Educational Challenges in French Polynesia

French Polynesia/ Tahaa: School Bus via Flickr, photographer: Enrico Silva

Written by Luzi Maj Leonhardt for Broken Chalk

French Polynesia represents a French overseas collective and consists of 121 islands in the eastern South Pacific. The islands comprise the five archipelagos, Society Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Marquesas Islands, Gambier Islands, and Austral Islands. The island of Tahiti and the capital Papeete, represent the political and economic centre of the country. Together, the size of the overall territory can be compared to the size of Europe. French Polynesia has approximately 300,000 inhabitants. 

French Polynesia was colonized by France in 1880 and became a French overseas territory in 1949. Since then, France granted more and more autonomy to local authorities, while the 2004 ‘Organic Law’ played a significant role in the country’s self-government. Consequently, since 2013, French Polynesia has been officially listed as a self-governing territory by the United Nations. 

The political system present in French Polynesia is a parliamentary democracy, with a 57-seat assembly and parliamentary elections in five-year terms. The current president is Moetai Brotherson, who won elections in May 2023 and, for the first time since 2004, belongs to a pro-independence party. However, according to local experts, this will most likely not result in a political referendum, but the high voter turnouts are due to dissatisfaction with the previous government during Covid 19. 

In general, the president of the French Republic is also the head of state of French Polynesia, which reveals the strong influence France remains to have on the economic and political development.

French influence in French Polynesia

Historically, for many people, the French administration in French Polynesia is strongly connected to the 193 nuclear tests conducted by the French state between 1966 and 1996. These areal and underground tests had severe consequences for the environment, health, and economy, and victims struggle to obtain compensation and recognition until today. Even though, in 2021, compensation procedures reached new importance in the Macron administration, the French government still denied their minimalization of the impacts of contaminations during the project.

Nowadays, the economy of French Polynesia is rooted in tourism; approximately 68% of Polynesians work in the service sector. Therefore, the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown had severe consequences for the economy. Additionally, the country relies on the cultivation of black pearls and subsidies. The latter is mainly based on financial support by France to their overseas territory, which makes up 30% of the country’s GDP. These spending are distributed equally on the jurisdictions of the territorial government and French state-based responsibilities. French Polynesia reached autonomy in most local affairs and regional relations over time. However, France retains responsibilities in competencies such as law enforcement, defence, and education.

The educational system in French Polynesia

The French Polynesian educational system is regulated by local authorities and the French government. The state finances public education and subsidizes private institutions, operated by the church. Thereby, France holds key responsibilities in budget management and organization of state exams, such as teacher certifications and high-school finals.

The general school system is similar to the system in place in France, complying with French standards, including the curriculum. However, since the 2004 ‘Organic Law’, local authorities have gained more say and autonomy in the educational sector. This led to slight changes in the curriculum to match local needs and take historical, geographical, cultural, and social realities into account. 

In French Polynesia, education is compulsory until age sixteen, whereby primary education falls between the ages of five and twelve, while secondary education finishes at age seventeen. However, many children fail to comply due to language barriers, economic struggles, and cultural differences. As a form of higher education, the ‘Université de la Polynésie française’ was founded in 1987 in Outumaoro, Punaauia, Tahiti. The university is a non-profit higher education institution and has displayed a significant increase in students since 1999. In 2019, the number of students rose to 2898. Additionally, several technical schools offer special programs such as hotel business, service, and teaching. There are also different adult educational programs. 

The language of instruction in formal educational institutions is French. However, with new efforts of local adjustments and accessibility, the incorporation of the Tahitian language as a language of instruction makes up on average one in seven courses.

Language barrier in the educational system

French Polynesia has always been a multilingual country, with five different local languages in the archipelagos. Tahitian is the language of the islands, however, its recognition as an official language alongside French only took place in the 1980s. The formal recognition of indigenous languages has long been neglected and still plays a role in the contemporary educational system. 

