The three institutions which are maintained by the Ministry of Education are the Tarawa Teachers College (TTC), the Tarawa Technical Institute (TTI) and the Marine Training School (MTS). As noted already, a fourth one is the School of Nursing which is run by the Ministry of Health and Family Planning. Each has its own specific aims and objectives that contribute to the overall aim of the Government in the education field.
Tarawa Teachers College trains Primary school teachers for the whole country. It is expected that thirty will be qualified every year. The college follows a course of study which covers the subjects taught to pupils in the Primary schools. At present, a two-year course is offered. The minimum entry qualifications is Form 3. After two years in this training programme, a person is qualified to teach children aged six to fourteen years.
The Tarawa Technical Institute is another programme which offers courses such as Typewriting, Carpentry and Joinery, Engineering, English, Accounting and others. The courses have a duration of 13 to 42 weeks depending on the subject matter. At the end of each course, students are tested and the successful ones are given certificates of competence in their field of study. In 1990, there were 21 courses taught at the Institute. Out of 478 enrollment, 336 were successful and continued in their employment careers with more confidence in their technical abilities.
The Marine Training School takes in youths from 16 to 25 years of age to train them for work in overseas shipping. A German shipping association is the principal agency that is now served by MTS graduates. In 1990, there were 49 courses offered in Betio, ranging from AB (Able Seaman), Qualified Steward, Fire Fighting, Life Boat and so forth. At present, there about 2,000 Kiribati seamen serving on overseas ships. In fact, they help in the economy of the country by sending back money (remittances) to their families. These young men work for one or two years on a contract basis. At the end of their contract they return home. They are able to renew their contracts if they wish to continue working on ships overseas.
The Extension Services of the University of the South Pacific, with its main campus in Suva, Fiji, maintains a Centre at Teaoraereke in South Tarawa. The Centre services teaching, research and other USP programmes in Kiribati and also offers continuing education classes relevant to local needs. Both credit and non-credit courses are available to satisfy personal interests, to increase the capabilities of persons already in some form of employment or to acquire credits towards a higher level of studies overseas. Credit courses are of several types depending on the scholastic attainment of the student.
As far as Primary education goes, the Government has been making a tremendous effort in providing schools for every island. Maintenance of these schools is the responsibility of the central government. Stationery and furniture are all provided free to the local communities. Parents in the outer islands have no worry at all with regard to school fees. Only in South Tarawa and in the Line Islands are fees for schooling required at present, and the Government is gradually eliminating that assessment year by year. The objective is to have all schools in the country free of tuition costs by 2000!
From the parent's point of view, free education is something that has existed through history. In the past when the missions dominated the islands, education was provided at no cost to I-Kiribati. The only contribution the parents had to give was their labour for maintenance of the classrooms. The main worry that parents now face is advancement of their children to the Secondary school level. Children at the age of twelve may sit the Secondary entrance examination. Only about one-tenth of the candidates will be admitted to Secondary schools. The rest will spend two more years in Primary schools. These children, compared with those selected for Secondary education, will have very little or no chance at all of getting a job. The principal work available to them, if they are boys, is to become seamen which again depends on their test results for entry to MTS. On the whole, the future is not very encouraging for most youngsters.
The Kiribati islands have no minerals. The only marketable resources are fish and copra. The source of income is by cutting copra and selling it to the local co-op store or by selling fish. The latter depends on the market that is available if you are living in South Tarawa. In the outer islands, everyone cuts copra and everyone goes out fishing but nobody offers to buy your fish, except one or two employees at the island government station. Of course, in South Tarawa there is income to be earned by working for the Government and by operating small businesses which serve the local population.
Such is the situation in the daily life of an average Kiribati family. Supplements to the family income can be achieved only when there is someone from the family, a son or a daughter, who has a job which ensures a cash income. To have a job requires a good education. And good education is defined as graduation from Secondary school. It is fine for one to know how to read and write the Kiribati language and to speak a few English words. But when it comes to seeking a job, then that one stands no chance at all.
Supposing the Government should raise the education level of the average I-Kiribati by increasing the number of Secondary school places so that more children would be able to receive a Secondary education. In fact, that is the general public expectation and the desire of any parent. However, from the Government's point of view, the present level of education for the average I-Kiribati is quite sufficient. The small number of pupils selected for Secondary education is seen as enough to meet the manpower needs of the Government and private-sector organisations for the foreseeable future.
Copyright © 2000-2011 by Jane Resture-Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org -- Rev. 11th January 2011)