Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.7A1, 54-59
Published Online July 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Early Childhood Care and Education in Botswana: A Necessity
That Is Accessible to Few Children*
Tapologo Maundeni
Department of Social Work, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
Received May 21st, 2013; revised June 22nd, 2013; accepted June 30th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Tapologo Maundeni. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programs are essential because they boost children’s per-
ceptual, physical, mental, linguistic, emotional, social and intellectual development. Despite the benefits
of ECCE, such programs are accessed by just a handful of children in the context of Botswana. Hence a
majority of children who are eligible for ECCE programs tend to miss out on the benefits of such pro-
grams. The purpose of this paper is three-fold. First, it provides brief background information about the
development of ECCE in the country. Second, it discusses why and how little attention has been paid to
ECCE in the country. Third, it highlights implications of excluding many children from ECCE. The au-
thor concludes by making several suggestions that could go a long way to ensure that children eligible for
ECCE have access to ECCE programs of good quality.
Keywords: Early Childhood Care and Education; Children; Botswana
Seventeen percent of children eligible for Early Childhood
Care and Education (ECCE) in Botswana have access to such
programs (UNICEF 2007). This is so because the response-
bility to provide ECCE programs lies largely with the private
and civil society sectors rather than with the government1. The
government only provides an “enabling environment”.
This enabling environment refers to:
Setting standards to be adhered to by all who provide early
childhood education;
Supervision of pre-schools;
Registration of pre-school units in the country;
Training teachers for this level of education;
Developing the curriculum;
Establishing the Pre-School Development Committee to
coordinate and advice the Ministry on the development of
the program (Republic of Botswana, 2001).
The expectation is that once an enabling environment has
been created, both access and quality of pre-primary education
will improve. Government’s philosophy of an enabling envi-
ronment in essence means that pre-primary education is at this
moment not a priority area. The “enabling environment” is cre-
ated for private players, communities and non-governmental
organizations so that they may lead the provision of ECCE.
This position, however, raises a number of questions, one of
which is: What capacity and capability do these players have to
provide ECCE such that the latter may play a significant role in
improving access to ECCE and addressing rural-urban dispari-
ties? Private players do not establish their “businesses” with
social goals high on their list of priorities. Instead they are con-
cerned with generating profit. Where they choose to locate their
centers is a function of business opportunities, supply and de-
mand basically. Given the high fees they charge they are not
accessible to many children from poor and low income back-
The purpose of this article is three-fold. First, it provides
brief background information about the development of ECCE
in the country. Second, it discusses why and how little attention
has been paid to pre-school education in the country. Third, it
highlights implications of excluding many children from ECCE.
The author concludes by making several suggestions for the
way forward.
Brief Background Information about the
Development of ECCE in Botswana
Botswana is one of the African countries that have enjoyed a
stable democracy. Since independence in 1966, the country has
held free and fair elections every five years. Botswana has
never experienced a civil war or the civil strife that has charac-
terized the political turf in many African countries. Therefore,
the peace and stability that prevails in the country in many
ways provide a conducive environment for the promotion of
children’s rights, including the right to ECCE (Maundeni,
*The words ECCE and pre-school education will be used interchangeably in
the article to refer to all formal facilities offering baby care and pre-
services in the country.
1In 2006, the private sector ran 51% of the centers, the remaining half were
owned by NGOs, churches, communities and local authorities/councils
(Minist ry of Edu catio n, 2006 ). Th is s cen ario also pr evai ls in o ther coun tries
(Saluja et al., 2002). It is also worth-noting that most ECCE centres in the
country cater for children whose ages range from two and half upwards.
Very few facilities cater for the zero to two and half (Bose, 2 008).
A brief overview of the history of ECCE programs in Bot-
swana is crucial to assist in conceptualising issues that are dis-
cussed in this paper. Progress made to date will also be high-
lighted. The history of early childhood care and education in
Botswana dates as far back as the 1960s. During that time,
women in various parts of the country gathered children in their
homes for custodial care while at the same time they taught
them various activities that stimulated their development. The
women were providing the service without pay. Complement-
ing these efforts by women were various forms of day care
centers, which were operated by voluntary organizations such
as churches, the Red Cross and private individuals (UNESCO,
2000). With the passage of time, concern was raised that some
of the schemes were not adequately run. It was at that time
when UNICEF started to develop interest in ECCE in Botswana.
