The education system in Botswana has a lot to offer parents. Our education culture is quite unique, in that no one school in the private sector specifically covers the same curriculum in the same way. They are all different.
Private schools have the liberty to pick, choose and blend curriculums from all over the world. They get to create their own curriculum unique to their school philosophy and make it more relevant for our context in Botswana. Some examples of international curriculums that have been adapted by private schools would be sources like the British National Curriculum, Australia National Curriculum and Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) which is South African. Here’s the low down on what we have going on in Botswana.
Government Education in Botswana
The majority of children in Botswana attend government schools in all the different regions. For the most part, during their educational journey from primary school to the end of high school, students follow a curriculum set by the Ministry of Education. Examinations are administered and evaluated by the Botswana Examination Council (BEC).
Primary Education Curriculum and Examinations
Primary school starts in Grade 0 and goes up to Grade 7. The general practice is that the medium of instruction in Reception and Grade 1 is Setswana. English is taught as an additional language. From Grade 2 onwards, the medium of instruction is English. The curriculum up to the end of Grade 4 gears the students towards writing an Attainment test in the final term of Grade 4. This covers Mathematics, English and Setswana. The attainment test is set and examined regionally within the country.
From Grade 5 students begin the curriculum that will lead them to write the Primary School Leavers’ Examination (PSLE) at the end of Grade 7. Some of the subjects covered by PSLE are Mathematics, English, Setswana and Agriculture. As well as Religious and Moral Education, Science and Social Studies.
(It is important to note that PSLE is not just covered in Government schools. The PSLE curriculum and examination is used in many private schools within the country too.)
Secondary Education in Government Schools
After the completion of PSLE, students move on to secondary school, which happens in 2 phases. These are Junior Secondary School and Senior Secondary School.
Junior Secondary School is 3 years from start to finish, Forms 1-3. At the end of Form 3, students will write the Junior Certificate in Education (JCE). Here students will have chosen core subjects that are compulsory to take. They also take additional subjects. This is where they have a multitude of subjects to choose from such as Art, Business Studies, Design and Technology. There is also French, Religious Education, Physical Education and more.
Senior Secondary School comprises of two years of learning, Form 4 and Form 5. At the end of Form 5, students will write the Botswana General Certificate in Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations. Students will write examinations, whereupon passing these, students are then able to apply to a University, College or any tertiary programme with these results.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme
The IB is an international organisation with four programmes. These provide a continuum of international education throughout. In order to follow the IB programmes, a school would need to go through authorisation and accreditation processes. This is to become recognised as an IB World School.
The IB World programme is categorized according to age ranges. The starting programme is the Primary Years Programme (PYP), moving on to the Middle Years Programme (MYP). Then on to the Diploma Programme (DP) and culminating in the Career-Related Programme (CP).
Primary Years Programme (PYP)
The PYP age range is 3-12 years old. It’s an inquiry-based, trans-disciplinary programme. It focuses on educating the whole child. Preparing students to become lifelong learners who are internationally-minded as global citizens. The PYP curriculum is guided by 6 trans-disciplinary themes. These are adaptable to the context of the host country (in our case, Botswana). The IB defines a trans-disciplinary curriculum to be such “that it focuses on issues that go across subject areas.”
There are no formal written examinations at the end of Year 6 for students to move on to MYP. However, the culmination of student learning is celebrated with the Year 6 Exhibition. This can be executed and presented differently within each PYP school.
Middle Years Programme (MYP)
The MYP age range for students in 11-16 years old. The MYP is a five-year programme comprising of 8 subject groups: Language Acquisition, Language and Literature, Individuals and Societies. As well as Sciences, Physical and Health Education, Mathematics and Arts and Design. In years 4 and 5 students get to choose 6 of the 8 subject groups to focus on.
The IB offers different types of assessment at the end of the MYP. It is clearly explained on the IB website for more information.
Diploma Programme (DP)
Where students wish to continue with the IB programmes after MYP, they will start DP. The DP is an assessed programme that is for students aged 16 to 19 years old and recognised by international universities.
