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Syria - Educational System—overview

percent schools increased school

Schooling is divided into six years of primary education (ages 6 to 12), followed by three years of intermediate education (ages 12 to 15), and three years of general secondary or technical secondary education (ages 15 to 18). The role of education is to transmit the traditional culture as well as teach the approved view of subject area knowledge. The Syrian Ministry of Education approves all curricula and all textbooks and support materials. The textbooks are written by state-approved authors and printed by the General Institute for Schoolbook Printing. Instruction is in Arabic.

Following the establishment of the three-level system in 1967, student enrollments increased dramatically. Between 1970 and 1976, primary school enrollments increased 43 percent, lower secondary enrollments increased 52 percent, and higher secondary enrollments increased 65 percent. During these years, enrollments in postsecondary institutions increased more than 66 percent. These increases are largely because of the government's goal to eliminate illiteracy by 1991; primary and preparatory schools were built in many areas, and mobile schools traveled into remote desert areas.

In 1981, an estimated 42 percent of the population over age 12 could not read or write. By 1984, approximately 57,000 Syrians had attended literacy classes sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Although the goal of having a literate population was not achieved, by 1997 the number of citizens who were literate had increased to almost 71 percent.

Between 1970 and 1998, the number of female students enrolled at each level of schooling increased dramatically. The number enrolled in primary school increased from approximately 297,000 to over 1,267,000, and the number of females enrolled at the upper secondary level tripled, increasing from 14,000 to over 52,000. Many 12- to 15-year-old girls marry and are often unable to pursue an education beyond the compulsory level. Between 1970 and 1998, the number of female university students increased from 17,000 to 72,000, and the number receiving vocational education and training increased from 600 to 63,000. In 1998, females represented 47.7 percent of the students enrolled in primary schools, 45 percent of those in preparatory schools, 50.7 percent of those in the secondary general schools, 45.3 percent of those in technical and vocational schools, and 46.6 percent of those in universities. In 2001 Syria adopted a slogan of "education for girls" as part of its participation in the celebration of the annual Women's World Day on March 8. This underscores the country's commitment to having qualified women in the workforce and to helping women become more self-sufficient.

Private schools supplement the public schools, but less than 5 percent of the Syrian students attend them. There are two international schools in Syria for grades pre K-12 that serve the American and international community: ICARDA International School of Aleppo, which had an enrollment of 275 for the 2000-2001 school year, and Damascus Community School, which had an enrollment of 329 for the 2000-2001 school year. Both schools have a college-preparatory, American-based curriculum. The teachers at these accredited schools incorporate American teaching methods and offer a variety of extracurricular and intramural sports and activities. Students may enroll at any time during the school term. There is also a separate educational system run by the United Nations for Palestinian refugee children.

The Syrian Arab Republic is an active member of a number of organizations that benefit education. Among these are the Arab Organization for Education, Culture, and Science; the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); and the World Health Organization (WHO).

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