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Preprimary & Primary Education

Participation rates declined dramatically in preprimary, primary, and secondary education programs in the second half of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, with somewhat erratic ups and downs in school attendance from one year to the next. In his 1996 critique of schooling and democratic development (or lack of development) in Africa, Ambroise Kom wrote that descolarisation (de-schooling) had rapidly increased at the preprimary, primary, and secondary levels. Kom cited a September 1994 nationally televised speech of the Minister of National Education, who apparently had casually noted that due to a lack of funding about 300,000 pupils were forced to drop out of school in the 1993-94 academic year. Observing that government figures often are more optimistic than reality, Kom implied that school dropout rates that year actually might have been considerably higher. In 1997 the gross enrollment rate at the primary level was about 83 percent, although it had been 114 percent back in 1987. Because teacher-training institutes in Cameroon were closed between 1990 and 1995 and very few primary-level teachers were hired for the ten-year period of 1987-97, classes were overcrowded and some areas of the country did not receive the teachers they needed to conduct classes or run schools.

The first six grades of compulsory schooling, normally provided to 6- to 12-year-olds (though with high repetition rates, students up to age 14 are often included) are considered basic, or primary, education in Cameroon. In the two Anglophone provinces, pupils generally begin school at age five and attend preprimary and primary school for seven years. For those who completed their primary education, the Certificat d'Etudes primaires élémentaires or the Concours d'Entrée en Sixieme was awarded in French-speaking schools and the First School Leaving Certificate was awarded in English-speaking schools.

In general, primary school enrollment rates in rural areas have been considerably lower than in urban areas in Cameroon. In 1994, for example, the gross enrollment rate of 6- to 14-year-olds in a sampling of ten urban areas of Cameroon was 65.9 percent, while the corresponding rate for ten rural areas studied was only 36.9 percent. Of the 6- to 11-year-olds living in those urban areas, 109.8 percent of the age group was enrolled in school in 1994; in contrast, only 58.9 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds living in the rural areas studied was enrolled. In the 1994-95 academic year, about 79.2 percent of all children enrolled in school in Cameroon went to public schools, while 20 percent attended private institutions. Primary schools in 1995 had a gross enrollment rate averaging 88 percent—93 percent for boys and 84 percent for girls. The failure rate at the primary level in 1994 was 32.7 percent, and 4.9 percent of primary-level pupils dropped out of school in 1994. Repetition rates in 1997 averaged 29 percent at the primary level—only slightly better than three years earlier.

Additional topics

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