve the management of the school

improve resources to school

improve school buildings

upgrade special remedial education programme

1.4 Adult Literacy

(i) Secondary

The Secondary Education Division aimed for its education development to:

improve the overall standard and quality

develop and implement quality and meaningful programmes conducive to harmonious, social, economic, cultural and spiritual development of Tonga.

upgrade educational resources and training facilities

achieve quality universal secondary education at Form 5

cultivate and enhance co-operation between educational authorities.

(ii) Post Secondary formal/non-formal

The Community Development and Training Centre (CDTC) was established by Government to co-ordinate and expand post Secondary training opportunities throughout the Kingdom.

Under the umbrella of CDTC, there is an integrated network of institutions

Tonga Institute of Education (TIOE)

Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (TIST)

Distance Education and Communication Centre (DECC)

Tonga National Form 7 (TNF) 7 (1991-1998)

Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC)

The institutions - CDTC, TIOE, TIST and DECC work closely together in the some of the programmes working towards realising the long-term goals for expansion of :

training courses in response to local demands (youth groups, community groups etc)

technical skills training for the country’s needs

high achievements - TNF 7, computer courses Accounting, Agriculture Diploma Courses etc

high professional standard - teachers [Diploma Programme]

Masters Degree by Distance Learning [DECC]

training resources and quality radio programmes

1.5 Educational Training Skills

Goals set by the Government for other sectors, Education and Health and other non-government organizations to provide services to achieve:

a high quality of life for the people

a high standard of living throughout the kingdom

respect for the options of both present and future generations

individual fulfillment

political stability

a stable economic and financial environment with less dependence on foreign aid

1.6 Education for Better Living

Community Development and Training Centre for Government has programmes for Youth and Adults towards realizing this target by providing learning opportunities for Youth to:

cultivate and enhance sporting talents

promote the preservation and maintenance of the Tongan Culture and Heritage

carry out research work on the Tongan traditions and Culture, in partnership with the Curriculum Development Unit, to compile as resources for schools.

UNESCO's programmes in Tonga:

support for cultural development and cultural co-operation

promote national efforts in the maintenance and appreciation of Tongan traditional forms of expressive and material arts; e.g South Pacific Festival of Arts

provide training opportunities for cultural personnel:- e.g Vaka Moana, Tonga National Centre



The Ministry of Education planned to conduct awareness programmes as an immediate response to the global concern addressed in the Jomtien Conference.

Education for All by year 2,000

Education as a basic human right

Education as a life-long process

Education to eradicate illiteracy


Source : 1991 Workplan

The strategy to be used for the awareness programmes was the 'CASCADE MODEL' of TRAINING and the modes of delivery were:

(a) centre-based talks and interactions

(b) Radio talks

(c) Monthly publications of "Tokoni Faiako'

Source:Yearly Workplan

Primary Education

The Development Plans laid down specific programmes in primary education to address the following key issues:

The upgrading of school premises and classroom equipment;

Restructuring of the primary curriculum to address the problem of low standards of literacy achieved by students by the end of six years schooling. The Development Plan 7 pointed out that:

A relatively high proportion of students repeating the final year of primary school because of literacy or numeracy problems has indicated certain deficiencies in the primary education system. The primary education curriculum should be restructured to allow for greater literacy and numeracy results by the sixth year.

The plan of action was to review the curriculum materials and develop new curriculum materials in language and mathematics.

The Plan went on to propose a development strategy which involved launching systematic reviews of identified development areas first and then following up with project formulation for attracting possible external funding. The segments identified included:

building of staff quarters for teachers in the schools of the outer islands eg Ha’apai, Nina etc

upgrading of sanitation facilities in primary schools

development of new curriculum materials and the revision of existing materials

repairing of old furniture and purchasing of new school furniture and equipment

upgrading the quality and relevance of curriculum programmes to meet the needs of all students

promotion of active community participation in the education process and development of a coherent approach to community education and public awareness of important social, cultural and political issues which impinge on the achievement of quality education

collecting basic data and conducting action research in areas which are needed to provide information to illuminate policy and administrative decisions that can transform classroom practices, curriculum development and the training and education of teachers

upgrading the quality of leadership and the effectiveness and efficiency of educational management and administration at all levels

assessing of literacy and and numeracy levels – PILLS, BELS Exam (SEE) etc.

upgrading teachers’ and students competencies in the two languages of Education: Tongan and English

building of new school premises to replace old or temporary buildings used as classrooms

establishing new schools to alleviate the problem of students’ long distance travelling

purchasing and developing of classroom resources and teacher support materials and equipment, reading books etc.

A parallel development that is now explicitly highlighted in official documents but which has been pursued vigorously is that of establishing a cadre of young, highly qualified and progressive officers involved in inspection and advisory services to teachers. There is sound coordination between the officers based at the Ministry headquarters in Nukualofa and the Area Organisers and Supervising Teachers posted to the districts. The senior echelon personnel in the Ministry of Education collectively constitute an outstanding management and leadership group possessing wide experience and advanced scholarship, with two of the four Deputy Directors holding PhDs in the areas of assessment (up to 1996) and linguistics (up to 1999).


The Ministry of Education is expected to provide leadership in education matters generally in the country. Its specific divisions focus on the assigned roles which currently cover primary, secondary and post-secondary education, curriculum, examinations, teacher education, and indirectly yearly childhood education and non-formal education. The Minister of Education, through the staff of the Ministry, collaborates with the Churches and reports annually on the performance of the education sector. The management responsibility rests with the senior officers of the Ministry, under the supervision and guidance of the Director, four Deputy Directors and a number of officers based at headquarters and in the field.


