Structure Of The Zimbabwean Education System

Primary school education in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, primary school education is a 7-year compulsory course for children aged roughly 6 to 13 years. It runs from Grade 1 to Grade 7 and provides all the foundation needed for students to move on to secondary school.

At the end of Grade 7, pupils sit for national examinations in the following subjects:

  1. Mathematics
  2. English Language
  3. Indigenous Languages, such as Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, etc
  4. Agriculture, Science and Technology
  5. Information Communication and Technology
  6. Social Sciences (formerly known as General Paper) which includes:
    • Family Religion and Moral Education (FAREME)
    • Heritage and Social Studies
    • Guidance and Counselling
  7. Physical Education and Arts which includes:
    • Visual and Performing Arts
    • Physical Education, Sports and Mass Displays

Progressing to secondary school

About a third of the Grade 7 pupils who sit for their final examination do not progress to secondary education due to:

  • a shortage of secondary schools
  • parents not affording to pay school fees due to poverty
  • gender imbalance as some parents, especially in remote areas, think the girl child’s place is in the home and not in the school.

Secondary school education in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean secondary school education is based on the British education system since Zimbabwe is a former British colony. The secondary school education is is a 6-year long course divided into:

  • 4 years of lower secondary school (known as Ordinary Level or O levels)
  • 2 years of upper secondary school (known as Advanced Level or A levels)

Lower secondary school (Ordinary Level)

Lower secondary school is for pupils who have finished Grade 7 and is 4 years long, from Form 1 to Form 4. In the final year of the lower secondary school, students write the national examinations for the Zimbabwe General Certificate of Education at Ordinary
Level (GCE O level).

The examination board for these exams is the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC).

Some of the subjects written at O level include:

  • Mathematics
  • Biology (Theory and Practical)
  • Chemistry (Theory and Practical)
  • Physics (Theory and Practical)
  • Combined Science (Theory and Practical)
  • Geography
  • English Literature
  • English Language
  • History
  • Economics
  • Commerce
  • Business Studies
  • Accounts
  • A Native language such as Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, etc
  • A practical subject such as Metal Work, Wood Work, Technical Graphics, etc.

A students is considered to have completed the O level course after achieving a pass in at least 5 subjects,

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science

Upper secondary school (Advanced Level)

A pass at Ordinary Level is required for a student to continue to the 2-year upper secondary school (Forms 5 and 6). Form 5 and Form 6 are also known as Lower 6 and Upper 6 respectively.

Not every student gets a chance to reach upper secondary school due to

  • poverty
  • limited number of schools offering upper secondary classes
  • poor quality of subjects passes at lower secondary school.

At upper secondary school, a student is allowed to specialise in a combination of at least 3 related subject. The combination can either be of

  • Sciences subjects
  • Commercials subjects
  • or Arts subjects.

Selecting a combination is based on the results achieved at Ordinary Level. Due to the competitive nature of the selection process at this stage, the majority of the students who passed Ordinary Level at lower secondary school usually start looking for jobs or move on to technical and vocational colleges.

Those that make it past the rigorous selection for upper secondary school have to write a national examination at the end of Form 6. This examination is known as the Zimbabwe General Certificate of Education at Advanced Level examination. The examination board is ZIMSEC. A student is considered to have passed the A levels after obtaining a pass in at least 2 subjects. The Advanced Level examination is used as an entry point into University.

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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