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Detailed information about Sierra Leone’s Development Partners



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Education in Sierra Leone


The standard of education in Sierra Leone before and immediately after independence was one of the best around the world. With the University of Sierra Leone established in 1827, Sierra Leone was dubbed, “Athens of West Africa.” But that educational system fell on hard times. Over a long period of neglect, the country witnessed an erosion of standards in its educational system. From 1970 to 1985, the average growth rate for primary school enrolment was slightly more than 6.0 percent, while that for secondary school enrolment was just over 6.5 percent. From 1985 to 1990, the average annual growth rate for primary school enrolment fell to 2.0 percent, while that for secondary school enrolment fell to 1.6 percent. Besides these enrolment concerns, the outputs of institutions at the technical/vocational and teacher education levels had also been found wanting.


Sierra Leone’s education system is divided into four stages; primary education lasting six years, junior secondary education of three years, three years of either senior secondary education or technical vocational education and four years of university or other tertiary education.

Literacy Rates

43.2 % – Sierra Leone – Adult (15+) literacy rate

In 2018, adult literacy rate for Sierra Leone was 43.2 %. Adult literacy rate of Sierra Leone increased from 34.8 % in 2004 to 43.2 % in 2018 growing at an average annual rate of 13.18%. According to UNESCO Sierra Leone it has an adult literacy rate of 43.21%. While the male literacy rate is 51.65%, for females is 34.85%, showing a big gap between the sexes. Adult education – Sierra Leone has a low level of literacy among adults with only 37.1% of adults literate in 2006, the level of literacy is higher among 15- to 24-year-old who have a literacy rate of 52.2%.

Free Quality Education (FQE)

In September 2018, the FQE was officially launched paving way for easy access to education for more than one million children in the country. As part of the FQE package parents don’t have to pay tuition fees for their children from primary to senior secondary schools.

The Old System

In the pre-1993 educational system, preschool (ages 1 to 5) was optional and was run by private institutions. Primary school children (ages 5 to 12) started class 1 at age 5 and finished class 7 at age 12. It was a seven-year program at the end of which the pupil was to take an external examination called the Common Entrance, later renamed the Selective Entrance Examination. The exam was used to determine who would enter secondary school and who would not. Ages for secondary school were 12 to 17 or 19 years. At the end of the first five years of secondary school, the student was to take the General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE Ordinary Level) to determine who would enter Sixth Form, college or university, and who would not.

The New System of Education:

In the new 6-3-3-4 system of education, the first six years consist of primary education followed by three years of junior secondary education for all primary school graduates. This 6-3 block (a total of 9 years) makes up the formal part of basic education. At the end of junior secondary school, students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) which, together with their continuous assessment profiles, determines whether they will continue their education at general or specialist senior secondary schools or proceed to technical and vocational schools of varying course content and duration.

For more information: www.mbsse.gov.sl https://usl.edu.sl/fbc/ www.njala.edu.sl www.statistics.sl