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Lesotho - Secondary Education

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


General Survey: More than 60 secondary schools in Lesotho provide an education for approximately 20,000 students. Once students have completed their primary education and parents can afford tuition and board, students begin secondary education, or high school. Entrance into a secondary school depends on whether students have passed the Primary School Leaving Certificate Exam and whether seats are available in a secondary school. Secondary education is neither free nor compulsory, fees are charged for tuition and books, and all secondary schools are comprehensive, geared towards the goal of obtaining entrance to a university. More recently more practical education in the form of optional vocational courses are being offered. Most schools provide study periods within the school day for preparation of homework. Extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs occur after the school day. Many schools provide boarding facilities for students.

Curriculum—Examinations, Diplomas: Forms A through C, the first three years of junior secondary school, lead to the Junior Certificate (JC), administered originally by the Examinations Council of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, but more recently by the Lesotho Ministry of Education. Forms D and E, the last two years of High School, prepare students for the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) Examinations at the Ordinary (O) level. Only three schools in the three countries, and none in Lesotho, offer classes that lead to the Advanced (A) level examinations. As the JC is the most common entry-level qualification for employment, there has been greater emphasis on the curriculum for Forms A through C. Consequently, the syllabus leading up to the O level exam has often been unrelated to the syllabus of the previous years, causing students to have to cram the entire syllabus into their last two years of study. Efforts have been made for greater coordination between the two levels.

The curriculum leading to the JC exam is based on seven subjects a year, with forty 40-minute periods each week. The core subjects are English—nine periods a week; integrated science—eight periods a week; mathematics—seven periods a week; Sesotho—four periods a week. Four periods a week are devoted to development studies, geography, or history. And four periods are devoted to a practical subject such as agricultural studies, typing or bookkeeping, domestic science, or woodwork.

In order to comply with the requirements of the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate Examinations (COSC), the Lesotho Ministry of Education recommends that students choose the arts curriculum that consists of seven subjects requiring forty periods per week and requiring the following subjects: the core curriculum—English language, five periods per week; English literature, four periods per week; mathematics, seven periods per week; biology, seven periods per week; Sesotho or French, five hours per week; development studies, geography, or history, four or five hours per week of two subjects from the group; one practical subject, five hours per week.

Should students wish to follow the Cambridge Science Curriculum, the core curriculum consists of five periods per week of English language, seven periods per week of mathematics, five or six periods per week of biology, and eight hours per week of physical science.

Promotion at the end of each year is based on final exams and on overall evaluation of the students' work during the year. The principal, the teachers, and the community set the grading standards. Often grading standards vary due to the fluctuating availability of teachers and because some courses are often not taught in the more remote parts of the country. Consequently, the examination results do not always reflect the students' aptitude for further education.

Increasingly there has been diversification at the secondary school level. At the JC level technical and commercial subjects are available. And in Forms D and E, agricultural and higher primary teacher training is offered. More than 50 percent of students in Lesotho leave school after Form C. The high dropout rate is largely due to the fact that tuition, books, and boarding are too expensive for students from that part of the world.

Teachers: Secondary school teachers are, theoretically, trained at the postsecondary level. In practice, however, there is a severe shortage of qualified secondary school teachers and those who are qualified will often elect not to teach in remote areas or in areas where there is no electricity or running water. Courses offered depend on the ability of any area to attract qualified teachers. As a result of the teacher shortage, there is a heavy reliance on expatriate teachers, in some areas as high as twothirds, supplied amongst others by the United States or through the Peace Corps. This state of affairs provides neither continuity nor cultural understanding of the pupils in the educational system.

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