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Algeria - Educational System—overview

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceAlgeria - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


The educational system is structured into primary foundation school for nine years, followed by secondary education school for three years, and then the tertiary (university) level. Algerian education is still grounded in the French fact-acquisition orientation, and teaching is almost exclusively in the lecture and memorization mode. In 1996, the total enrollment at primary and secondary schools was equivalent to 86 percent of the school age population (89 percent of the boys, 82 percent of the girls). Enrollment at primary schools in the relevant age group was 97 percent for boys and 91 percent for girls.

A 1995 UNICEF study reported that early childhood education services for children up to 6 years of age were limited. Fewer than 50,000 children were enrolled, exclusive of those in quranic preschools (quranic schools accommodate large numbers of preschool children.). Of those enrolled, 10 percent of children up to 3 years old were in nurseries and 90 percent of 3 to 6 year olds were in kindergartens. Fifty-five percent of those in kindergarten were urban children. Estimates in 1995 of the percentage of preschool age children enrolled in some form of preschool (including quranic schools) ranged from 3 to 20 percent. Reports from 1995 indicated that no preschool services existed for children with special educational needs except for special sections in kindergartens attached to primary schools for those with hearing impairments. Preprimary schools are conducted in Arabic and are not compulsory.

The Foundation School (École Fondamentale et Polytechnique), replaced the French 10-year compulsory school model with a nine-year model. Primary and middle schools were combined, scientific and technical literacy stressed, and closer connections sought between schooling and work. Classes are taught in Arabic, with French considered the first foreign language. Students are oriented either toward secondary school or toward vocational training.

Primary education (Enseignement Primaire) is organized into three cycles, each comprising of three years. It is compulsory for the nine years between ages 6 and 15. Students completing primary education follow one of three tracks—general, technical or vocational. Students take a final exam (brevet d'enseignement fondamental) that they must pass for admission to secondary education.

In 1996, the total enrollment in primary schools included 94 percent of the appropriate age groups (97 percent of the boys, 91 percent of the girls). The ministry reports that in 1996 there were 15,426 state primary schools with 4,674,947 students (46 percent were girls) and 149,958 teachers for the first through the sixth years, and 3,038 middle schools (for those age 7 to 9) with 1,762,761 students, of which 38 percent were girls.

There are two types of secondary education: technical and general. Secondary education (Enseignement Secondaire) begins at age 15 and ends when students take the baccalauréat examination before they proceed to one of the universities, state technical institutes, or vocational training centers, or move directly into employment. The academic year is from September to July, with a 15-day break in December and another in March. Schooling is free, although some scholarships are offered by the state for living expenses.

In 1996, enrollment in the secondary schools included 56 percent of the appropriate age groups (58 percent of the boys and 54 percent of the girls). There were 1,033 secondary schools with 52,210 teachers and 853,303 students. Admission to secondary schools is based upon the student's primary school grades and the student quota at each institution, as set by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Instruction is in Arabic.

Higher education is comprised of universities, national institutes for higher education, engineering schools, and teachers' colleges. The institutions administered by the Ministry of Education produce about 90 percent of the bachelor's degrees. The remaining institutions come under the control of other ministries.

In 1995-1996, a total of 347,410 students enrolled in higher education. Admission is based on the student quota for each institution (set by the ministry) and grades. Allocation to fields of study depends on how well students did in primary subjects in each field. The teaching staff is largely Algerian.

Undergraduate Programs: Admission to undergraduate programs requires the baccalauréat or equivalent (cours préparatoires aux études superiéres, capacité en droit, etc.). Some popular fields, such as medicine, have additional requirements. Foreign students are admitted if they meet admission requirements and their parents live in Algeria, or if they receive an Algerian scholarship. Scholarships and room and board are arranged by the Centres des Oeuvres Scholaires et Universitaires. The academic year lasts from September to July and consists of two semesters, with a 21-day break in January.

There are two levels of higher education: Level Five, lasting five semesters, and Level Six, lasting eight to 12 semesters. Generally, Level Five leads to qualification as a technologist, while Level Six leads to a first degree (licence), higher education diploma (diplomé d'études superiéures), or other professional degree in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and engineering.

Graduate Programs: Graduate student enrollment climbed to 11,987 in 1988-1989, an increase of 998 percent from 1974-1975. Graduate education is designed to train teachers and professors, to answer the need for Arabic in teaching, and to get universities involved in Algeria's development effort. Graduate education is not yet fully developed. Master's (magister) programs require a first degree (license) or equivalent and take two years (four semesters). Students spend the first year on course work, directed research, seminars, and one foreign language. The second year is spent writing a thesis. Entrance to doctoral level programs (doctorat d'état) requires a master's degree or equivalent. Foreign students are accepted into graduate school if the Ministry of Education authorizes them.

The diploma of magister contains a "mention" of the performance of the student. The possible mentions are: "Passable" when the general average is at least equal to 10/20 and lower than 12/20; "Rather Well" when the general average equals or exceeds 12/20 but is less than 14/20; "Well" when the general average is at least 14/20 and lower than 16/20; and "Very Well" when the general average is equal or higher than 16/20. The general average is calculated by giving equal weighting to the average of the examinations and the thesis defense. Only those who earn the rating of Very Well, Well, and Rather Well can gain admittance to a doctoral program. Doctoral candidates must also complete a thesis reporting original research and an oral thesis defense.

Language: In the postcolonial Arabization program, restoring Arabic as the general language required teaching citizens who had been educated in a foreign language to learn and use their own. The Higher Council for the National Language oversees the Arabization process. Every government organization created an Arabization department to plan lessons for its workers.

In a radical reversal of policy, the Haut-Commissariat a l'amazighité was created (following an eight-month boycott of school by nearly a million students) and Berber dialects (Amazigh) were introduced into the schools in 1995 by decree of the president. This was a tremendous political-cultural victory for the Berbers (Amazigh means "free men"). Barely 15 years earlier, scribbling a few words in tiffinagh, the characters of the Berber language, meant a stay in prison. One-third of the 48 provinces introduced pilot classes in Berber in the last year of middle school (ninth year) and the first year of high school (tenth year). Training courses for teachers were organized and exams planned for the brevet d'enseignement moyen (middle school certificate) and for the baccalauréat.

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