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Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa and officially called the Independent State of Samoa, is a country comprising the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Once part of New Zealand’s territory, the country claimed its independence in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and Savaii, the latter being one of the largest of the Polynesian islands. In total the country has more than 1090 square miles of total geographic area, and the capital and largest city in the country is Apia, located on the islands of Upolu. Once called the Navigator Islands by European explorers, the country of Samoa was admitted into the United Nations in the winter of 1976.
As of the last census in 2011, Samoa had a permanent population of just over 182,000, of which nearly 93 percent is ethnic Samoan. Another 7 percent of the population is comprised of Euronesians, people of mixed European and Polynesian ancestry, while less than one-half of one percent is strictly European. Three quarters of the population lives on the main island of Upolu, and in terms of population, only the Maori of New Zealand outnumber Samoans in the Polynesian region.
There are two official languages in Samoa: Samoan and English. English is used for most official purposes in the country, including government, commerce and as the language of instruction in secondary and tertiary institutions. Samoan is the most commonly spoken language in the country, the first language for nearly all of the population. Christianity is the most predominant religion in Samoa, broken down between Christian Congregationalists (36%), Roman Catholics (20%), Methodists (15%), Mormons (12.7%), Seventh-day Adventists (4%) and several others.
Education in Samoa
Education in Samoa is overseen and regulated by the Department of Education and is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16. The education system, which is based after that of New Zealand, follows a well structured syllabus with common examinations and is divided between three levels: primary school, with an attendance rate of 97 percent; secondary school, with 68% of eligible students enrolled; and higher education.
Primary education in Samoa is bilingual, instructed in Samoan and English. It begins for children at age 6 and spans 8 years, representing grades 1-8. The curriculum in primary school is very broad and far-reaching, with courses in subjects such as reading, writing and basic count. These are later supplemented by courses in mathematics, language and literature (Samoan and English), science, social studies, history, geography, physical education and the arts. The pupil to teacher ratio at the primary level is 24:1.
Secondary education in Samoa spans four years, although only the first two years are compulsory. At this level students can choose to continue on a general or academic path of education, typically in preparation for university enrollment, or opt instead to focus on vocational instruction and training in careers important to the Samoan economy, particularly agriculture.
Higher education is provided by a handful of universities, at which students can earn Bachelor, Master and PhD-level degrees in a variety of academic and professional fields.
As of the last census, Samoa had an adult literacy rate of 97.5 percent.