Consequently in 1980, (14 years after Botswana attained inde-
pendence), the National Day Care Centre Policy (NDCP) was
developed (Republic of Botswana, 2001). The policy provided
guidance in the:
“··· management, protection and education for children of
ages two and half to six years” (Ibid: 2).
As the years went by, there was a rapid increase in the num-
ber of women who participated in employment outside the
home. Moreover, Government took a conscious decision to pay
attention to women’s empowerment; hence women became
active in productive economic activities more than ever before
in the history of the country. This has heightened the need for
ECCE provision. The economic boom also meant more dis-
posable income, meaning that more and more people became
eager to offer their children quality education. This drove the
social demand for ECCE provision.
The need for ECCE programs has also been necessitated by
modernization which brought with it the disintegration of the
traditional social setup in which the extended family was the
basic unit within which children were cared for and socialized.
The ri se of the nuc lear fami ly (in whic h both par ents may be i n
employment) and the single-parent family (in which case the
head of the family had to fend for the children) necessitated
establishment of secondary institutions of socialization to play
the role that was played by the extended family before. ECCE
was a handy substitute.
The effects of these developments combined led to a mush-
rooming of pre-school centers which went by various names
such as day care centers, nursery schools, crèches, pre-primary
units, reception schools and kindergarten classes. As the de-
mand for ECCE increased, issues that needed attention became
complex and multifaceted. Therefore, the Day Care Center
Policy of 1980 proved to be outdated as it ran short of address-
ing issues such as standards and regulations, training of teach-
ers, curriculum development, and support of different types of
programs such as children under the age of two years and
community involvement or participation. This necessitated the
formulation of the ECCE policy of 2001. The policy attempts
“Provide a holistic approach to developmental needs of a
child, in particular its healthy growth and preparation for
primary education.”
Its objectives are:
To create an opportunity for the establishment and develop-
ment of professionals in the field of ECCE;
To develop care and education services for children so as to
promote opportunities for their full physical, cognitive, so-
cial, emotional and mental growth and stimulation;
To increase opportunities for women to participate in social
and economic activities;
To identify the full potential for the ECCE program in
promoting the rights of children by setting minimum re-
quirements for providing services;
To strengthen and support, through the ECCE services, a
system of early identification and referral of children with
developmental impediments’ (Ibid: 5).
The information provided so far indicates that the role of the
government in ECCE is largely to provide an enabling envi-
ronment to NGOs, churches and individuals that provide ECCE
programs rather than to directly provide such programs. In
other words, the government has not committed itself to uni-
versal provision of pre-primary education. To date, the respon-
sibility of pre-school education has by and large been left to
NGOs, churches, communities and the private sector. This
trend is clearly captured in the following quotation which al-
though was written in 1977, was still relevant in 2013—when
this paper was written:
“government shall not ··· make recommendations about
organised preschool education, since we believe that it
would be premature ··· to think of making any major pub-
lic effort in this field. Our general theme is that voluntary
organizations and self-help groups should be encouraged
to establish nursery schools ··· if there is demand for
them” (Ministry of Education, 1977: p. 56).
The same position appears in the following quote from the
ECCE policy of 2001:
“··· The supporting care and education services are pro-
vided by private individuals, communities, companies and
volunteers” (Republic of Botswana, 2001: p. 2).
NGOs, faith-based organizations and other service providers
are doing a commendable job; however, their efforts are ham-
pered by shortage of funds. This obstacle worsened in the late
1990s when several international NGOs stopped funding some
NGOs in Botswana under the contention that the country’s
economy was doing relatively better than that of many African
countries, therefore it was better to channel their resources to
more needy countries (Moatshe, 2004). This move seriously
affected some NGOs’ capacities to operate effectively as well
as to expand services to rural and remote parts of the country.
Consequently, many pre-school facilities are found in cities and
big villages. In addition, some have been forced to increase
prices in order to continue surviving. However, it should be
noted that the fees charged by NGO-run nurseries and pre-
schools are far less than those charged by the private sector
While acknowledging that preschool education has come a long
way in Botswana, the author also argues that a lot still needs to
be done.
