- Early childhood care and education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Primary and secondary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Tertiary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
The Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), which governs all education from early childhood to tertiary level in Tonga, distinguishes between “government” and “non-government” schools. A non-government school is defined as “any school other than a government school established in accordance with the provisions of this Act”, with a “managing authority” defined as “any person or body of persons registered by the Minister in accordance with the provisions of section 27 of this Act as a controlling authority to be generally responsible for schools under their control; and for the purposes of the provisions of this Act relating to applications for the establishment of schools and registration or recognition of schools, includes any person or body of persons proposing to be a controlling authority so responsible”. Finally, a “service provider” (in relation to early childhood education) is defined as “the body, agency, or person who or that operates an early childhood education centre”. The Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board Act 2016, which regulates all post-secondary education, defines a “provider” as “an institution or a private company accredited by the Board to deliver and assess post compulsory education course of study which will conclude with the granting of a qualification approved by the Board”.
The Tonga Education Policy Framework 2004-19 and the Corporate Plan 2019/2020 – 2021/2022 specifically refer to “non-government education providers”, similarly distinguishing between “government” and “non-government” education institutions.
In 2014, most education (83% of schools, 85% of total enrolments) at primary level (6 years, ages 6 – 11) was provided by the state. At secondary level (7 years, ages 12 – 18), most students (69%) were enrolled in non-government schools, with the remaining 31% enrolled in state schools. According to the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), education is compulsory from the ages of 4 – 18 (including early childhood education at ages 4 – 5), but not free by law. State schools may charge school fees that have been prescribed and approved by the Ministry of Education and Training (with tuition, textbook, board, or medical examination fees waived partially or fully for certain individual students or groups of students). The Government of Tonga has given permission to private Christian non-governmental organizations to offer one hour of religious education and Bible study for students of different faiths once per week (with students allowed to opt out).
Non-state managed, state schools
No information was found.
Non-state funded, state schools
No information was found.
Independent, non-state schools
No information was found.
State-funded (government-aided), non-state schools
Non-government schools are non-state schools that are owned and managed by churches (mission schools) and other private bodies (including non-governmental and civil society organizations) which receive per-student subsidies or loans from the state to assist in operational costs. Most Managing Authorities of these schools are registered churches which manage schools in all of its islands, such as the Free Church of Tonga (Siasi Tau’ataina ‘o Tonga), Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (Siasi Uesiliana ‘o Tonga), Roman Catholic Church (Siasi Katolika Loma), Anglican Church (Siasi ‘Ingilani), and the Seventh Day Adventist Church (Siasi ‘Ahofitu). These schools (which mostly operate at secondary level) are free to follow their own curriculum, provided that it is approved by the Ministry of Education and Training. There is also an international school which follows the international curricula and examination system Cambridge International Curriculum.
Contracted, non-state schools
No information was found.
According to the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Education and Training may exempt a child from compulsory school attendance for several reasons, which include illness, if there is no school within walking distance of their place of residence, or if “the parent or guardian makes other arrangements, deemed by the Minister to be suitable and efficient, for the education of the child”. The Act additionally states that in the implementation of information and communications technology within the education system, the Ministry of Education and Training should “make electronic resources available to schools, particularly schools in rural areas and in outer islands”.
During the global outbreak of COVID-19, the MoET engaged in a project unique in the region by implementing two trial “learn at home” days (in June and September 2020) to prepare children, teachers, and caregivers for the possibility of nation-wide school closures and having to continue learning at home. Home-learning methods trialled were radio and television broadcasts of lessons, and printed learning materials distributed or downloaded from the MoET website. These trial days were also found to be a sound investment for future responses to natural hazards in Tonga (such as cyclones).
Market contracted (Voucher schools)
While there is no voucher system implemented in Tonga, the Tonga Education Policy Framework 2004-19 plans to introduce a needs-based voucher or entitlement subsidy for students to attend government or non-government vocational, technical or life skills training institutes at secondary level.
No information was found.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) is responsible for the governance and regulation of both state and non-state education from early childhood to tertiary level.
Vision: According to the Tonga Education Policy Framework 2004-19, “there has always been a close partnership between government and non-government education providers in Tonga”, with the Advisory Council for Education established in 1974 as “a forum for dialogue between the government and non-government systems”. Education is not viewed as the sole responsibility of the MoET, but “everyone in Tonga has a stake in the future of education (including employers, parents, students, teachers, Ministry of Education personnel, people in non-government education institutions such as the Mission Schools, other workers in the Government and the private sectors, and members of the community)”. The government particularly values the “contribution of communities, non-governmental organizations, and churches” (in addition to international agencies), which “all play an important role in education through enhancing the spiritual, social, cultural, political and economic welfare of the country”. The Policy specifically seeks to “improve the partnership between the government and non-government education authorities” (particularly the churches) by increasing assistance towards these providers and negotiating further agreements for a “strong and effective partnership between Government and Non-Government education systems”. These principles are equally reflected in the Tonga Strategic Development Framework 2015-25, which aims for a “closer partnership between government, churches and other stakeholders”, specifically stating that “churches and civil society organizations play a central role in the provision of education”, while “encouraging greater non-government provision of the services” and “collaborative partnerships with the private sector”.
