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By Paul Bacsich, Nikki Cortoos and Tom Levec

For entities in Tonga see Category:Tonga


Experts situated in Tonga

None so far.

Tonga in a nutshell

Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Pule'anga Fakatu'i 'o Tonga) is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. The total population is about 110,000, with 70% living on the main island of Tongatapu, and the rest of the population is spread across the four island groups of Vava'u, Ha'apai, ‘Eua and the Niuas. The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 miles) in a north-south line. The islands that constitute the archipelago lie south of Samoa, about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii.

Tonga, the only sovereign monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, has a unique history as the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonial tutelage. Tonga has recently undergone an historic and fundamental change from an executive monarchy to a modern parliamentary democracy, with increased directly elected representatives. Candidates are required to register for elections as individuals, not as members of a political party. The first democratic elections were held in November 2010.

The population of Tonga is 106,146 (July 2012 estimate according to CIA's World Factbook)

The capital (and largest city) is Nukuʻalofa, on the main island of Tongatapu.

Over 70% of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Tonga live on its main island, Tongatapu. Although an increasing number of Tongans have moved into the only urban and commercial centre, Nukuʻalofa, where European and indigenous cultural and living patterns have blended, village life and kinship ties continue to be important throughout the country. Everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith; for example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, and the constitution declares the Sabbath to be sacred, forever. Some Tongans are Methodists with a significant Catholic minority and a number of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

The Tongan language is the official language of the islands, along with English. Tongan is a Polynesian language which is closely related to Wallisian (Uvean), Niuean, Hawaiian, and Samoan.

Education in Tonga

The Ministry of Education, Women Affairs and Culture is responsible for the general administration and implementation of various policies and programmes in regards to formal education.

Churches and other private organisations play important roles complementary to the Government's role in education.

Primary education has been compulsory since 1876. The 1974 Education Act requires that every child between the ages of 6 and 14 must attend school. In 1995, the gross primary enrollment rate was 122.2 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 95.3 percent. Primary school attendance rates were unavailable for Tonga as of 2001. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children’s participation in school.

(sourced from and links from there)

According to a COL publication, the country ‘has made good progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) goals and education remains the key priority’.

The COL has been working collaboratively with Tonga to progress the achievement of the MDGs and the Commonwealth priorities of Education, and Tonga helps to develop better policies and systems for open, distance, technology, mediated learning, and quality models and materials that can be adapted and replicated throughout the commonwealth.

Source:, ‘KINGDOM OF TONGA, Focal Point: Mrs. Peaua M.F. Heimuli’, published 19 October 2011, accessed 13 April 2012, PDF.

Schools in Tonga

Tonga High School was established in 1947. The aim of the school was to provide an opportunity for students to achieve a level of education equivalent to that offered in neighbouring countries such as New Zealand and Australia. The school is situated in Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa. The current school buildings were built with assistance from the Chinese Government. The buildings were officially opened on 2 July 2005. The facilities include 34 classrooms and 18 laboratories and can accommodate over a thousand students. There is a planned second phase of reconstruction which is due to begin in 2009 with the building of a gymnasium, swimming pool and a sports stadium. There were 1154 students enrolled at the school in 2005. Students can be members of four houses: Nua (Yellow), Kava (Red), Sangone (Blue) and Tele'a (Green).

Tupou College is a Methodist boys' secondary boarding school in Toloa on the island of Tongatapu, Tonga. Established in 1866 by James Egan Moulton, it claims to be the oldest secondary school in the Pacific Islands. Enrolment is some 1,000 pupils. From 1924 to 1937, the school expanded from 30 students to almost 400. The College has a 750-acre (3.0 km2) campus, on which crops of vegetables and fruit are grown.

The Ocean of Light International School is a private internationalist Bahá'í school dedicated to the development of the spiritual, intellectual, and physical potential of the students and to the fostering of a new world society identifying itself with the principles of a world citizenship, a universal value system, a world embracing administrative, economic, social and educational systems based on the concept of unity in diversity. To achieve this the School aims to develop in the students those capacities, skills, habits and attitudes necessary to enable them to provide for their families; to effectively contribute to the peace, prosperity and tranquillity of mankind and society; and to participate in the creation of new institutions, processes and relationships as they are defined and established. The School is directly administered by a non-profit Board of Education nominated by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Tonga. The school is known as a Baha'i school and is striving to incorporate Baha'i ideals, principles and concepts into the curriculum and organization of the school. The school is located in Kolomotu’a / Hofoa - about 3 kilometers from the centre of Nukuʻalofa. It offers classes from kindergarten (3 years old) to high school diploma using Cambridge International Examinations including the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. The school is listed by the Australian Defense Department as a Primary and Secondary "Benchmark school" for those posted to Tonga.[

Further and Higher education

Universities in Tonga

'Atenisi University is the only university in Tonga and it was established in August 1975 by professor Futa Helu. It is part of the 'Atenisi Institute. Its web site is at - and the courses offered for 2010 are listed at

There is also a study centre of the University of the South Pacific, and according to its website, Tongan students can complete almost up to two thirds of some of the degree programs without travelling to the main campus in Suva, Fiji.