Why Little Attention Has Been Paid to
Pre-School Education in Botswana
As mentioned elsewhere in this paper, only a small percent-
age of children eligible for ECCE programs have access to such
programs because the government does not play a direct role in
the provision of ECCE. Government’s decision to play an indi-
rect role in ECCE may be partly attributed to the fact that al-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 55
though Botswana is one of the numerous countries that ratified
the two major treaties/conventions on children’s rights, both
treaties are silent on state parties’ responsibilities to provide
ECCE. In other words, the treaties do not explicitly make ref-
erence to children’s right to pre-school education. For instance,
article XI of the ACRWC sates that:
“Every child shall have the right to education··· States
parties to the present charter shall take all appropriate
measures with a view of achieving the full realization of
this right and shall in particular: provide free and com-
pulsory basic education, encourage the development of
secondary education in its different forms and to progres-
sively make it free and accessible to all; make higher
education accessible to all on the basis of capacity and
ability by every appropriate means; take measures to en-
courage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of
drop-out rate; take special measures in respect of female,
gifted and disadvantaged children, to ensure equal access
to education for all sections of the community···”.
A second factor that contributes to government’s indirect role
in ECCE is shortage of funds (Discussions of the National
Pre-School Development Committee2, from 2004 to date). This
reason has received mixed feelings from various corners with
some people arguing that it is not a valid reason taking into
account Botswana’s economic performance compared to that of
other African countries. On a related note, however, the gov-
ernment argues that it is already spending a lot of money on
other public services such as those related to primary and sec-
ondary education, as well as health and social services; there-
fore, it cannot afford to spend on ECCE programs.
A third factor is the belief that caring for young children is
a mother’s job. This belief is closely related to the belief that a
mother’s place is in the home; therefore child care is the re-
sponsibility of women. Cultural beliefs that females/women are
supposed to play a major role in child care and other household
duties partly stem from the fact that from time immemorial
Batswana men have been migrating to work in South African
mines leaving women and children behind. Even when modern
education was introduced in Botswana, males were the ones
who were sent to school in large numbers. The elders believed
that females did not need education because they would soon
get married and then be taken care of by their husbands (UNDP,
2011). Consequently, some people believe that early childhood
care programs erode the traditional role of the mother. Scepti-
cisms based on the above view continue to prevail even though
many wome n in Botswa na work outside the home. This negates
the government commitment of empowering women and shows
that the country has a mountain to climb in relation to gender
equality in Botswana.
The fourth factor that contributes to the inadequate attention
that is given to preschool education in the country is scepticism
about the economic justification for investment in early child-
hood education. Proponents of this view assert that money is
better spent in upper levels of education than in pre-school
education. They fail to recognise the benefits of pre-school
education and the fact that the child is a resource whose rightful
support and education will shape the society of the future.
It should be noted that inadequate attention to ECCE is not
only apparent in relation to programs, it also prevails in re-
search. For instance, there is substantial literature on other
groups of children in Botswana (cf. Dunne et al., 2005; Mo-
lokomme, 1991; Jacques, 1999; Montsi et al., 2001; Maundeni
& Lopez, 2005; Maundeni, 2002) yet there is scanty research
on children aged 0 - 6 years.
As alluded to earlier in the paper, most children who are eli-
gible for ECCE in Botswana do not benefit from such pro-
grams. The key question that stakeholders have to ask them-
selves is “what are the implications of this trend?” The second
key question is what are the implications of government’s indi-
rect role in ECCE?
Excluding many children from ECCE denies them the op-
portunity to reap the benefits of ECCE. One of them is im-
provement in children’s intellectual development. Studies show
that children who have received quality care and early educa-
tional opportunities perform better academically compared to
those who have not had similar exposure. They possess pre-
requisite skills of learning and also adjust faster in standard one
classes (Taiwo & Tyolo, 2002; Bigala, Seboni, & Monau, 1993;
Otaala et al. 1982). Moreover, comprehensive ECCE promotes
early stimulation—a phenomena that facilitates the detection of
various disabilities at an early age amongst children. The fact
that many children are excluded from ECCE programs in the
country results in an increasing number of children who enter
primary school with undetected special needs/disabilities when
it is too late for intervention. They start primary schools ill
prepared to learn and compete effectively with their counter-
parts who have been exposed to ECCE.
