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Education has been free for the secondary level since 1977 and for full time undergraduate level at the University of Mauritius since 1988. The State provides adequate funding for education, occasionally straining tight budgets and even subsidizing a great part of the expenditure in grant aided secondary schools, that is, schools under the control of privately owned institutions. With universal primary education being achieved in the 1970s, free education in 1977, and legislation making education up to 16 years of age compulsory, the challenges policyâ€makers have had to face have related to broadening access at the higher education level, improving quality, and strengthening the management of the sector (while ensuring equity). The financing of higher education is basically via the government and students/parents.
Students enrolled in public higher educational institutions are funded to a very large extent by the government. Students enrolled in local private higher education institutions and those in overseas institutions pay the full cost of their education.
The key factors influencing the quality of higher education are the quality of faculty, curriculum standards, technological infrastructure available, research environment, accreditation regime and the administrative policies and procedures implemented in institutions of higher learning.
The overall vision of government was spelt out in the New Economic Agenda formulated in 2000. The main challenge was to move gradually away from traditional sectors to the services sector. The objective was to diversify manufacturing into higher valueâ€added markets and to consolidate services (financial, ICT, etc.) as a fourth pillar of economic development. To attract new investment and to maintain the country's competitiveness, a highly productive skilled workforce was seen as imperative. With a view to setting Mauritius on a higher growth path, the country has recognised the importance of developing higher education as a regional hub for high quality education and training, to ensure that the knowledge industry acts as a catalyst in broadening the Mauritian economy, and in providing the necessary support to the existing and upcoming sectors. There has been a dramatic paradigm shift in the development strategy mooted by the government.
In summary, it has been accepted by government that the education system, especially higher education, needs to be reâ€orientated to respond more effectively.
Higher education in Mauritius can be traced back to the establishment of the School of Agriculture within the Department of Agriculture in 1914, which became integrated into the UoM when it was established in 1965. However, it was only in postâ€independent Mauritius that several public higher education institutions were created, which were complementary to UoM.
Over the years the higher education sector has become increasingly diversified.
Pre Primary sector
The Pre-primary sector traditionally catered for children aged 4 onwards and , since this year, for those aged 3. The NER currently stands at 94 percent, with the State providing a per-child grant of MR 200 (USD 6). Private individuals/ institutions make up some 80 percent of the educational provision in the sector.
The following measures are part of policy developments to consolidate the sector:
â€¢ Strengthening the institutional and regulatory framework for the provision of Early Childhood Care and Education.
â€¢ Reduction of disparity among pre-schools.
â€¢ Addressing the problem of out-of-schools pre-primary children due to absolute poverty.
â€¢ Developing a National Curriculum Framework for the pre-primary subsector.
â€¢ Ensuring readiness of all pre-primary school children for primary school.
â€¢ Construction of pre-primary units in disadvantaged areas
â€¢ Strengthening partnerships with parents through a Parent Empowerment Program.
Children are enrolled in primary school from the age of five and enter Standard (Grade) I and move automatically up to Standard VI. The system is competitive and a two-year preparation starts since Standard V up to Standard VI for the end of primary school examinations, the CPE (Certificate of Primary Education). The CPE is a national examination carried out in all the schools of the island following a grading system. Five subjects are compulsory -- English, French, Mathematics, Science, and History and Geography and the grading process is based on the 5 best grades obtained from these along with any one of the Asian/ Arabic languages. .
Government has implemented several initiatives in primary schools of the country in order to improve CPE examinations results. One such initiative is known as the 'Zones d'Education Prioritaires' (Z.E.P.). This initiative targets the schools with low performance over a consecutive period of five years and involves the whole school community: school staff, parents, NGOs, business and community-based associations in improving the school climate and results. Other recent initiatives have included the development of an Enhancement Programme to cater for students of Std III and IV providing several co curricular activities to support the holistic development of the child, and the introduction of ICT in the classroom through the ' Sankoré ' programme where classes of Std IV are progressively being equipped with computers and interactive projectors.
The CPE determines admission to a secondary college. Secondary schools are either State owned, grant-aided private schools, or fully private fee-paying schools. The child enters college in Form I and progresses through to Form VI, requiring seven years of schooling since there is a two year preparation for the Higher School Certificate/A-Level examinations. A major nationally devised curriculum has been developed for Forms I-III with the Secondary Curriculum Framework now in place since 2010. Students study for a broad compulsory curriculum up to Form III comprising English, French, Mathematics and the Social and Hard Sciences.
