General Survey: Government and government-aided secondary schools in Swaziland cater to more than twenty thousand students. Entrance into a secondary school depends on whether students have passed the Swaziland Primary Certificate Exam and whether there are seats available in a secondary school. Only about one in five students enrolled in primary school can go on to secondary school. Secondary education is neither free nor compulsory, fees are charged for tuition and books, and all secondary schools are comprehensive and geared towards the goal of obtaining entrance to a university. Recently, more practical education in the form of optional vocational courses are being offered.
Most schools provide study periods within the school day for the preparation of homework. Extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs, occur after the school day. Many schools provide boarding facilities for students. According to official statistics, there were 16 secondary school students per teacher in 1996. However, these figures are misleading as numbers vary dramatically in rural and urban areas.
Curriculum—Examinations, Diplomas: Forms I to III, the first three years of junior secondary school, lead to the Junior Certificate (J.C.), administered originally by the Examinations Council of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland but more recently by the Swaziland Ministry of Education. Forms IV to V, the last two years of High School, prepare students for the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (C.O.S.C.) examinations at the Ordinary (O) level. Only three schools in the three countries offer Form VI which leads up to the Advanced (A) level examinations.
As the J.C. is the most common entry-level qualification for employment, there has been greater emphasis on the curriculum for Forms I to III. Consequently, the syllabus leading up to the O level exam has often been unrelated to the syllabus of the previous years, causing students to have to cram the entire syllabus into their last two years of study. Today there is greater coordination between the two different levels.
The curriculum leading to the J.C. exam is based on seven subjects a year, with forty 40-minute periods each week. The core subjects are English—nine periods a week; integrated science—eight periods a week; mathematics—seven periods a week; and siSwati—four periods a week. Four periods a week are devoted to either development studies, geography, or history. Another four periods are devoted to a practical subject such as agricultural studies, typing or bookkeeping, domestic science, or woodwork.
In order to comply with the requirements of the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate Examinations (C.O.S.C.), the Swaziland Ministry of Education recommends that students choose the arts curriculum which consists of seven subjects requiring forty periods per week and the following subjects: five periods per week English Language; four periods per week English literature; seven periods per week mathematics and biology; five hours per week of either siSwati or French; four or five hours per week of two subjects from the group Development Studies—geography and history; and five hours per week of one practical subject.
Should students wish to follow the Cambridge Science Curriculum, the core curriculum consists of five periods per week of English Language, seven periods per week of Mathematics, five or six periods per week of Biology, and eight hours per week of Physical Science.
Promotion at the end of each year is based on final exams and on overall evaluation of the students' work during the year. The principal, the teachers, and the community set the grading standards. Often grading standards vary. This is due to the fluctuating availability of teachers and to the fact that some courses are often not taught in the more remote parts of the country. Consequently, the examination results do not always reflect the students' aptitude for further education.
In an attempt to diversify the secondary school curriculum, Matsapha Swazi National High School offers an increased number of courses in development studies, home economics, and commercial subjects, as well as the traditional academic subjects. Waterford-Kahlamba School, an international private school, not part of the Swazi educational system, offers an A-level curriculum.
Teachers: Secondary school teachers are, theoretically, trained at the postsecondary level. In practice, however, there is a severe shortage of qualified secondary school teachers and those who are qualified will often elect not to teach in remote areas or in areas where there is no electricity or running water. Which courses are offered depends on the ability of an area to attract qualified teachers. As a result of the teacher shortage, there is a heavy reliance on expatriate teachers, in some areas as high as two-thirds, supplied by the United States or through the Peace Corps, for example. This state of affairs provides neither continuity nor cultural understanding of the pupils in the educational system.
Vocational Education: Two types of technical and vocational education are available: Pre-service vocational education in, amongst others, agriculture, commerce, or nursing is obtained in a school setting within a formalized system of education; and In-service, which is out-of-school education where apprenticeship is the primary element of the program. Most of these programs, though supported by the government, have been established with foreign technical and financial assistance and are therefore influenced by foreign educational systems.
The Swaziland College of Technology (S.C.O.T.) in Mbabane works in close cooperation with the University of Swaziland, which is responsible for setting the regulations and awarding certificates to students who train to be technical teachers at S.C.O.T. Certificates awarded qualify recipients to teach at the J.C. level, and diploma courses qualify recipients to teach through Form V. Certificates are also awarded in library studies and in English proficiency related to technical studies.
During the 1970s the debate in Swaziland centered around the concern regarding whether education should be for a few or for all, whether quality should be stressed, and how much tradition should be incorporated in regarding the need to adapt to modern technological demands. It was decided that education should be integrated with work, and students should be prepared at any stage for life in predominantly rural communities. Accordingly, subjects were introduced which would prepare students to participate more fully in industrial, agricultural, and community development and not only in the academic areas. Today agricultural subjects, elective subjects in the J.C. and O level exams, prepare students for practical participation in the Swazi economy and also qualify them for further academic studies.
The Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Swaziland offers agricultural education at the certificate and diploma levels as well as at the degree level. The J.C. is required for admission to the two year secondary-level certificate course. The C.O.S.C. with credits in English and mathematics is required for entrance to the two-year programs that award diplomas in agriculture, agricultural education, animal production and health, and home economics. All students undertake practical assignments, some, for example, on the experimental farm run by the university.
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