The British school system in The Gambia destines that children in the age from four to six visit a "Nursery School" (preschool) for three 3 years, in which they, inter alia, learn the basics of the English language before they enroll formally in the "Primary School" with seven years. Elementary school goes from the 1st to the 6th grade. At the end of 6th grade exams will be held in which the suitability of the so-called "Middle School" is determined. This includes grades 7 to 9, annual exams must be completed before a possible visit of the following "Secondary School". The Secondary School includes grade 10 to 12, and closes with the A-level examination which authorizes to university. Although school system is derived from the British system, a general education is compulsory but only in the "Greater Banjul Area", the little stretch of coast of Gambia.
The visit of public and private schools cost money. The annual fee for a student in grade nine is about 20 Euro at Salikenni. Even this amount is not effortable for many families. Thus, only 75 percent of children go to primary school, in the "Middle School" about half of the boys and 40 percent of girls are still enrolled. If the parents can no longer pay they declare school as completed. School fees cause the high illiteracy rate of about 60 percent in the Gambia as this leads to the fact that parents take children out of tuition because of lack of money.
English is the official language in all schools, in secondary schools they offer french as a foreign language and at Koran schools you can learn Arabic. The children learn in preschool first words and phrases in English. Nevertheless, most graduates in The Gambia have great difficulties with the English grammar, reading comprehension and writing skills. At the end of 9th grade students in Gambia lay down a formal test, which is conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC). The results of these tests has been very dissappointing for years. From 2006 to 2009, more than 2/3 of the students received the bad score possible ("F") in the central subjects of English and mathematics. The current results are unfortunately not available.