Education in Tonga

Minister of Education, Hon. Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki

Tonga’s Vision for Education is: ‘The people of Tonga will achieve excellence in education that is unique to Tonga.’ The mission of the education sector is: ‘To provide equitable, accessible, relevant, and sustainable quality education for all Tongans that will enable Tonga to develop and become a learning and knowledge society.’

Therefore, over the last ten years Tonga has embarked on an ambitious educational reform programme, which began with the development of a series of planning documents:

  • Tonga – Education Sector Study (2003)
  • Strategic Plan for Education in Tonga (2003-13)
  • Tonga Education Policy Framework (2004-19)

All of these were aligned to Tonga’s Strategic Development Plan 8 (2006-10), the Pacific Education Development Framework (2009-15), the Education for All Goals, and the Millennium Development Goals.

The education development programme that emerged from these documents was the Tonga Education Support Program (TESP).The main goals of TESP I were to:

  • Improve equitable access and quality of universal basic education up to Year 8
  • Improve access and quality of post-basic education
  • Improve the administration of education and training.

The Ministry has developed a new Tonga Education Lakalaka 1 Policy Framework (2013-2017), which has become TESP II.
Australia has donated AUD$10.5 million and NZD$9 million to fund TESP II for the next three years. TESP II focuses on three key policy areas:

  • Students’ outcomes at all levels, especially in literacy and numeracy, in the early years of basic education
  • Teachers’ competencies at all levels, which include both preand in-service professional development
  • Teaching and learning environments, which include teaching and learning resources, equipment, and physical facilities

From these programmes and activities, the ministry expects to achieve at least 99 per cent access to, participation in, and 99 per cent retention and completion rate at UBE level, and that all students at the end of Form 7 or Year 15 of compulsory education (age four to 18) will have achieved the minimal requirements for the core attributes of the Tongan school leaver and that they will leave school with some meaningful qualification.

As with all reforms and plans, they are only as good as the capabilities of those who implement them. The LakalakaPolicy Framework is only a tool to guide the ministry in performing its core functions and responsibilities. The ministry, in theorising education, its vision and mission, processes and outcomes, uses the LakalakaFramework to aid it in this exercise. It sets the context in which education occurs, the purposes for which it is performed, the processes that are used, the performers, the resources they need and the operational matters that must be considered to achieve excellence in the dance, which will generate mafana and malie, the transforming qualities of education, that can leave a legacy of excellence.

The Lakalaka is a symbol of excellence, and this is the vision for education in Tonga.

1. The Lakalaka is one of Tonga’s major art forms, consisting of poetry that is sung and accompanied by dance. Its importance and uniqueness was recognised by UNESCO in 2003 when the Tongan Lakalaka was declared a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. It is the only Pacific performing art that has been recognised as a masterpiece