The Status of Education and Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe considers access to high-quality and relevant education for all children to be both a basic right and the foundation that underpins the cultural, social, economic, and democratic growth of our nation. The structure of education is now 2-7-4-2: meaning two years of early childhood development (ECD), 7 years of basic primary education, 4 years of secondary education, and 2 years of senior secondary schooling. Although the literacy rate of Zimbabwe is 92%, a need remains to ensure that new schools are built and equipped—particularly in the new resettlement areas. The education sector also still faces the challenge of a curriculum that does not match the country’s developmental needs.

Zimbabwe has reviewed its curriculum to produce a well-grounded learner, capable of contributing meaningfully to the development of the country while leading a fulfilling and happy life. The curriculum rests on five key pillars: the legal and regulatory framework, teacher capacity development, teacher professional standards, infrastructure development, and research and innovation. Zimbabwean children need an early foundation in literacy and numeracy while also being exposed to the fundamental concepts of science and technology. The use of information and communication technology (ICT) grounded in the literature and culture of our nation will develop citizens who are able to confidently move into the world of work and sustain their lives.

The competency-based curriculum being implemented in 2017 with ECD A, grade 1, Form 1 and Form 5 currently has 102 syllabuses for ECD, Primary, and Secondary classes. The aim of the curriculum is to cherish pupils’ Zimbabwean identity and values, prepare learners for life and work as they acquire practical competencies, literacy, and numeracy skills. The curriculum promotes inclusivity, lifelong learning, equity and fairness, and gender sensitivity. The identified exit profiles are skills, knowledge, national identity, values, and attitudinal dispositions.

ECD was formally integrated into the education system in 2005 through a Permanent Secretary Circular and was annexed to existing primary schools. ECD is now bundled together with grades one and two and the four years are known as infant school, grades 3-7 as junior, and forms 1-6 as secondary school. Apart from the various Permanent Secretary and Directors’ circulars and statutory instruments spanning from 2004 to 2014, there is no comprehensive ECD policy in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the ECD sector is underfunded due to weak prevailing economic conditions; most funds for education are allocated to salaries, leaving less than 3% for infrastructure and professional development. The ECD sector has about 427,800 learners taught by 4,000 teachers, with 5,800 more qualified teachers required. Only 21.6% of children age 36-59 months are attending an ECD program.

There is a need to build the capacity of existing educational officials to provide grounding in ECD philosophy, approaches, and methods. The ECD sector has inadequate age-appropriate infrastructure and equipment. Very few learning materials resonate with the play and learn approach and the culture of the nation. For children in the 0-8 year range, 27.6% are stunted and 11.3% are underweight, highlighting the need for school feeding programs.

The general outlook for the education sector in the country looks promising. Education sector financing is key to ensuring that all these plans are implemented and that children have access to great quality education service provision in Zimbabwe.

Related Zimbabwean Education Policies

The 2016-2020 Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) will focus on phasing in the new curriculum, continual provision of professional upgrading, supervision, and other support for the teachers. The ESSP will also focus on increasing access to learning through early identification of children with specific learning needs and more well-equipped classrooms for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and ICT; having the right institutional architecture, great leadership, accountable management, efficient and effective resource utilization, and quality service delivery; as well as pursuing first-class data collection, research, and analysis.

The Education Act, revised in 2006, and other statutory instruments will need to be reviewed, revised, and updated to be consistent with the provisions of the new Constitution. The policy framework will be reviewed, developed, or rationalized. The ESSP commits to preparing and implementing policy on the following: school-level financing, ICT for the education sector, school feeding, inclusive education, assessment for the infant years and review and development of the assessment framework for new areas, policy and/regulatory framework for teacher professional standards, infant/early childhood policy, and finalizing and implementing the school health policy.

The Medium Term Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015 raised the professional status of teachers and enhanced the quality of their teaching by setting professional standards and providing a range of professional development opportunities. A robust Education Management Information System (EMIS) was established, which has credible data that provides for informed decision-making in education.


Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education: The curriculum framework for primary and secondary education 2015-2022

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Sector Plan 2016-2020

Sundaymail. (2016) Dr. Lazarus Dokora.

UNICEF, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014:

For more information:

Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture. (2012). Education medium term plan 2011- 2015: Zimbabwe. Download the report here.

Nyamanhindi Richard. Ministry of Education and UNICEF launch real-time monitoring system.

Republic of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Education sector strategic plan 2016 – 2020: Zimbabwe. Download the report here.