Atlas de la Polynésie française, Paris, ORSTOM, planches 103 et 104.

Abstract Maps 103 & 104

Education, vocational training and employment

To provide training for its 70,000 young people under 15 is a challenge for the Territory's government, whose direct involvement in education is constantly increasing. The educational system, which taught 7 in 10 people under 20 in 1988, has had to cope with a rapid surge in school-age children over the past two decades. The public educational system absorbed this expansion. In the early 60's, two children in every three went to school; today this figure is almost 4 out of 5.

Results however are mediocre. Too many pupils either cannot keep up or drop out. Despite minor improvements in recent years, two thirds of junior and senior secondary school pupils are lagging at least one year behind and 56% of children over 15 have no qualifications. In the schools are reproduced the blatant social inequalities which prevail and just one child in five from a Polynesian family ends up with a school certificate.

Regional disparities lend contrast to this picture. Papeete and Pirae, where over one third of the enrolment is concentrated, enjoy the full range of educational facilities: five secondary schools, a teacher-training college and the French University in the Pacific, which opened in september 1988 to act as a vehicle for the “outreach of French culture in the South Pacific”. The role of the teacher-training institute is to fill the gaps in the teaching profession in French Polynesia. Other parts of Tahiti, Moorea and the Leeward Group have satisfactory school attendances rates, but a limited range of classes is offered. The only secondary school is at Uturoa on Raiatea. The main administrative centre of the Leewards plays the same role for this group as Papeete and Pirae do for the territory as a whole. Schooling is an even bigger problem in the remotest islands. A high drop-out rate and under-performance, underqualified teachers and the lack of a school handicap the Marquesas, the Australs and the Tuamotu-Gambier groups. School transport assumes great importance in such an island context. Most roads lead to Papeete.

Although the distant islands cannot hope to be educationally independent, neither is Tahiti. The territory's regional surroundings are less to the fore than its links with France. Relations with the Pacific Rim countries remain limited and 90% of those concerned go to mainland France for their higher education.

The local job market has seen profound change in three decades and the second challeng for the education system is to adapt. The tertiary sector has expanded rapidly and almost three-quarters of the teaching profession are now involved in it, while the primary level only occupies one in five teachers, as against two out of every three in 1959. This needs to be seen in the light of increased recruitment in the administration following the advent of the Pacific Testing Centre (CEP). In 1988, two fifths of salaried staff were public servants. The unequal opportunities in the job market were matched by unequal earning opportunities between public and private sectors. The administration acts as a magnet on young people with consequent adverse effects on the stability of the employment market, while the gap between their aspirations and what their jobs offer is widening constantly. Although the training and education available are improving and diversifying, more and more pupils are dropping out of school, even though the demand for qualified people is increasing at the same time. The Territory is suffering from a shortage of qualified staff.

Unemployment is hard to estimate accurately but would apear to be on the increase. Since the registered unemployed receive no benefit, the increase in the number of job-seekers reveals an increasingly acute need for paid employment, linked to ever increasing household consumerism and indebtedness in what is now an almost entirely monetary economy.