Since the beginning of French influence, the language in the educational system has been French. This also means that until French became more popular in society, children started their academic careers in a foreign language. Especially on smaller islands, people mainly spoke Polynesian as their everyday language of socialization. The former educational system was not very tolerant towards indigenous languages and even formally banned Tahitian in schools for some time. However, in the early 2000s, France extended their early childhood and foreign language promotion as part of the EU’s multilingual education movement. This led to meaningful changes in language learning policies in French Polynesia. The program aimed to provide culturally responsive education and meant the inclusion of the Tahitian language in schools. 

Nevertheless, Tahitian only makes up a couple of hours per week, so nationalist groups proceed to fight for the equal incorporation of indigenous languages in the educational sector. Even though, the literacy rate on Tahiti is 98%, many smaller islands struggle with the educational system provided by the French administration, leading to high dropout rates. Education is compulsory until age sixteen, but only 20% of the students in French Polynesia, mainly from outer islands, finish elementary school. One reason for this is language difficulties, which lower the accessibility to the educational system. 

Additionally, English has become increasingly important over the last decade, especially in the tourism sector. Therefore, it was integrated into the elementary school curriculum in 2010 as a foreign language after a pilot project of five years. Unfortunately, this policy change faced severe difficulties due to a lack of teachers with sufficient language competencies. 

Although the educational system in French Polynesia mirrors the French educational system, statistical data conducted in elementary schools reveals a deficiency in the academic success of French Polynesian students. Experts connect this deficiency directly to the socio-linguistic context and emphasize the dependency of further professional opportunities for the students on educational success.


French Polynesia faces growing challenges of social and economic inequalities, including differences in wealth. About ¼ of the population lives below the poverty line, while most of the wealth lies with the rich elite, mainly French civil servants. The reason for this involves the absence of redistribution measures in the tax system, namely an income tax. One-half of the citizens live in rural areas due to poverty and a lack of opportunities for young people in urban areas, which leads to the creation of ‘shanty towns’ or slums surrounding bigger cities.

Demographically, French Polynesia is a young country; Approximately ¼ of the population is under 14 years old, and 35% is under 20 years old. However, due to the economic difficulties of the families and the already mentioned language limitations, many children drop out of school before the compulsory age of sixteen, narrowing their prospects for future employment. Consequently, 50% of the under twenty-five-year-olds are unemployed, and a big part of the young population struggles with underemployment. 


In conclusion, the educational approach in French Polynesia based on the French system and curriculum, is stable and provides a basis for substantial education. The foundations of education do not face severe challenges. However, by transferring the foreign French system to the academic sector in French Polynesia, the French administration failed to consider local societal and political circumstances. This is reflected in the clash over the language used in schools. Given that language poses the main challenge in French Polynesia, other issues, like the increase in unemployment, are connected to it. So, it’s crucial to focus on making improvements in this area.

Research on child learning suggests significant advantages of bilingual and multilingual education. Including the children’s native language by linking socialization and education will improve cognitive skills, leading to positive development of language ability and educational success. 

Even though academic policies in French Polynesia started to open up to indigenous languages, the dimension of Tahitian in schools compared to French is still minimal. Therefore, it is necessary to expand on the further development of multilingual programs in schools and universities. 

Additionally, enhancing the dialogue and direct cooperation in originally French political responsibilities, such as education, will improve the legitimation of the system, standing against critical voices in the political sphere, such as nationalist parties. 

The decision-makers on education in French Polynesia set a new goal for evaluating multilingual education. To successfully attain this objective, the implementation of innovative policies to reinforce resolutions, coupled with financial support aimed at equipping teachers with the necessary competencies, is imperative.

Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash.

