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Zimbabwe - Secondary Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceZimbabwe - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


Zimbabwe's secondary school system entails six years divided in three stages (2+2+2). Students earn the Zimbabwean Junior and Cambridge "O-" and "A-" level certificates at the end of each two-year study period and meet qualification standards for entry into the next level. The system of "bottlenecking" eliminates many students from entering the next level if they fail the national qualifying exam or do not pass enough subjects. The "O-" level offers the most studies in a secondary school system that offers approximately 120 subject areas. "O-" and "A-" levels do not necessarily offer the same subjects. The major subjects are English (which is also the medium of instruction), Shona, Sindebele, French, Portuguese, Spanish, biology, history, mathematics, economics, economic history, ancient history, chemistry, physics, and computing science. Additionally, students can choose to participate in extracurricular activities such as netball, tennis, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, rugby and athletics.

Earning appropriate scores on "O-" level exams qualifies a student to either enter the university or enroll in A-level, which is exclusively designed as preparation for university education. Government secondary schools are coeducational, with only church schools being single sex. Secondary boarding schools are more popular because of their increased success rate in general examinations. Because of cultural practices that devalue the education of girls, more boys than girls are in high school. The school year is the same as that of elementary education, but with eight hours of study.

Depending on the type of school, fees are charged for secondary school education. Whether the school is government or private, urban or rural, boarding or day school, determines the fee. Private schools are the most expensive. Although the government policy is that no child should be denied an education because his or her parents are too poor to pay, in reality parents are responsible for paying most of the secondary school tuition and other activity fees. Foreign students also attend the secondary schools, including the children of international ambassadorial staff, visiting scholars, refugees, and expatriates. Declining economic conditions, which were exacerbated by military expenditures accrued by intervening in neighboring wars, have depleted the government's resources for subsidizing the education of poor children.

Between 1980 and 1992, Zimbabwe's secondary enrollment increased by 87 percent. The Zimbabwe Central Statistical Office indicated that secondary enrollment in 1997 was equivalent to 44 percent of the appropriate age-cohort (male, 49 percent; female, 39 percent). The number of secondary schools also increased from 177 in 1980 to 1,535 in 1995.

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