In addition, quality3 ECCE programs facilitate children’s
psycho-social, nutritional and health development. This is par-
ticularly so for children who come from underprivileged groups.
Children’s social development is facilitated in the sense that
they are able to learn: to mix with other children and adults;
how to behave in a respectful way with others as well as; to
share, care for others as well as work out disagreements. Their
emotional/psychological development is facilitated because
they: learn about feelings and emotions; adjust to spending time
away from their families; develop their independence and self-
help skills; and they also experience a routine and a sense of
security. Other benefits of ECCE programs include the pro-
motion of language and physical development. In a nutshell,
research has shown that quality ECCE services play a key role
in breaking the inter-generational cycle of multiple disadvan-
tages such as chronic under-nutrition, poor health, gender dis-
crimination and low socio-economic status (The Bombay Com-
munity Public Trust, UN dated).
Institutionalised ECCE does not only benefit children, it also
benefits other family members—particularly parents as it re-
leases them from the chores of child minding so that they can
also engage in income—generating socio-economic activities.
2The author of this paper is a member of the National Pre-school Develop-
ment Committee. The committee is responsible for among other things
advocating for issues relating to the development of pre-school education in
Botswana. It comprises of stakeholders from various organizations includ-
ing government ministries, research institutions, the private sector as well
as NGOs.
3Quality aspects such as a healthy environment, stimulating activities
and supportive caregivers are crucial to ensure holistic development in
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Given that many households4 are now female-headed Moko-
mane (2008), ECCE frees these women to join the labor market
to fend for themselves and for their children. Therefore, ECCE
promotes the empowerment of women.
Taking into account the benefits of ECCE, it is worth point-
ing out that in the context of Botswana, children who are ex-
cluded from formal ECCE programs are likely to be exposed to
inadequate child care arrangements that put their wellbeing at
risk. For example, in her study of women street vendors and
childcare in Botswana, Mukamugambira (2001) found that
children as young as 1 to 5 years accompanied their mothers
daily to the street vending businesses. This exacerbated chil-
dren’s exposure to conditions such as asthma and influenza
which resulted from the smoky, windy and dusty environments
that some mothers operated under. Children were also exposed
to harsh weather conditions such as excessive heat and rain.
Similar findings were also noted by Sekgabo (2006) and
Kgosipula (2008).
Not only are these environments risky for children’s health,
they also affect mothers’ performance in their businesses.
When childcare is unavailable, unaffordable or of poor quality,
parents feel less competent and less successful in their parent-
ing, experience more stress and report reduced coping abilities.
On the other hand, parents who are satisfied with their child
care arrangements are more likely to be productive at work and
less anxious about their children (Isenberg & Jalongo, 2003).
Women can participate fully in social and economic develop-
ment if they are ensured of quality services for their children.
Another example that shows how lack of comprehensive
formal ECCE programs may put children’s wellbeing at risk is
that working mothers who earn low wages do not afford to hire
committed domestic workers to look after their children while
they are at work. Moreover, in households where helpers are
employed, the helper/s is charged with numerous responsibili-
ties that range from child care, cooking, washing, ironing, as
well as cleaning the yard, the house and surrounding areas.
Some maids are also responsible for dropping and collecting
children from school as well as supervising children’s home-
work. These duties are not only numerous, they are also over-
whelming. Therefore, they may compromise the helper’s ability
to spend quality time with the children. Inadequate quality time
spent with young children limits their cognitive, intellectual,
social and psychological development. The conditions that
maids work under may also contribute to child neglect and
abuse. A study of care provided by working Batswana mothers
to their children in Botswana found that most working mothers
who earn low wages do not afford to send their children to
ECCE programs; moreover, they leave home too early and
come back too late to spend quality time with children. There-
fore, they depend on non-institutionalized care, yet they ex-
pressed dissatisfaction about such arrangements. Such ar-
rangements entailed leaving children with maids, relatives and
neighbors. By and large, the mothers complained about unreli-
able maids who sometimes left their children alone, did not
wash or feed them at proper times5, while others stated that
their maids or relatives are adolescents and not experienced in
child care (Morapedi, 1994). It is also worth-noting that by and
large, there is neither formal child care training that is provided
to maids nor any rigorous screening that takes place before
maids are employed to explore their past history particularly in
relation to issues of child abuse and neglect. All these factors
can put children at risk of neglect, abuse, infection or other
health hazards.
