The system was organized by the French colonialists and is memory-based with rote skills mandated in contrast to the American system which focuses more on critical thinking and problem solving. Discipline is strong and students are respectful. Exams are taken every year to pass to the next level. Since not everyone passes, it is not uncommon to repeat a year which makes for a wide range of ages in the high schools. Normal graduation age is 19, but there are many high school students in their early 20’s. Vocational/technical schools are available and teach accounting, etc., in lieu of academics.
In the past, school was not as important for girls as for boys because education was not required for traditional women’s tasks. Today’s Togolese recognize the need for girls’ education and more girls are staying in school longer, although many still do not finish high school and instead go on to take apprenticeships in hair styling or tailoring.
Public schools cost the equivalent of $7.00 per year for primary grades and $15 to $20 for secondary grades. Private schools are about 5 times as expensive but classes are proportionally smaller (20 vs. 100 students) and books are more plentiful. Education is very significant to the Togolese and many impoverished parents sacrifice much to pay the school fees. These may seem low to us, but they are high when the average income is $30/month.