Early childhood care and education (ECCE) provision (which includes daycares and kindergartens catering to children aged 3 – 5 years old) is mostly provided by non-government entities, which include churches, community groups and the private sector. In the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), ECCE services that cover the ages 4 – 5 were included in the compulsory education system, with the Ministry aiming to ensure that “all children in Tonga who are 4 to 5 years of age have access to education at an early childhood education centre”. This was pursued through the development of regulations that aim to ensure all ECCE providers meet quality standards, the establishment of an ECCE Council in 2013 within the MoET, design of an ECCE curriculum, and increased investment in resources for ECCE centers.
Registration and approval: According to the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), all ECCE service providers (which include individuals, bodies or agencies) are required to apply to the Chief Executive Officer of the MoET for the registration of the ECCE centre. The regulations promulgated under the Act require all services to meet the minimum standards in premises, facilities, programs, staffing, child-teacher ratios, health and safety requirements, and practices in relation to children’s learning and development.
License: If the Chief Executive Officer is satisfied that the minimum requirements have been met, the provider may be granted a full or provisional registration.
Profit-making: No information was found.
Taxes and subsidies: The government provides licensed ECCE service providers per-child grants on an annual basis to assist in operational costs, that are subject to certain conditions (which providers are required to comply with). If the provider fails to comply with any of the conditions of the grant, the MoET may withhold the transfer of a grant (fully or partially). Moreover, government support is provided for the establishment of new ECCE centres in areas where there is no provision and/or the proposed service aims to improve access to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Curriculum and education standards: All ECCE providers are required to implement the ECCE Curriculum Framework developed by the MoET, which includes early learning and development standards.
Fee-setting: The Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020) allows registered ECCE providers to charge fees for children to attend the ECCE centre under their administration (with no regulation limiting these fees).
Admission selection and processes: No information was found.
Policies for vulnerable groups: One of the Ministry’s responsibilities is “support(ing) the development of new early childhood centres in areas where there is no provision, and expansion of the sector to improve access for vulnerable and disadvantaged children” (which is enhanced through grants).
Reporting requirements: All ECCE providers must keep records in respect of the children attending the centre.
Inspection: The Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020) promulgates regulations for the inspection of ECCE centers.
Child assessment: No information was found.
Sanctions: If any ECCE provider is found to be in non-compliance with the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020) or promulgated regulations, their registration license may be cancelled by the MoET and the provider may be subject to a fine not exceeding 5,000 TOP (2,221 USD) or imprisonment for up to 2 years.
Registration and approval: According to the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), to establish a non-government school at primary/secondary level in Tonga, a “person or body of persons” is required to submit an application to the Minister of Education and Training and pay the required registration fee. All applications must meet the minimum requirements in infrastructure and health and safety (that apply to all schools), while non-government must additionally provide evidence that adequate provision does not currently exist for the school proposed, the proposed school is in the best interests of education, and all additional registration conditions set out in the Act and the Education (Schools and General Provisions) Regulations 2002 (under review) have been met (including classroom size). The Management Authority of each non-government school (or group of schools) must additionally be registered with the MoET and appoint a Principal Teacher and General Manager. Once approval has been given by the MoET, the applicant must apply for a certificate of registration or recognition.
License: If the Minister is satisfied that the school meets the minimum requirements, the provider is issued a certificate of registration or recognition (with the Managing Authority specified in the certificate) and is classified according to the type of school (with conditions prescribed).
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH): The Managing Authority of each non-government school is required to ensure that all schools within its control comply with the Minimal Service Standards adopted by the MoET, which include the requirements for health and safety in schools (also applicable to government schools).
Profit-making: No information was found.
Taxes and subsidies: The MoET may provide annual per-student grants or loans to non-government schools, stipulating the use to which the grants shall be put in each school (which is the responsibility of the Grants Monitoring & Management unit under the MoET). The Corporate Plan 2019/2020 – 2021/2022 plans to review the funding mechanism for non-government schools and strengthen the MoET unit towards more effective grant administration, while the Tonga Education Policy Framework 2004-19 aims to “increase assistance to the non-Government (Church) providers, in combination with negotiated arrangements between the various non-Government providers and the MoET”. The purpose of gradually increasing the annual per-student grants is to “improve quality and increase equitable access”, linking to a gradual and simultaneous reduction in fees. These additional grants would only be available on a conditional basis and “used at the discretion of the employing authorities to improve quality and learning outcomes”, with a strategy specified in the school’s annual school improvement plan (and impacts monitored on a regular basis by the MoET). The MoET plans to eventually create a “level playing field” between government and non-government providers, with funds delivered on the basis of enrolment and “regardless of the type of provider”.