The second key issue relates to implications of Government’s
indirect role in ECCE. This approach adversely affects the
quality of pre-school education. For example, there is lack of
capacity to ensure that pre schools comply with existing stan-
dards. Existing literature shows that some centres lack proper
structures as evidenced by the absence of junior toilets6; some
are overcrowded7; while others had limited facilities for chil-
dren with special needs (UNESCO and Ministry of Education,
2009). Children with disabilities need extra love and protection
because they are more vulnerable than their counterparts who
do not have special needs. Some centres for children with spe-
cial needs are unable to accommodate children due to lack of
space, funds and skills. Consequently some children are identi-
fied at primary school when it is too late for intervention.
Quality is also compromised in the sense that some centres
do not abide by the standards that are outlined in the ECCE
policy. For example, standards relating to qualifications of
teachers8, the ratio of staff to students, class room size, avail-
ability of basic education and developmental materials, hygiene
and meals (UNESCO and Ministry of Education, 2009). Com-
munity-owned and to some extent non-governmental organiza-
tions-owned pre-school centers lack trained teachers, play,
stimulation and developmental materials as well as some basic
facilities, making it difficult for them to live up to the barest
minimum requirements and standards stipulated in the ECCE
Policy. The better resourced and better equipped centers were
those that were privately owned, to which children of the poor
had no access (Bar-On, 2004).
Way Forward
This paper has provided brief background information about
the development of ECCE in the country. It has also analysed
why ECCE programs have been given minimal attention, par-
ticularly by the government and lastly, it has outlined the im-
plications of excluding many children from pre-school educa-
tion as well as those of government’s indirect role in pre-
5Advocates o f attac hment theo ry emph asis e the n eed fo r a stab le, con sist ent
supportive and predictable environment in relation to the fulfilment o
childr en’s basic needs such as food. Th erefore, caregiv ers who fail to meet
children’s needs adequately are likely to groom children who find it diffi-
cult to bond with or trust other people. Developmental psychologists argue
that the relationship between the caregiver and the child influences child
development and that certain experiences in infancy establish behaviour and
personality patterns that are carried throughout life (Libert et al., 1 9 86 ) .
6A 2008 report by the Education Statistics Unit showed for example, that
there wer e 863 adult toilets in ECCE centres and 1601 junior toilets.
7Children were overcrowded in some centres, hygiene standards were not
observed and children’s safety was compromised. Overcrowding led to
oor hygiene and compromised children’s safety. For example, in one
centre children utilised a pit latrine, they went alone—unaccompanied by
teachers. This placed their lives at risk of falling into the pit latrine
(UNESCO and Ministry of Education, 2009).
8Almost half of the teachers in ECCE centers of Botswana are untrained.
This should be taken seriously particularly that children are vulnerable and
need proper care and education for appropriate learning. Most teachers who
are train ed work in privat e ECCE centers, wh ile their counter parts who are
untrained are over-concentrated in other centers (Bose, 2008). A 2009 study
on ECCE rev ealed t hat almos t all t he te achers who p arti cipated in th e stu dy
(including those who were trained) yearned for fu rt her training.
4The 1991 Botswana population and housing census data revealed that
about 60 per cent of the women in the childbearing age range (i.e. 15 - 49
years) ha d never been married but bore children.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 57
school education. The implications as discussed in this paper
have far-reaching consequences for the development of chil-
dren both in the short and long-run. Now attention focuses on
the way forward.
It is important to re-iterate that over the years (even long be-
fore the world-wide recession); government has argued that it is
not in a position to directly offer ECCE because of shortage of
resources. With the on-going economic recession that has hit
almost all countries, government’s position is unlikely to chan-
ge. The second factor that is influencing government’s stand on
the provision of ECCE is that it is already spending a consider-
able amount of money in the provision of educational, health
and social services just to mention a few. Taking into account
these dynamics, it would be unrealistic for the author to advo-
cate that government should fully take over the provision of
ECCE. Therefore, the following recommendations are made.
