Education in The Gambia
Education is not compulsory in The Gambia, but is becoming more popular. Up to 15 years of education are available, but the majority of students attend school for 9 years. The following is a breakdown of the type of education available:
1. 3 years of nursery education, starting about age 4-5
2. 6 years of lower basic education (primary level, grade 1-6, from age 7)
3. 3 years of upper basic education (grade 7-9)
4. 3 years of senior secondary education (grade 10-12)
Children may start school at any age from 7 upwards, starting at grade 1 and progressing to the next grade each year. There are no school fees for primary education. Boys pay fees for Upper Basic and Senior Secondary education. Girls' education is free to encourage them to attend school, but they still have to provide equipment and uniform and buy books. This discourages parents from sending their daughters to school. The age range of students varies from about 12-24 at upper basic and senior secondary level. This is because students might miss a year if they cannot afford their fees, or, if they are not successful in yearly exams they may be asked to repeat the year. At the end of grade 9 and grade 12 students sit exams which are standardised for West Africa (West African Certificate of Secondary Education). After finishing secondary education students have the option to undertake vocational training or further education if it is affordable. Many will try to get voluntary work that may lead to paid employment.