South Sudan celebrates its first comprehensive curriculum

With support from its partners, the government of South Sudan has developed its first ever curriculum. A step in the right direction for the youngest country in the world.

October 13, 2015 by Tizie Maphalala, UNICEF
7 minutes read
A new curriculum for generations of children in South Sudan. Credit: UNICEF South Sudan/2015/McKeever

With an adult literacy rate of 27% and only 10% of learners completing primary school, South Sudan needs to fast-track the education system. 

The quality and pace of a country’s socioeconomic development is largely a reflection of its education system. Conscious of this, in 2013, the government of the Republic of South Sudan embarked on a major curriculum reform process to improve the status of education. 

A new vision for a new country

The review of the curriculum was grounded on key legal documents, including the interim Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (2011), the Education Act (2012), and the General Education Strategic Plan (2012- 2017), which guide education and the development of South Sudan.

The country’s vision has been clearly articulated in the National Curriculum Framework:

the curriculum would foster “peace and prosperity, growth and development, harmony and justice. The education of young people of South Sudan should be firmly rooted in their rich culture and heritage and to enable them to grow into true citizens of the world.” (Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 2014)

The new curriculum is key to South Sudan’s identity as a country

This curriculum includes content that is up-to-date, relevant, balanced, gives due emphasis to all subject areas, and is consistent with international norms and expectations. It covers early childhood development, primary (8 years) and secondary (4 years) schooling, as well as alternative education. 

The curriculum is designed to help young people learn about their shared national identity. It supports key values for the country including justice, democracy, tolerance and respect; these values need to become an essential part of young people’s lives.

Human rights and gender equity must also become the norm. Young people’s understanding of, and commitment to, these values is essential to the country’s future, and that’s why they are mainstreamed throughout the curriculum.

A launch in the presence of dignitaries

On September 8, 2015, the Vice President of South Sudan launched the first post-independence national curriculum. The event was attended by the British and Japanese Ambassadors as well as representatives from UNICEF, education donors, development partners and other key education stakeholders.  

The ceremony marked a significant milestone for South Sudan: the ministry announced it had completed the design and content for all learning required for the general education, from grades 1 to 12, in the formal stream and grades 1 to 8 in the non-formal stream.

The launch also applauded the 200 education professionals (including 31 women) comprising curriculum designers, subject experts, university lecturers and teachers, alternative education specialists and facilitators, as well as curriculum experts from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), who worked with the Curriculum Foundation (UK) from 2013 to 2015 to design the new curriculum.

Renewed conflict makes teamwork challenging

Due to displacement as a result of the conflict in December 2013, the major challenge was to track local subject experts, to ensure representation of all ten States in the training and subsequent curriculum writing workshops that were organized periodically in Juba.  

By April 2014, through various networks and tracking modalities including ‘word of mouth’, key specialists had been mobilized, forming a team of 140 who worked on the formal sub-system curriculum (early childhood, primary and secondary).

Then in January 2015 work on the alternative system (accelerated learning program and Community Girls Schools) started with 60 curriculum experts, teachers and alternative education practitioners.

Overall, the set of curriculum materials developed consists of the following:

  • South Sudan Curriculum Framework
  • Subject Overviews: Early childhood development; Primary 1 to 8; Secondary 1 to 4.
  • Syllabi for all subjects: Primary 1 to 8; Secondary 1 to 4
  • Subject overviews: Accelerated Learning Program (a four-year full primary education program) and syllabi 
  • Subject overviews:  Community Girls Schools (a three year lower primary program) and syllabi 
  • Teacher’s Classroom Assessment Guide

South Sudan’s curriculum review process was initiated with DFID support and then as part of the Global Partnership for Education program. So far, the project has used US$2.5 million of the GPE grant.

More resources needed for textbooks

The curriculum launch is the first step in the curriculum review roadmap, which describes the steps leading to full operationalization of the new curriculum, while keeping the focus on improving enrollment and retention of learners.

The critical next steps are textbooks development; initiation of pre- and in-service teacher training aligned to this curriculum, training for school managers, inspectors and supervisors to provide the requisite management and oversight.

In total US$60 million is required to support the full implementation of the new curriculum, the largest expense being the procurement of textbooks.

Therefore it is urgent to mobilize domestic and external resources in order to achieve systematic roll-out of the new curriculum. 

This is a hopeful start. The road is long but Africa’s youngest nation is now on a clearer path to support children’s education for improved learning outcomes.

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Basic education
Sub-Saharan Africa: South Sudan

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This is terrific news! Thank you to all the partners who have been working to develop this material. In addition to the textbooks, it will be very helpful if national examinations are offered at the end of Term 3 of the pupil's Secondary Four year. As it stands now, exams are delayed by 3 months or more. Logistics for boarding students (to return to the exam site if they live far away) and transportation of teachers are costly expenditures for schools. Eligible students may not be able to return from far distances and miss the exams completely. Additionally, exam results would likely be better than previous years if testing is completed before the holidays in December/January. To whom should we advocate regarding the national exam timeline?

Again, thank you for the progress you are making toward a more comprehensive education in South Sudan.

GPE post on South Sudan
The Launch of the South Sudan New Curriculum is the most important achievement and the fulfillment of the aspirations that the people of South Sudan have yearned for. The Launch of the curriculum comes exactly 60 years of the struggle by the people of South Sudan to define their identity and destiny.
The issue raised by one of the Africa ALI about the timing of the examinations is a serious issue that the MOEST is working to harmonize. South Sudan has been going through multiple curricula based on the geographical location of the neighbouring countries. For the past years, effort has been made to phase out these curricula and now we are in the final year of phasing out Sudan curriculum in secondary level of education system. The 3 months delay in exams has a number of implications: e.g. it creates problem of learning space as the school has to accommodate to stream of new and old senior four, stress the teachers who have to teach both classes at the same time, it has financial implication, it demoralize the students as the energy wears out, some girls end dropping out of schools due to many factors, it delays the declaration of the results and hence many students may not meet the deadline to apply to universities as many universities around the world start in August - September.
The MOEST of education is very much aware of this implication and hence it is working with all partners to harmonize the conduct of exams and confirm it within the academic year.

Michael Lopuke Lotyam
Undersecretary - MOEST/ South Sudan

This is indeed a significant milestone. To implement this as the report says, "initiation of pre- and in-service teacher training aligned to this curriculum", it will be imperative to establish a new curriculum for Teacher Training. National Languages and more methodology based on good classroom practice is essential - both aspects are lacking in present training curricula.
These are areas that cannot wait. Continued training using an out-of sync curriculum in Teachers Colleges will just endorse the former Primary curriculum.

Thank you Tizie for the hard work on this



Thanks to the ministry of education in south Sudan for coming up with the curriculum. This time the struggle of starting science practical is an urgent call for because our students are learning the theory of Sir Isaac Newton which can't take us no where in terms of technology. Oh arise you ministry of education

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