Effects of the British Colonial Policy on ethnic differences in academic performance in Fiji

Year: 2007

Author: Otsuka, Setsuo

Type of paper: Refereed paper

At an upper level of education in Fiji, especially Forms 5, 6, and 7 of secondary school, Indo-Fijian students often perform better than their ethnic-Fijian counterparts. This pattern of ethnic difference in academic performance is a long-standing one, lasting over 70 years. The ethnic differences in educational attainment have been reinforced by the nearly one century of British Colonial Policy (1874-1970). The policy created intra-ethnic educational disparities based on rank between ethnic Fijian children with a Chiefly background, and those with a non-Chiefly background. Colonial rulers also created the rigid land-tenure system, which has greatly affected typical ethnic-Fijian attitudes towards formal education. Ethnic-Fijians who own their land tend to be more "relaxed" about their academic work than those who do not have sufficient natural resources for a living (e.g. the Lauans). The land-tenure system has also influenced ethnic disparities in educational achievement for ethnic- Fijians who own their land and the majority of Indo-Fijians who lack land ownership. The colonial legacies of protection for the ethnic Fijians, and in leasing land are very much alive today, and this continues to affect ethnic disparities in Fiji.