Education Fact Sheet

Minister of Education, Sport, & Culture: Hon. Mr David Coltart


The Structure of the Education System

Zimbabwe has two Ministries of Education. These are the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development (MoHTES&TD). The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education consists of Infant Education that includes Early Childhood Development Education (ECD), Junior and Secondary Education. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.  is responsible for university, technical and teacher education.

Basic Education

Zimbabwe’s basic education system comprises:

Early Childhood Development (ECD) system (ECD ‘A’: 3 – 4 year olds; ECD ‘B’: 4 -5 year olds);

Primary School Education cycle (6 – 12 year olds);

Secondary education up to ‘O’ Level;

Life Long and Continuing Education.


Early Childhood Development (ECD)

ECD ‘A’ and ECD ‘B’ is for the 3-4 year olds and 4-5 year olds respectively.  The MoPSE has a policy which incorporates ECD into the primary education cycle.  To this end the policy stipulates that at least 2 ECD classes should be attached to every primary school. The (MoHTES&TD) has already started training ECD teachers in all the training colleges for primary school teachers. Zimbabwe is prioritizing ECD education to unprecedented levels. Ninety eight percent of Primary Schools are offering ECD classes. Workshops for parents to appreciate the importance of ECD education have been conducted countrywide.

Primary Education

Currently Primary education is a seven year cycle and the official entry age is six years. This programme espouses the policy of compulsory education and automatic promotion from one level to the other.  There is a national examination at the end of primary education cycle. Due to the shortage of secondary schools in some disadvantaged areas and the inability to raise the required school fees by some parents, the national examination becomes terminal to about 30 percent of the pupils at the Grade seven level. The Ministry seeks to open more schools to increase the transition rate from primary to secondary. The goal is 100%.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Zimbabwe comprises a four-year General Certificate of Education, (Ordinary Level). The official age for entry into Form One is 13 years. Every Grade 7 pupil is expected to graduate to Form One. There is automatic progression from Form one to Form four.

Zimbabwe inherited the British system of education. Students sit for the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level at the end of four years of secondary education.  This examination is equivalent to the Cambridge University General Certificate at ordinary level where it emanated from.

After ‘O’ Level, students who succeed can proceed to do a two-year General Certificate of Education Advanced Level cycle. Progression is on merit and the number of A Level places are currently limited.

General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) examination is the entry requirement for pupils into university.  However, Zimbabwean students are accepted into universities outside Zimbabwe on the strength of their General Certificate of Education – Ordinary Level examination results.

Those who pass ‘O’ Level but fail to proceed to do ‘A’ Level can do any of the following, among others: Teacher education; Nursing; Agricultural training; Polytechnic education: Industrial training and trade testing.

Tertiary Education

Tertiary Education in Zimbabwe comprises a multiplicity of programmes offered in different types of institutions that include technical and vocational training colleges, teacher training colleges and universities. The duration of these programmes varies.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)

In TVET, the duration of the programmes varies from short to long term courses. On completion of a programme, students are awarded either certificates or diplomas with the Higher National Diploma being the highest qualification awarded by the Polytechnic colleges generally but some polytechnics now offer Bachelor of Technology degree.

Teacher Education

Teacher education colleges produce qualified teachers for primary, secondary, technical high schools and vocational training centres. The pre-service teacher education programme is open to those who have successfully completed either their ‘O’ Levels or ‘A’ Levels. Entry requirements into primary school teacher education is 5 ‘O’ Level including Mathematics and English Language or ‘A’ Level depending on the programme being pursued. The duration is generally two years for those who have an ‘A’ Level qualification and three years for those with ‘O’ Levels. On completion, the trainees are awarded the Diploma in Education.

University Education

In Zimbabwe, entry into University is generally for those who would have successfully completed their ‘A’ Levels. The duration of the undergraduate degree programmes is usually three years, although there are some programmes that last longer like applied sciences. The Universities also offer postgraduate degrees at masters and doctoral level. A welcome development has been the introduction of distance and open learning at University level through the Zimbabwe Open University.

Special Needs Education

After Independence in 1980, Government legislated for the provision of education for all. It democratized the functions of the Schools Psychological Services to cover all schools.  It went on to create an enlarged Schools Psychological Services and Special Needs Education Division to cater for learners with special needs. This division faces resources challenges but it is providing most needed service to learners with special needs. Special needs education work is expected to expand substantially.

Life Long and Continuing Education

Running parallel to the formal education system, in Zimbabwe, is the complementary life long and continuing education system.  It aims at affording access to and participation in education to those who through no fault of their own were unable to continue with formal school. Adult education comprising Zimbabwe Adult Basic Education Course (ZABEC), Functional Literacy and Part Time and Continuing Education (PTCE), Government Correspondence School and Second Chance Education programmes, are used to reach these learners.

The Adult Literacy Programme

Adult literacy classes teach basic numeracy, writing and reading skills.

Post/Functional literacy classes impart life-long skills through income-generating projects.

