- Early childhood care and education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Primary and secondary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Tertiary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
While the Basic and Secondary Education Act passed in 2018 could not be found, the Education Act of 1992 refers to two different type of non-state schools operating in The Gambia: assisted schools, which are “any school(s), other than a government school, to or in respect of which a grant is made from the general revenue of the country” and private schools, broadly defined as “school(s) other than a government or assisted school”. The Education Sector Policy 2016-30 refers to non-state education actors in The Gambia as private individuals or organizations, religious missions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, and local communities.
According to the Children’s Act 2005 (Article 18) and the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia of 1997 (last amended in 2000), the state is obliged to provide 9 years of free and compulsory basic education (Article 30), which includes lower basic (6 years, ages 7 – 12) and upper basic (3 years, ages 13 – 15) education levels. Senior secondary education (3 years, ages 16 – 18) is free for all citizens in The Gambia, while the revised Draft Constitution 2020 (presented to the President in March 2020 for approval) plans to also make it compulsory. During these 9 years of compulsory, basic education, most education (51% of schools, 60% of total enrolment) is provided by the state, while the state provides significantly less education (33% of schools, 27% of total enrolments) at senior secondary level. English is the official language of instruction at all education levels besides grades 1 – 3, where five out of the 10 national languages are used (Mandinka, Fula, Wollof, Jola and Serahulleh).
Non-state managed, state schools
No information was found.
Non-state funded, state schools
No information was found.
Non-state schools are categorized into madrassas (22%), private schools (21%), and grant-aided schools (8%). The state only accounts for 48% of schools at primary and secondary level.
Independent, non-state schools
Private schools are independent non-state schools which are managed, operated, and funded by private individuals or organizations mainly for profit. These schools charge tuition fees and are mostly required to follow the national curriculum, with some schools allowed (subject to MoBSE approval) to follow international curriculum and examination systems such as Cambridge international schools. While the government does not distinguish them in its official documents, external research has also documented the existence of low-fee private schools in The Gambia.
State-funded (government-aided), non-state schools
Grant-aided schools are non-state schools which are managed and operated by religious, charitable, or philanthropic organizations that are primarily financed by the state through grants, and often considered part of the state school system in The Gambia. To be considered eligible to receive aid, these schools are required to adhere to certain conditions, which include operating on a non-profit basis, and allowing the state to regulate their admissions and fee-levying structure. According to the Education Sector Policy 2016-30, the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) has developed a School Improvement Grant which aims to make lower and upper basic education free in all grant-aided schools, with parents or guardians only meeting the costs of school stationary and uniforms. The state mostly funds these schools at senior secondary level, with grant-aided schools covering 22% of all schools and 51% of total enrolments.
The most prominent non-state schools in The Gambia are Madrassas (covering 22% of all schools and 19% of total enrolments), which are Islamic schools managed and operated by religious organizations, providing Islamic education with Arabic as their language of instruction. While these schools are officially recognized and registered as private schools in The Gambia (independently operated and charging tuition fees for operation), 70% of their expenditures are covered by the state through the provision of classrooms, toilets, and facilities (in addition to financial assistance from foreign religious organizations). To be eligible for state assistance, Madrassas are required to comply with certain standards, which include being registered with the MoBSE and following the national curriculum in addition to religious instruction. According to the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2016-30, the state eventually intends to integrate these schools into the regular education system of The Gambia.
Contracted, non-state schools
No information was found.
Community schools are schools which are established and operated by local communities, and primarily funded and supplied with teachers by the state. These schools follow the national curriculum and are eventually taken over by the state and considered state schools.
While no legal provision is provided for homeschooling in The Gambia, during the COVID-19 country-wide school closures in March 2020, the MoBSE initiated distance learning programs through radio and television, while social media platforms were utilized to facilitate interaction between teachers, parents, and students.
Market contracted (Voucher schools)
No information was found.