Educational Challenges in Croatia

Written by Riccardo Armeni

Croatia is a Southeastern-European country that is part of the Balkan region. It declared its independence from the war-torn and now-dissolved SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) in 1991, beginning decades of rebirth. The Republic of Croatia borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, whereas the Adriatic Sea covers its whole western side. From an etymological perspective, the country derives its name from an ancient version of Slavic and roughly translates to ‘guardian’ or “one who guards” (Matasović, 2019). As previously mentioned, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the formation of several sovereign states, Croatia has begun a period of renaissance that is still going on to this day, primarily focused on promoting tourism, with the industrial and agricultural sectors largely contributing to the national economy.

This economic resurgence, however, does not go hand-in-hand with other aspects of societal development. Although the sparkling docks of Dubrovnik, known as “Venice-on-the-sea”, or the festive and colourful islands of Hvar and Pag may fascinate people, they may also blind them from the evident challenges that Croatia hides in its educational system. Unsuccessful policy developments, the worrying state-of-affairs of some regions and the inevitable effects of Covid-19 concocted a lethal cocktail that left the institutional context for education in subpar conditions.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash.


Croatia has developed an initiative called the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training that has been implemented in the past years and it is supposed to last until 2027. It is a comprehensive approach to the challenge-riddled education system present in the country, where 10 goals have been set and actions have been taken in order to satisfy said goals (European Commission, 2023). The majority of these revolve around all-access to early levels of education like preschool and primary ones, with improvements in efficiency, effectiveness and overall process quality. Others are concerned with themes of inclusivity and fairness, with the aim of fostering comprehensive environments as a way to ameliorate the current state of inequalities.

Special children are also taken into consideration, both ones with disabilities and those with special talents, where the government has promised to create a platform that tailors the support to their needs and their talents. Lastly, the final goals target Croatian students that live abroad, with the intention of aligning their professional opportunities with the national curriculum, as well as the implementation of ICTs throughout the entire educational hierarchy in order to advance the current level of digital literacy and augment the quality of the processes by utilizing technology. The general idea is that resource allocation, strategic planning and most importantly collaboration among stakeholders are the fundamental pillars on which this national plan is based on: as a consequence, implementation remains the real issue (European Commission, 2023).


Slavonia is a historical region that extends towards the north-eastern part of the country; once a prosperous and fertile region, it was devasted during the war and has struggled to recover since then. Regrettably, Croatia’s public administration has shown negligence towards the region in terms of economic support: out of the all FDI (foreign direct investment) allocated for the whole Republic of Croatia within the past decade, only a meagre 2% was spent for Slavonia (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023). The most concerning aspect of this failed improvement is the disastrous conditions in which the education system was left. What’s even more alarming is the combination of inexistent skillsets and low levels of education displayed by the individuals present in the local workforce; this negative overview is amplified by a number of dispositional factors, such as the elevated emigration of youngsters and skilled workers registered in the region (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023).

As previously outlined, the area’s fertility is the primary source of income for the region, with the agri-food industry accounting for almost one third of the overall output for Slavonia; however, only 10% of farmers has received any type of formal training, which is three times lower as compared to the European Union average (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023). On the other side of the spectrum, more and more people are dropping out of their tertiary education studies, and consequently even less are getting enrolled at all (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023). The prime cause of this trend is that the institutions in the tertiary sector are not aligned with the needs of the workforce at the regional level: this is indicative of a mismatch regarding what is needed by potential students and what is offered from the educational context.


The pandemic generated by the Coronavirus has also been another factor that drastically impacted the progress of education in Croatia. A survey conducted within the first part of 2021 showed how more than half of the students that graduated secondary school within the past three years has said that the pandemic negatively influenced their mental health, including a lower interest in sports and hobbies (Europa, 2021). The most affected dimensions for learners were knowledge, skills attainment, comprehension and motivation. Other negative consequences of the pandemic can be found from the institutional side of education. It has become increasingly difficult for educators to keep students engaged during classes, especially with online learning that formally killed the knowledge spillover that stems whenever individuals are sharing the same space, such as a classroom, throughout the learning process (Europa, 2021).

