The adult literacy rate is estimated to be over 97%. Formal education is provided by the Department of Education and five religious missions. Government and mission schools have a uniform syllabus and common examinations. The government school system is the more comprehensive, with almost all its teachers holding Samoan teachers' certificates. Village schools provide four years of primary schooling. District schools draw the brighter pupils from village schools and educate them through the upper primary level. In the Apia area, urban schools provide a lower-through upper-primary curriculum. A major educational goal has been to make Samoans bilingual, with English as their second tongue. In the senior classes of the primary schools, all instruction is in English. In 1989 there were 37,883 primary school pupils. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 24 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 97% of all primary-school-age children attended school, while 68% of those eligible attended secondary school.
The government maintains secondary schools, in which the medium of instruction is English. Samoa College is patterned after a New Zealand secondary school; each year, 100 pupils from government and mission schools are selected for admission by competitive examination. Vaipouli High School, in Savaii, provides a general secondary curriculum, and Avele College, in Apia, offers training in modern agricultural methods. In addition, the University of the South Pacific School of Agriculture maintains a campus at Alafua, on the outskirts of Apia. The medium of instruction in mission secondary schools is English, with curriculum and textbooks similar to those used in New Zealand.
Samoa was one of the founders of the regional University of the South Pacific. The National University, which was established in 1984, was upgraded and provided with a new campus in 1997. Other tertiary institutions include the College of Tropical Agriculture and a Trades Training College.