Index / Education
The Tunisian educational system is based upon the system developed by the French during the protectorate. This was in 1956, upon Tunisian independence, well-developed, small but efficient. In 1958 most institutions were nationalized and the remaining placed under government regulation. The same year, the first steps towards free, compulsory schooling was lso introduced.
Arabic is the main language of instruction, but French remains widely used, and in many higher levels of schooling it is the preferred language of instruction and research.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 7.3% of GDP in 2005, placing Tunisia high up internationally.
There are private schools at all levels, but are generally of lower quality and intensity than public educational institutions. The reason for this is that they aim at offering instruction programs for the many who do not qualify for public universities or secondary schools.
School is free and by law compulsory for all children from they are 6 or 7 years old, then continuing through 9 years of schooling. Tunisia is closing in on a 100% attendance in school, only 2% did not attend primary school in 1999.
School day is 4.5 hours in the two first levels, increasing to 6 hours in the 3rd grade, which is the length of the school day until 9th grade.
Arabic is by far the most important subject in early school years. French is introduced in 3rd grade, and by the 5th grade, more teaching hours are devoted to French than Arabic. English is taught from the 7th grade and on, but with no more than 2 hours a week. Among the other subjects, Mathematics is the most important, 4 hours a week every year from 1st to 9th grade.
When completing the 6th grade, pupils pass an exam in which they must score at least 50% to be permitted into the next level of primary schools. About 15-20% fail to pass this exam, a number which has gone down over recent years. Many must do the 6th grade over again.
Completing the 9th grade, pupils must pass their finals exams. This too requires at least 50% score to be considered successful, and the certificate Diplôme de Fin d’Etudes de l’Enseignement de Base is issued, granting access to secondary education.
Secondary education of Tunisia lasts 4 years, this length was increased from 3 years with a 1990 reform.
This education is structured into general academic the first 2 years and specialized education the last 2 years. The specialization determines what university program a student is eligible to enter. They choose between 5 specializations: Language and arts; Mathematics; Technical; Experimental sciences; and Economics and Management.
English, French and Arabic are all well taught at this level, and a third foreign language is also introduced.
Secondary education is completed with an exam to obtain the Baccalauréat. Judging from the statistics, achieving this is hard, less than half succeed. The many students that fail still get issued a certificate for completing school, which is used when applying for jobs and for entering private schools.
A lower level of secondary education is offered for those not aiming at university studies, lasting 2 years, resulting in the CAP certificate (Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle). Students with good results in this exam may continue unto the 2 year education of Brevet de Technicien Professionnel, and a further 2 more years to achieve Brevet de Technicien Supérieur.
The University of Tunis became the nation's first in 1960, when several higher schools and institutes were merged. It was split in 1986 to form 3 separate universities. Today there are 13 universities, 6 are in and around Tunis, the 7 remaining in the largest cities; Bizerte is the only city with no university. In addition to the universities, there are 30 superior institutes and 130 more institutes of higher education. In 2005, there was a total of 178 institutions. Private institutions at the higher level counted this year 20.
In 2005, there were 327,000 students at universities and higher institutes, corresponding to 3.2% of the population.
Access to higher education is by a valid Baccalauréat. Admission into specific programs is largely determined by the government, many are found better qualified for programs different from their own choosing. Universities in Tunisia has a composition of degrees that is in accordance with American and European standards: 3 year bachelor and a 2 year master. Drop-out rates at university is high, 45% of all beginning an education never finish.
Teacher instruction is only 2 years for those teaching children 1st-6th grades, 3 years for teachers to 7th-9th grades.