Covid-19 didn’t only affect the psychological dimensions, but also physical ones, becoming tangible. As an instance, the majority of students said that wearing a mask significantly impacted on their learning experience (Europa, 2021). Moreover, those who barely managed to escape the pandemic’s heavy influence by graduating high school in the summer of 2020 (and therefore received remote learning for little over 2 months), still reported issues with transitioning out of secondary school; whether it was to venture in the labour market or to continue with higher studies, an average of 40% out of the graduating individuals claimed they were not properly prepared for the future (Europa, 2021). Ultimately, there is a huge need of platforms or special programs that accompany teenager learners in their psychological and social needs.

Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash.


To conclude, Croatia has been making strides in their efforts regarding improving education, although it is clear that the country is still a long way from achieving a comprehensive network of quality education and overall processes. The National Plan for the Development of Education and Training that was set in motion in recent years is bringing about good adjustments, but collaboration is required from all involved parties in order to smoothen the implementation of said program.

The first step towards obtaining this outcome would be a holistic approach, where the various relevant institutions are coordinated in the implementation of initiatives and programs, with a continuous monitoring in order to identify and correct mistakes. Furthermore, there should be more emphasis placed on the attainment of micro-qualifications, with the support of financing programmes sponsored by state institutions – and a special focus on digital as well as green skills (European Commission, 2023).

Secondly, a bigger interest for the region of Slavonia: the establishment of a regional committee in charge of keeping stakeholders connected and facilitating the coordination of activities at all administrative levels is advised. That area is ripe with possibilities, and with just a little effort from the involved institutions it can aim to become a primary weapon for the economy of Croatia, along with a resurgence of education levels as well as enrolment and graduation targets in the region.

Lastly, the development of platforms that promote social well-being, with a major emphasis on psychological implications that resulted from COVID-19, could be helpful. In addition, remote learning needs some refinement, with increased participation from all the involved stakeholders and support for prolonged use of content, as well as the proposition of new possibilities for blended learning (Europa, 2021).


BalkanInsight. (2017). Croatia Teachers Protest Over Stalled Education Reforms. Retrieved from:

rajkovic, L., & Ambasz, D. (2023). Analyzing education outcomes and skills mismatch in Croatia’s lagging Slavonia region. Retrieved from:

Eurydice. (2023). Ongoing reforms and policy developments. Retrieved from:

Matasović, R. (2019). Ime Hrvata. Croatian Philological Society. Retrieved from:

ReferNet Croatia; Cedefop (2021). Croatia: survey confrims impact of COVID-19 pandemic on education. National news on VET. Retrieved from:

Educational Challenges in Qatar

Written By Anna Moneta

Qatar’s history

Qatar, once a modest Gulf state, has undergone a remarkable transformation into a global economic powerhouse, largely attributed to the discovery and exploitation of oil reserves in the mid-20th century. The revelation of oil beneath Qatar’s arid desert sands in the early 1940s marked a pivotal moment, catapulting the nation into a dominant position in the global oil and natural gas markets. This economic ascent is intricately linked to Qatar’s historical ties as a British protectorate, formally established in 1868 with interactions dating back even earlier. [1]

The British, leveraging their extensive experience in oil resource management in the Gulf, played a crucial role by providing technical expertise and guidance for oil drilling and export infrastructure. This collaborative effort laid the foundation for Qatar’s thriving oil industry, enabling the nation to capitalize on its newfound resource wealth. However, the influence of British colonialism extended beyond economic realms, permeating into Qatar’s educational system. The British presence, which included military corps and colonial workers engaged in the oil industry, prompted the emergence of an educational system designed to cater to the children of both Qatari nationals and British colonial workers. This collaborative initiative led to the establishment of the Ministry of Education in 1956, shaping the trajectory of Qatar’s educational landscape. [1]

Today, Qatar stands among the world’s wealthiest nations, largely driven by its revenue from oil and natural gas. Nevertheless, the legacy of colonization raises pertinent questions about the enduring impact on the country’s educational framework. As we explore Qatar’s historical evolution and the complexities of its educational system, it is crucial to address contemporary concerns. The World Bank, in particular, underscores issues in early childhood development (ECD) outcomes in Qatar, shedding light on deficiencies in self-regulation skills and early literacy and numeracy skills among young children. [2] These concerns, despite economic progress, pose potential long-term consequences by impeding crucial brain development, adding a new layer of complexity to the narrative of Qatar’s historical and educational journey.

