Cameroon is one of the only countries that has two educational systems operating simultaneously: one based on its British/Anglophone colonial past and one on its French/Francophone colonial past.
After World War I, Cameroon was divided, with Great Britain ruling one section and France ruling the other. Cameroon gained independence from Great Britain in 1960, becoming the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In a 1961 vote, the southern section of the territory of French Cameroun voted to join the Federal Republic of Cameroon while the northern section voted to join Nigeria. A British-based educational system is offered in the area that was part of the British colony while the area that was once French Cameroun has a French-influenced educational system.
Across the country, education is free and compulsory from ages six to 12, but attendance is not enforced, particularly in more remote and rural areas.
Primary school consists of seven years of education and students are awarded a First School Leaving Certificate upon successful completion of studies. Lower secondary school is five years, and students sit for the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examination at the end of the fifth year. Students who want to gain admission a university attend a two-year upper secondary program. Students sit for the General Certification of Education Advanced level examination at the end of the program.
Vocational education begins after completion of primary school. Lower vocational secondary school is five years and leads to a General Certificate of Education (Technical/Commercial) Ordinary Level. Students can enter the workforce or continue in an upper secondary school program leading to the General Certificate of Education (Technical/Commercial) Advanced Level.
Primary school is six years and leads to a Certificat d’Etudes Primaires Elémentaires (Certificate of Primary Elementary Studies). Lower secondary school (premier cycle) is four years and leads to the Brevet d’Etudes du premier Cycle du Second Degré (Certificate of First Cycle Secondary Studies). Upper secondary school is three years, and at the end of the third year students sit for an examination leading to the Baccalauréat de l’Enseignement Secondaire (Secondary Education Baccalaureate). Note that students are usually 19 years-old upon completion of upper secondary school studies in the Francophone system.
Vocational education in the Francophone system, like the Anglophone system, begins after primary school. Lower vocational secondary education is offered at collèges d’énseignement technique industrielle/CETI (industrial technical education secondary schools). They offer four-year programs leading to a Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle/CAP (Certificate of Professional Ability). Upper vocational secondary education is offered at CETIs and lycées techniques (technical upper secondary schools). They offer three-year programs leading to the Brevet de Technicien (Technician Certficate), Brevet professionnel (Professional Certificate) or the Baccalauréat Technique (Technical Baccalaureate).