Botswana is the same size as the UK, but with a population of around 250,000 people, there are a lot fewer schools. Still, most parents find something that suits their children - and those that don’t consider boarding schools in South Africa and beyond.
Expat families tend to favour living in Broadhurst as almost all the international schools are an easy drive, or even a short walk, away. The main alternatives chosen are Gaborone West, The Village, Naledi and the current posh choice - the shiny, golf estate of Phakalane, conveniently on the way to the airport.
In Botswana, the different year groups are called standards or grades, with standard/grade 7 the highest at primary level and equivalent to the US sixth grade. So don’t assume, if you are moving from the northern hemisphere, that your child is going ‘back’ a year – it’s just a different numerical system.
Children in this part of the world start school at different ages, so you might find quite an age range in the classroom – one child we know of who arrived from US sixth grade found themselves in a class of 11-15 year-olds. Quite a spread, then, when it comes to maturity levels. Good news is the schools give advice on which year your child will be best suited to, given their development level. Still, ask questions, visit the classes, quiz them about enrichment and think it through.
Secondary schools use different lingo again. Maru-a-Pula, for example, starts with form 1 (which overlaps a bit with standard 7 and sometimes students from local private schools skip straight to form 2 - the admissions person will advise you). Westwood International, on the other hand, starts with year 8, which is a direct continuation from standard 7. All deeply confusing, so get the school to provide a clear explanation of their system.
One more thing to bear in mind - most schools start the day between 7-7:30 am, so it’s early bedtimes all round. But in the end, nothing is too far from anything in Gaborone, so provided the family are early birds, you can be more flexible about your school choice.
All the international schools use—to varying degrees— some form of international curricula or a partially adapted version peculiar to that school. However, at this stage no schools in Botswana are really ‘international schools’ in the sense of having a critical mass of international families come through.
The schools that expats tend to consider are the stand-alone primary or secondary schools or a combined primary-secondary option, the advantage being that children of different ages in the same family can attend school on one campus. Other schools also exist to meet various needs including religious affiliation, commuting time/location, and fees.
All the schools in this area tend to have interesting and extensive after-school activities, including sports programmes. The sports facilities are usually decent, and all the students engage in sports competitions with other local independent schools.
Extra academic and enrichment lessons, delivered via private tutors, are very common in Gaborone. These could be in piano, horse riding, judo, and tae kwon do, among others. The opportunities for extras are always expanding with the fluctuating expatriate population, increasing number of Batswana schooled outside Botswana, and the constantly modernising city.
Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 12-19; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 800 students
Secondary school with rigorous academic programme leading to excellent results, plus offering a wide range of sports and compulsory community service. Often has students in all of the leading 100 global universities including top Ivies, Oxford, Edinburgh and UCL in the UK and McGill in Canada. Sits in 50 acres of grounds.
Click here to read the full Good Schools Guide International review of Maru-a-Pula School.
PYP; ages 4-13; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 550 students
In a residential area close to the Main Mall in Gaborone with charming murals on some of the external walls. Pupils come from over 50 nationalities and are taught in air-conditioned classes of up to 24. Plenty of play spaces, library, swimming pool, outdoor sports field, indoor gym, assembly hall and a covered multi-purpose area. Variety of lunch-time and after school activities available. Accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS).
Click here to read the full Good Schools Guide International review of Northside Primary School.
Adapted curriculum; ages 4-13; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 640 students
On a beautifully landscaped campus, full of indigenous vegetation, in the heart of Gaborone. Teaches core subjects (including ICT), arts and music, French and Setswana. Outdoor education takes full advantage of the natural environment with regular trips to game reserves. Four playgrounds, multi-purpose sports field, (tennis, netball and basketball courts), three swimming pools and a library.
Click here to read the full Good Schools Guide International review of the Thornhill Primary School.
PYP/ MYP/ IB Diploma; ages 4-19; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 610 students
Conveniently located in Gaborone West near Kgale Hill. Students from over 35 nationalities with 55 per cent Batswana. Now teaching the International Baccalaureate programme throughout the school. Strong on music and performing and visual arts and the latter is available as an International Baccalaureate Diploma subject alongside languages, sciences, maths, business and environment studies. PE taught from Reception to Year 7 and sports available as extra-curricular activities. Accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Click here to read the full Good Schools Guide International review of Westwood International School.
The following schools have been brought to our attention, but until we have more reports from parents, we are unable to consider reviewing them.
Adapted National Curriculum for England/ Australian curriculum; ages 4-13; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 400 students
An open-feeling campus, set on a large plot of land to the north-east of the Main Mall, in an area, unsurprisingly, called Broadhurst. Curriculum based on Edward de Bono’s “ thinking skills”, which focus on thinking, study and problem solving, as an additional way of approaching traditional subjects. Historically, famous for its sporting prowess.
Adapted curriculum/ IGCSE; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit
Christian-based curriculum on a modern campus to the west of Gaborone. Additionally, they provide services for students with special needs, as long as they are capable of being taught and looked after, in the existing framework. Parents report being satisfied with the combination of a solid educational system and the additional help available .
Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 11-19; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 600 students
Located near the Central Business District, students follow the IGCSE and A Level curricula. Admissions testing is required to screen students for academic excellence, resulting in Legae’s exam results being among the highest in Gaborone. However, it’s not all about academics as the school participates, enthusiastically, in local independent sports competitions.
Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 12-19; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 680 students
Secondary school that took over the New Era school campus, in the north-west district of Gaborone. Named after the institution founded by the famous missionary in 1843 and aims to incorporate traditional Botswana values into an English-based curriculum.
Adapted curriculum; ages 4-13; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 600 students
Opened in January 1994, located directly opposite Rainbow Secondary School in a residential area in the western part of the city. The school has grown since it opened and now has more than 600 students from various countries, with all classes taught in English. Their sports facilities include soccer and football fields, tennis and netball courts, plus three swimming pools.
Adapted curriculum/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 13-19; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 300 students
On a campus located on the western side of the city, across the street from its junior school. Offering two years of foundation courses, taught in English, leading to three years of study for the IGCSE exams followed by taking the A Level curriculum. The majority of students move on to universities in South Africa or Botswana after graduation.
For more information on the schools above, please go to each school’s individual entry on the Good Schools Guide international search.