Education Stages

Early education
Preschools are directed by the Early Childhood Development (ECD) system under the Ministry of Primary and Second Education. Early childhood education is offered for children from the ages of three to five through the ECD. According to United Nations and the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality, Zimbabwe is prioritizing and expanding Early Childhood Development by offering early childhood education at primary schools. These programs are currently available in mostly urban areas and can be owned by the government, organizations or individuals. In fact, 98 percent of primary schools have ECD centers for ages four to five and 60 percent of primary schools have ECD centers for ages three to four with trained teachers.

Primary education
Zimbabwe's education system mandates seven years of primary school, encompassing Grades 1 to 7. Urban primary schools teach in English. Rural primary schools teach students in their local native language, typically in Shona or Ndebele, then transition to English by Grade 3. Student to teacher ratios are typically from 30 to 50 students per teacher; however, this varies based on location, the country's economic state and yearly budget for education. The curriculum in primary schools encompasses Language, Art, Contents and Math. Based on the Education Secretary's Policy Circular No. 12 in 1987, "the minimum expected educational outcome for all students is functional literacy and numeracy by the end of primary school."

At the end of Grade 7, students take a national examination in Mathematics, English, Shona or Ndebele and the General Paper covering Social Sciences, Environmental Science and Religious Education. Zimbabwe's government system requires education for all, but this examination can determine the type of secondary school students can attend based on the school's criteria. Private or religious schools typically have performance requirements, but many rural public schools allow "mass admission" regardless of performance on the examination.

Secondary education
Secondary education is not funded by the government and students can attend private boarding schools, government boarding school or day school, all with an enrollment fee. Secondary education is made up of two cycles, the General Certificate of Education, or Ordinary Level, for four years and the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level, or Advanced Level, for two years. This structure was adopted from the British system of education.

Students take classes in Mathematics, English, Science, Shona or Ndebele, Geography, and History. The Ordinary Level Certificate Examination is taken after four years in Grade 11 and expects students to pass a minimum of five subjects including Science, English, Mathematics, History and a practical subject like woodwork or agriculture. This examination is ranked on a letter scale and can determine student achievement, selection for "A-Level" schools and employment status.

Students have the option to enroll in A-Level secondary education or can attend teacher training, technical, agricultural, polytechnic and nursing colleges. If a student chooses to enroll in A-Level education, they must take the Advanced Level Certificate Examination after a total of six years of secondary education administered by the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council. The "A-Level" examination is required for entry to universities in Zimbabwe.

Tertiary education
The tertiary sector of education is operated by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education which includes universities, technical, polytechnic and teacher training colleges and various vocational training centers. Tertiary education was first introduced to Zimbabwe in 1957 by the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, now known as the University of Zimbabwe. The nation's independency in 1980 expanded the University of Zimbabwe's enrollment from 2,240 to 9,017 by 1990. The National Council for Higher Education was established in 1990 as a measure of quality insurance of higher education in Zimbabwe. Increasing access to education in recent decades has increased the number of higher level institutions in the country. For example, eight more universities were established between 1999 and 2005. The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) was formed in 2006 as another measure to guarantee quality and accreditation for university education. As of 2012, there were fifteen registered universities (nine public and five private), fifteen teachers' colleges, eight polytechnics and two industrial training colleges.