The education system in Mauritius, patterned after the British model, has improved greatly since independence. It has been free through the secondary level since 1976 and through the postsecondary level since 1988. The government has made an effort to provide adequate funding for education, occasionally straining tight budgets. In 1991-92, reflecting the trend of earlier budgets, the government allocated 13 percent for education, culture and art. Nonetheless, facilities in rural areas tend to be less adequate than those in Port Louis and other cities. Literacy in 1990 for the population over fifteen years of age on the island of Mauritius was 80 percent overall, 85 percent for males, and 75 percent for females.
In 1979 the government established a new unit in the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs to oversee and coordinate teaching resources at some 900 private preschools. The increasing participation of women in the labor force necessitated the expansion of the preschool system. The government established public preschools in 1984. Primary education (standard 1-6) is compulsory, and 6,507 teachers taught 137,491 students in 283 schools in 1990, representing an estimated 92 percent of children in that age group. During the same period at the secondary level (forms 1-6), 3,728 teachers taught 78,110 students in 124 schools. As in the British system, students must pass standardized exams at several stages to be able to continue their studies. About 50 to 60 percent of primary students pass the exam for admission to secondary school. In 1986, 60.7 percent of the form 5 students taking the School Certificate exam passed; not all went on to form 6. In the same year, 53.7 percent of the form 6 students taking the Higher School Certificate exam passed. In addition to government schools, there are many private primary and secondary schools, but statistical data on these are lacking.
The country's principal institution of higher education is the University of Mauritius, where 1,190 students were enrolled in 1991. Other postsecondary institutions include the Mauritius Institute of Education for teacher training; the Mauritius College of the Air, which broadcasts classes; and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute. Of the several hundred Mauritians studying abroad each year, most go to Britain, France, and India. In addition, 1,190 students were enrolled at eleven vocational training centers, and 690 were taking courses at three technical institutions and five handicraft training centers in 1991.
From standard 4 onward, English is the sole language of instruction. Before that, teachers use Creole and Bhojpuri when teaching English to those students who do not already know it. From standard 3 onward, French is a required course. Students may also take classes in several Asian languages.
The government of Mauritius regards education as a sphere of utmost importance in its move toward the "second stage" of economic development, namely becoming a newly industrialized country. Therefore, at a donors' meeting in Paris in November 1991, the minister of education presented an ambitious Education Master Plan for the years 1991-2000. The plan calls for expanding education at all levels, from preprimary through university, through the establishment of new schools and the improvement of existing facilities, especially technical and vocational education; the latter is an area that to date had not provided the technical skills required by island industries. Despite the population's 95 percent literacy rate for those under thirty years of age, government officials have been concerned at the high dropout rate, especially at the secondary level. University places are also being increased to 5,000, and new courses of study are being introduced. The donor response to the plan was very favorable. The World Bank pledged US$20 million, the African Development Bank US$15 million, and other donors an additional US$14 million.
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