Preprimary & Primary Education
The new structure of Sierra Leone's educational system embraces a preprimary (nursery) education. The new statutory age for a child to enter primary school is six years. Children between the ages of three and six acquire preprimary education. The main objective of this nursery education is to prepare children for primary education. However, preprimary education can be formal or informal. The formal nursery education is believed to enlarge and enrich children's use of language to further their socialization into the values and mores of their society. Because it is not considered a right in the country, preprimary education is given in private schools in the capital, Freetown, and in other large towns in the country. The government pays the salaries of serving teachers in these schools and controls the private preschools through the Nursery Schools Association and the Inspectorate Division of the Department of Education.
The new 6-3-3-4 system allocates six years to primary schooling. It is the first step in the system that the child follows from ages 6 to 12. As part of the nine-year cycle of formal basic education, primary education is not terminal. In the new system, all primary schools are controlled by the Department of Education. To open a new primary school, the Inspectorate Division must inspect the new school to ensure compliance with specified minimum national standards before being allowed to operate. However, private proprietors, missionary bodies, local governments, or such institutions as large businesses or university colleges are allowed to continue to operate primary schools for the children and wards of their workers. The student-teacher ratio is set at 40:1. At this level, emphasis is placed on the communicative competence of the children and their ability to manipulate figures. In classes one, two, and three, the medium of instruction is the child's community language, while English is the medium of instruction in the higher classes. The study of Sierra Leone forms a significant part of the child's education so that the child will have a sound basic grasp of the facts of the country and its relationship to the world. Natural sciences and social studies receive considerable attention at this level. Continuous assessment of students has been introduced into the new system. At the end of class six, the last class of the primary school education, the student's continuous assessment record card is to be submitted to the principal of the junior secondary school into which the student is accepted after taking the National Primary School Examination (NPSE). This exam, taken at the end of class six, is an external examination conducted by the West African Exams Council. It tests the whole range of the student's competence.
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