Over the last two decades, research into the role of education in economic development has begun to pay attention to educational quality and its effect on learning outcomes. In this paper recent research on educational quality is reviewed and its application to the island economies of the South Pacific is assessed. While there is considerable variation among the countries, the paper demonstrates the pervasive nature of school quality problems in the region. Those factors which have the greatest bearing on school quality in the region are isolated. These factors are: the quality of teachers; the availability of learning materials; initial instruction in the mother tongue; the quality of educational management; and curriculum reform. The paper concludes by arguing that strategies to improve quality will fail unless they recognise important complementarities between the factors determining quality.