The Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa bordered by Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia. The population is 12,311,143 and English is the official language, though the majority of people also speak Shona or Ndebele. Literacy is over 90% making Zimbabwe one of the most literate countries in Africa.
From the 13th to the 17th centuries, the area of what is now Zimbabwe was part of the Mutapa Empire which had lucrative gold trading routes with Arabs. In the 17th century, Portuguese settlers arrive and destroyed the trade routes and started a series of wars which left the Empire in collapse. In the 1880s, British settlers arrived with the British South Africa Company headed by Cecil Rhodes and the area became known as Southern Rhodesia. In 1923, the British government annexed Southern Rhodesia from the British South Africa Company and the country became known as Rhodesia. In November 1965, the white-apartheid government, headed by Ian Smith, declared unilateral independence from the United Kingdom, but the UK government would not recognize the independence unless more complete voting rights for the black African majority were implemented. When Smith refused, this led to United Nations sanctions and a war of independence. Eventually, free elections were held in 1979 and independence from the UK was declared on April 18, 1980. Rhodesia then became known as Zimbabwe.
Prior to independence, most students completed only a few years of primary school; however, a strong emphasis of independent Zimbabwe led to the rapid expansion of the educational system and access to primary and secondary school for all. Education is compulsory for 7 years beginning at age 6. The school year begins in January and ends in December. It has 3-month terms with one-month holidays between each term. Primary school is 7 years long and is divided into Infant Grades (1 and 2) and Junior Grades (3-7). The language of instruction is English with Shona and Ndebele taught as subjects. Students are awarded a Grade 7 Certificate Examination upon completion of primary school.
Secondary school (Forms I-IV) is 4 years long and students sit for General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O-Level) examination at the end of Form IV. Upper secondary (Forms V and VI) and is only open to students who have sufficient GCE O-Level grades. At the end of Form VI, students sit for either the Cambridge Higher School Certificate (HSC) or the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-Level) examinations, usually in three subjects.
Post-secondary education is offered at universities, university colleges, teacher training colleges, technical colleges, and polytechnics. The Ministry of Higher Education and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development oversees the higher education system.
First Cycle, Academic
University-level studies usually require an HSC or GCE A-Level for admission, although students who hold a 2 or 3-year diploma can apply for admission. Bachelor's degree studies in arts, sciences, commerce, education, social studies, and agriculture are 3-4 years, and engineering programs are 4-5 years.
First Cycle, Vocational/Technical
Certificate and diploma programs in library and information science, teaching, nursing, agriculture and business are offered at agricultural colleges, polytechnics, teacher training colleges, and hospital-based nursing schools. These programs are 2-3 years long and require either a GCE O-Level or Advanced certificate for admission.
Second and Third Cycles
Master-level programs are 1 to 3 years long. Master of Arts and Master of Science program include coursework and defense of a thesis. Master of Philosophy programs are research-based. Doctoral (DPhil) programs require at least 3 years of research followed by a dissertation defense. The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) was awarded at one time, but is not longer awarded. Doctor of Laws (LLD), Doctor of Humanities (DLitt) and Doctor of Science (DSc) are awarded after submission of published work at least 8 years after the bachelor's degree.