Tonga also receives assistance from various overseas voluntary organisations in the form of volunteers from the following organisations: Peace Corps (United States): Volunteer Service Overseas (Great Britain) Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers: Australian Volunteers Abroad: Volunteer Service Abroad (New Zealand) UN Volunteers.

The continued co-operation and goodwill existing between Government and Non-Government education authorities is the cornerstone of Tonga's National Education System.

The Ministry of Education remains indebted to Non-Government education authorities for their continued assistance and contribution to national educational developments, both the academic disciplines and extra-curricula activities such as sporting and cultural events which have for many years been developed in a spirit of close partnership and mutual understanding.

Through the Advisory Council of Education established by the Education Act of 1974, Government/Non-Government education authorities are able to meet twice a year to discuss major policy issues, directions etc particularly those relating to changes in the curricula and examination prescriptions. There are also regular dialogues in the form of meetings of Principals, Curriculum Writing Teams, Examination Moderators and for those other activities for which the assistance and expertise of non-government education authorities are often needed.

Non-Government schools continued to follow the prescriptions, syllabi and curriculum materials developed by Curriculum Development Unit. They also collaborated in the external examinations administered by the Ministry of Education such as Secondary Schools Entrance Examination - Form 2 common examination, Tonga School Certificate. Some of the non-government schools have also been responsible for administering and funding areas in education which do not fall within the formal structure of education such as Early Childhood Education (Pre-Schools), Special needs and Theological training. In addition to these they continued to participate in national activities and celebrations.

Government assistance to non-government education authorities is made in various forms. The most visible one is the duty-free importation privilege which allows non-government education authorities to apply for duty-free importation of materials and equipment intended for educational purposes.

Places in Government Tertiary Institutions eg Training College and those abroad through the Scholarships programme continued to be allocated to non-government education authorities.

Other forms of assistance included:- donation of library books and resource materials as well as extension of invitations. to schools to apply for Grant/Technical Assistance from overseas donors such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, etc.

It is the Ministry's hope that the partnership between the Government and non-Government education Authorities and other government sectors that provide educational programmes to women’s groups, youth, young farmer, and the general public and overseas country donors will be maintained and strengthened.

It should also be noted that the parents and communities contribute a great deal towards the education of their children both financial and in-kind contributions. Without their assistance and co-operation, the schools would not be able to function.


The educational services of the Ministry of Education are largely paid out of public funds although some services such as curriculum development, post-secondary education and senior secondary examinations are funded partly through external assistance. While the expenditure from the public funds is reasonably stable across time, external assistance fluctuates, depending on the development projects in process at a particular time.


Public current expenditure

on primary education

Total current public

expenditure on education































Table 2: Source: Annual Reports and Statistics Report

As shown in the table, there is an increase every year to cater for teachers' salaries. The increase in salaries was brought about by a structural review made in 1990. Most of the training of teachers was carried out under funded projects.

5.1 External Assistance

Foreign aid is a significant component of development programmes in Tonga. It contributes to the education sector by providing training opportunities and technical assistance, and supporting the construction of facilities.

(a) Scholarships

Since the 1980’s Tonga has continued to invest heavily in the education and training of personnel in the civil service and particularly in the social services sector, Health and Education.

As seen in the following table the social sectors alone garnered 56.2% of the total awards with education obtaining the biggest share at 35.9%.

Distribution of awards by field of study, 1997.

Table 3:

Field of study


% of total
















Science and Technology









Source: Annual Report

Table 4

New Scholarship by Donor Country Award for 1996-1998









AUS AID Third Country








NZODA Third Country




Tonga Government








French Government




British Government




Republic of China




Source : Annual Report

The figures given here only cover scholarships allocated by the Tonga Government Scholarships Committee. They do not include private students and students studying under other scholarship programmes such as the New Zealand Aotearoa Scholarship Programme and Australia’s Scholarship ADCOS scheme. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 students studying through these private means.

The Ministry continued to receive assistance from donor countries.

(a) Curriculum Development: Australia and New Zealand assistance in the revision, trialling and production of materials and related in-service training.

(b) Japanese assistance:

development of soroban materials

teaching soroban in the Primary and at the Training College

development and teaching of the Japanese Language in Government Secondary Schools

school buildings (primary, secondary)

Australia assistance

teacher’s housing (in three phases)

new classrooms

Community Development and Training Centre Project

5.2 BELS Programme

Funded by UNDP/UNESCO has assisted Tonga’s primary education since 1993 in the following areas:

Literacy development

educational assessment

community support for education

Educational Management

In literacy, the assistance is largely through provision of training for teachers in the development of literacy materials and appropriate teaching methodologies (10 units). The Head Teachers are offered intensive courses in educational management. For educational assessment it takes two forms – training of teachers and officers and testing children’s literacy and numeracy skills. In Community Support for Education and Early Childhood Education, a new sub-component as from 1998, it provides basic training for head-teachers and teachers to enable them to conduct training for parents in ways in which they could assist their children to develop the basic skills, attitudes, knowledge and values which would maximize their children’s performances.

5.3 Teacher’s Resources Centre

This Centre was set up in 1997 and is basically a place where

teachers can come to get access to resources and new ideas

they can develop their own resources

workshops could be conducted and meetings held

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