Tonga is unique among Pacific nations as it never completely lost its indigenous governance. "The Friendly Islands" (as named by Captain Cook) were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970, and remains
the only monarchy in the Pacific. It is located in the South Pacific Ocean, part way between Hawaii and New Zealand, south of Samoa and east of Fiji.
The population is about 117,000, scattered among 36 of the country’s 172 small islands. The capital is Nuku’alofa. The languages are Tongan and English.
In the past primary and secondary education operated on the New Zealand educational model, but has since been replaced with a Tongan model. The academic year is from February to December, and the languages of instruction are English and Tonga.
Primary and Secondary Education
Elementary education takes place in 6 years (age 6 to 12) ending with the Secondary Entrance Examination.
Secondary education takes place in 5 years (age 12 – 17), ending after Grade 11 and the award of the Tonga School Certificate. This allows students to enter most vocational schools and technical institutions in Tonga.
Upper secondary school lasts for 1 additional year, age 17 to 18, ending after Grade 12 and the award of the Pacific Senior Secondary Examination, also called Form 6. Students may then attend an additional 13th year, Form 7, from age 18 to 19, and are
awarded the South Pacific Board Educational Assessment Form 7 Certificate, or the University of the South Pacific Foundation Certificate. These certificates allow students to enter universities.
Tonga does not have a national university, although there is one private school, Atenisi University, offering degree courses. The University of the South Pacific (USP) operates a centre in Tonga which enrolls extension students for some non-degree and
degree courses offered by the University.
The Tonga Institute of Higher Education coordinates all education and training at post-secondary level for the Ministry of Education. It incorporates under its umbrella the Institute of Science and Technology and the Tonga Maritime Polytechnic Institute,
the Tonga Institute of Education and the Community Development and Training Centre. The minimum entry requirement is the Tonga School Certificate. Tonga Institute of Higher Education is also loosely affiliated with several schools and colleges. The
Ministry of Labor and Commerce as well as several other non-governmental organizations offer short term informal and formal courses.
The Tonga Institute of Education (Teachers' Training College) offers a three-year integrated Teaching Diploma for primary-school teachers. The minimum entry requirement is the Pacific Senior School Certificate or equivalent. It also offers a three-year
integrated Teaching Diploma for secondary-school teachers. The minimum entry requirement is the Pacific Senior School Certificate or equivalent.