The Zimbabwe Basic Education Course (ZABEC) is the equivalent to the formal primary education course. The course evolves through three levels, which are:

ZABEC I which is equivalent to Grades One – Three

ZABEC 2 which is equivalent to Grades Four – Five and

ZABEC 3 which is equivalent to Grades Six – Seven.

Distance Education

The programme caters mainly for secondary and tertiary education. It provides access to and participation in education, for all those who aspire to improve their educational qualifications, and might have: failed to progress to secondary education for one reason or another; and dropped out of school due to a variety of reasons.

Distance Education is largely implemented through; part-time evening continuing education classes; study groups; school on the air; correspondence college;

independent/Private colleges.

Zimbabwe’s literacy is at 92%, and is currently the highest in Africa.


Management of Education

The Ministry is administered under four departments, namely:

Primary, Early Childhood Development (ECD), Learner Welfare Services and School Psychological Services and Special Needs Education;

Secondary and Non Formal Education- SECNFE

Education Coordination and Development- EdCD and

Finance and Administration, Human Resources and Development - FAHRD.


All these departments are housed at Head Office headed by Principal Directors who also have directors and deputy directors under them. There are ten Provincial offices headed by Provincial Education Directors with two Deputy Provincial Directors per province and 73 districts headed by the District Education Officers. Education officers are found at Head Office while Education Inspectors are based at Provincial and District offices.

Ministry is working on strengthening infant education in order to lay a firm foundation for the future learning of the children.

The Ministry together with stakeholders developed School Functionality Standards and Teacher Minimum Standards. These should help raise the standards for both the schools and the teachers so that the education system can be more beneficial to the children. The Ministry is also putting in place a Teacher Development Information System that will address gaps and provide for targeted development.

Role of Stakeholders

In terms of financing education, the providers of education in Zimbabwe are: Government, Local Authorities, Church organizations and Trustees/Board of Governors.

Church organizations and other responsible authorities contribute to the growth and development of education through the provision of infrastructural facilities, while donors and other partners are providing funds and technical support for the provision of tutorial facilities and human resource development.

Central Government

Government bears the greatest financial responsibility in the field of education provision. Education enjoys priority and receives the largest single share of the national budget since Independence in 1980. This heavy investment in education is set to increase, considering new educational programmes such as the vocationalisation of the curriculum, increased emphasis on Science and Mathematics, interventions to improve learning achievement by pupils and the establishment of more ‘A’ Level schools.

Government direct funding of education goes towards staff salaries, capital development such as the Public Sector Investment Programme and Building grants-in-aid, as well as for learner support services like the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), the Tuition Grant for government schools, per capita grants for non- government schools, and ‘A’ level scholarships.  In 2012 the education received 28% of the total budget.

 Government, through the MoESAC introduced BEAM as a social safety net to alleviate the plight of those families and children, who were finding it difficult or impossible to meet the cost of education. The programme is a successor to the Social Dimensions Fund (SDF) which pays school and examination fees for children from disadvantaged family backgrounds from Grade One right up to ‘A’ Level.

Government provides the necessary policy framework and guidelines for the provision of education. In addition, Government directly owns and manages 5.8% of primary schools and 12.8% of the secondary schools across the country. The rest are run by non- government institutions.

Currently, Government owns and runs ten (10) of the thirteen teachers’ colleges, seven (7) Polytechnics, two (49) Vocational Training Centres and seven (8) of the eleven (12) universities in the country. The provision of education is not restricted to the two education Ministries. There are other Ministries and government departments, which own and manage  schools and training institutions.  These include the Ministries of:

  • Health and Child Care;
  • Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development
  • Youth Development, Indeginisation and Empowerment
  • Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare;
  • Defence;
  • Mines and Mining Development
  • Home Affairs
  • Tourism and Hospitality


Local Authorities

The majority of the schools in the country are owned and run by the local authorities through the Ministry of Local Government, National Housing and Public Works. This Ministry does so through rural district and urban council authorities.

In the case of Rural District Councils, parents and communities have made a particularly significant contribution to the provision and development of education. Parental and community involvement through their labour in the construction of school facilities.  Parents also contribute by way of providing books, stationery, uniforms and other learning facilities.

Local Authorities run the majority of the schools (79.4% primary schools and 70.4% of the secondary schools).

All the parents with children at a school constitute the School Parents Assembly and the assembly elects members to the School Development Committee that contributes to the well-being of a school through programmes they may initiate. Each school is expected to develop a School Development Plan.

Other Providers and Financiers Of Education And Training

The Education Act (1987) as amended in 1991 allows anybody in Zimbabwe to start a school provided it is registered with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Individuals, Private Companies, Committees/Trustees and Non-Governmental Organizations own 10.2 percent of primary schools and five point five percent (5.5%) of secondary schools. The Manpower Development Act (1994) provides for the registration of tertiary colleges. Currently there are more than 300 registered private colleges. Organizations and international agencies offer scholarships and assistance towards institutional development and the provision of learning materials. At tertiary level, the private sector contributes to technical training through Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF) levy.  This is a one percent levy of the wage bill of different companies.

There are also several companies, organizations and cooperating partners that offer scholarships and contribute to the provision of learning materials and institutional development.

See the SACMEQ reports for more information.