The Republic of Sierra Leone is located on the western coast of Africa. It is bordered by Liberia, Guinea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The population is 6,294,774 and the literacy rate is 35.1%. English is the official language, but is only spoken by the literate minority. Mende is the language spoken in northern Sierra Leone and Tenne is spoken in the south. Krio, an English-based Creole dialect brought to the area by freed Jamaican slaves, is spoken by 10% of the population, but is understood by 95%.
The area of present-day Sierra Leone has been continuously inhabited for at least 2,500 years. The first European in the area was Pedro da Cintra, an explorer from Portugal who arrived in 1492. By 1562, the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British used Freetown Harbour as a staging point for the slave trade. In 1787, the Sierra Leone Company founded the city of Freetown as a home for former slaves from the West Indies, Canada, and the United States. In 1808, the city of Freetown became a British Crown Colony and the remainder of the country became a British Protectorate. On April 27, 1961, both areas were granted independence and combined to form the Republic of Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone Civil War began in 1991 and was resolved in 2000. As a result of the civil war, many schools were destroyed and a majority of school-age children did not attend school. Since the resolution of the war, the government has begun to reconstruct schools and school attendance has increased.
English is the language of instruction at all levels. French language study is mandatory at the primary and lower secondary school levels, but is optional at the upper secondary school level. The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education oversee Sierra Leone's education system.
Primary and Secondary Education
Education is free and compulsory for 6 years beginning at age 6, but attendance is not enforced. Primary school is 6 years, and at the end of the 6th year, students sit for the National Primary School Examination. Lower secondary is 3 years, and at the end of the 3rd year, students sit for the Basic Education Certificate Examination. The results of this examination determine the type of upper secondary school the student will attend.
Upper secondary school programs are 3 years and offer general, vocational, and technical tracks. At the end of the 3rd year, students sit for the Senior School Certificate Examination which is administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
Post-secondary education is offered at trade/technical/vocational centers, technical/vocational institutes, and the constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone. All post-secondary programs require a Senior School Certificate for admission.
The University of Sierra Leone was created in 1967 when Fourah Bay College and Njala University College were joined. They remain constituent colleges, along with Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, the College of Medicine and Allied Services, National School of Nursing, and the Institute of Public Administration and Management.
First Cycle, Academic
First-level university programs include the 3-year Bachelor's degree (lesser qualified students may require 4 years to finish this program) and a 4-year Bachelor's (Honours) program.
Second and Third Cycles
Second-level programs leading to a Master's are 1-year following a Bachelor's (Honours) or 2 years following a general Bachelor's degree. Doctoral programs are at least 2 years following a Master's and require defense of a dissertation.
Primary and lower secondary school teachers are trained at teacher training colleges. Primary school teachers are trained in a 3-year in post-lower secondary program leading to a Teacher's Certificate. This program requires a Basic Education Certificate for admission. Lower secondary school teachers are trained in a 2-year program leading to the Higher Teacher's Certificate. This program requires a Senior School Certificate for admission. Upper secondary school teachers must hold a Bachelor of Education.