Until 1956, date of the end of the French protectorate, Tunisia had a very high illiteracy rate and faced similarly high population growth. Since its accession to independence, the country has made education a priority, allocating to it about 7% of its annual GDP, with the result that Tunisia has ranked as one of the best-performing countries where investment in education and training are concerned. Moreover, Tunisia’s education system is a key factor in the country’s overall economic development.
|Year||Primary education (age 6-11)||Higher education|
(IRD, Bénédicte Gastineau; Ministry of Social Affairs, 2012; Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Technology, 2010)
In 1991, mandatory basic education was extended from 6 to 9 years of schooling. Today, the enrollment rate of 6- to 11-year-olds in Tunisia is estimated at nearly 99%. At the start of the 2013/2014 school year, there were more than 2 million pupils in public primary and secondary education: 1,026,500 in primary school and 922,000 in secondary school. This student body is spread over Tunisia’s territory in approximately 6,000 schools, with more than 140,000 teachers. The private education sector has 34,000 pupils in 155 primary schools and 64,000 in 300 private middle and high schools.
Despite the country’s remarkable progress toward universal basic education, the adult illiteracy rate remains relatively high. From 70% in 1966, it had fallen only to 21% in 2009, despite the considerable efforts made in this regard.
The higher education system has 339,619 students (counting both regular students and those enrolled on an exceptional basis for examinations). Women constitute the majority (61%) of this student body, as more than 200,000 of them attend Tunisia’s universities. Tunisia today has 13 universities and 198 other public higher education institutions, in addition to 46 private institutions. The recently introduced bachelor-master-doctorate system is applied in 173 institutions. In addition, linkages between the private sector, higher education and research are supported by 7 high-technology clusters spread over the country’s territory.
Where vocational training is concerned, Tunisia has a network of 133 training centers (initial and continuing training) covering 193 vocational specializations. In 2008, more than 130,000 Tunisian students were enrolled in these programs, and 56% of these were in standardized tracks leading to a technical school certificate (brevêt d’études professionnelles – BEP) or vocational training certificate (certificat d’aptitude professionnelle – CAP).