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Educational System—overview

Compulsory Education: In the Libyan Jamahiriya education is free to everyone from elementary school right up to university and post-graduate education, both in Libya and abroad. Pre-university education is divided into primary, preparatory, and secondary education. Schools are everywhere. For nomads, there are mobile classrooms and teachers.

Age Limits: Education is compulsory between age 6 and 15 years of age. Where preschools are available, children begin school at age four. Because of herding responsibilities, some Bedouins do not start school until a more mature age.

Enrollment & Female Participation: In 1978, there were 819,012 students enrolled in Libyan schools. Roughly 18,956 or 2.3 percent were in private schools. The government closed private schools during the 1980s. Most enrolled children of foreign workers. Enrollment in religious schools increased after the revolution. In 1974, there were 15,303 Libyan students enrolled in religious or kuttab schools. By 1980, this number increased to 59,779 with the Islamic University of Sayid Muhammad Ali Sanusi at the zenith of religious education. By 1994, there were over 1.3 million students enrolled in primary school; 49 percent were female. Another 310,556 students were enrolled in secondary schools, and 72,899 university students were enrolled in school, of whom 46 percent were female. (UNESCO 56)

Women are making great progress in Libyan society if education is a barometer of change. In east Libya, schools are coeducational, but in west Libya male and female students attend separate schools. In rural areas, out of economic necessity, because the number of students is so small, boys and girls attend class together, but boys sit at the front of the class and girls at the back.

Academic Year: Libya's school year consists of 35 weeks of instruction. Students attend school 6 days per week or 280 days per year. School begins in September.

Language of Instruction: Arabic is the language of instruction. English and French are taught as second or foreign languages.

Examinations: Rigorous examinations screen students from one level within the system to the next. Beyond classroom examinations, there are two major statewide examinations. Those who pass earn a Primary School Certificate. This allows them to enter intermediate secondary school or junior high school. After graduation from junior high school, students take a state-administered examination to determine entrance into secondary schools and institutes. Those who pass are awarded a certificate that admits them to upper secondary school. During their last year of secondary school, students must pass another state examination to be admitted to universities and other institutions of higher education. Students who pass the upper secondary school examination earn a diploma. These state examinations are created and administered by the Secretariat of Education and Scientific Research. Examination results are published in major newspapers.

Religious Schools: Private schools were discontinued during the 1980s, but religious schools were encouraged. In 1975, there were 181 Koran schools that enrolled 15,303 students. There were 12 Islamic intermediate schools with an enrollment of 674 students. Just 162 students attended religious secondary schools that year. By 1981, with government encouragement, 59,779 students were enrolled in religious schools.

Curriculum: In six-year primary schools, students study mathematics, natural sciences, hygiene, art, crafts, literature, and physical education. In secondary schools, students can choose a literary or scientific program of study. Language studies at this level include English, French, and Italian, as well as Arabic.

After primary school some students follow a vocational or technical school program throughout secondary school. Others continue on to religious secondary schools and universities, which emphasize Islamic law and Arabic.

Textbooks: All textbooks and pedagogical materials are produced by the Secretariat of Education and Culture. Books used in religious schools must also be approved by the Secretariat of Education.

Role of Education in Development: Libya uses education as a tool of development. It makes an inventory of skills needed by Libyan workers and then sets the curriculum and incentives to encourage students to study those fields so that expatriates can be replaced by skilled Libyan workers. A "libyanization" of the workforce is the goal. They hope to break their dependence on foreign labor, given their deep-seated historically rooted mistrust of foreigners. They have been very successful thus far, especially in recruiting women into non-traditional occupations. Modern jobs are being filled by Libyans in industry and agriculture. Schools at each level are directing greater numbers of Libyan students into science and technology to fill Libya's manpower requirements.

Additional topics

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