Of all the topics I wrote about the past two years, I have not said much about the Togolese school system.  Now that the school year has finished this post is a bit passé; but no conversation about Togo can be complete without it.

Here are some interesting facts:
1. Children generally start school between age 5 and 6. However, there is no upper age limit so some begin as late as 14, 15, or even as an adult (though less common).

2. All schools, public and private, have attendance fees. They are generally around $5-10 per student though some private schools reach $50-100 annually or more—a lot for a Togolese budget and with a large family.

3. Boys are usually given the preference of being sent to school; especially when money is tight.

4. School uniforms are required in all public institutions. This means khaki clothing and shaved heads for boys and girls alike.

5. Teachers might have the only copy of a textbook for their classes. Students make photocopies of the book if needed and make sure to note almost every word the teacher says during classes.

Once students graduate they leave quite knowledgeable and loaded with information, maybe more so than the Americans. However, even with this immense knowledge base, sometimes the most well educated adults must be hard pressed to think outside the box and form new ideas.

In general, the school curriculum is quite standardized and leaves little room for critical thinking and creativity. Instead, students learn through memorization and repetition. It is not surprising that after being instructed for years with this system, a similar way of thinking seeps into Togo’s daily life.

Therefore, the work many of Togo Peace Corps Volunteers is to encourage creative thinking. We form clubs, teach English classes and simply challenge students to think outside the box through interactions with them and simple conversations.

Of all my activities, I think my work with students is most likely to continue past my two years of service…potentially lifetime. With any luck, our small conversations will be the foundation for many more.

If you are curious about the Togolese grade level equivalents, below you’ll find a chart that explains it all. At the end you will see that rather than counting grade levels in ascending order; beginning in middle school, grade levels descend to indicate how many years are left.

Grade Level (American)
Togo Equivalent
Maternelle/Jardin d’enfants

Cours Préparatoire 1ere (CP 1)

Cours Elémentaire 1ere (CE 1)

Cours Préparatoire 2eme (CP 2)

Cours Elémentaire 2eme (CE 2)
First level in elementary school or Ecole Publique Primaire (EPP)
Cours Moyen 1ere (CM 1)

Cours Moyen 2eme (CM 2)*

Sixième (6eme)
First level in middle school or Collège d’Enseignement Général (CEG)
Cinquième (5eme)

Quatrième (4eme)

Troisième (3eme)*

Seconde (2nde)
First level of high school or lycée
Premiere (1ere)*


*At the end of the indicated year, students must pass a national examination before continuing to the next level.