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Building the first school (2006)


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Cause for a celebration: The first school diplomas ever!!

“Getting a CEPE is a very big deal for everybody, nobody in their village ever got a CEPE so far”, our friend Dr. Ihanta told us on Skype. “8 of our students from our Fiadanana school took the exam. They had been preparing for weeks every day with their teacher. Seven of our Students passed the exam, while from other village schools only 30% to 50% of the students were so lucky”

seven students get the CEPEIn Madagascar a CEPE is a Certificat d'etudes primaires élémentaires (or Certificate of Primary Studies). A nation-wide standardized test, it can be awarded after attending five years of primary education. Students that don't pass either leave school without a CEPE or may try again after repeating the year in school.

In Madagascar the CEPE - a milestone in a child’s life - is a family affair and is at least as important as getting a high school diploma in the USA. Parents and grandparents accompany their children, who can range from 8 to 16 years of age, to the exam, often far away from home. They buy them a special auspicious lunch (something village children never get) and wait outside rooting for them the entire time. If they pass, they get gifts and in villages their diploma often gets framed, with glass, and hung in a prominent spot in the home.

Zahana’s school in Fiadanana is now 5 years old and these are our first students who qualified to take the CEPE. Established as private schools, Zahana has more educational freedom in choosing a culturally appropriate curriculum, but our children do qualify to take an external exam for the CEPE. Successfully passing the CEPE exam is a prerequisite to enroll in secondary education. The second school in Fiarenana still has a few years to go.

Our students had to walk for two hours with their families to Bevato, the district’s administrative center and sit in a strange new building they had never been in before. While you might wonder why a bottle of Coke is proudly held up like a trophy, this is most likely their only soda this year and something very special.

getting the CEPE in Zahana;'s school inMadagascar

* we found an explanation of the Malagasy school system (which is based on a French educational model) on-line. Please note that in many rural areas in Madagascar there are no schools for the children to attend.

Education is compulsory between 6 and 14 years of age. Primary education lasts for five years, leading to the Certificat d'Etudes primaires élémentaires (CEPE). Secondary education then covers seven years divided into a four-year first cycle and a three-year second cycle. On completion of the first cycle of secondary education in a general or technical Collège, pupils obtain the Brevet d'Etudes du premier Cycle (BEPC). On completion of the second cycle, pupils obtain the Baccalauréat de l'Enseignement secondaire. Pupils not wishing to proceed to university may take only the four-year lower cycle programme. Technical secondary education lasts for three years, also divided into two cycles. At the end of the three-year upper cycle they obtain the Baccalauréat professionnel et technique. (web text end)