Koranic schools, also referred to as majalis or daara, are unrecognized schools operated and managed by religious leaders which primarily focus on memorization of passages from the Quran, while children are not taught how to read or write in Arabic, English, or local languages. Children attending Koranic schools are considered out-of-school in The Gambia, while the MoBSE has piloted a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme to 17 of these centers, reaching approximately 1,500 children. Under the CCT, religious leaders are provided with a monthly per-student subsidy of 100 Gambian Dalassi (1.93 USD) on the condition that children receive instruction in literacy and numeracy on specific days from identified facilitators.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) also monitors and verifies the registration status of private schools in the country in accordance with national rules and regulations through the Progress Report on Private Schools, which includes information on implementation procedures, unregistered schools, and conditions for school closures. Schools are classified according to their level of approval, including ‘approved’, ‘provisional approval’, and ‘closure’. In 2020, the MoBSE warned private school proprietors and operators to “desist from practices such as illegal operations among others”, otherwise “disciplinary measures will be taken against those who fail to comply”. Several schools were found to be operating in disregard of the national curriculum, hiring unqualified teachers, and not registering their students for national examinations, which violate the Education Act. The reason for the rapid spread of private schools is stated to be due to violations in the registration process, laxity in the monitoring process, delay in the registration process, and high demand (especially at the early childhood education level).
The governance of the education system in The Gambia has been split into the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), which supervises all education from early childhood to senior secondary level (including private schools, grant-aided schools, and Madrassas), and the centralized Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST) which supervises tertiary education. The General Secretariat for Islamic and Arabic Education (GSIAE or Amaanah) is the umbrella body of all Madrassa education providers in the country, which supervises Madrassas in close collaboration with the MoBSE.
In an effort to harmonize education decentralization within the context of the Local Government Act of 2002, the MoBSE has established six Regional Education Directorates in each region, which are responsible for local education operations and policy implementation in regions within their jurisdiction. The MoHERST on the other hand remains highly centralized in its operations.
Vision: According to the Education Sector Policy 2016-30, non-state actors including the private sector, religious organizations, civil society, NGOs, and communities are highly encouraged to participate in the provision of education in The Gambia, with both Ministries planning on developing a partnership strategy to further mobilize and guide non-state education delivery.
Early childhood care and education (ECCE) in The Gambia, which covers ages 3 – 6, is mainly provided by non-state actors (69% of centers, 74% of total enrolments), and is categorized into state centers, grant-aided centers (community-run and funded by the state), private centers (run by private individuals, organizations or NGOs), and Madrassas run by religious organizations. Private ECCE centers provide most ECCE services in the country, covering 46% of all centers and 56% of total enrolments, while Madrassas come second with 19% of total schools and enrolments. According to the Education Sector Policy 2016-30, the state plans to introduce universal access to ECCE through strong links with NGOs and communities.
Registration and approval: For an organization or individual to establish an ECCE centre in The Gambia, an application must be made through the Local Government Authorities to the Permanent Secretary of the MoBSE, accompanied by the required registration fee, sketch plan of the proposed facilities and location (with established infrastructure standards), list of staff, as well as evidence that the applicant has sufficient financial resources to operate the centre without any state assistance. According to the Revised Guidelines for the Opening of Private and Other Schools in The Gambia 1998, all ECCE centres are additionally required to be registered with the Association of Early Childhood Educators.
License: Once the application is received, the relevant local education authorities will inspect the proposed ECCE centre to determine whether the required standards are met and (if satisfied) will grant the license to operate (through the MoBSE) once the required fee has been paid.
Profit-making: No information was found.
Taxes and subsidies: The state mainly supports the establishment of community based ECCE centres (referred to as “aided” centres) which receive monthly teacher grants of 30 USD and technical assistance in operations. According to the Children’s Act 2005, the state provides additional financial and technical support to ECCE centers in deprived and rural areas, many of which have been integrated into lower basic schools. The Education Sector Policy 2016-30 states that the MoBSE plans to enhance its support in early childhood education through close collaboration with the non-state sector, while non-Gambians are encouraged to invest in ECCE under the condition that they partner with a Gambian holding 49% of the shares.