It is crucial that government should increase grants provided
to centres that are owned and run by NGOS, churches and
communities. As mentioned elsewhere in the paper, such facili-
ties operate under severe financial constraints which affect the
quality of services they provide. Moreover, because most avail-
able programs in the country are run privately and charge high
fees, children of poor and low income parents do not have ac-
cess to such programs. There is need to provide more commu-
nity-based and other forms of ECCE facilities that are afford-
able and subsidised. This move will go a long way in improv-
ing access of ECCE programs to: children from poor families;
those living in remote areas; as well as those with disabilities.
Local authorities (councils) should assist communities to build
ECCE facilities that target the above groups of children. Then
communities could be sensitised about the benefits of ECCE9 as
well as empowered with knowledge and skills to run such cen-
tres. The need for such training is necessitated by findings of
previous research that shows that problems exist in the man-
agement of community owned centres.
In addition, the government should intensify monitoring and
supervision to ensure that all centers in the country meet stan-
dards that are outlined in the ECCE policy. The responsibility
to enforce the ECCE policy in Botswana lies with various
stakeholders (education personnel, home economics officers,
health inspectors, and health education and promotion officers).
All these officers are not only responsible for ECCE alone, but
have other duties that they are responsible for. This affects their
availability for ECCE related duties. It is therefore recom-
mended that professionals who are solely responsible for ECCE
must be employed in councils.
An analysis of the early childhood care and education policy
and programming in Botswana that was commissioned by
UNESCO and the Ministry of Education in 2009 identified a
number of barriers and gaps in the ECCE policy and imple-
mentation process. These include: resource constraints, par-
ticularly for community and NGO-based centres10; the problem
of unqualified teachers11, especially in community schools; a
shortage of professionally trained personnel to enforce policy
implementation; overcrowding in some centres; absence of a
national curriculum for ECCE12; as well as weak parents-
teachers associations (PTAs). These and others factors need to
be attended to as a matter of urgency if ever the ECCE Policy is
to be of benefit to its intended recipients. Moreover, there is
need to train informal child caregivers on basic child care
knowledge and skills. This is particularly important taking into
account findings stated elsewhere in the paper which show that
maids and other informal caregivers sometimes fail to meet
children’s needs adequately.
Lastly, large scale research on care for children aged 0 - 6 in
the country should be conducted to explore the reality, chal-
lenges as well as map the way forward. Most research on ECCE
issues have focused on the capital city and surrounding areas
because of lack of funds. Findings of such studies cannot be
generalised to the whole country. Therefore, it is high-time that
country wide studies are conducted. There is also need for re-
search on issues of: children with disabilities who are eligible
for ECCE; children from minority groups who are eligible for
ECCE; as well as those who live in remote areas.
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Bigala, J., Seboni, M., & Monau, R. (1993). The learning needs of
Botswana children in standards one and two. Gaborone: Government
Bose, K. (2008). Gaps and remedies of early childhood care and educa-
tion (ECCE) programs of Botswana. Educational Research and Re-
views, 3, 77-82.
Dunne, M., Leach, F., Chilisa, B., Maundeni, T., Tabulawa, R., Kutor,
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9Previous studies have shown that some community mem
ers who live in
rural and remote areas view ECCE centres as places where young children
go for feeding p urposes (Bar-On, 2004).
10The grant from government is too meagre and often not properly ac-
counted for. Moreover, fees collected from parents are not enough to cover
11It is also important for the content of teacher training to be reviewed to
ensure that it also pays attention to issues of children’s rights, child devel-
opment stages, and other pertinent issues that are relevant for ECCE.
12Centres have been left to their own devises to determine what to teach.
Consequently, the principal aim of the centers/programs vary between
enabling parents to go out to work, helping children to develop and school
preparation. In small poor villages, the principal aim was to provide em-
loyment. In such villages, parents regarded ECCE mainly as a feeding
scheme, as evidenced by the temporary withdrawal of the children when
food was not available (Bar-On, 2004). It is however worth-noting that at
the time of writing this paper, efforts were underwa y to develop the national
curricu lum.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 59
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