The standard of education and schools in Zambia varies. The public schooling system remains poorly funded and lacks resources, but there are a number of good private and international schools in the country, offering a superior quality of education.
The majority of expats living in Zambia choose to send their children to international schools. These schools mostly follow the American or British curricula and are often located in Lusaka. Expats living outside the main cities or towns in Zambia may struggle to find suitable schools for their children, and may consider homeschooling as an option.
Public schools in Zambia
In Zambia, public schooling is free and compulsory from age seven to 14 (Grades 1 to 9). That said, parents are still expected to cover additional costs such as uniforms, stationery and books.
English is the primary language of instruction in Zambian public schools; children are also required to learn an additional local language, depending on their provincial district.
Though public schools in Zambia's large cities are better off than those in rural areas, education is still underfunded and under-resourced. Many expats find that these schools don't meet expected standards and opt for private or international schools instead.
Private schools in Zambia
Private schools operate independently of the Zambian government and have more flexibility in terms of their admissions procedures, curricula and language of instruction. These schools often teach through a religious lens, though.
The standard of education at the more affluent private schools generally exceeds that of public schools, and these schools, particularly those in Lusaka, offer better facilities and opportunities for students. They do not, however, come cheap; fees can be high and therefore far out of the reach of many ordinary Zambians.
International schools in Zambia
There are several international schools in Zambia, mostly based in Lusaka. Most of these follow American and British curricula, while some offer the International Baccalaureate programme.
Unlike at public and private schools, the school year at international schools in Zambia typically run according to their country of origin’s academic year. For example, some American schools follow the typical US school year beginning in August rather than Zambia's school year, which begins in January. International schools are usually prohibitively expensive, and expat parents should consider this cost carefully when moving to Zambia.
Homeschooling in Zambia
Expats living in the rural areas of Zambia with no access to quality education for their children may consider homeschooling as an option. There are a few support groups and plenty of resources online for parents in Zambia who choose this path.
Special-needs education in Zambia
The Ministry of Education in Zambia and the government’s Inclusive Schooling Programme (INSPRO) aim, as far as possible, to allow children with special educational needs to remain in mainstream schools. That said, special-needs education is still somewhat limited in Zambia. While the need for integrated classes is recognised, few schools can afford the resources and staff to support this, particularly in public schools.
There are a few special schools scattered across Zambia that cater specifically for learners with disabilities and special needs, but private and international schools are more likely to offer learning support programmes to a greater diversity of learning needs. We recommend that expat parents contact the schools directly to find out what support services they offer.
Tutors in Zambia
There are tutors available in Zambia, but mainly in the bigger cities and other expat enclaves. Whether students want to remain ahead of the academic curve, would like to learn a local language, or require extra support close to exam time, private tutors can help prepare and support children. The best way to find a tutor is by making inquiries from the child's school, networking, and getting info from other expat families. A number of private tutoring companies can also be found online.
►For info about the quality of public and private medical treatment, see Healthcare in Zambia
"There are choices here. There are two IB schools, one more on the American side and one more on the British side. There’s a British School, Italian School and French School. All have great reputations. Research before you choose one. Many families choose the American School as it’s the most expensive thinking this means it’s the best. It is a great school, but may not be the best fit for your family."
Learn more about education and the expat experience in Zambia in our interview with Canadian expat Tima.
Are you an expat living in Zambia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Zambia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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