Senegal is located at the westernmost point of the African continent on the Atlantic coast. It is bordered by Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Gambia forms a partial-enclave within Senegal. The country's population is approximately 10-12 million with a 50% literacy rate.
The territory of modern Senegal was divided between the Ghana and Tekrour Empires from the 8th to 11th century, giving way to the Djolof Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. Tribal raids from Morocco brought the Islamic faith, currently practiced by 94% of the population. Portuguese explorers made the first recorded European contact in 1455, and Portugal monopolized trade with African coastal kingdoms until challenged by the British, French, and Dutch in the 16th century. Eventually, the French dominated the local slave trade, and, by the late 19th century, Dakar was the French administrative center.
Organized Black political forces emerged early in the 20th century, seeking abolition of forced labor, improvement in standards of living, and French citizenship for the colony's subjects. In 1958, Senegal became a self-governing member within the French Community, and the next year merged with French Sudan in the Mali Federation, which gained full independence in 1960, but quickly broke up into independent Senegal and Mali. Senegal's first president was Leopold Sedar Senghor, a prominent poet, politician, and statesman.
Senegal retains cultural and political ties with France. Six African ethnic groups constitute 90% of the population. There are about 28 distinct local languages, 6 recognized as national, though French remains the official language and language of instruction.
Currently, Senegal's Ministère de l’Éducation and Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation oversee the country's education system.
École élémentaire begins at age 6 and lasts for 6 years. Upon successful completion, students are awarded a Certificat de Fin d'Études Elémentaires (CFEE). Students must sit for their concours d'Entrée en sixième (external entrance examination) to continue on to first cycle secondary school or they can continue on to technical first cycle secondary.
Technical first cycle secondary studies are 3 years long and are offered at centres de formation. Upon successful completion, students are awarded a Certificat d'Aptitude Professionnelle (CAP).
Collège d'Enseignement Moyen (CEM) (First cycle secondary) is 4 years and students are awarded a Brevet de Fin d'Études Moyennes (BFEM). Following first cycle secondary, students can continue in general academic, vocational or technical studies. General academic studies (second cycle secondary) are 3-year programs offered at lycées d'Enseignement général or at lycées techniques. In 1998, second cycle secondary studies were organized into three streams: languages and social sciences (L1, L2), sciences and technology (S1, S2, S3, T1, T2), and management and economics (G). Upon completion of studies, students sit for a national external examination, and students who pass the examination are awarded a baccalauréat or a baccalauréat technique, depending on the student's academic stream.
Vocational second cycle secondary studies are 2 years long and upon successful completion, students are awarded a Brevet de Technicien. Students can continue for an additional 1-2 years at a lycée technique and are then awarded a Diplôme de Bachelier Technicien.
Higher education emerged from the School of Medicine of Dakar (founded 1918), which achieved status in the French system in 1957 as the Université de Dakar. In 1968, Senegal concluded an agreement with France that emphasized a more African-based university curriculum. In 1987, the name was changed to Université Cheikh Anta Diop, in honor of a Senegalese scholar and politician.
Access to Senegalese higher education is generally based on the Baccalauréat or an equivalent qualification. Candidates without high school credentials may gain access to a university by passing an entrance exam or winning approval of entrance committees. Each institution sets its own requirements. Classes run from October to July. Language of instruction is French.
There are only two public universities in Senegal, but an increasing number of private institutions founded for training in scientific, technical, teaching and administrative fields. There are also research institutes and grandes écoles, similar to those in France, which offer specialized courses (e.g. engineering).
First Cycle, Academic
The premier cycle (first cycle) of post-secondary studies is 2 years and offers basic studies. Upon completion, students in the humanities are awarded a Diplôme Universitaire d'Études Littéraires (DUEL), science students are awarded a Diplôme Universitaire d'Études Scientifiques (DUES), law students are awarded a Diplôme d'Études Juridiques Générales (DEJG), and economics students are awarded a Diplôme d'Études Économiques Générales (DEEG). Students at the École Nationale Supérieure de Technologie (ENSUT) are awarded a Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie (DUT) after completion of a 2-year program. Law students who enter the university without a baccalauréat can enroll in a 2-year program which awards a Capacité en Droit (Law Qualification).
The deuxième cycle (second cycle) university studies are 1-3 years long. After one year, students are awarded a licence. Following the licence is a 1-year maîtrise program. Students who hold a DUES can sit for the concours, an entrance exam to a 3-year program in engineering at a grande école and are awarded a Dipôme d'Ingénieur upon completion. Students in law and economics who hold a DEJG or a DEEG continue directly into a 3-year maîtrise program.
First professional degrees are awarded in the second cycle directly following second cycle secondary school. Pharmacy studies are 5 years and students are awarded a Diplôme de Pharmacien. Dental and veterinary studies are 6 years and students are awarded a Diplôme d'Etat de Docteur en Chirurgie Dentaire or a Doctorat d'Etat en Médecine Vétérinaire. Medical studies are 7 years long and students are awarded a Diplôme d'Etat de Docteur en Médecine.
Troisième cycle (third cycle) studies are one year of research and defense thesis after a maîtrise. Upon successful defense of the thesis, students are awarded a Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies (DEA). Doctoral studies are an additional 2 years of research and defense of dissertation following a DEA. Upon completion, students are awarded a Doctorat de Troisième Cycle. To teach in higher education, prospective professors must hold a Doctorat d'État which is awarded after an additional 2 years of years of research and defense of a thesis following a DEA or a Doctorat de Troisième Cycle.
In April 2004, Senegal began to implement the pilot phase of a reorganization of higher education similar to the L-M-D (licence-master-doctor) scheme in France. In the reorganization, all 2-year programs will be eliminated and the licence will be a 3-year program directly following second cycle secondary studies. The implementation will be staggered among universities and schools and is currently in place at the College of Medicine at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop. The first 3-year licence programs began in the 2008-09 academic year and the first licence diplomas were awarded in 2011 and the first maîtrise diplomas in the L-M-D scheme were awarded in 2012.
Primary/elementary school teachers are trained at 3-year écoles de formation des instituteurs (EFI) which are at the second cycle secondary level. Upon completion, students are awarded a Baccalauréat or a Certificat d'Aptitude Pédagogique (CAP). Students who hold a BEFM can enroll in a one-year assistant teacher program at a centres régionaux de formation pédagogique (regional teacher training center) and upon completion are awarded a Certificat Elémentaire d'Aptitude Pédagogique (CEAP).
First cycle secondary school teachers are prepared at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop and are awarded a Certificat d'Aptitude Pédagogiques (CAP). The Université Cheikh Anta Diop also offers a 4-year program for secondary teachers which leads to the Certificat d'Aptitude à l'Enseignement Moyen (CAEM), the Certificat d'Aptitude au Professorat de l'Enseignement Secondaire (CAPES), or the Certificat d'Aptitude au Professorat de l'Enseignement Technique (CAPET). Students who hold a licence can complete these programs in one year.