Life has never been easy in the Marshall Islands: the effort demanded to produce food continues to be great and the diet austere. Fish from the surrounding seas has naturally been the traditional support of life, while the scanty land has yielded three grudging crops - breadfruit, pandanus and swamp tare, in addition to the. ubiquitous coconut. By skillful management of the harsh terrain, its cultivation has sustained existence over the centuries in a system perfectly adapted to the demands of the region.
In traditional Marshallese society, the youth learned essential skills, concepts, and attitudes through direct involvement with family and community. Persons with special knowledge or skills trained selected apprentices to preserve the skills and cultural knowledge. In 1857, the Boston Missionary Society arrived to establish church schools on 22 atolls. The missionary schools continued to exist through German and Japanese occupations of the islands until shortly before World War II.