The education system in Nauru is generally based on the British model with students commencing school at age 5. The system is based upon a 3-6-4 model and attendance is compulsory between the ages of five and sixteen. The Roman Catholic Church has a significant involvement in providing education and in the operation of schools.
The education system in Nauru is based on three years of pre-school (ages 4–6 years), six years of primary education (ages 7-12 years) and four years of secondary education (ages 13–16 years). Instruction is officially in English, although in practice, Nauruan is the language of the classroom.
The education system in Nauru experienced near-collapse during 2000–2005. During these years, schools on the island barely functioned. Exams were not held, maintenance of school buildings ceased, teaching materials were unaffordable, teachers went unpaid and teaching effectively broke down. The aftermath of the crisis was a sharp decline in the number of schools at all levels and the departure of most skilled teachers.
The effects of the crisis are still being felt. Less than half the schools on the island in 2000 are still functioning. There is a severe shortage of skilled teachers due to the permanent departure of expatriates. In 2008, less than 9% of teachers in Nauru had a degree qualification. Half had only a basic certificate and over 30% had effectively no qualifications, being classified as trainees.
Non-attendance is a significant problem, although there has been a significant recovery from the extremely low level of the crisis years. At present, most children attend school at age 7. However, attendance declines from age 9 and falls off dramatically at ages 15–16. Relatively few children in Nauru complete secondary school and fewer still make the transition to post-secondary vocational training or university.
The reconstruction of the education system has been accompanied by wide-ranging curriculum reforms. In 2006, a new student-oriented curriculum was introduced: Footpath. This is a unique, task-based curriculum—based on New Basics and Rich Tasks—is designed to encourage students to remain in school and to broaden the opportunities available to school leavers. Another significant reform was the 2010 decision to extend the school day in primary and secondary schools to 3.00 pm. This move ended the situation where students in Nauru spent one and a half hours less in the classroom than the Pacific average. There is also renewed focus on job-oriented education and on the development of technical and vocational training.
a) School education
There are two (or three) years of pre-primary education. The first is preschool and the second is a school preparatory year. There are currently 4 infant schools in Nauru. These schools have recently been refurbished as result of Australian aid funding.
The first six years of formal education is within a primary school model covering grades 1-6. To officially complete primary education, students need to successfully sit a national examination prior to be awarded the Nauru Primary Certificate. There are 2 primary schools. There are four primary schools on the island. Two schools are government-owned and managed. Another two schools are church-run, one of which is also part-funded by the Nauru Government.
While lessons are officially conducted in English, Nauruan is commonly spoken in the classroom making English effectively a second language.
The next four years (forms 1-4) are within a compulsory secondary school model either at the single secondary school, the technical school or the mission school. Students may elect to do two additional years of secondary education as preparation for tertiary entry.
There is a single, government-run secondary school on Nauru. A new school complex was completed in 2010. The school now includes adult learning TVET training facilities. The curriculum at the school is also being reoriented toward vocational education.
The Nauru Government and the Roman Catholic Church are working together to review, revitalize and standardize primary education on the island. There are two non-government primary schools on Nauru (see above).
b) Vocational education and training (VET)
Attempts to establish a vocational education centre have been thwarted by lack of money, equipment and qualified teachers, but remains on the planning schedule for the future.
The Nauru Vocational Training Centre (NVTC) was the major TVET provider on the island before its partial destruction by fire in 2002. The NVTC no longer operates. The focus of formal vocational and technical training has shifted to the TVET training facility at the secondary school.
The Government of Nauru has also provided workshops and vocational training in areas such as business skills for disadvantaged women and youth. A range of NGOs active on the island also provide non-formal training in vocational areas.
c) Higher education
Students wishing to undertake tertiary studies have the opportunity to apply for competitive government scholarships to study overseas.
Nauru has an extension centre for the University of the South Pacific and is a partner in the university’s governance and operation. The USP Nauru Campus is the only higher education institution in Nauru. The Campus provides face-to-face teaching in accounting, management, education, early childhood education, library studies and English. In addition, the Campus provides a range of community and continuing education (CCE) courses and distance education programs (see below).
Overview of Distance Education
Distance education on Nauru dates back to the early post-independence period, when distance education courses were provided through the Nauru Education Department. The USP Centre in Nauru (now the Nauru Campus) was opened in 1987. The Nauru Campus is the major—and almost the only—distance education provider on the island. It provides audio and video-conferencing facilities, library and computer laboratory, as well as Internet and email access to Nauru students studying through distance education. USP students at Nauru can choose from the hundreds of distance education courses available from the University.
Despite the range of courses available, distance enrolments at the Nauru are extremely low. In 2008, the EFTS student load at the Nauru Campus was only 20 students, in part due to the pipeline effects of the chaotic conditions of 2000–2005.
Administration and Finance
Higher Education Reforms
Reform of higher education in Nauru is largely dependent on the direction of USP policies.
Future Direction of Tertiary Education
The future direction of tertiary education in the country depends largely on development at the Nauru Campus of the USP.
Information and Communications Technology Initiatives
Until recent years, telecommunications on Nauru were extremely poor. The lines were installed in the 1970s and were decades old. Dial-up access was unreliable and expensive. There was no mobile phone service. In 2007, a solar-powered island-wide Wi-Fi network was installed. This initiative was unsuccessful for technical reasons, being unsuited for the island topography and vegetation. More recently, Digicel Pacific has provided Nauru with mobile phone services and basic Internet connectivity. Island-wide radio and TV coverage in Nauru is now available. These initiatives have transformed the ICT environment on the island, although use of ICT in distance education remains currently restricted to services provided by the USP.
a) Information society strategy
b) Major e-learning initiatives
Nauru is an active participant in OLPC Oceania project. This is a joint initiative of the Secretariat for the Pacific Community, (SPC), the One Laptop per Child Foundation, OLPC Australia and OLPC New Zealand. In 2009, two schools in Nauru were provided with XO laptops on a pilot basis. A repository of lesson plans authored by Nauru Primary Teachers has been created on WikiEducator, but currently has only a single contribution.
c) Benchmarking e-learning
d) Support for OER
The Nauru Government has expressed its support for the COL’s Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC), a project concerned with the collaborative development of Open Courseware. The development of open courseware is also an element in the OLPC Oceania project.
e) Government entities
Nauru Ministry of Education
f) Associations and networks
Pacific Regional Initiatives for the Delivery of Basic Education (PRIDE)
Commonwealth of Learning TVET (COL.TVET)
Pacific Association of Technical Vocational Education and Training (PATVET)
g) Distance Education journals
Interesting Distance Education Initiatives
Radio Pasifik-Nauru is a community-based educational radio station launched in 2007. The station is designed to assist students on Nauru to overcome isolation, frequent power cuts and the scarcity of transportation and fuel. Radio Pasifik-Nauru is a truly innovative project. It uses a solar-powered, 30-watt FM “radio in a suitcase” obtained through the COL. The station broadcasts a range of programming, including lectures and tutorials recorded weekly at the USP in Fiji. Each week, these recordings are sent digitally to Nauru and re-broadcast over Radio Pasifik-Nauru. USP lectures and tutorials comprise about half the station’s programming. The rest consists of local programming or pre-recorded segments on current affairs and topical interests. Most interestingly, programming includes audio files produced by universities in Australia, UK, Canada, US and New Zealand and from social media sites. Radio Pasifik-Nauru demonstrates that innovative approaches can succeed in delivering distance educaton even under conditions of extreme isolation.