Education System

The education system in Tanzania has three main levels: basic, secondary, and tertiary.

Basic Education

Basic education in Tanzania consists of pre-primary, primary, and non-formal adult education. Differing from the US system, primary education in Tanzania consists of seven years of study, called “Standards.” For example, someone in their fourth year of primary school would be in Standard 4.

In the communities where PROJECTZAWADI works, children often start school late or miss some years.  It is common to have students at the age of nine or ten just starting in Standard 1 and students as old as 14-17 still in primary school. Primary education is free, but the cost of the mandatory school uniforms coupled with the cost of books and school supplies mean that many families cannot afford to send all of their children school.  Virtually every primary school in rural Tanzania also have shortages of classrooms, desks, textbooks, teachers and teachers’ housing.  Most students in rural Tanzania sit on a dirt floors for classes, have no textbooks and often see a teacher in their classroom for only a fraction of the day. In this environment, only the very brightest and most motivated students excel in academics.

Secondary Education

D9C7429At the end of primary school, students must take a national exam to determine eligibility to continue on to secondary school. On average, only about 51.2% of Tanzanian students pass this exam (Tanzania Government Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Given that the costs of attending secondary school are much higher than primary school, many students know for a fact that even if they are selected for secondary school, their family can not afford to send them.

Secondary school (roughly equivalent to high school in the US) is divided into two levels: Junior Secondary (ordinary levels), which has four years (Forms 1 through 4), and Senior Secondary (advanced levels), which has two years (Forms 5 and 6).  The school situation is still far from ideal but conditions are a step up from primary school. Many of the same shortages often exist (desks, textbooks and teachers’ housing) but are less extreme.

Tertiary Education

Tertiary education involves both higher and non-higher education courses like universities and teachers’ training colleges.  Currently there are 28 universities operating in Tanzania (11 public and 17 private) and 48 teachers’ training colleges (34 public and 14 private).  Requirements for entrance vary by institution but typically require completion of at least the ordinary level (Form 4) of secondary school.

Language of Instruction

The official language of Tanzania is Kiswahili. Throughout the seven years of primary education, classes are taught in Kiswahili, with English taught as a required subject. The quality of English instruction varies but is generally poor, especially in rural communities, like those where PROJECTZAWADI works.

In secondary school, however, English becomes the language of instruction. In other words, students switch from learning subject matter in Kiswahili for their first seven years of study to learning their subject matter in English if they go on to secondary school.  This is extremely challenging for students whose background instruction in the English language was poor during primary school and creates a significant barrier to success

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