Tunisia Prior to 1958 education in Tunisia was only available to a privileged minority (14%). It is now given an extremely high priority and accounts for 6% of G.N.P. A basic education has been compulsory for both boys and girls since 1991. Tunisia is a Muslim country but with a secular government. Great emphasis is given on the equality of girls and boys and this was evident in the school visited. It is not, however always reflected in teaching staff, where no head teachers were female. There were, however, female local and national inspectors. The country was disappointed with the progress made since the 1991 reform, which appears to have been largely based around rote learning of facts. The document - An education strategy for the future 2002 – 2007 requires the development of: practical skills acquired through manipulation and experimentation from a problem solving perspective. These practical and problem solving skills are evident in classrooms where children undertake a cross curricula approach, eloquently posing their own questions for their fellow students to answer. In 2003 the literacy rate for the total population was 74.2% placing Tunisia 150th out of 202 nations. The gap between male and female literacy was 20% (http://www.nationmaster.com/country/ts/Education&b_define=1). This is a situation, which the government is very keen to remedy. There appears limited provision for Special Needs. Children are encouraged to work as a team, with the more able helping the less able to complete tasks. Children who do not succeed in end-of-year tests may be asked to repeat a year. Language is given an extremely high priority. Children are brought up to speak Tunisian Arabic. When they enter school at age 5, they are taught in Classical Arabic. From the age of 8, they are taught French while English is introduced at the age of 10. It is initially taught through “clubs” - games and songs but in lesson time. An experimental “virtual school” was established in 2002 with the aims of teaching Arabic to Tunisian expatriates, providing remedial instruction at all levels, providing continuing education for school leavers and providing a center for training educators. There appears to be little provision for alternative, private education. James Coffman - Director for Tunisia of America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc. described the system as “nascent” (http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/soe/cihe/newsletter/News04/textcy5.html, accessed 3- July-05). There are a few expatriate French schools and at least one Montessori school. By law the institution’s owner and actual director must have Tunisian nationality and special permission from the Ministry of Education.  Basic progression/structure Age in Phase years 3 to 6 Preschool This is comparatively new, optional and fee paying. 6 to 12 Primary This is aimed at providing a basic education, teaching “the instruments of cognition and the basics in oral and written Grades 1 - 6 expression as well as reading and reckoning. It also aims to develop their minds”( Republic of Tunisia, Ministry of Education and Training, Education Act, 23rd July 2004, Article 22) and help achieve skills in science, the arts, physical and manual abilities and civic and social responsibilities. 12 to 14 Preparatory This is aimed at developing pupil’s communications skills in Arabic and two foreign languages, as well as consolidating the Grades 7 - 9 basic education. Some pupils may be given alternative training at vocational training centers. 14 to 18 Secondary This is only available to pupils who have satisfied the ninth grade of basic schooling and who have a basic schooling certificate. The first year is common to all students followed by three years of specialization. 19 to 25 Adult There are “162 institutions of higher education, among them 22 Higher Institutes of Technological Studies (ISET), and 6 Higher Institutes of Teachers Training (ISFM)” (http://www.universites.tn/anglais/index.htm). A voluntary policy to promote adult education has served to increase literacy and pave the way to a “lifelong” education (Republic of Tunisia, Ministry of Education and Training, January 2003, The New Education Reform in Tunisia – Ann Education Strategy for the future, 2002 – 2007, Towards a society of knowledge and skills, p16).
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