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Fiji, or in official circles, the Republic of Fiji, is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 1300 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North island.  Fiji has a total land area of roughly 7,000 square miles, and its closest neighbors are Tuvalu to the north, Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand’s Kermadec to the southeast, Tonga to the east and the Samoas and France’s Wallis and Fortuna to the northeast.
 
Most of the islands that make up the Republic of Fiji were formed through volcanic activity beginning over 100 million years ago, and to this day, geothermal activity can still be detected on the islands of Taveuni and Vanua Levu.  In all, there are 332 islands in Fiji’s archipelago, 110 of which are permanently inhabited, and a total of 500 smaller islets.  Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are the two most populous islands of Fiji, accounting for over 85 percent of an approximate 850,000 population.  The majority of Fiji’s population lives in the coastal regions of Viti Levu, as the interior of the island features difficult terrain and is sparsely inhabited.  It is in these coastal areas of Viti Levu that you would find Suva, Fiji’s capital and largest city, along with other smaller urban centers.
 
Approximately 93 percent of Fiji’s population is made up of native Fijians.  Of these, 55 percent are Melanesians, although many also have Polynesian roots, and 38 percent are Indo-Fijians, descendants of Indian contract laborers brought to Fiji by British colonial powers in the 1800s.  The largest ethnic minority in Fiji is the Rotuman (1.3%), deriving from Rotuma Island and possessing a culture more closely linked with countries such as Tonga and Samoa than the rest of the Fijian people.  There are 3 official languages in Fiji:  English—a language that is still used in Fiji for all official purposes, despite the country’s independence from Britain in 1970—and Bau Fijian and Fiji Hindi, used informally by the Melanesians and Indo-Fijians respectively.  Christianity (65%), Hindi (28%) and Islam (6%) are the most commonly practiced religious doctrines in Fiji.  The majority of indigenous Fijians (Melanesians) are Christian, practicing Roman Catholicism or one of the Protestant faiths, while the Indo-Fijians practice mainly Hindi and Islam.
 
Education in Fiji
 
In Fiji, education is overseen by the national Ministry of Education, but most schools in the country are managed either by local committees or by a single racial community.  Unlike most countries, education in Fiji is not compulsory, but it is free to attend for 8 years; the years that comprises a student’s primary education. 
 
The curriculum for primary education in Fiji depends on the school and the area in which it is located.  However, most schools begin with the basics—reading, writing and basic count—and later add subjects such as history, geography, science and the arts.  Education is based on a combination of cross culture and diversity, and is generally administered by the various religious organizations on the island.
 
Those who complete their primary education in Fiji are allowed to apply for secondary schooling, although they must first sit for a very competitive entrance exam.  Spots are very limited in these schools and are generally awarded to students performing above average in all academic areas.  Additionally, because secondary education is not free in Fiji, only those students whose families can afford the high fees associated with it have access to this educational opportunity.
 
Higher education in Fiji is mostly limited to one large university, which offers programs in only a handful of fields, including Technology, Agriculture and Medical Education.  While only a very small percentage of Fijians go on to study at the university level, most have access to some of the lessons that are taught there, as they are broadcasted via satellite to the general public.

Map of Fiji

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