Zambia's education structure is characterized by a broad base (representing primary level) and a sharp apex (representing higher education). The education structure starts with four years of preschool education, which are optional. The entrance age for preschool is three years. Seven years of primary education constitute the first level of education. The entrance age for primary education is seven years. After primary education, the next level of education is secondary education, which takes a duration of five years. The entrance age for secondary is 14. Progression from one level to another depends upon an external examination directed by the government, e.g., the end of primary school examination and baccalaureate examinations. This means that not all children are expected to proceed to secondary education. Currently, however, government emphasis is to ensure provision of seven-year primary education.
For some time the situation has been that almost two thirds of the children end their education at primary level. Only one third of the primary school dropouts have the opportunity to go to secondary education. Of those who enroll for the 7 years of primary education, less than 20 percent enter secondary school, and only 2 percent of the 20-24 age group enter a university or some other form of higher education (Silanda et al. 1999). This structure and the selection hurdles associated with it means that the majority of those who enter the school system fail to go onto higher levels. In recognition of this problem, continuing education has been made a priority of the new education structure.
English is the official language of instruction in schools from preschool to tertiary education. Statistics show that at present a total of 1,667,000 students from grades 1-9 and 225,000 students in grades 10-12 are currently enrolled in teachers' training colleges. Some 4,500 university students, besides 23,000 other students, are doing continuing and distance education (Silanda et al. 1999). Zambia has at present 3,800 government primary and basic schools, 200 secondary schools, 26 special education and open learning centers, 14 teachers training colleges, 14 schools of continuing education and open learning centers, 1 national correspondence college, and the 2 universities: the University of Zambia and the Copper Belt University.
The number of community schools registered with the Zambia Community Schools Secretariat (ZCSS) increased 7 times in 3 years from 55 in 1996 to 373 in 1999. Equally, enrollments in community schools increased from 6,599 in 1996 to 47,276 in 1999. The increase can be attributed to the facilitating role of the government which has encouraged instead of discouraged the growth of these types of school. If the growth in the number of these schools continues, they will be an alternative path for basic education for children. Community schools are non-profit making institutions that are cheap enough to allow disadvantaged children to have access to educational opportunities. They serve children between ages 9 and 16 who are either dropouts or "never beens" and use predominantly untrained volunteer teachers from the community. Each is managed by a community committee. In 1998 a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the Ministry of Education and Zambia Community Schools Secretariat (ZCSS), which recognized the role played by the community schools in the provision of education and obliged the ministry to provide learning materials, educational advisors, and pay an agreed number of trained teachers.
Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceZambia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education