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Preprimary & Primary Education

Preschool education begins at age five. Early childhood education is largely a community responsibility, with the government giving functional support by developing policies, programs, and teacher training activities. The government considers early childhood education as the first component of the basic education strategy and envisages expansion of preprimary schools but not supplanting the role and responsibility of parents and the community in early childhood upbringing and education. In addition, the overall tendency is to encourage nongovernmental organizations and nonformal activities in this field. The policy gives much attention to the need and importance of early and extensive investment in health care, cognitive development, and socialization. The number of preschools—90 in 2000, almost all in urban areas—has not significantly increased since independence, but enrollment rose by 50 percent, from 7,747 children in 1993 to 11,885 children (or about 5 percent of eligible children) in 2000. In 1996, many preschools run by the municipalities were transferred to private institutions and communities, and some were closed for lack of funds. Most surviving preschools are situated in Asmara and are controlled by religious institutions. The learning environment in most centers suffers from lack of basic resources and play materials. More than 50 percent of preschool teachers were untrained, but in 1996 a summer training program was organized; approximately 90 teachers had completed this training by 1999. In 2000 there were 223 trained and 97 untrained preschool teachers.

Elementary, or primary, education lasts five years. The official starting age is seven, but due to the previous lack of access to school, the majority of students are older.

The academic year runs from September to June and consists of approximately 200 school days divided into two semesters. Schools in lowland areas operate six days a week in order to finish before the hottest season. At the primary level, school exams are given four times per year at the end of every half semester, and reports are given at the end of each semester. Total gross primary enrollment in 2000 was 295,941 students. The gross enrollment percentage (enrolled students to eligible children in the population) went from 36.3 percent in 1992 to 57.5 percent in 2000; within this, the female student enrollment percentage increased from 33.8 to 52.4 percent. Elementary teachers numbered 6,229 in 2000.

The elementary curriculum includes reading and writing in the mother tongue, mathematics, science, art and music, and physical education. Starting at the second grade, English (plus Arabic where teachers are available) and civics and moral education are added. Geography is added during fourth grade.

Additional topics

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