The education system in Zambia consists of 7 years of primary schooling and 5 years of secondary schooling before students can enter university, college, or other institutions of higher learning. The following is the breakdown:

Primary School:
    * Grades one to seven.
Secondary School:
    * Phase 1: grades eight and nine (also known as Junior Secondary)
    * Phase 2: grades ten to twelve (also known as Upper Secondary)

The academic year in Zambia runs from January to December. It has three month school terms which are broken up by a roughly one month holiday prior to each term. This translates to about 40 weeks of school per year.

The minimum entrance age to the first year of primary school, known as Grade 1, is 7 years old. Thus a child is expected to enter his/her first year of high school (Form 1) at 14 years old. These were government established standards. Schools, particularly private schools, are very liberal in applying them. Their priority is largely on the performance of each child. It’s thus common to find children of varying age groups throughout the schooling years.

Primary languages: English as the language of instruction and one Zambian language assigned by each provincial district.

Types of schools: 1) Government public schools, 2) Church run schools, 3) Private schools, and 4) Religious private schools (other than Christian ones -e.g. Jewish and Islamic schools).

Some Quick Stats:

 Zambia Education Facts 2007


 Schools in the country


 Children enrolled in all schools, Grade 1 to 12


 Dropout rate in 2005


 Teacher, pupil ratio in grades 1 to 9


 Percent of all the children in school are orphaned


 Children are out of school from age 7 to 13

Source: USAID-Zambia

Higher Education in Zambia
Transition from lower to higher educational levels is determined by the performance of each student in national examinations at the end 12. This is particularly so for government colleges and universities. They are highly competitive due to the few spots they offer.

The entry of private colleges and universities has brought more opportunities to many deserving students that failed to make it into highly competitive government universities and colleges. The only catch is whether or not they can afford to attend the private institutions of higher learning. Institutional accreditation and recognition is by the Ministry of Education (of Zambia).

Principles and general objectives of education

The goals of education as spelt out in the National Policy on Education (Educating our Future, 1996) as follows:

“(a) producing a learner capable of:


  • being animated by a personally held set of civic, moral and spiritual values;
  • developing an analytical, innovative, creative and constructive mind;
  • appreciating the relationship between scientific thought, action and technology on the one hand, and sustenance of the quality of life on the other;
  • demonstrating free expression of one’s own ideas and exercising tolerance for other people’s views;
  • cherishing and safeguarding individual liberties and human rights;
  • appreciating in the preservation of the ecosystems in one’s immediate and distant environments;
  • participation in the preservation of the ecosystems in one’s immediate and distant environments;
  • maintaining and observing discipline and hard work as the cornerstones of personal and national development.


(b) increasing access to education and life skills training;


(c) building capacity for the provision of quality education;


(d) creating conditions for effective coordination of policies, plans and programmes;


(e) rationalizing resource mobilization and utilization.”

Current educational priorities and concerns

Zambia has been under one-party rule for over two decades. This one-party system laid little emphasis on the allocation of adequate resources for education. In addition to this, the economy declined and there was a decrease in the quality of education. The new government of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) wishes to make education a top priority on its agenda.

Following the structural adjustment programme, many ordinary Zambians are facing difficulties in meeting the basic education requirements for their children, because of the economic hardships coupled with unemployment and general poverty. Most of the infrastructure is very poor, making the provision of quality education extremely difficult. Learning andteaching materials are scarce and there is a marked reduction in teacher morale, mainly due to poor working conditions.Teachers have often moved to other sectors locally and within the region. There is currently an insufficient number of schoolsat all levels and approximately 15% of the school age population is not enrolled because of lack of places. The 1990 population census showed that an estimated 66% of the adult population are illiterate (mainly women). In 1995, 26.7% of the population aged 15+ was illiterate.

The highly centralized management and administration of the education system has been a matter for concern. Centralization has had adverse effects on quality, efficiency and effectiveness. Consequently, the government has found it necessary to restructure the entire system, embarking on a comprehensive rehabilitation programme in the year 2000. In accordance with the MMD’s democratic principles, the education system has been liberalized to allow more participation of all stakeholders in the financing and administration of education. A decentralized system of management has been put into place: decision-making power has been handed out from the centre to the local levels such as districts and schools. The MDD has been working towards the expansion of educational facilities, especially for primary education, as well as improving the quality of education.