Curriculum and education standards: Community-based ECCE centres are required to follow a structured, play-based curriculum with clear learning standards developed by the MoBSE that promotes early stimulation and children’s healthy development in preparation for lower basic education. Private centres and Madrassas, however, tend to utilize their own curriculum and learning standards to ensure a smooth transition into lower basic education schools run by similar organizations. The MoBSE has implemented the Program for the Improvement of Quality and Standards in Schools with the aim to ensure a standardized curriculum in all centers.
Teaching profession: All teachers and caregivers in ECCE centers are required to be qualified or trainable in ECCE. The Revised Guidelines for the Opening of Private and Other Schools in the Gambia 1998 additionally state that any centers wishing to enroll one-year-old children are required to employ a qualified nursing assistant. Caregivers in community centers however are often volunteers and may receive ad-hoc payments from community members or philanthropists.
Fee-setting: While private ECCE centres and Madrassas charge fees for operation, no information was found on fee-setting regulations.
Admission selection and processes: No information was found.
Policies for vulnerable groups: In an effort to increase access to early childhood education for orphan and vulnerable children in rural and deprived areas in The Gambia, the MoBSE launched the Annexation Strategy which integrated ECCE centres into lower basic schools in the area. Rural areas were deliberately chosen as children residing in these areas tend to have lower access to ECCE due to distance, availability, and fees.
Inspection: According to Children’s Act 2005, local education authorities inspect the premises, records, books, and accounts of all ECCE centers within their jurisdiction once every six months (reporting to the Standards and Quality Assurance Directorate under the MoBSE).
Child assessment: No information was found.
Reporting requirements: All ECCE centers are required to keep accounts, records, and books as specified by the MoBSE (to be inspected at any time by the local education authorities).
Sanctions: If any center is found to be managed inefficiently or not in the best interests of the children, the MoBSE may suspend the center’s license and require the owner or manager to amend any issues within a given timeframe. If these are not amended, the license may be cancelled. The Act additionally states that if any person hinders the investigation, they will be liable upon conviction to a fine of up to 50,000 dalasis (966.18 USD) and/or imprisonment for 2 years. According to the Children’s Act 2005, if any center is found to be operating without the required license, the MoBSE has the authority to close the center after giving the owner or manager a 14 days’ notice. The Education Sector Policy 2016-30 states that the MoBSE plans to develop specific standards to be maintained for non-state ECCE centres.
Registration and approval: Any individual, organization, or community wishing to establish a non-state school in The Gambia (whether a private school, Madrassa, or community-based school) is required to make an application to the office of the Permanent Secretary of the MoBSE (through the relevant Local Government Authority). All applications must be accompanied by infrastructure details of the proposed school (which are required to comply with school building standards), qualifications and nationality of the teaching staff (with at least on proprietor required to be Gambian), and available financial resources. Community schools are additionally required to specify details of the villages forming the school’s catchment area and water and sanitation facilities available. All schools must meet the minimum requirements in classroom size and teacher-student ratio of 45:1.
License: If the required criteria have been met and the school plans to be run in accordance with national policy objectives, provisional approval is granted for 3 years, after which permanent approval will be granted if the school is deemed fit to continue operating as a non-state school (with community schools being formally registered as state schools).
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH): Community schools are required to have adequate and separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls (as well as piped water supply or well), while the state provides separate sanitary facilities for girls in Madrassas.
Profit-making: Independent private schools may operate for profit, whereas grant-aided private schools receiving financial and/or technical assistance from the state are required to be operating on a non-profit basis.
Taxes and subsidies: All private schools operating in The Gambia may apply for conditional financial assistance from the state in the form of grants after five years of operation if they adhere to certain standards, which include operating on a non-profit basis and submitting annual financial reports to the MoBSE. In the case of Madrassas, professional and technical assistance is provided if the schools are formally registered under the MoBSE and follow core curriculum subjects set by the MoBSE. The assistance provided to Madrassas includes the provision English textbooks, teacher training, and assistance in school construction and curriculum development. Community schools (registered as state schools) are primarily financed by the state, which additionally supplies them with teachers.
