The République du Cameroun is located in western Africa on the Bight of Biafra bordered by Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Gabon, Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Nigeria. The earliest inhabitants of Cameroon were the Sao civilization and the Bakas. Portuguese explorers arrived in the 15th century and named the area Rio dos Camarões (River of Prawns) which is the origin of the name of the country. From 1884 until 1914, Cameroon was under German administration. In 1916, the country was divided between the British and the French. The British were given 1/5 of the country and the French were given the remaining 4/5. Both areas declared independence in 1960 and joined together to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
In 1972, the federal government system was abolished and the United Republic of Cameroon was declared. In 1984, a change in leadership led to the current name of the Republic of Cameroon. English and French are the official languages and 24 major African languages are spoken in the country. The population is 18,060,382, and the literacy rate is 69.7%.
Cameroon is unique in that it is the only country with dual educational systems based on the French and British models. The 1996 Constitution made education free and compulsory from ages 6 to 12. There are both public and private primary and secondary schools, but tuition is not charged at public schools. Education is overseen by both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.
Primary and Secondary Education (Francophone Education System)
L'école primaire (Primary education) is from ages 6 to 12. Upon completion, students are awarded a Certificat d'Études Primaires Élémentaires (CEPE). Only 70% of the students of these ages attend school. Following primary school, students have the choice of attending collège l'enseignement général (lower secondary) or collège l'enseignement secondaire (upper-secondary) or a lycée technique (technical secondary school). Lower secondary is 4 years, and students are awarded the Brevet D'Études de Premier Cycle du Second Degré upon completion. Lycée techniques (Technical secondary schools) are 7 years and, upon completion, students are awarded a Brevet de Technicien Supérieur or a Brevet Professionnel. Students who have completed the collège can continue upper secondary studies at a lycée. Upper secondary is 3 years and students are awarded a baccalauréat upon completion.
Primary and Secondary Education (Anglophone Education System)
Primary school is from ages 5 to 12. Upon completion, students are awarded a First School Leaving Certificate. Lower secondary school is 5 years and at the end of study students sit for the Cameroon General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level Examination (Cameroon GCE “O” Level). Upper secondary school is 2 years and students sit for the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level Examination (GCE “A” Level) at the end of studies. Technical secondary schools offer 7-year programs following primary school and students sit for the City and Guilds Part III examinations.
Post-secondary education is offered at the six public universities and the private Catholic University of Central Africa, as well as technical and professional schools, and teacher training colleges. Admission to the universities requires a baccalauréat or GCE “A” levels. The first level of university study is 3 years long and students are awarded a licence or a bachelor's degree, depending on the language of instruction. Students who are studying economics, management or law first complete a 2-year Diplôme D'Études Superieures Générales (DEUG) followed by a 1-year licence or bachelor's degree.
Second and Third Cycle
Secondary level university studies are 2 years following a licence in arts and sciences, and one year following a licence in law. Students are awarded a maîtrise upon completion of studies. In Anglophone universities, master's degrees and post-graduate diplomas are awarded after 1 year of study following a bachelor's degree. Tertiary level universities include the Diplôme D'Études Approfondies (DEA) and the Diplôme D'Études Supérieures Spécialisées (DESS),and are both 1-year programs following a maîtrise. Doctoral studies are 3-4 years following a maîtrise and students are awarded a doctorat.
In 1991, Cameroon’s 25 Écoles Normales d’Instituteurs (teacher training colleges) were closed because of the economic crisis the country was experiencing at the time. By 1995, there was a shortage of 15,000 primary school teachers which lead to student teacher ratios of 1:54 or more. In 1995, under pressure, the teacher training colleges were reopened and 9 more were created. By 2000, the goal of training 15,000 primary school teachers was surpassed by 5,000. However, due to budgetary restrictions, not all of the teachers could be hired as civil servants, so most were hired on temporary, 10-month contracts.
Écoles Normales d’Instituteurs (ENI) train pre-primary and primary school teachers. The course length varies depending on the student’s previous education:
- BEPEC holders - 3 years
- Primary School Leaving Certificate holders - 3 years
- GCE “O” level holders - 2 years
- Baccalauréat holders - 1 year
- GCE “A” level holders + years of teaching experience - 1 year
Students are awarded a Certificat d’Aptitude Pédagogique d’Instituteur de l’Enseignement Maternel et Primaire (CAPIEMP) upon completion of studies.
Lower secondary school teachers are prepared in a 3-year program at an École Normale Supérieur (ENS) (higher teacher training school) or at an École Normale Supérieure d’Enseignement Technique (ENSET) (higher technical teacher training school). Upon completion they awarded a Diplôme de Professeur des Collèges de Enseignement Général (DPCEP) or a Diplôme de Professeur des Collèges de Enseignement Technique.
Upper secondary school teachers are prepared in a 3-year program following a baccalauréat or a one-year program if they already hold an ENS diploma. Upon completion, they awarded a Diplôme de Professeur des Lycées d’Enseignement Général (DPLEG) or a Diplôme de Professeur des Lycées d’Enseignement Technique (DPLET).