December 7, 2022

The Reality in East Timor

East Timor, now known as Timor Leste*, has the highest rate of poverty in Southeast Asia. More than 40% of the population lives below the poverty line and it ranks 147 out of 187 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index.

Located the same distance as Sydney to Melbourne, the country is one of Australia’s closest geographical neighbours, yet we are worlds apart in terms of access to education. While the average child in Australia receives 12.7 years of schooling, Timorese children receive a mere 4.8 years of schooling. More than 50% of the population is 19 years or younger and have left early or never attended school. That’s approximately 700,000 children in need of education right on Australia’s doorstep…

While the education system in East Timor is improving, it still has a substantial way to go to achieve quality education outcomes. This is hardly surprising, given the country’s recent history.

Civil unrest from 1975 until official Independence in 2002 created many challenges that continue to impact on the education of the Timorese.

During the withdrawal of the Indonesian occupation, 95% of schools were damaged or destroyed and the majority of qualified teachers fled. This left very few safe school buildings and of the teachers who remained, only 70% of the primary teachers had received an education equivalent to secondary schooling. Student enrolment became critically low.

Enrolment numbers have progressively increased, however the quality of education remains compromised.

Further, ongoing changes in language instruction (Tetum, Portuguese and English) have created an additional challenge with children unable to become fully literate in any one language and resulting in a literacy rate of 44.5% nationwide.

BETTER is leading an education revolution in East Timor: one that will create transformational impact today, and for generations to come.

There is not just one way to give. View our Be Involved page to see how you can help improve the education in East Timor.