When students reach Form IV, they have to choose at least six major subjects for their O-Level examinations in Form V. Subsequently, students have to specialise in 3 main subjects and 2 subsidiary ones for the A Level examination. The O-Level and A-Level examinations are carried out by the University of Cambridge through the University of Cambridge International Examinations, which devises the syllabus; prepares and prints the examinations papers and does the correction for most subjects.
TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training)
The main provider of the TVET program is the Mauritius Institute of Training and Development (MITD). The purpose of the MITD is to offer numerous technical programs to provide human resource training to meet the needs of the world of work at the middle professional level. The MITD also currently also provides courses at the level of National Diploma. The TVET sector is regulated by the Mauritius Qualifications Authority which also develops and maintains the national Qualifications Framework (NQF).
Tertiary education which started in 1924 with the College of Agriculture has since developed into a diversified system, composed of public, private, regional and overseas institutions catering for a wide range of courses and programmes.
Tertiary education in Mauritius is characterized by a wide range of institutions with diverse characteristics. Some provide all levels of tertiary education in a range of disciplines while others focus their activities on only one or two areas at certain levels. A number of the institutions are overseas with their provisions made available through the distance education and mix mode. Within the public sector, tertiary education revolves around the University of Mauritius (UoM), the University of Technology (UTM), the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI), the Mauritius Institute of Training and Development (MITD) and the Open University of Mauritius (OUM). Overseeing the four tertiary education institutions (TEIs) is the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) which, inter alia, has responsibility for allocating public funds, and fostering, planning and coordinating the development of post-secondary education and training.
In addition to the above publicly-funded institutions (PFIs), a number of private institutions are presently delivering tertiary-level programmes, mostly in niche areas like Information Technology, Law, Management, Accountancy and Finance. Many of the programmes in the private sector are offered in collaboration with overseas institutions.
Many Mauritian students also either go overseas or resort exclusively to the open learning mode in pursuing their higher education studies.
The University of Mauritius
The University of Mauritius (UOM) is a national University in Mauritius. It is the oldest and largest university in the country in terms of student enrollment and curriculum offered. The public university's main campus is located at Réduit, Moka. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who was accompanied by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, inaugurated the University on 24th March 1972.
Over the past decades, in response to the contemporaneous and emergent needs of the various sectors of the Mauritian economy, the university now has progressed from being a mostly in-service training institution to a fully-fledged university, concentrating increasingly on bachelor's degrees, postgraduate programmes, research and consultancy.
The university's current strategic plan, Strategic Directions 2006-2015, has the following six strategic directions:
Investing in resources
Quality culture and good governance
National, regional and international collaborations
The University of Mauritius has committed itself to continuous improvement and quality management.
These are the actions that the university is trying to cater for:
Ensuring relevance - interact proactively with the world of work and the community to cater for emergent requirements while inculcating a wider sense of belonging to the university.
Ensuring quality of teaching and learning - enhance existing provisions for continuous improvement in the quality of teaching and learning, and work progressively towards the implementation of best practice.
Strengthen research - develop further the university's research capacity and research management plan.
Internationalize the university - improve the international standing of the university and expand its role and programme of activities.
Amongst Mauritian universities the UoM stands out both in terms of its dominance with regard to enrolment and it numerous pockets of excellence with regard to research. The UoM is the largest supplier of tertiary education locally, accounting for 22.2% of total higher education enrolment.
Originally, the university had three schools, namely Agriculture, Administration and Industrial Technology. It has since expanded to comprise five faculties, namely Faculty Of Agriculture, Faculty Of Engineering, Faculty Of Law and Management, Faculty Of Science, and Faculty Of Social Studies & Humanities. The faculties are involved in teaching, research and consultancy. It has also a Centre for Medical Research and Studies, a Centre for Distance Education, a Centre for Information Technology and Systems, and a Consultancy Centre. Following these on-campus developments and expansions, it resulted in a simultaneous increase in the number and in the diversity of programmes being offered, and the number of students enrolled.
The programmes of the University are internationally recognized and include quality assurance mechanisms such as the external examiner system and affiliated with renowned Universities worldwide. There is a Quality Assurance Office which helps the University in maintaining and improving the quality of all its activities. There are various exchange agreements that have been established between the UOM and overseas universities.
The Students Union, established in 1971, is run by and for the students. It work in the interest of students and regularly organize various activities. All students are members, the membership fee being included in the registration. Students are very dynamic in organizing extracurricular activities supported by the Public Relations Office.