The programme is quite ambitious and includes a number of fundamental innovations and changes. Its major objectives are the following: to restructure the education system with a view to making it efficient and cost-effective; to promote gender equity in education; to increase the national budget allocation to education; to increase access to education and life-skills training; to rehabilitate the dilapidated infrastructure; to supply and maintain sufficient numbers of teachers; to build capacity for the provision of quality education; to create conditions for effective coordination of policies, plans and programmes.

The restructuring process has been governed by three principles, namely: decentralization, liberalization and cost-sharing. The government liberalized the provision of learning and teaching materials (such as textbooks, tools and equipment) as well as the establishment of learning institutions. Furthermore, although they must respect the government's educational policy, private organizations, individuals, religious bodies and local communities now have the right to establish and control their own schools. One major feature of thedecentralization has been the establishment of Education Management Boards, through which decision-making power has devolved to the local level.

These reforms have had a positive impact. Such a decentralized system of management and administration has had several advantages, such as a quick response to problems and needs, and the involvement of the local community in decision-making, thereby creating a sense of belonging to the education system. Sufficient capacity exists in the system to admit all eligible 7-year-olds. Access and equity have improved due to the introduction of certain programmes as theProgramme for the Advancement of Girls’ Education (PAGE), the emergence of community schools across the country, and the introduction of a community based, interactive radioprogramme targeting children who have never been to school. The quality of education has also improved due to better pre-service and in-service teacher training, new education management training programmes, a curriculum that is more responsive to society’s needs, and the introduction of primary reading programmes aimed to ensure that primary school children learn to read fluently and effectively across the curriculum.

In 1999 the Ministry of Education together with international development agencies embarked on the Basic Education Sub-Sector Investment Programme (BESSIP) to address the needs of grades 1–7. The programme covered the years from 1999 – 2002. The two main goals of BESSIP were to increase enrolment levels and improve the quality of education. In order to achieve these goals, nine components were established, namely: Overall Management; Infrastructure; Teacher Development, Deployment and Compensation; Educational Materials; Equity and Gender; School Health and Nutrition; Basic School Curriculum; Capacity Building andDecentralisation; and HIV & AIDS.

During the period 2003-2005, the government through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training implemented the Technical Education Sub-sector InvestmentProgramme (TESSIP) under the supervision of the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA). The programme was born out of the realization that there was a mismatch between the skills acquired by Grade 12 school leavers and those demanded by the workplace—particularly in so far as quality and curriculum relevance were concerned. Therefore, the country’s TEVET reforms (2002-2007) are essentially to do with vocational training and is based on the need to develop a demand-driven national training system.

It is generally agreed that in spite of the many challenges that the Ministry of Education is faced with in the provision of basic education, it is on course to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2015. Not only was free education from Grade 1 to 7 declared in 2002, but there is also in place an education Sector Strategic Plan (2003-2007). These efforts are a follow-up to a fairly successful BESSIP initiative that the country implemented with the assistance of cooperating partners in 1999 and wound up in 2002. There are still a number of strategic challenges for this level of education and which the Ministry of Education will need to deal with notably: high teacher attrition, demotivationand other related issues; lack of textbooks, equipment and laboratory infrastructure; problems in information sharing and its flow within the system and among stakeholders; poor quality of learning, fewer classroom places and learning hours; dependency on external financing; insufficient monitoring and evaluation to set and implement standards of curriculum, its quality and relevance; and low participation and completion rates especially among girls.

Laws and other basic regulations concerning education

Despite several changes that have occurred during the past three decades, the Education Act of 1966 continues to set the basic framework for the education system. The Act has not been comprehensively reviewed to cater for these changes and developments. Furthermore, because of insufficient facilities, it has not been possible at present to make educationcompulsory. There is no penalty to parents whose children are not enrolled in schools.

            The TVET Act of 2005 has been approved in order to: establish the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) and define its functions; provide for the establishment of government institutions of technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship training; constitute management boards for institutions established under the Act and provide for their composition; regulate all institutions providing technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship training; repeal the Technical Education and Vocational Training Act 1972; and provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing

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