It comprises of 3 core components with are compulsory and six subject areas. Students can choose to do 3 or 4 subjects at a higher level (HL) and the balance at the standard level (HL). The DP can be done online in addition to face-to-face instruction. Assessment of the DP is clearly outlined on the IB website.
Career-Related Programme (CP)
The IB Career-Related Programme (CP) is a framework of international education. It incorporates the vision and educational principles of the IB into a unique programme. This is specifically developed for students who wish to engage in career-related learning.
Currently CP is not offered in Botswana, however, it is important for anyone interested in the IB programmes to know that it does exist. For more information about the IB CP, you can visit the IB website.
Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore the knowledge of the world. This is to develop them to their maximum potential.
The Montessori method and classroom are designed to apply the theory of experiential learning. This is to lead to a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, music, social interactions and much more. Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development. This is creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities.
Montessori environments support student learning at 3 tiered stages.
Infant/Toddler – for children aged birth to three years
Primary – for children aged three to six years
Elementary – for children aged six to twelve years (Lower Elementary, ages six to nine; Upper Elementary, ages nine to twelve).
As with the IB, Cambridge has a pathway for students and schools to follow from ages 5 to 19. Cambridge offers a wide range of subjects. These individual schools can shape and adapt to their curriculum. This means it’s engaging and relevant for their own students. For schools to become Cambridge Schools, they need to go through a rigorous application and accreditation process.
Cambridge Primary provides a curriculum framework for students typically between the ages of 5 and 11 years old. It covers English, Mathematics and Science. It is important to note that only registered Cambridge Assessment International Education schools will assess their students through two progress assessments: Cambridge Primary Progression Tests and Cambridge Primary Checkpoint.
Cambridge Secondary 1
Cambridge Secondary 1 is for students aged 11 to 14 years old. The curriculum focuses on English, Mathematics and Science. This curriculum works towards a similar assessment structure as Cambridge Primary, using Progression tests and Cambridge Checkpoint tests. That is if the school is registered with Cambridge Assessment International Education.
International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)
The IGCSE was developed and is administered by the Cambridge Assessment International Education. It is a 2-year programme. It leads to a certificate that is internationally recognised as equivalent to the international GCE O-Level.
For the IGCSE students will typically select 9 subjects from the list of subjects offered at their school. Being one of the most popular English international qualifications for students aged 14-16 years old, there are actually almost 70 subjects available for students to choose from overall.
Typically, in Botswana, our students write the IGCSE in either Form 4 or Form 5, all depending on which school the student attends.
Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS-Level) Advanced Level (A-Level)
Post IGCSE, students are able to continue their studies. They can continue working towards the Cambridge Advanced Level (A-Level) qualification. This has two parts, each one is one year in length. Firstly, the Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS-Level) and finally the A-Level.
AS-Level is generally considered to be the equivalent of the South African Matric Level. Therefore, students who choose to attend tertiary education in South Africa are able to apply and obtain positions there on the basis of their AS-Level results. Many students looking for acceptance into overseas universities continue to complete the A-Level qualification. For the As-Level and A-Level students usually, choose a minimum of 3 subjects to study.
Their specific choices will generally depend on what they intend to pursue at the tertiary level. Some of the subjects offered here are Accounting, Chemistry, Geography, Computing, Art & Design, Mathematics, English Language, English Literature, Economics, Physics and History to name a few.
Ultimately whichever educational path your child takes, you as a parent need to be invested and committed to your child’s education. Show interest in what they’re learning. Be an active part of their school’s community and set clear goals and expectations with your child.
I hope this article has given you a clearer understanding of the education systems in Botswana and it has demystified some of the more confusing elements.
** This article is proudly sponsored by Enko Botho Botswana**
I am passionate about education in Botswana. With ten years of experience teaching in primary schools in Botswana, I have a love for learning and working with students of all ages. I am the Director of Re A Bua Setswana Academy, teaching conversational Setswana to children and adults. I am the founder of Smart Chalk Consulting where our mission is to create opportunities for teachers within primary schools to grow and improve their instructional practices.
I look forward to connecting with new families and organisations, through offering coaching, workshops, tutoring and much more. For any education-related inquiries, contact me via email.