Primary Education

Government primary schools teach in Swahili and English in the English medium based schools . A number of private primary schools, with substantial attendance fees, teach in English. Ethnic community languages (other than Kiswahili) are not allowed as language of instruction, neither are they taught as subjects, though they might be used unofficially (illegally) in some cases in initial education.

It is compulsory for every child who has reached the age of seven years to be enrolled for primary education.

Elimination of tuition
Primary school tuition in public schools was eliminated in 2002, but families still must pay for school supplies.

Enrollment and teaching statistics
Free tuition has led to a massive increase in the number of children enrolled in primary schools, from 4,839,361 in 2001 to 7,959,884 in 2006 to 8,410,000 in 2008.

This increase has not been accompanied by a proportional increase in resources for teachers, classrooms, and books. The ratio of pupils to qualified teachers nationwide in 2010 was 54:1, which was 35% above the goal of 40:1. Every region exceeded the goal except for Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam. Only three percent of students in Standard VI nationwide had sole use of a mathematics textbook in 2007 compared to seven percent in 2000.

In 2006, the gross primary enrollment rate was 110.3%, and the net primary enrollment rate was 97.8%. The "gross primary enrollment rate" is the ratio of the total number of students attending primary school to the official primary school-age population. The "net primary enrollment rate" is the ratio of the total number of primary school-age children enrolled in primary school to the official primary school-age population. These rates are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and, therefore, do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2000, 57% of children age 5-14 years attended school.

Curriculum and language of instruction
The Tanzania Institute of Education is the main body responsible for developing the curriculum. It prepares programmes, syllabi, and pedagogical materials such as handbooks and laboratory manuals. It also specifies standards for educational materials, trains teachers in curriculum innovations, monitors curriculum implementation in schools, and evaluates and approves manuscripts intended for school use.

The curriculum is composed of twelve subjects: Kiswahili, mathematics, science, geography, civics, history, English language, vocational subjects, French, religion, information and communication technology, and school sports. The focus of the curriculum is the development of the following competencies among learners: critical and creative thinking, communication, numeracy, technology literacy, personal and social life skills, and independent learning.
Except for eight schools, Kiswahili in 2010 was the medium of instruction in the 15,816 public primary schools nationwide. In contrast, English was the medium of instruction in 539 of the 551 registered private primary schools.

National examinations
Until 1973, a student was required to pass the National Standard IV Exams to continue to Standard V. The exams are still given even though passing is no longer required. The pass rate was 70.6% in 2001, 88.7% in 2003, and 78.5% in 2007.

Under current law, a student must pass the Primary School Leaving Examination at the end of Standard VII to receive a primary school certificate and be eligible to attend public secondary school. In 2009, 49.4% of the 999,070 students who sat for these exams received passing marks. The pass rate has declined alarmingly from over 70% in 2006. The Dar es Salaam region had the highest pass rate (69.8%) while Shinyanga region had the lowest (31.9%). There was a significant disparity in the national pass rate for males (55.6%) versus females (43.2%). This disparity existed to some degree in every region except Kilimanjaro. Kiswahili was the subject that had the highest number of passing marks (69.1%). Mathematics had the lowest passing rate at 21.0%. Of those who passed the exams in 2009, 90.4% were selected to join public secondary schools for the year 2010. There was not enough room in those schools to accommodate everyone who passed.

Pupil achievement levels
In 2000, 82.8% of children in Standard VI on the Tanzanian mainland were at or above reading level 4, "independent reading", which was fourth highest among 14 countries and regions in southern and eastern Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania (mainland), Zambia, Zanzibar). Although only 39.5% of those children were at or above mathematics level 4, "beginning numeracy", that was fifth highest among those countries and regions.
In 2007, the reading achievement level of Standard VI children in Tanzania was higher than that of children in any other country in southern and eastern Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe). The mathematics achievement level of Tanzanian children in Standard VI in 2007 was third highest, behind only Mauritius and Kenya.

The Tanzanian government's commitment to education as an integral part of its social and economic development started shortly after independence. Before independence, educational access was very restricted. The Arusha Declaration was followed in 1967 by the policy document "Education for Self-Reliance", in which education was assigned a seminal role in the transformation of Tanzania to an African socialist society. Universal primary education (UPE) was emphasized in the Musoma Declaration of 1974 as a way of transforming rural society and agriculture, from which it was acknowledged the vast majority of the population would derive their livelihood.

By the early 1980s, external shocks (oil crises, low coffee prices, drought, and war with Uganda) and deficient economic policy caused an economic crisis that needed to be resolved through economic restructuring and recovery. Tanzania's relationship, however, with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was tense because of differing perspectives on the root causes of the economic crisis and how to handle it. Tanzanian policy makers attributed the crisis to exogenous shocks, while the World Bank and the IMF stressed deficient economic policies and institutions as the root cause. For the education sector, this period saw a huge reduction in resources that lead to a reversal of progress made towards UPE during the 1970s and declining quantity and quality at all levels of education.

Despite subsequent progress from the economic reform efforts of the late 1980s and 1990s, social indicators were stagnating, including progress towards UPE. In 1995, the Ministry of Education prepared an Education and Training Master Plan. This was updated and further elaborated in a new phase of government policy embodied in the Education Sector Development Program (ESDP) of 1997 (revised in 2001), a program formulated to run from 1998 to 2007 and to have large scale impact that would accelerate progress on stagnating education indicators. The government also committed to the goals listed in the World Declaration on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs, which was issued in Jomtien, Thailand in 2000.

Within the larger ESDP, the government, together with civil society stakeholders and donors, formulated a Primary Education Development Program (PEDP) that took effect 2 January 2002 and ran to 2009. The World Bank supported the PEDP with a US$150 million Sector Adjustment Credit in 2001, which was supplemented by a US$50 million contribution by the Netherlands. The objectives of the PEDP were to: (1) expand school access; (2) improve education quality; and (3) increase school retention at the primary level. These objectives would be achieved through improved resource allocation and utilization, improved educational inputs, and strengthened institutional arrangements for effective primary education delivery. The PEDP introduced, among other reforms, Capitation and Development Grants for direct disbursement to primary schools.

The government's National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (2005) included a focus on education as part of its second cluster that deals with social well being and quality of life.