The Republic of Fiji has approximately 700 primary schools and 150 secondary schools, some of which are run by the government and some by private groups, such as religious organizations. School attendance is not required by law, but most children go to elementary school and a good portion also receive some part of a secondary education.
Fiji education system
The structure of education differs between rural areas and towns. Although all government-funded schools are legally required to be mixed race, in rural areas, de facto segregation often leads to isolated, single race classrooms. Village schools normally consist of just one room in which a single teacher does her best to educate 20 students. Due to poverty, around 20% of children in villages miss out on primary education altogether. In towns, class sizes are much bigger and one teacher may often be in charge of up to 50 students.
The mission statement of the Ministry of Education is that government schools in Fiji will “provide a holistic, inclusive, responsive and empowering education system that enables all children to realise their full potential, appreciate fully their inheritance, take pride in their national and cultural identity and contribute fully to sustainable national development.” In April 2008, however, interim Education Minister Filipe Bole called attention to the stark difference between theory and reality. Speaking of the problem of retention in Fijian schools, he said: “In statistical terms, around 15 per cent of Fiji's children do not survive the full eight years of their primary education,” and even fewer students make it through their entire secondary education.
Bole suggested that poverty, school fees, child labor practices, poor quality of education, distance from schools and the HIV pandemic are the major factors which keep children in Fiji from receiving a quality education. Fijians also frequently complain of the lack of qualified classroom teachers, and Bole agreed that the $F800,000 dollars allocated by the Ministry of Education for the training of 9,000 teachers was insufficient.
Private schools in Fiji
In addition to schools run by the government and by religious groups, Fiji also has a dozen or so private boarding schools located on the island of Ovalau and on the east coast of Viti Levu, as well as three international schools, located in Suva, Nadi and Nasinu. These IB accredited international schools have a curriculum that meets global standards, and the pedagogical practices at these schools are a far cry from the rote memorization and the examination-based tests that are common at the other schools in Fiji. The International School in Suva, in particular, has a computer room with networked IBM computers, an ESL room, a music room and terrific facilities for extracurricular activities such as sports, drama and art.
The school fees at the international schools are upwards of $F4400 a year, which preclude everyone but expats and a handful of very wealthy Fijian families from enrolling their children in these high-quality schools.