Education in Mauritius
The Republic of Mauritius is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Madagascar. Mauritius is the main island, ringed to the north by a number of smaller islands, namely Rodrigues, Agalega and St Brandon. The island of Mauritius is located in the southwest part of the Indian Ocean, some 800 km from the southeast coast of Madagascar. With a land area of 1,860 square kilometres and a population estimated at 1.3 million inhabitants, Mauritius has a high population density officially estimated, in 2000, at more than 585 people per square kilometre. The 1990 census showed 1,031,526 people were living on the island of Mauritius, 34,292 in Rodrigues and 170 on the outer islands. The annual population growth rate during the 1990s remained at about 1.1 percent, with most people living in the strip of towns between the capital Port Louis and the district of Plaine Wilhems.
Mauritius is a multiracial, multilingual and pluricultural country with people whose ancestors came as settlers from Europe, Africa and Asia. The largest ethnic group is that of Hindu Indo-Mauritians, which constitutes 52 percent of the population, Muslim Indo-Mauritians account for 10 percent of the population, Sino-Mauritians five percent and the general population (Europeans and African Creoles) make up around 33 percent of the population.
The history of Mauritius effectively began when Dutch settlers occupied the island from 1598 to 1710. The French took possession of the island in the early eighteenth century and brought labour from Madagascar and Africa. The early years of French occupation were devoted to settlement and development of the island as an agricultural colony. The education system that prevailed at that time was highly academic and was geared mostly towards producing the few administrators the island needed.
In 1810 the British conquered the island and it became a British colony. With the abolition of slavery in 1834 labour was brought from India to work in the fields. During the British period major political, economic and social changes took place. This had a significant bearing on the educational system. The country became independent in 1968, and a republic in 1992. Mauritius has a constitution based on the British model. Power lies with the elected National Assembly, the supreme law-making body of the island.
The official language is English, but French is widely spoken and the common lingua franca is Creole. Different ethnic groups speak Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Tamil, Telegu, Marathi or Mandarin. To keep the cultural diversity of the island, the ancestral languages are taught in primary and secondary schools alongside English and French.
Remarkable progress was achieved in the post-independence period with the diversification of the country’s economic base and establishment of a strong welfare state. The economy experienced significant restructuring at each critical stage of its development. Starting from an agricultural economy dominated by sugar cane production, the country had become a major exporter of manufactured goods by 1990. An Export Processing Zone was created at that time, and since then efforts have been made to diversify the industrial base, which comprised mostly textiles and clothing. Rapid growth in tourism and financial services has further transformed the economy, turning it into a four-pillar economy. Mauritius is regarded as an upper-middle income economy. The GDP per capita in 2001 was US$3,787. The government’s policy is to continue to move the economy into higher-value service sectors. In the early years of the twenty-first century Mauritius has been developing its IT sector.
The country has a network of about 2,000 kilometres of tarred roads. The transport system is relatively good, allowing teachers to travel easily to and from school daily. School supplies are also easily transported. The health care system is well developed. Today Mauritius has one of the highest literacy rates among developing countries at more than 95 percent for those under 30 years of age.
*latest data as of March 2009 from UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
Minister of Education & Human Resources: Hon. Dharambeer GOKHOOL
Mauritius has a 6+5+2 education structure; that is, six years of free and compulsory primary schooling leading to the Certificate of Primary Education, followed by five years of secondary education leading to the Cambridge School Certificate and a further two years of higher secondary ending with the Cambridge Higher School Certificate.
Examinations at the end of each level regulate the flow of students to the next level. Pupils sit for national and international examinations at the end of each cycle. At the primary level, promotion from one grade to the next is automatic until Grade 6, when pupils sit for the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE). This examination has a dual purpose: that of certification, and selection for entry to a secondary school. Pupils who are unsuccessful at the CPE examination and under 12 years of age may stay on at primary school for a further year in order to take the examination a second time. Those who are not successful after a second attempt are provided with an alternative type of education under the Pre-vocational Education Scheme. This consists of a three-year course.
Pre-primary education has a long existence in Mauritius and targets children in the 3-5 years’ age range. Attendance is not compulsory at this level. Since 1996 the government has granted a monthly subsidy of Rs 200 to all children aged 4-5 years. The sector is 83 percent private where the fees charged by schools can range from Rs 200 to Rs 2000 or more per child. The government, through the Preschool Trust Fund, manages the remaining 17 percent, which consists of pre-primary units attached to primary schools. The Preschool Trust Fund also acts as a regulatory body for private pre-primary schools.
Primary schools are scattered all over the island and although there is a higher concentration in urban areas than in rural areas, there is, on average, one primary school in every village, thus ensuring easy access for all children to a primary school. The principle of ‘catchment area’ is often used in order to manage the high demand for admission to certain schools. The primary school day lasts six hours and the school year has 185 days divided into 3 terms.
Secondary schools were mostly managed by the private sector and catered for 75 percent of the secondary school population. But in the coming years this picture is likely to change with the massive construction of state secondary schools.
Duration of compulsory education: 12 years
Starting age of compulsory education: 5 years
Ending age of compulsory education: 16 years
Enrolment in 2007*
Pupil - Teacher Ratios in 2007*
*latest data as of March 2009 from UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
The provision of education is the responsibility of the government. The Ministry of Education determines the policy and requirements for the different levels of education. The country is divided into 5 education regions or zones. Each region has a Regional Education Office and a Director of Education heads each office. The Ministry of Education, through the Regional Directorates, administers the government schools, having responsibility for the school buildings as well the supply of teachers, equipment and materials to the schools. Each directorate has a corps of inspectors responsible for the coordination of educational activities in schools. Inspectors are selected from practicing head teachers and during their probationary period they follow a part-time in-service training course leading to the award of an Advanced Certificate in Educational Management. Subject to their successful completion of this course they are confirmed as primary school inspectors and become eligible for promotion in the grade. Their work is monitored by the Director of National Inspectorate through weekly meetings and a pre-set reporting mechanism. This provides a mixed mode of on-the-job and face-to-face training for inspectors.
The Private Secondary School Authority is responsible for the administration of government grants to private secondary schools. At the higher education level, different councils and boards, set up by the government and the Tertiary Education Commission coordinate the activities of the different tertiary institutions.
See the SACMEQ reports for more information.
SACMEQ II (2000) Reading achievement
SACMEQ II (2000) Math achievement
For more country statistics, see also: