Early childhood enrolment low: report

A report has attributed low enrollment in early childhood education centres in Samoa to low prioritisation, limited access and costs.

The Government-sanctioned report titled Samoa’s Second Voluntary National Review, which focused on the country’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, says Samoa’s enrollment rate in early childhood education centres is among the lowest in the region.

The report says access to early childhood education in Samoa is low and fluctuates between 24 and 31 per cent in terms of the gross enrolment rate and 22 and 24 per cent net enrolment rate between 2015 and 2019. 

The statistics are low when compared to other Pacific Island nations’ early childhood education enrollment rates.

“The Samoa early human capability index report identifies low prioritisation, limited access and costs as key factors for low early childhood education attendance,” stated the V.N.R.

The report also uncovered significantly better literacy and numeracy results for children who attended early childhood education centres compared to those who did not.

“Based on the eight dimensions of child development an overall Samoa Early Human Capability Index development score for 2-5 years old in Samoa was 0.51 on a score of 0 to 1 with 1 being the highest.

“Overall, children in Samoa appear to be developing well in terms of their physical development, verbal communication, and approaches to learning. 

In contrast, they are not doing as well in reading, writing skills, perseverance and cultural/spiritual knowledge. 

“Early childhood, primary and secondary education are compulsory for children from Years 1 to 11 under the Education Act 2009 and Education Amendment Act 2019.”

Furthermore, the report stated that in 2010 the Samoa government with the support of Australia and New Zealand introduced the school fee grant scheme which enables fee-free education for Years 1 to 11.

“These funds are distributed to government and mission schools only covering tuition fees for all students enrolled at primary and since July 2013, also those at secondary level from Years 9 to 11 as well as school operations expenditures. 

“As well an annual government grant is provided for all mission schools, private schools, early childhood education centres and special schools. 

“Early childhood education is a vital stage of education of every child. 

“There are currently 125 early childhood education centres (up from 102 in 2015) in Samoa managed through church and private providers.”

Additionally, early childhood education centres are monitored by the National Council of Early Childhood Education for Samoa, while the government provides annual grants for their operations and infrastructural developments as well as assists early childhood education centres through curriculum and teacher support through the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture. 

“The Samoa school fee grant scheme has been a game changer in increasing access of Samoan children to primary and secondary schooling with universal access to primary education,” added the report.

“Studies have shown that the scheme has also supported the Compulsory Education Act and has helped to address the problem of street vendors during school hours.”

Under Samoa's Education Amendment Act 2019 all students at the age of four should attend an early childhood education centre.

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