Qatar’s school system

Qatar’s educational landscape is characterized by a diverse system that includes both public, government-operated schools and privately-run institutions, each offering distinct curricula and languages of instruction. The prevalence of international curricula in many private schools has sparked discussions about the enduring influence of British colonialism on the nation’s education.

Government schools in Qatar are structured into three levels: primary school, serving students between the ages of 6 and 12; preparatory school, accommodating those aged 13 to 15; and secondary school, catering to students between the ages of 16 and 18. Additionally, for younger children, there is a range of options including nurseries for those aged 0 to 3, and kindergarten or preschool for children aged 3 to 5, providing flexibility based on individual needs. It is important to note that associated costs can vary significantly, typically ranging from QAR 15,000 to QAR 40,000.

In higher education, institutions in Qatar are classified as private, national, or branch campuses. The University of Qatar, established in 1973, stands as the oldest higher education institution in the country. Offering a diverse array of programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the university encompasses faculties of engineering, social sciences, education, Islamic studies, humanities, and sciences. The presence of these higher education institutions further enriches Qatar’s educational landscape, contributing to the nation’s academic and intellectual growth.

Issues arising from Qatar’s colonial history.

Postcolonial theorists, exemplified by scholars like Hickling-Hudson (2006), provide a critical lens through which to examine the lasting impact of colonialism on education systems in former colonies. One of their central arguments revolves around the deliberate under-resourcing of education by colonial powers as a means of perpetuating control and exploitation of local populations.

The British presence in Qatar necessitated the establishment of an educational system to cater to the children of both Qatari nationals and British colonial workers. This early system laid the groundwork for Qatar’s educational landscape. Thus, when the nation embarked on its journey of economic transformation fuelled by oil wealth, its educational foundations were influenced by its colonial past. [3]

The postcolonial argument put forth posits that colonial powers intentionally kept education under-resourced in their colonies. This tactic was not merely neglect rather; it was a calculated strategy to exploit local populations. In fact, by depriving colonized peoples of adequate education, colonial powers could maintain control and perpetuate socio-economic inequalities. [3] The 2015 OECD study, which ranked Qatar in the bottom 10 of its educational index, hints at the implications of such deliberate underinvestment.

The correlation between Qatar’s colonial history and its educational challenges becomes apparent when considering the consequences of insufficient educational resources. While Qatar has made remarkable advances in various sectors, including infrastructure and healthcare, its education system has faced persistent disparities in terms of quality and access. These disparities are a reflection of the historical under-resourcing of education, an issue that postcolonial theorists emphasize.

Educational Challenges

The 2015 OECD ranking serves as a stark reminder of the enduring impact of this historical underinvestment. Qatar’s educational system, despite the nation’s substantial wealth, lagged in international assessments.

A significant development in Qatar’s education landscape has been the proliferation of private international schools, particularly in the last three decades. These schools cater primarily to Western expatriates and offer curricula in languages such as English, French, and German. While these institutions have contributed to Qatar’s educational diversity, they have also exacerbated disparities. Students attending private international schools often receive what is perceived as a higher quality education, leading to unequal opportunities in terms of academic performance and prospects. This educational divide raises questions about equity and access within the Qatari education system.

