Zimbabwe’s literacy rate is ranked highly in Africa, perhaps due to the rigorous education system in place. In this post, with the assistance from Mike Mureyani, we will look closely at some of the system and processes of Zimbabwean education. The post Top High Schools in Zimbabwe generated an overwhelming response such that we had to do a follow up article to provide additional information and clarity.
In Zimbabwe, a child starts off at Early Childhood Development (ECD) also known as pre-school or crèche. The child normally spends two to three years depending on the time they enroll. Enrollment for Grade 1 is done when the child is six years old, although most schools are not strict on age.
For a child to be enrolled at ECD, the schools would normally look at catchment zones, where children are encouraged to enroll at schools nearer to their places of residence so as to manage attendance and collection of children when their day ends. This normally takes place at schools located within residential areas. Affluent schools will normally enroll based on the parents’ capacity to afford school fees. The parents’ pay slips as well as the companies that they work for are critical to be enrolled at such schools.
The child will then proceed to grade one and the above criterion is also used for selection. Parents can also transfer their children from one school to another, with great ease depending on reasons for transfer request. The child will spend the next seven years in primary school before they move to secondary school. The primary school education ends by sitting for the Grade Seven examination, critical for one to advance to secondary school. A good pass at grade seven can make your chance to get Form One place better. At primary school level pupils take about four subjects.
The number of available secondary school places is limited especially for boarding schools, which are considered to offer better education than day schools. Children will have to sit for entrance tests to be considered and normally thousands will sit for the exam in which only a few perhaps just a hundred will be accepted. The entrance test is to ensure that the best students get a place at the secondary school. The schools will charge entrance test fees and this has largely been viewed by many parents as just fund rising since the schools stand to raise thousands of dollars from prospective applicants. For example a school will invite 1,000 pupils to sit for an entrance test. They will each pay $20 each. The school will raise $20,000 and yet there are only 100 places available.
Once enrolled the students start in Form one, a four year journey of secondary school education which ends by sitting for the GCE Ordinary Level (O’ Level) examination. Generally, students at secondary school take about eight subjects. Subjects like mathematics and English are compulsory.
After completing O’ Level the enrollment cycle is repeated again at GCE Advanced Level (A’ Level). A’ level is two years, that is, from Form 5 (also called lower sixth) and Form 6 (also called upper sixth). The number of schools offering A’ level are even fewer which makes the completion for A’ Level stiffer. An A’ level pass is the ticket for university entry. Places for A’ level boarding schools are also limited and classes are smaller. At A’ level students are expected to take at least three basic subjects and the compulsory general subject. Science subject classes can be as small at 10 pupils per class with bigger classes found in arts and commercial subjects. Transferring from another school is generally difficult at this level due to differing subject combinations. The subjects offered are not universally the same with other schools offering more subjects while others stick to just three per pupil.
The Zimbabwean schools curriculum is different from other regional and international countries such that switching to join the Zimbabwean system can be difficult for the average child. Teaching aids and learning material are also different with a lot of materials in Zimbabwe has become indigenous. The United Kingdom (UK) system is adaptable to Zimbabwe and some schools are still offering exams by the Cambridge University Examination Board for both O’ and A’ Levels. However most schools, more than 90% still use the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) for their examination. Parents who would like to bring their children into the Zimbabwean system are advised to do so but not into exam classes such as Grade 7, Form 4 and Form 6 which are examination years, otherwise other classes are fairly easy to adapt.
Some of the basic documents require to be enrolled at a school includes;
- Copy of birth certificate of the pupil,
- Copy of Identity Document (ID) of at least one parent or guardian,
- Proof of residential address,
- Pupils educational reports,
- Past educational certificates,
- Transfer letter, for those transferring.
These requirements may differ from school to school. It is best to contact the specific school to confirm their requirements for enrollment or transfer.
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