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Education in Gambia

Published on 6th November 2019
Children sat around desks in a school in The Gambia
If you’re moving to a new country with young children, you want to be sure that the education system is of a high quality. You can expect it to be very different compared to your home country, but knowing that your kids will receive suitable education helps to make the relocation process less stressful. The Gambia is the smalled country in Africa and is home to just over 2 million people. A huge portion of those are of primary, secondary and post-secondary school age. Over the past 20 or so years, there have been great improvements to education in Gambia.

Things to Know about Education in Gambia

First and foremost, one thing you need to know about education in The Gambia is that it operates on a 6-3-3-4 system. Primary school lasts six years for children aged 7 through 13, and upper basic school lasts three years for students aged 13 through 16. Once this stage of education has been completed, students can then move onto secondary school programs. To gain access to this additional three years of education, the pupil must take entrance exams. A four-year university program is then available for those who wish to continue their time in education. 
The education system in the Gambia takes inspiration from that of the UK. Children are due to start school at 7 years old and work up a grade every year: 

  • Six years of primary schooling: grades 1–6
  • Three years of junior secondary schooling: grades 7–9
  • Three years of senior secondary schooling: grades 10–12
  • Four years of university education

History of Gambia Education

In February 1998, the president of the Gambia ordered the termination of fees for the first six years of schooling. Because parents had to pay to put their children through school, it often meant that many kids weren’t able to enrol in education.
Before 2002, students had to earn a primary school leaving certificate after grade six by completing an exam. This often meant that students missed out on access to upper basic schooling. Previously, many students were forced to bring their education to an end following the upper basic cycle. This typically came down to monetary difficulties or failure to pass the exam. These days, however, the system is much more cohesive after this step was phased out by officials. 
As well as making education in Gambia much more accessible, more textbooks were made available for students and unqualified teaches received the necessary training. As well as this, additional schools have been built over recent years, meaning that students no longer have to walk over three kilometres every day to reach the nearest facility. 

Types of Schools in The Gambia

In The Gambia, there are a number of school types available. They include: 
  • Early Childhood Education Development Centres (Nurseries)
  • Lower Basic Schools
  • Upper Basic Schools
  • Senior Secondary Schools
  • Tertiary Institutions
  • Vocational Centres

Nursery School

Nurseries in The Gambia are private, which means that fees can be pretty pricey. They aren’t a necessary part of a child’s education, which is why parents only tend to enrol their child at an early childhood education development centre if they have the money to do so. Lessons at a nursery are typically held on a morning only.

Lower Basic Schools

From the age of seven, children will spend six years in lower basic school. Tuition during the first five years can be free, though this does depend on the school. Please note that you will have to buy a school uniform and shoes as well as other items such as a bag, books and stationery. Most schools will charge a fee in the last year to cover the costs of exams.

Upper Basic School

Upper basic school starts at the age of 13. You will have to purchase new uniforms and books each year, often meaning that the first term can be pretty costly. 

Senior Secondary School

Families that can afford to do so will send their children to a senior secondary school for a final three years of education in Gambia. Once the three years are over, the student will need to take a leaving examination. Money is needed for uniforms and exams and most pupils will now not come home for lunch due to these facilities being further away so you may need to budget for food. 

Tertiary Institutions

The Gambia College is a place that provides students with non-degree training in areas such as agriculture, science, nursing and midwifery, education, catering, and management. There is also The University of the Gambia which offers undergraduate programs in humanities and social studies, economics and management science, and nursing and public health. At the university, there is a six-year course in medicine and surgery which means you can be in education for even longer.

Vocational Centres

Established in 1983, The Gambian Technical Training Institute was brought in to help manage City and Guilds, Pitman Training UK and the Royal Society of the Arts programs. It now offers more than 60 courses to students who wish to go here.

To find out more about what your life will be like in The Gambia, read our blog post here.

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