Constitutional & Legal Foundations
Algeria was under French constitutional rule until independence was gained in 1962. The first Algerian constitution was adopted in 1963, and a second followed in 1976, which was amended in 1988 and 1989 and revised in 1996.
In the 1996 constitution, the preamble emphasized the Arab, Islamic, and Amazigh (Berber) identity of Algeria. The beginning articles of the constitution declared that Algeria was to be democratic and republic, Islam was to be the state religion, and Arabic was to be the national and official language. The constitution established the High Islamic Council (advisory) and prohibited practices contrary to Islamic morality. Although the constitution declared Islam the state religion, Shari'a (Islamic law) was not incorporated into the state's legal system. Sovereignty rested with the people through their elected representatives.
The Constitution guaranteed the right to free education, made fundamental education compulsory, and allocated to the state the power to organize the educational system and legislate the general rules for scientific research. Control of education, originally vested in the Ministry of Education, now rested in two ministries:the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
In 1995, the Higher Council for Education was created to improve the efficiency of the educational structure and to link the ministries of Education, Higher Education, and Employment. An Arabization law, implemented in 1998, required governmental and educational functions to be conducted in Arabic. The deadline for Arabization in higher education was extended to July 5, 2000. By that time, officials in government ministries had to acquire at least a minimal facility in literary Arabic. Additionally, the media had to increase the use of Arabic.
Modern day education in Algeria has roots first in Moslem and later in French philosophies. The high value placed on knowledge by the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed provided Muslims with incentives to develop education in order to read and learn the Quran and The Prophet. In the earliest schools at the mosques and in other early Quran schools—and even in private homes—instruction was offered in the Quran, the life of the Prophet, and in the grammar, structures, and forms of the Arabic language.
Maktab or kuttab were developed as learning centers for children as were masjid and majlis, adult study groups associated with mosques. Discussion was part of the learning process at the centers and included topics such as legal matters and poetry, as well as the Prophet's life, sayings, and devotional practices. Jami, the Friday mosques, eventually became seats of higher learning. As the Muslims engaged in learning and writing, a number of libraries developed. They were often attached to courts, where collections of books were organized. These large and informal institutions also housed books from other cultural traditions.
From its earliest beginnings, Moslem learning focused on life skills and theological concerns. The Moslem heritage is a philosophy that places high value on education, prescribes it for all Muslims, and uses a comprehensive approach to learning infused with religious teachings. Moslem educational philosophy is based on acquiring self-knowledge, balanced with the recognition of the need for skills to live in the world. The Moslem learning during the medieval period (800 to 1000 A.D.) was conceived as six sciences: celestial spheres and heavenly bodies, earth and geography, medicine and natural science, crafts and vocations, religion and creeds, and political administration. Throughout the medieval period, Muslim women's education was affected by local cultural factors that imposed constraints on their training and role in society. The tenth century saw organized institutional development supported by the state. By the eleventh century, medersa (primary schools) developed into Muslim schools of law and became the primary centers for religious and legal education. They received state support and had endowed professorships and residential facilities. Educational philosophy rested with the intellectuals in informal teaching until the 1880s.
In the early decades of the 1800s, Algerian education was comprised of quranic schools, primary schools, and secondary schools (zaouias). Jurisprudence, geometry, philology, physics, and astronomy were taught. Higher education institutions did not exist in Algeria and students attended universities in neighboring countries.
Moslems initially withdrew from the French-imposed educational system, a condition that changed when veterans returned from World War I. In 1917, the French made primary education compulsory for boys who lived within two miles of a public Algerian school. The lack of schools and teachers deterred implementation of this decree. In 1944, a plan to enroll one million Algerian boys and girls in primary school by 1964 was introduced. In 1947, Arabic became an official language and was introduced into schools. The destruction of the Moslem schools and the imitation French system imposed by the colonizers left independent Algeria with a strong desire to establish an authentic Algerian system of education. In the way of this major educational change stood a host of impediments.
Political freedom did not bring cultural freedom; the heritage of colonialism was still felt strongly in the educational system. French ideas and influence remained after the departure of French teachers and administrators in 1962. The French left behind a rigid school curriculum complete with very selective formal examinations: La Sixieme (primary school, in the sixth year), the Brevet d'Etudies du Premier Cycle (secondary school, in the fourth year), the Probatoire (secondary school, in the sixth year), and the Baccalauréat (secondary school, in the seventh year). The French educational heritage was a highly centralized, rigid structure designed for the elite; a fact-acquisition based system of learning with major exams throughout the curriculum.
Algerian Philosophy: In 1961, African ministers of education met in Addis Ababa and developed a comprehensive educational plan to set the stage for educational change in Algeria. The plan called for universal primary schooling, rapid increases in secondary and higher education enrollments, and major improvements in the quality of education. With Algerian independence the following year, educational opportunities were opened to all people, marking a shift from the French exclusive elitist system to an Algerian system with equal opportunities for all. Education became a right rather than a privilege.
Algerian authorities recognized very early the role of education in economic development. They realized that for Algeria to develop economically, a literate and trained workforce was a necessity. They planned to channel students into scientific and technical fields, which were most needed by the Algerian industrial and managerial sectors.