Curriculum and education standards: The Managing Authority of each non-government school is free to prescribe the curriculum to be followed for schools under its control, provided that prior approval has been gained by the MoET. Religious instruction may also be provided in any non-government school.
Textbooks and learning materials: Non-government schools may prescribe their own textbooks and learning materials, provided that these have been approved by the MoET.
Teaching profession: All teachers in both government and non-government schools must have a teaching certificate, as stipulated in the Education (Schools and General Provisions) Regulations 2002. Managing Authorities are free to appoint and dismiss their own teachers, but salaries must be influenced by the compensation of teachers in government schools. There are certain provisions in the law that apply only to government school teachers, such as discipline and civil service regulations. According to the Tonga Education Policy Framework 2004-19 the Minister aims on “creating a more “level playing field” in the teaching labour force by moves to decentralise functions such as appointment of staff and fostering an environment in which Non-Government systems can compete for teaching staff on an equal basis with Government schools, would have the effect of improving the quality of teaching overall in Tonga’s schools. Achieving this objective would require additional financial support for the Non-Government school systems”. For more information, see Multi-level regulations.
Corporal punishment: Corporal punishment is explicitly prohibited in the Education Act 2013 and the Education (Schools and General Provisions) Regulations 2002 for all schools (irrespective of ownership). The Act states that “a person in a school or on any school premise shall not verbally abuse any student; or use force (whether by way of correction or punishment) against any student”, while the Regulations stipulate that “under no circumstances shall a teacher inflict corporal punishment on any student” and “under no circumstances shall staff in any school direct students to administer corporal punishment on another student”.
Other safety measures and Covid-19: The Managing Authority of each non-government school is required to notify the Chief Executive of the MoET of the occurrence of any notifiable disease (listed by the Ministry of Health and in the Public Health Act), disaster, or issue regarding the health and safety within the school.
Fee-setting: While the fees to be levied by each non-government school may be set by their Managing Authorities, non-government schools which receive funding from the government must agree (upon condition for receiving the funds) to charge fees at a reduced rate.
Admission selection and processes: Managing Authorities are free to set their own admission processes, with no regulation on student selection practices. Regulations additionally state that students may be refused admission or re-admission to any school until all relevant fees have been paid.
Policies for vulnerable groups: According to the Education Act 2013, “every child under the age of 19 years has a right to access quality education in Tonga, irrespective of the child’s gender, religion, socio-economic status, physical condition and location”. While regulations are included for ensuring a child with special educational needs has the “same right to enrol and to receive education at a government school as a child who does not”, there are no such requirements for non-government schools.
School board: The Education Act 2013 states that each Managing Authority is responsible for the management structure of all schools within its control. The only authority mentioned as specifically responsible for the school’s management is the principal teacher, with no regulation found regarding the establishment or composition of school boards. The Improving Tongan School Leadership Guide 2012 encourages schools to implement “community connectedness” in their school leadership practices, and establish Parent-Teacher Associations, ex-Student Associations, in addition to consulting key stakeholders in their decisions (such as churches, education committees and advisory boards). This document does not require schools to establish these associations though, but only suggestions these practices.
Reporting requirements: All schools (irrespective of ownership) are required to submit an audited report of funds to the MoET each year based on a prescribed form. Moreover, all schools must keep and maintain records that ensure the health and safety of all students, including student health records, accident registers, and safety and emergency procedures. The principal teacher of each school must additionally keep records of all the documents listed in the Education (Schools and General Provisions) Regulations 2002, which include school inspection reports, curriculum and syllabus, account books, and student attendance.
School inspection: The MoET is responsible for the quality assurance of all schools (government and non-government) in Tonga. According to the Education Act 2013, the Minister (or an authorized government officer) may enter and any school (with 2 weeks’ notice given to the concerned Managing Authority) and inspect the premises, operations, and teaching of the school. Inspections must be made at least once every year, with reports filed to the Director of the MoET after each visit.
Student assessment: The MoET is authorized to administer national examinations that all schools (government and non-government) must take part in, provided that, if the prescribed text is unacceptable to the Managing Authority on grounds of religious doctrine, the MoET may prescribe an alternative assessment (after consultation with the concerned Managing Authority). From time to time, the MoET may also designate overseas examinations which have been approved as “suitable for students in the Kingdom and suited to the educational need of the Kingdom”. Managing Authorities free to present their students for other overseas examinations, provided that they have been approved by the MoET.
Diplomas and degrees: No information was found.
