Located in West Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea,República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe (the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe) consists of the islands of São Tomé, Príncipe, Pedras Tinhosas, Caroço, and Rôlas. São Tomé and Príncipe has an area of 1,001 sq km, and it is the smallest country in Africa; the two main islands São Tomé and Príncipe, form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are mountainous. The capital is São Tomé. Believed to have been originally uninhabited, São Tomé and Príncipe were explored by Portuguese navigators in 1471 and settled by the end of the century. The Revolution of April 1974, in Portugal, brought the end of the overseas empire and the new Lisbon government transferred power to the liberation movement. In November 1974, a transition government was created and on July 12, 1975, Portugal recognized the new government.
São Tomé and Príncipe has an estimated population of 212,679, mainly descendants of slaves brought from the African mainland, and a literacy rate about 84.9%. About 95% of the population lives on the island of São Tomé. The official language is Portuguese; the main religions are Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. São Tomé and Príncipe became autonomous in 1995.
The Ministério da Educação e Ensino Superior is responsible for all levels of education. Portuguese is the language of instruction at all levels of education. Current education reform follows the Lei de Bases do Sistema Educativo (LBSE) - Lei n.° 2 / 2003.
Ensino básico (Primary education) consists of six years (grades 1 to 6), and is compulsory for children ages 6 to 11.
Ensino secundário (Secondary education) consists of six years divided into two cycles, lower secondary and upper secondary education. As of 2007, lower secondary education consists of 3 years (grades 7 to 9) followed by 3 years of upper secondary education (grades 10 to 12). Before 2007, lower secondary education consisted of either 2 or 3 years (grades 7 to 8 or 7 to 9), and upper-secondary education (grades 9 to 11 or 10 to 12). Secondary education takes place in Liceu (high school) in São Tomé and has two tracks, educação geral (a general program) and ensino técnico-vocacional (technical-vocational program).
Ensino superior is mainly available in foreign countries through government cultural and educational agreements; mainly in Portugal. Students are also sponsored for overseas study by the private sector. The minimum entrance requirement for post-secondary studies in São Tomé and Príncipe is the Certidão de 12ª Classe or equivalent Certidão de 11ª Classe prior to 2007. Degree programs leading to the Grau de Bacharelato, the 1st cycle of higher education, require three-years of full time study. Degree programs leading to the Licenciatura, the 2nd cycle of higher education, require one or two additional years of full time study.