One further challenge facing Qatar’s education system is the need to strike a balance between the Arabic and English languages. Arabization and hybrid approaches have emerged as potential solutions to this linguistic dilemma. Arabization advocates argue that a strong emphasis on Arabic is crucial to preserving cultural and linguistic heritage. Conversely, advocates of the hybrid approach argue that a bilingual model, combining English and Arabic, is essential for equipping students with the skills needed for the globalized world while preserving traditional cultural values. This linguistic draw reflects the complexities of navigating a postcolonial educational path. Although, concurrently, the Qatari government has been active in its efforts to build a cohesive national identity through its governmental curriculum. This curriculum not only imparts knowledge in core subjects like mathematics, science, and the arts but also emphasizes Islamic studies, history, and the Arabic language. While these efforts aim to instil a sense of pride and national identity in Qatari students, they encounter challenges when it comes to preparing students for higher education and the workforce. The need for a curriculum that can adapt to the evolving global landscape while preserving cultural values is a complex task.

The World Bank’s Concerns

The World Bank has raised concerns regarding the state of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Qatar, specifically highlighting deficiencies in self-regulation skills and early literacy and numeracy skills among young children. Despite the country’s economic progress, these developmental gaps pose long-term consequences by impeding crucial brain development. The World Bank recognizes the potential transformative impact of enhanced ECD, not only in academic realms but also in promoting better health outcomes and fostering economic prosperity. [2]

The World Bank proposes a comprehensive three-fold strategy to enhance Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Qatar. Firstly, it advocates for the establishment of a Qatar-based multisectoral body to coordinate and oversee the implementation of a holistic ECD strategy. This body would prioritize the formulation of robust child protection policies, creating a secure environment for young children, while also emphasizing the expansion of support for breastfeeding and parental leave. [2] Secondly, to ensure a more inclusive ECD approach, the World Bank recommends broadening the coverage of programs to encompass all children in Qatar. This expansion involves a significant increase in the scope of nutrition programs and the introduction of pre-primary education initiatives. The focus extends beyond the supply side to cultivating public demand for ECD programs and addressing existing inequalities across socioeconomic lines [2]. Lastly, the World Bank stresses the necessity of establishing a robust quality assurance system for Qatar’s ECD. This involves harmonizing standards for teachers and educational providers, ensuring a coherent curriculum spanning ages zero to six, and implementing monitoring mechanisms. A comprehensive set of key performance indicators, supported by a robust data system, is proposed to track child development outcomes and monitor progress effectively. [2]


In conclusion, Qatar’s educational journey reflects a profound transformation, evolving from an initially inadequate educational provision to a nuanced landscape deeply influenced by historical colonialism. Although commendable strides have been made in enhancing educational performance, the enduring legacy of colonization persists, leaving an indelible mark on the country’s educational framework. This narrative gains additional complexity with the World Bank’s highlighted concerns regarding early childhood development (ECD) outcomes, emphasizing the urgency of addressing contemporary challenges.

To effectively navigate the intricacies embedded in Qatar’s historical and educational context, a compelling solution emerges—the establishment of robust national educational institutions. These institutions should not only aspire to academic excellence but also actively integrate globally relevant subjects into the curriculum. A strategic imperative lies in prioritizing Qatar’s national educational system over international institutes, ensuring alignment with the nation’s distinctive history, cultural values, and contemporary requirements. Through this strategic emphasis, Qatar can pave the way for an education system that not only preserves its rich heritage but also equips its youth with the skills and knowledge essential for navigating the complexities of the modern globalized world. Embracing this transformative approach ensures that Qatar’s educational landscape becomes a beacon of cultural preservation and global readiness.



[1] Zahlan, R. S. (2016). The creation of Qatar. Routledge.

[2] Nikaein Towfighian, S., & Adams, L. S. (2017). Early Childhood Development in Qatar. The World Bank.

[3] Hickling-Hudson, A. (2006). Cultural complexity, postcolonial perspectives, and educational change: Challenges for comparative educators. In J. Zajda, S. Majhanovich, & V. Rust (Eds.), Education and Social Justice (pp. 191-208). Springer Netherlands.

General Secretariat for Developing Planning. (2018). Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022. Retrieved from

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2015). PISA 2015 Results in Focus. Retrieved from