Curriculum and education standards: While the majority of private schools follow the national curriculum, registered Madrassas are required to offer core curriculum subjects such as English, Mathematics, and Science and Environmental studies in addition to religious instruction.
Textbooks and learning materials: According to the Women’s Act 2010, all textbooks used in schools (whether state or non-state) are required to eliminate any stereotypes that discriminate against women or girls. In the case of Madrassas, the state provides schools with English textbooks to encourage the teaching of the English language and core curriculum subjects.
Teaching profession: At least 30% of the teaching staff at grant-aided schools is required to be Gambian nationals, while the Revised Guidelines for the Opening of Private and Other Schools in the Gambia 1998 additionally provide a list of required qualifications for teachers employed in aided primary, upper basic, and secondary schools. Teacher salaries for grant-aided schools and registered Madrassas are funded by the state, while community schools are directly supplied with teachers by the state. All teachers in the Gambia are covered under the Labour Act 2007, which includes minimum conditions of employment.
Corporal punishment: Corporal punishment is lawful in all schools in The Gambia according to the regulations set under the Education Act of 1992 (Art.15) which state that “firm discipline shall be maintained and enforced in all schools, but all degrading and injurious punishments are prohibited”. The regulations specifically state that corporal punishment may only be administered by a headteacher or assistant teacher (in the presence of the headteacher) and only in exceptional circumstances to female pupils by a female teacher. The Women’s Act 2010 protects girls from any form of violence in state or private institutions, while not clearly prohibiting all physical punishment of children.
Other safety measures and COVID-19: As schools planned to reopen following the country-wide school closures due to COVID-19 in 2020, the MoBSE provided sanitary facilities and supplies to all schools to meet minimum hygiene standards and ensure safe resumption of teaching and learning.
Fee-setting: While independent private schools and Madrassas are free to determine their own fees, non-profit grant-aided schools are required to levy fees based on government standards. According to the Revised Guidelines for the Opening of Private and Other Schools in the Gambia 1998, grant-aided schools operating at lower basic level are prohibited from levying fees, while aided schools operating at upper basic and senior secondary level may only charge tuition fees regulated by the state.
Admission selection and processes: The guidelines for non-state schools require all schools to admit students on a non-discriminatory basis, while the admissions process for grant-aided schools is stated to be regulated by the MoBSE (without however specifying further details on how this process is regulated).
Policies for vulnerable groups: No information was found.
Reporting requirements: All grant-aided and private schools keep books and records with information on their tuition fees, staff qualifications, and management. Grant-aided schools that are run on non-profit-making basis are additionally required to submit financial accounts to the MoBSE for audit on an annual basis.
School inspection: The Standards and Quality Assurance Directorate under the MoBSE is responsible for monitoring and supervising the compliance of all non-state schools to national standards and regulations in The Gambia, which is directly supervised and reported on by local education authorities in each region. All non-state schools are additionally required to be open to inspections by local education authorities “at any time”.
Student assessment: All state, private, and grant-aided schools follow the West African Examinations Council syllabus for examination and sit for national examinations. Non-state schools that are not funded by the state may additionally present their students as candidates for other external examinations such as the London General Certificate Examination.
Diplomas and degrees: According to the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2016-30, whereas state schools take the West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations at the end of senior secondary school, private school students take the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. In the case of Madrassas, any certificates issued are required to be the same as regular schools, with grades printed in both Arabic and English and signed both by the Director of the MoBSE and the Principal of the Madrassa institute.
Sanctions: The MoBSE has the authority to order the closure a non-state school within the provisions of the act.
