Until the mid-1800s, little formal education was available in Seychelles. Both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches opened mission schools in 1851. The missions continued to operate the schools--the teachers were monks and nuns from abroad--even after the government became responsible for them in 1944. After a technical college opened in 1970, a supply of locally trained teachers became available, and many new schools were established. Since 1981 a system of free education has been in effect requiring attendance by all children in grades one to nine, beginning at age five. Ninety percent of all children also attend nursery school at age four.
The literacy rate for school-aged children had risen to more than 90 percent by the late 1980s. Many older Seychellois had not been taught to read or write in their childhood, but adult education classes helped raise adult literacy from 60 percent to a claimed 85 percent in 1991.
Children are first taught to read and write in Creole. Beginning in grade three, English is used as a teaching language in certain subjects. French is introduced in grade six. After completing six years of primary school and three years of secondary school, at age fifteen students who wish to continue attend a National Youth Service (NYS) program. Students in the NYS live at an NYS village at Port Launnay on the northwest coast of Mahé, wearing special brown and beige uniforms. In addition to academic training, the students receive practical instruction in gardening, cooking, housekeeping, and livestock raising--one of the aims of the program is to reduce youth unemployment. They are expected to produce much of their own food, cook their own meals, and do their laundry. Self-government is practiced through group sessions and committees.
From the time the NYS program was instituted in 1981, it met with heated opposition and remained highly unpopular. Students spend the entire period away from home, with parental visits permitted only at designated times at intervals of several months. Many consider the quality of education to be inferior; indoctrination in the socialist policies of the SPPF is part of the curriculum. Nevertheless, failure to attend the NYS made it difficult to proceed to more advanced study. In 1991 the NYS program was reduced from two years to one year. The total enrollment in that year was 1,394, with roughly equal numbers of boys and girls. Those who leave school but do not participate in the NYS can volunteer for a government-administered six-month work program, receiving a training stipend below the minimum wage.
After completing their NYS program, students could attend Seychelles Polytechnic (1,600 students in 1991) for preuniversity studies or other training. In 1993, responding to popular pressure, the government eliminated the requirement of NYS participation in order to enter the Polytechnic. However, it strongly encouraged students to complete NYS before beginning to work at age eighteen. The largest number of students were in teacher training (302), business studies (255), humanities and science (226), and hotels and tourism (132). No opportunities for higher education are available on the islands. Instead, university and higher professional courses are usually pursued through various British, United States, and French scholarship programs.
Seychelles has received funds for developing its educational programs from several multinational sources. These include a grant from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1988 and a US$9.4 million loan from the African Development Bank in November 1991.
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