Sanctions: If, as a result of an inspection, the MoET is satisfied that a school does not conform with the minimum requirements relating to health and safety, premises, curriculum, or use of government funds, the Minister may (after consulting with the Advisory Council and Managing Authority) order the closure of the school. Any school which has been ordered to be closed by the MoET may be reopened within the first 6-month period after consultation with the concerned Managing Authority. Finally, a Managing Authority may at any time request the Minister to close the school (which may only be closed by the authority concerned through the approval of the Minister).
Tertiary education is provided by 2 state universities and 4 non-state universities, the latter of which covered 89% of total enrolments in the country in 2014. Non-state universities are established by church or private providers and include a campus of the University of South Pacific (which is a state university based in Fiji that has campuses across different Pacific islands).
Tertiary education is governed by the MoET (through the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board), with an established Higher Education Commission that provides policy advice to the Minister on the establishment, development, and advancement of the higher education sector in Tonga. The establishment and operations of non-state higher education institutions (HEIs) are mainly regulated by the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board Act 2016 and the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Regulations 2010.
Registration and approval: According to the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board Act 2016, institutions or private companies that plan to establish a HEI in Tonga are required to apply to the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board for registration and course accreditation based on a prescribed form (and accompanied by the required registration fee). Providers must be legally established or recognized enduring bodies with applications that meet minimum requirements in curriculum, assessment, staff qualifications, and management listed in the Act and the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Regulations 2010. The Board may require the Chief Executive Officer of the MoET to evaluate and verify the contents of any application (including a site visit if necessary). If all the minimum quality standards have been met, the Board then grants accreditation for specified courses of study and short courses, subject to conditions imposed.
License: Once accreditation has been granted, the Board issues the provider a Certificate of Accreditation and Certificate of Registration. Providers are only registered as universities if the applicant meets the characteristics of a university set by the Board. All accredited bodies are required to display their certificates of accreditation/registration in a conspicuous place on the premises.
Profit-making: HEI providers may be registered as private companies, with no regulation found regarding limits in profit-making.
Taxes and subsidies: No information was found.
Curriculum and education standards: The courses of study, curriculum, syllabus, and learning components of each course must all be accredited and approved by the Board upon registration, which is responsible for approving every post-compulsory education course that leads to a qualification in Tonga. All courses must additionally meet the minimum standards and learning outcomes of the Tonga Qualifications Framework which are listed in the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Regulations 2010 and Guidelines for National Qualification Development and TQF Registration 2018.
Teaching profession: According to the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board Act 2016, all academic staff in HEIs must hold a registered teaching qualifications that is at least one level higher than the course they teach and have a minimum of 3 years’ experience in the field of study. For more information, see Multi-level regulations.
Fee-setting: No information was found.
Admission selection and processes: According to the Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020), higher education in Tonga must be “accessible to all on the basis of capacity”, with entry requirements that are fair, transparent, and applied consistently.
Board: While the exact structure and composition of a governing board is not regulated, the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Regulations 2010 require all institutions to have “adequate governance and management” structures in place (approved upon registration) that will help the institution achieve its education goals and objectives.
Reporting requirements: The Quality Assurance Policies 2009 require all providers to conduct self-evaluations before any audit visit by the Board, to establish the extent to which the minimum requirements are met (which the Board will then seek to validate). HEIs are then required to carry out any improvements specified by the Board within the given timeframe.
Inspection: All registered HE providers are required to undergo quality reviews and audits of their courses and units of study every 2 years to determine whether they continue to meet the minimum quality standards. Reviews are conducted by a review team consisting of Board and industry representatives and include an investigation on the standard of educational content, qualification appropriateness, and delivery resources of each institution.
Assessment: The assessment and examination system adopted in each HEI must be fair, appropriate relevant to the stated learning outcomes, and consistent. The Education Act 2013 (revised in 2020) additionally states that all assessment and grading standards are required to be adhered to by all institutions in order to minimize the variability between different HEIs. All assessment systems are approved upon registration.
Diplomas and degrees: All qualifications (diplomas, certificates or degrees) must meet the minimum standards set in the Tonga Qualifications Framework and Guidelines for National Qualification Development and TQF Registration 2018 and have been accredited by the Board or an overseas quality assurance agency that has been recognized by the Board.
Sanctions: If (as a result of a review) any HEI provider is found to not comply with the minimum quality standards and fails to carry out the required improvements specified by the Board, the Board may cancel the provider’s registration, accreditation, and approval.
The following section covers regulations from early childhood to higher education level covered under the Education Act 2013.
Teaching profession: All teachers in Tonga (irrespective of the type of school or education level they teach in) must be registered and authorized to teach by the Chief Executive Officer of the MoET. Teachers are additionally required to hold a teaching qualification from a recognized institution in Tonga or abroad and have completed at least one year of full-time instruction at the satisfaction of the Chief Executive Officer.
No information was found.
No information was found.
No information was found.