Kiribati is comprised of one major island and several smaller groups scattered over a vast area. It is located about half way between Hawaii and Australia. The citizens are mostly Micronesian, with over half living on the main island of Tarawa. Known
as the Gilbert Islands, this group was granted self-rule by the United Kingdom in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The U.S. relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a
1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati. The neighboring Ellis Islands became the independent republic of Tuvalu. The official languages are Kiribati and English.
Christian missionaries established and operated the first formal schools; today the church still retains an important role in the educational system. The education system, operated by the Ministry of Education, Training and Technology (METT),
covers the primary and secondary schools and the following tertiary institutions:
- Tarawa Teachers’ College (TTC)
- Tarawa Technical Institute (TTI)
- Marine Training Center (MTC)
- Tungaru Nurse Training School
The METT has coordinated non-formal education since 1993 from its offices in Tarawa and acts as the official focal point for collaborative efforts.
Primary education lasts for 6 years, ages 6–12.
Lower secondary school lasts for 3 years, ages 13–15, (6 + 3). At the end of Grade 9 (also called Form 3), students take exams to earn the Kiribati Junior School Certificate.
Students then take the Common Entrance Examination, allowing them to enter upper secondary schools that offer both academic and vocational courses.
Upper secondary school, ages 16–18, (called Form 4, 5 and 6) is an additional 3 years, and students take exams to earn the Kiribati National Certificate or the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate, both of which allow access to enter pre-university
courses at University of the South Pacific, Fiji (USP) and postsecondary technical or teacher training programs.
Some students take the GCE Ordinary level (O-Level) examinations. A few schools offer Form 7 (13th year). Form 7 graduates may enter the first year of university study.
University of the South Pacific, Fiji, has a small extension program on Tarawa. A few Kiribati students are eligible to be admitted to university programs, mostly in New Zealand and Australia. In addition, Kiribati offers non-formal job training and apprenticeship
programs to provide job skills. Higher education, including both university level programs and post-secondary vocational-technical training is provided by the government, that also operates two tertiary institutions on South Tarawa, namely Tarawa
Technical Institute (TTI) and Kiribati Teachers College (KTC).
Tarawa Technical Institute offers a large number of courses in a wide range of vocational technical disciplines, including, building and carpentry, computer studies, business studies, adult general education subjects, and engineering.