Tertiary education is provided by state institutions (covering over 60% of total enrolments) and private (non-state) institutions which include programs in Islamic courses, medical studies and social sciences. According to the National Tertiary and Higher Education Policy 2014-23 and the Education Sector Policy 2016-30, the MoHERST strongly encourages the increasing establishment of non-state institutions to address existing skill gaps and assist the state in responding to the increased demand for tertiary education.
Registration and approval: Any individual, legal entity, or trust wishing to establish a non-state tertiary education institution (TEI) in The Gambia must make an application to be registered and accredited with the Governing Council of the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority (NAQAA). According to the Guidelines for the Establishment of Universities/Institutions of Higher Learning 2019 , all applications must be accompanied by a non-refundable registration fee, mission statement, list of programs offered, and the name of the recognized university which the institution will be affiliated with (required for the first 7 years of operation).
License: Following an inspection of the proposed facilities and finances of the institution, and if the NAQAA is satisfied that the required criteria have been met, the NAQAA issues the TEI a license to operate with the approval of the MoHERST. All registered non-state TEIs are required to renew their registration with the NAQAA, which may withdraw funding or require the institution to pay a fine if not renewed within the given timeframe specified in the registration process.
Profit-making: No information was found.
Taxes and subsidies: No information was found.
Curriculum and education standards: The curriculum and programs offered at all TEIs must be approved by the NAQAA upon registration and based on the guidelines for curriculum development set out by the MoHERST. According to the Education Sector Policy 2016-30, all TEIs are encouraged to develop their curriculum guided by peace education, sustainable development, global citizenship, and climate change.
Teaching profession: The qualifications and experience of any academic staff employed at a non-state TEI must be listed upon registration for approval by the NAQAA, while each department is required to have a Head with a degree higher than the one being offered.
Fee-setting: Any tuition fees charged by non-state TEIs are required to be listed and approved by the NAQAA upon registration.
Admission selection and processes: No information was found.
Board: All non-state TEIs are required to be governed by a Board of Trustees, Governance Council and Executive Committee. Moreover, each institution must have Chief Officers as listed in the Guidelines for the Establishment of Universities/Institutions of Higher Learning 2019, which include a Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, and a Registrar.
Reporting requirements: All state and non-state TEIs are required to keep records, reports, and financial statements to be submitted and inspected by the NAQAA.
Inspection: The NAQAA is responsible for regulating and monitoring the quality of all non-state TEIs in The Gambia through external quality reviews of academic programs, governance, and financial accounts, as well as ensuring effective internal quality assurance processes are in place (with no specific information on inspections found).
Assessment: No information was found.
Diplomas and degrees : According to the Education Sector Policy 2016-30, any certification, degree, or diploma offered at a non-state TEI will be strictly monitored by the NAQAA to ensure compliance with any set standards.
Sanctions: According to the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority Act of 2015, if any institution is found to be operating below minimum standard during any inspection or review, the NAQAA will formally notify the TEI to rectify any deficiencies within a period of 3 months. If the institution fails to rectify any required issues, the NAQAA may recommend the closure of the institution to the MoHERST.
There are two main forms of private supplementary tutoring in The Gambia: fee-based, private tutoring companies in urban settings managed by non-state (mostly foreign) actors, and private tutoring classes in rural settings provided by state school teachers either in school settings or as out-of-school lessons commonly referred to as “studies”. Private companies in urban settings tend to cater to students in secondary and tertiary levels, while schoolteachers in rural settings mainly cater to students in basic education levels, such as grades 3 and 5 which are preparing for entry into upper basic level. Whereas the practice is often reported as increasingly prevalent in both urban and rural settings, regulations were only found in regard to teachers providing these services, while private tutoring companies tend to operate as companies under existing market forces.
Private tutoring centers in The Gambia are registered as companies under the Companies Act.
No information was found.
Teachers are prohibited from providing private tutoring lessons on school premises, as well as collecting any fees for supplementary lessons during school hours, which the MoBSE monitors during inspections. However, free remedial lessons for targeted students most in need are allowed under the strict direction of School Managed Committees or Boards of Governors.