2 + 2 = 4 Posted on May 5th, 2010 by

This year I have been teaching in a Tanzanian school.  It has been interesting to see how things differ between schooling here and in the States.  Here is a look at some of the things I’ve noticed. 

In Tanzania school years are arranged a bit differently.  You start out at age seven with primary schooling which consists of seven years, called Standards.  These first seven years are mandatory.  After that, if you wish, you progress to a secondary school for four more years.  At this level grades are known as forms and are not required by the government.  And when you’ve completed Form IV, if you have passed your exams you can continue with Forms V and VI.   In these two forms you choose a ‘career-track’ which formulates three major class focuses.  For example, if you wanted to be a doctor you would take the PCB track in which you focus on physics, chemistry and biology.  Once you’ve graduated from that, you are able to go to college or university, which an increasing number of students are doing. 

Unlike in the States, schooling here is not free.  Tuition, books, stationary and uniforms all incur costs that, only some of which is covered by the government. Unfortunately, this means that some families don’t have enough capital to send all their children through school.

Another difference is dress.  All Tanzanian school have strict dress codes and students wear school uniforms.  Depending on the school colours, the uniform is usually wine-red or navy-blue (though any colour is possible) slacks for boys and skirts for girls with a white shirt or blouse.  Shoes are traditionally black Dockers which are meticulously buffed to the teachers’ standards. 

School systems in Tanzania aren’t standardized as they are in the States. Many public schools are gender segregated and there are also many more private schools here.  Most Tanzanian schoolchildren board at their schools.  This is partly due to the fact that many children are sent half way across the country to a school.  This happens because the closest good school may be that far away, the child wants more independence, or for other reasons.  Some families even choose to send their children out of country.

Unlike in the States, here you don’t get to choose your classes until Form VI.  Until then you take the same classes with all your classmates for all four years of secondary school.  For example, at my school those classes would be, Physics, Biology, Kiswahili, English, Computer Studies, Bible Knowledge, Geography, Civics, Commerce, Book-Keeping, Chemistry, and Basic Mathematics.  Class schedules are arranged in typical American university fashion, with certain classes on different days. 

Due to the lack of teaching staff and budget, classes are crowded and often have over 60 students per room.  Your typical classroom has one old pitted chalkboard at the front, bared windows, and rows of wooden desks and benches crowded with students. 

Tanzanians recognize English as an important international language and as so, English is taught from primary school and upon reaching secondary school, all classes are taught in English.  Of course having been a former British colony, Tanzanian teaches proper British English. I particularly love this point of being taught in a second language, though it can be incredibly difficult,  because it helps fluency so much.  I wish my schooling could have been done in such a manner. 

As for similarities, Tanzanian schools, like those in the States, have many standardized tests.  To graduate from Form IV, you must pass standardized exams in all subjects that, I would say, are more rigorous than their American equivalents. 

Another big difference is out-of-class work.  There are no janitors or custodians here.  It is the students that are required to keep the school clean and in order.  Additionally some schools have shamba or farms on which


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