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Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Pule'anga Fakatu'i 'o Tonga) is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. The total population is about 110,000, with 70% living on the main island of Tongatapu, and the rest of the population is spread across the four island groups of Vava'u, Ha'apai, ‘Eua and the Niuas. The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 miles) in a north-south line. The islands that constitute the archipelago lie south of Samoa, about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii. Tonga, the only sovereign monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, has a unique history as the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonial tutelage. Tonga has recently undergone an historic and fundamental change from an executive monarchy to a modern parliamentary democracy, with increased directly elected representatives. Candidates are required to register for elections as individuals, not as members of a political party. The first democratic elections were held in November 2010. The capital (and largest city) is Nukuʻalofa, on the main island of Tongatapu. Over 70% of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Tonga live on its main island, Tongatapu. Although an increasing number of Tongans have moved into the only urban and commercial centre, Nukuʻalofa, where European and indigenous cultural and living patterns have blended, village life and kinship ties continue to be important throughout the country. Everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith; for example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, and the constitution declares the Sabbath to be sacred, forever. Some Tongans are Methodists with a significant Catholic minority and a number of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The Tongan language is the official language of the islands, along with English. Tongan is a Polynesian language which is closely related to Wallisian (Uvean), Niuean, Hawaiian, and Samoan.

Further information

For further general information see Wikipedia:Tonga.

Education in Tonga

For a general description of education in Tonga see Education:Tonga.


For a description more focussed to e-learning see E-learning:Tonga.

No information on DE in the school sector was located by the ICDE's investigation. The main distance education provider in the higher education sector is the University of the South Pacific (USP). Tongan students are able to choose from hundreds of courses at different levels from certificate-level programs to postgraduate qualifications available through the USP’s Distance and Flexible Learning (DFL) program. Printed-based materials form the primary method of distance delivery. These are supplemented by a range of different media: audio/video tapes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, satellite-based videoconferencing and audioconferencing, and e-learning using the Moodle platform. The USP’s goal is to move eventually to fully online delivery. (3)

Quality procedures

Internet in Tonga

Broadband Internet subscribers per 100 inhabitants (2009) - Fixed 0.96, Mobile 0

Internet hosts (2010) - 20,847

Internet users (2009) - 8,400

Internet users per 100 inhabitants (2007) - 84/1000

Computers per 100 inhabitants (2007) - 50 PCs/1000 (3)

There is a reasonable telecommunications infrastructure in Tonga with a number of providers and competition leading to a lowering of costs. However, the current lack of a fibre cable to Tonga is significant and limits access to video conferencing. (1)

The government-owned Tonga Communications Corp (TCC) provides local and international telecom services, including fixed-line connections, mobile phone services and Internet access. By 2007, wifi services were available throughout the main island of Tonga. TCC now provides broad-band as well as dial-up Internet access. However, the major constraint on the development of ICT in the islands is the high cost of satellite bandwidth. (3)

Internet in Education

Due to the high cost of satellite bandwidth, most use of ICT in distance education is on a small scale. An example is the recent pilot project when students from Tonga High School participated in videoconferencing classes at the University of Canterbury. Although successful, this experiment stands little chance of being translated into wider practice as long as Tonga lacks a fibre optic underwater cable. (3)

Copyright law in Tonga

Copyright law in Education

OER Initiatives in Tonga

With regard to open educational resources, delegates from Tonga attended the regional OERs workshop organised by COL and the Ministry of Education, NZ and held in Wellington in August 2007 and the UNESCO-COL Guidelines for open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education is fully supported by Tonga. Tonga has already begun to build capacity in developing OERs and will be encouraged to expand its contribution in 2012-2015. (2)

Tonga is a participant in the Commonwealth of Learning’s Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) project. VUSSC is actively engaged in the development of OER materials for use among member states. (3)

In 2006, the Tonga Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) developed a community education program for broadcast on radio and television. The documentaries reported on the progress made towards improved living standards in each of the island groups in Tonga, offering different strategies for poverty reduction. The intended audience was government personnel, staff and members of NGOs and ordinary Tongans. Funding for the radio and television series were provided by the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC). The documentaries were broadcast on the TBC radio and TV network to widespread acclaim. (3)

National OER initiatives

Regional OER initiatives

Institutional OER initiatives

The Pacific Open Learning Health Network (POLHN) has two Learning Centres in Tonga: one at the Queen Salote School of Nursing and another at Vailo Hospital in Vava’u. These facilities are used for the delivery courses in nursing, health and medical technology. POHLN provides a wide range of short, self-paced online courses on health and medical technology using Moodle. These courses are accessible to all. Registration is necessary only when the student intends to sit for the final exam. Passing the final exam allows the student to save or print a Certificate of Achievement. In addition to its own courses, POHLN provides 90 courses from Lippincott’s range and 50 radiology courses from the Philips Online Learning Center. (3)


2. ReVica/VISCED page for Tonga (

3. ICDE Country Profile for Tonga (


1. ICDE Report: 'Regulatory frameworks for distance education: A pilot study in the Southwest Pacific/South East Asia region - Final report'. December 2011. Prepared by the Project Team (Team leader, Dr. Rosalind James) (accessed at on Monday 9th July 2012)

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