República da Guiné-Bissau is located in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Senegal, Guinea-Bissau occupies an area of 36,120 sq km divided into 9 regions: Bafata, Biombo, Bissau, Bolama (Bolama/Bijagos), Cacheu, Gabu, Oio, Quinara, and Tombali. Guinea is the capital. Guinea-Bissau has a population of 1,533,964 (2009 estimate). 50% follow indigenous religious beliefs, 40% are Muslim and 10% Christian. Guinea-Bissau has a literacy rate of 53.9% (1997) and is one of 35 countries implementing the UNESCO Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), a 10-year initiative aimed at achieving the goals of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012). Guinea-Bissau unilaterally declared its independence from Portugal in 1973. Portugal recognized its independence a year later, in 1974.
Portuguese is considered the official language and Crioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African languages) the national language. The whole educational process is conducted in Portuguese, in spite of the fact that it is not the native language. However, it is the language of writing, and the history of the country is recorded in Portuguese. In fact, it has been observed that Guineans speak a language they do not write (Crioulo or an ethnic language) and write a language they do not speak (Portuguese). The language impact on the educational system has been troublesome. (Hildo H. Couto, UnB)
The current educational system follows the 2003 Plano Nacional de Ação ETP Educação para Todos (National Plan for Action: Education for All) to be developed in three stages, 2003 to 2005, 2006 to 2010, and 2011 to 2015. The Ministério da Educação Nacional (Ministry of National Education) is responsible for all levels of education.
Ensino Pré-escolar (Pre-school education) is available for children ages 3 to 6. The 2003 Plan establishes 6 years of Ensino Básico Geral (General Basic Education). Grades 1-6 are divided into two phases: compulsory Ensino Básico Elementar (Elementary Basic Education) grades 1-4; followed by Ensino Básico Complementar (Complementary Basic Education), grades 5 - 6.
Ensino Secundário (Secondary education) is currently divided into two phases: Ensino Secundário Geral (General Secondary Education) grades 7-9, previously 1° ciclo (1st cycle), and Ensino Secundário Complementar (Complementary Secondary Education) grades 10 - 11, previously 2° ciclo (2nd cycle) grades 10-11/12.
Educação Superior (Higher education) is mainly available in foreign countries through governmental cultural and educational agreements, mainly in Brazil, Russia, Portugal, Germany, and the USA. Students are also sponsored by the private sector. In Guinea-Bissau, a 3 year Bacharelato, 5 year Licenciatura and 6 year medical degree are currently available. There are no graduate level programs available at this time.
Formação de Professores for elementary school teachers takes place at Escolas Normais (Normal Schools) at the secondary education level, while secondary education teachers are trained at the Escola Normal Superior Tchico-Té (Higher Teacher Training School) at the non-university post-secondary education level.