Before Europeans arrived in Fiji, children learned
from their elders about their roles and responsibilities. Traditional
stories taught them about their history and culture. In the 19th century,
Methodist missionaries established small schools in which Fijian volunteers
taught children reading, writing, arithmetic and knowledge of the Bible.
Catholic missionaries set up larger schools where children learned a
range of subjects in English. Because the colonial government withheld
secondary education from Fijian Indians until 1937, the Hindu and Muslim
communities built their own schools, where teachers instructed in Hindi
Today, almost all children attend primary school. Tuition is free, but parents must buy uniforms and textbooks. Although secondary schools charge fees, the government provides some funding and subsidizes lower-income families. The school year begins in February and ends in November. Most schools are built and run by local committees or religious groups. Although Fiji's Ministry of Education does not have a policy of segregation, indigenous Fijians and Fijian Indians usually attend different schools.
Primary school begins at age six and lasts eight
years. Students begin studying in their first language and take English
as a second language. At the end of eight years, they take an examination
before beginning secondary school. They are also examined at the end of
the second and third years of secondary school before they can continue
to the fourth year and graduation. Students who stay for an additional,
optional year take an extra exam.
Suva is the centre for higher learning. The University of the South Pacific, owned by 12 Pacific Island nations, opened its main campus in Suva in 1968. The city also has a school of medicine, a school of nursing, a college of agriculture, and an institute of technology. Technical and vocational schools throughout Fiji train students in areas such as business administration, hotel management and mechanical engineering. .
|Fijian Indian students tend to stay in school longer and are more likely to attend college or university than indigenous Fijian students. This imbalance concerns the Ministry of Education, which offers scholarships to indigenous Fijian students and reserves half the first-year places at the university for them. The government has also appointed a commission to encourage indigenous Fijian students to continue their education and to ensure that girls receive the same educational opportunities as boys.|