Education Systems in Africa Part VI: Burundi

Burundi’s education system aims to produce capable, creative and innovative citizens well-versed in national values and prepared for life in a changing world. Burundi is unusual among African countries in that it has one widely-spoken language, Kirundi. Students are taught in Kirundi and French, the nation’s administrative language.             

Pre-primary education in Burundi, for 3 to 6-year-olds, is largely provided by private schools. Primary education begins at age 7 or 8 and lasts 6 years; at the end of the sixth year students sit for exit exams to determine their placement in secondary school. Depending on whether they wish to end their formal education at the high school level or pursue further studies at a university or technical school, secondary students may follow a general track, a scientific track, or a modern letters track. High school graduates earn a baccalaureate certificate.

The following chart depicts the grading scale for secondary and post secondary institutions:

Scale

Description

Translation

U.S. Grade Equivalent

90-100%

Excellent

Excellent

A

80-89%

La plus grande distinction

Highest Distinction

B+

70-79%

Grande distinction

High Distinction

B

60-69%

Distinction

Distinction

C

50-59%

Satisfaction

Satisfactory

D

0-50%

Ajourné

Fail

F

Primary school students study Kirundi, French, mathematics, science, history and religion. Instruction in art, music, agriculture, home economics and physical education are also offered; some schools teach English as well.

Secondary students learn Kirundi, French, English, history and geography, mathematics, earth science and biology; depending on a student’s track he or she may also take economics, physics, chemistry, civics and philosophy. Agriculture, technical design, and other hands-on courses may be part of the curriculum for students pursuing a technical track.

Higher education is provided by the public University of Burundi and two small private universities. A number of state technical schools offer degrees in agronomy, nursing, teaching, accounting and other professional disciplines.