The departure of French teachers in 1962 left a gap in the classrooms that was first filled by teachers from the quranic schools and medersas. The marked decline in teaching quality however, led authorities to abandon this practice before these teachers became entrenched in the system. Temporary teachers from nearly 50 countries were brought in to fill the void and to try to overcome the complete disarray caused by independence. Enrollment was only 850,000 at that time (1962), but it quickly swelled. The change in philosophy from education for the few to education for the many was admirable, but the pedagogical and human resources necessary to provide a quality education for all simply were not available—Algeria was not prepared for the massive number of students. In the decade following independence, large enrollments meant hastily trained teachers and improvised classrooms, many in the vacated homes of former French residents. The growing enrollments reached 3.0 million by 1975 and 6.5 million by 1991.
The early independence period between 1962 and 1970 was marked by a series of educational reforms using models and philosophies imported from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. The profusion of imported educational theories and ideas contributed to disorganization and incoherence in the overburdened system. There was a lack of facilities, trained teachers, and instructional materials; confusion caused by differing educational philosophies; rigidity caused by the highly centralized system together; and, unwieldy, large classes. These mounting problems were dealt with on the local level in very sporadic fashion. Critics complained of the lack of long-term planning and integration. A new phenomenon appeared with mass schooling: mass dropouts. These dropouts and other young "un-employeds" developed a kind of antiestablishment attitude and become known as hittiste (those who lean on walls).
This period was called the "impossible emancipation" due to the restrictive political, social, economic, and education factors. This period included a lack of teachers, schools, colleges (only one university existed), financing, managers, and educational expertise. Illiteracy remained very high. The productive and the educational sector of the economy operated independently and without coordination or apparent consultation, forcing the industrial sector to develop its own training capabilities and to draw heavily upon foreign technical aid to meet its needs for skilled manpower. Graduates in scientific and technical fields from public institutions often were inappropriately trained for employment in industry. The guarantee of free universal education that led to a massive influx of students brought large problems.
Riding on the economic crest of the oil boom, the decades of the 1970s and 1980s produced educational reforms, which were more carefully planned than previous attempts. The reforms were often based on imported theories. The goals remained the same—to provide equal opportunity for all, with free, or nominally priced, schooling and scholarships. Priority was given to reducing illiteracy. The policies put in place all aimed toward the Arabization of all curricula, the Arabization of the medium of instruction, and the Algerization of the teaching staff. A number of major policy decisions were made as educational structure developed over the years.
In 1976 the National Charter was created. The highly centralized control of Algerian education was codified in this charter. It was intended to politically unify all or nearly all of the educational institutions. By this time, the public education system was virtually the only education provider, in large part because of the diplomas, titles, and certificates it awarded. Algerians are said to value degrees (more than expertise) for social promotion purposes to the point that degrees are said to exercise a "fatal attraction."
In 1977 the Abolition of Private Education was formed. Private education, primarily in the realm of foreign institutions and schools that were often run by Roman Catholic missions, was abolished.
The Polytechnic Curriculum Theory came into existence in 1978. The theory from East Germany was adopted for the first nine years of schooling, which resulted in the creation of the Foundation School. It was intended to reduce dropouts by combining primary school (at the end of which most dropouts occurred) with middle school.
The École Fondamentale et Polytechnique resulted from pressure for more and better education in 1976-1979, and was designed to bridge the gap between academic and practical studies by combining theory with practice. It was aimed at improving the dropout problem, which had reached epidemic proportions. Also in 1979, Technical colleges were ended just when industry needed large numbers of skilled and semiskilled workers.
The Ministry of Vocational Education was created in 1983. It was given the responsibility of developing a national training system to satisfy the skill requirements of the economy and provide training for as many young people as possible.
In 1985 and 1986 additional reforms developed core programs in general secondary education and channeled university students into vocational specializations, exact sciences, or experimental and human sciences. The Carte Universitere defined Algeria's graduate and postgraduate needs to the end of the century, with each higher education center expected to fill its quota of the national trained manpower requirement.
The University of Further Training (l'Université de la Formation Continué) targeted those students who were oriented toward vocational learning but who were not going to earn the baccalauréate. It was a place for students completing six years of primary school (ending at age 12) who were not old enough to work. The university began operating in 1991. The Ministry of Vocational Education was transferred to the Ministry of Education. The carefully planned educational reforms were often not realistic and were rarely realizable. Either the resources to implement them were lacking or the planning was so remote from the realities of the situation that they reflected no real remedy for the target problem. From 1988 on, social and economic conditions and shortcomings in the education system led to the formation of informal, voluntary educational activities.
In 1989 the National Commission was appointed to study educational reforms. The first baccalauréates that used nothing but Arabic instruction were completed.
In 1995 the Higher Education Council was created. It aimed to structure the education system more effectively by linking the work of the ministries of Education, Higher Education, and Employment.
The Arabization Law replaced French as the language of government and education in 1996. In spite of the reforms and intensive efforts to create an Algerian system, education in 1996 was still often described as consisting of the "wholesale adoption of European theories, policies and practices" that critics lamented "failed to connect with Algerian realities and needs."
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