Polytechnics in Tonga

The Tonga Institute of Higher Education is a tertiary education institution. Its remit spans a number of programmes that focus on educating students in a variety of professional aptitudes and vocations. Its web site is

Colleges in Tonga

Education reform



Administration and finance



According to the Ministry for Education's website, the government pays 73% of tuition for Tongan USP private students

Quality assurance

The ministry's Quality Assurance division looks after four main activities, namely Minimum Service Standard (MSS), the Tongan Monolingual Dictionary, Examinations and Curriculum Development.

The Examination Unit maintains the National Examination which include annual examinations for placement of primary school students into government schools and the Tonga School Certificate, the national examination for Secondary School students at the 5th year stage.

It also acts as the official contact point for the South Pacific Board of Educational Assessment (SPBEA), an organisation which manages the matriculation examination for many South Pacific islands.

Source:, 2006.

The Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board (TNQAB) leads the implementation of the Tonga Qualifications Framework (TQF) (PDF format) in partnership with qualifications awarding bodies, Education and training providers so as other key stakeholders. Its duties are to:

  • Establish Policies, Criteria, Accreditation, Monitoring, Reviewing, Register and Listing of providers of post compulsory education and training in Tonga
  • Develop a National Qualifications Framework for post compulsory education and training, Review and revise cooperate plans



Information society

Some of Tonga's activities have been that it hosted two learning for content workshops in August 2008 to train local teachers and educators in collaborative online skills using high technology. With regard to open educational resources, delegates from Tonga also attended the regional OERs workshop organised by COL and the Ministry of Education, NZ and held in Wellington in August 2007 and the UNESCO-COL Guidelines for open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education is fully supported by Tonga. Tonga has already begun to build capacity in developing OERs and will be encouraged to expand its contribution in 2012-2015.

Source:, ‘KINGDOM OF TONGA, Focal Point: Mrs. Peaua M.F. Heimuli’, published 19 October 2011, accessed 13 April 2012, PDF.

ICT in education initiatives

The Kingdom of Tonga has fostered ICT education for a number of years. The Ministry of Education created the Community Development and Training Centre (CDTC) in the 1970s. As an ICT programme developed with the growth of the field, it was incorporated within the CDTC in 1997. In 2002, a new facility was built to encourage the further expansion of the program. At this time the Tonga Institute of Higher Education was created to unify tertiary education programmes within the country. It is in this current incarnation where the majority of tertiary ICT education is provided to students. The Tonga Institute of Higher Education offers a two-year Diploma programme in Information Systems and Computer Science.

  • The Tonga Institute of Higher Education (TIHE) is a part of the Ministry of Education, which has provided and obtained ample funding in the past, resulting in the largest deployment of ICT education within Tonga.
  • Tupou High School, a Wesleyan school, offers a two-year Diploma program that is accredited with New Zealand schools.
  • The University of the South Pacific (USP) also has a Centre in Tonga where they offer first-year courses in ICT, before students relocate to Fiji to complete their studies, called Institute of Education (IOE).
  • The Unuaki o Tonga Royal Institute also offers a Diploma programme in ICT. These programs are all located on Tongatapu and are not available on outer islands.
  • Many other programmes that the Ministry of Education (MOE) offers use ICT within their own programmes. The Accounting programme offers a number of courses in computerised accounting. Additionally, Agriculture, Tourism and Hospitality, and Teacher Training schools each require students to take basic computing courses in order to familiarise them with basic tasks. The Ministry of Education, and thus the government of Tonga, is primarily responsible for all education in Tonga. They also provide funds to the other private ICT programmes.

ICT Curriculum

The Technical Insitute of Higher Education's Information Technology programme has two tracks, Information Systems (IS) and Computer Science (CS). Both were modelled on programmes offered by the University of the South Pacific, but have been further developed to reflect local needs as well as keep up to date with changing trends within technology. IS was created to address the need for skilled managerial positions, capable of making informed decisions regarding ICT as well as recognising and implementing possibilities by utilising ICT solutions. CSI is focused on creating students capable of critical thinking so that they can develop information systems able to be deployed in a professional environment.

Another goal of both programmes is to create students capable of setting up, maintaining and upgrading computer hardware, software and networks.

The curriculum for the Technical Institute of Higher Education is revised on a yearly basis to reflect new changes as well as to re-evaluate the worth of different segments. The full-time and part-time tutors within the programme will discuss these changes, as well as soliciting the input of professionals within the field of ICT in Tonga in order to garner feedback on the qualities they desire in future employees.

The primary concern presently is the retention and recruitment of skilled ICT professionals as tutors. There is a dire need of qualified ICT staffing in Tonga, thus the brightest and best often will move out of education and into the private sector.

Virtual initiatives in schools

Virtual initiatives in post-secondary education

Tonga is an active member of the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC).

Lessons learnt

General lessons

Notable practices


  1. Ministry of Education, Women Affairs and Culture

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