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Partner Organization: U.S. Embassy, Gaborone

Language Requirement: English

Eligible Program Dates: September to November 2018 or January to July 2019; Program lengths can vary.

Educational System Overview

The government of Botswana has invested an enormous amount into its educational system.  The government allocates the largest portion of its federal budget to education; according to World Bank statistics, 7.8 percent of Botswana’s GDP and 16.2 percent of Botswana’s total government spending goes towards education, including tertiary instruction.  Since 1990, the government has spent an average of 1 percent of its GDP on tertiary education alone, high in comparison to other African countries. The World Bank last reported primary schools pupil-teacher ratio at 25:1 in 2009, which is within the country’s national development plan target of 30:1.  Furthermore, young people tend to be more educated than older Batswana; 95 percent of youth aged 15 to 24 are literate compared to 84 percent of the general population.

The educational system is comprised of seven years of primary, three years of junior secondary and two years of senior secondary education. The academic year is divided into three terms, generally running January to April, April to July and August through November.  Primary education is free and all school-age children have a right to the first ten years of schooling, after which point students must take the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) to get into senior secondary school.  Students wishing to matriculate at a university must take the General Certificate of Secondary Examination (BGCSE) at the end of their senior secondary.  Likewise, students who do not pass the Primary School Leaving Examination must repeat before they can transition to junior secondary.

Despite Botswana’s commitment to education spending, concerns regarding school leaving examination results persist, especially in public schools.  School enrollment is low, dropping from 87 percent in primary school to 61 percent in secondary school.  Many prospective employers also express concern over the lack of basic skills among recent graduates, and a high percentage of graduates have difficulty finding employment.  According to Statistics Botswana, the unemployment rate for secondary school graduates (24.4 %) is higher than for those with no education (10.9 %).  BGCEC results declined 14 percent over the past five years and only 30 percent of students passed the exam in 2013, while JCE scores continues to drop with 67% of students failing with a grade D or lower.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development was split into two in 2016 as 1) the Ministry of Basic Education supervising primary school to senior high school); and 2) the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology overseeing all tertiary education including vocational training.

Priority areas for U.S. teachers are English language teaching, special needs, and guidance and career counseling.  English instruction is very important in Botswana.  During the first few years of primary school, the medium of education is Setswana, but after grade two, it is English.  Language of instruction can be a hindrance for many students. Setswana, the national language of Botswana, is spoken by 78% of the population, but there are over 20 different languages spoken in the country; and although English is Botswana’s official language and the main language used in business, only 2% of the population are speakers of English as their mother tongue.  

Special education is a major priority in Botswana. The 1994 Revised National Policy on Education came up with explicit goals for special educational needs to increase access to quality education for all children. The policy advocates for social integration, early identification and intervention, comprehensive assessment and individualized instruction.  Equally important is guidance and career counseling; this includes life skills to empower youth to be healthy, productive, and active community members effectively contributing to the achievement of an AIDS-free generation, and assistance with subjects on the economy and commerce, as well as visits to companies and initiating community projects. In 2015, the Ministry launched Botswana Education Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) 2015-2020 set to improve access, quality, inclusion and equity, accountability and governance in the education system.


Suggested Inquiry Project Topics for US Teachers

U.S. teachers are encouraged to consider projects that address:

  • Outcome based education,
  • Teaching pedagogy in primary and secondary schools,
  • In-service training best practice, and
  • Inclusive education.