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Democratic Congo

Educational System—overview

From its inception the educational system has favored primary schools. During the colonial period, this was deemed the most appropriate type of education required to produce useful Africans who were skilled but did not have the self-confidence to challenge the colonial system. By 1960, nearly 70 percent of primary school aged children were enrolled in school, which made Belgium a leader in providing primary education for its subjects. More than half of all of these students, however, were enrolled in Standard I and II. Many never went further. About 40 percent of those enrolled in primary school in 1960 completed this level of education. For boys the completion rate was 50 percent and for girls it was 30 percent. By 1978 gross enrollment rates were 90 percent and by 1980 it reached 96 percent and leveled off. Of these pupils, 99 percent of males were enrolled, while 93 percent of females of the appropriate age were enrolled. In 1990, there were approximately 4.6 million students enrolled in primary schools in the DRC, this climbed to more than 5.4 million by 1996. Roughly 42 percent of these students were females. Clearly most people in the DRC feel that having a primary education is essential. At the secondary school level, 24 percent of eligible students were enrolled in 1980. This percentage increased only slightly to 26 percent by 1996. Of these students, 32 percent of eligible males were in secondary school compared to 19 percent of eligible females.

Vernacular languages were used as the language of instruction for primary schools during the colonial era. Just prior to independence, access to opportunities to attend secondary school meant that French became the language of instruction and eventually primary schools adopted French as the language of instruction as well. Because it is difficult to find qualified primary teachers fluent in French, schools have reverted to local vernaculars as the medium of instruction, even though French is the official language of instruction.

School years begin in September and end in June. However, universities begin their academic year in October and end it in July. For universities each course lasts one full academic year.

Nonacademic courses traditionally receive priority over academic courses in primary school. Secondary school curriculums are more academically oriented and follow the regime metropolitain model. Limited effort is being made to Africanize the curriculum by teaching more local history and culture, as well as to promote the study of African languages. Students, however, are still eager to learn French and English for self-advancement. The curriculum is heavily influenced by the Belgium and French school models.

Secondary school students must take a national examen d'etat and pass with a minimum score of 50 percent to be admitted to a university. Once admitted to a university, students must pass an end of the year essay examination in each subject taken, as well as an oral examination. If they fail, they can repeat it by sitting through the entire course again for an additional year. To earn a licence, a college student must write and defend a thesis.

The government has worked on improving access to formal education, but informal education lags far behind. Private organizations, rather than the state apparatus, dominate informal education in the DRC. The Interdisciplinary Center for Development and Lifelong Education (CIDEP) is the main NGO in this sector. It retrains civil servants and offers career development training in technical subjects. The CIDEP has the formal status of a division within the National University of the DRC. It is a link between the National University and civil society. The University has gradually taken over many of its functions since 1981.


Additional topics

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