Index / Education
The earliest educational system of Sudan was established by the British during the first half of the 20th century. Its primary function was to provide a limited number of qualified professionals for the colonial administration. Schools were mainly located to Khartoum. In addition, independent Christian missionaries established schools across the south, but quality of the instruction was poor.
With the independence of 1956, only few reforms were launched in the educational sector. Since 1962, schools in the civil war ridden southern provinces have been operated by local authorities. There is no common program for education here, and resources are limited.
Through the 1970's reforms to make education effectively compulsory were launched, and with improved focus on technical and vocational education. Until then, education had focused training for an eventual university degree, but only a small part of all pupils got that far.
Still, through the 1980's the school system failed to produce enough qualified candidates at both lower and higher levels. Technical studies continued to have a low status among pupils, usually considered a second best option.
A persistent problem to the Sudanese educational system was the loss of qualified teachers, who often chose other forms of work or took work in foreign countries.
Special programs to promote education among girls have been carried out, but often facing the opposition from traditional ideas. Sudan has its own women's university, which has been quite successful.
A major reform to the educational system was launched in 1990, when Islam became a central part of all subjects; military service became a requirement to be admitted into university; Arabic was decreed the new language of instruction in universities, replacing English. The reforms met strong opposition, and many of the teaching staff at universities were dismissed.
The size of expenditure on education compared to GDP is presently highly uncertain, the last good estimate goes back to 1991, when 6.0% was used. Should this be the figure today, it would correspond to $130 per capita, placing Sudan among the countries spending the least money on its education.
Literacy is now above 60%, better for men than women but not with the large differences one might have expected. Literacy is better among the young, but even here almost 25% cannot read and write.
Children in larger cities may attend a form of pedagogical kindergarten, beginning at the age of 4, continuing for 2 years until the children are ready to start ordinary school.
Education in Sudan is free and compulsory for children ages 6 to 13 years, altogether 8 years of school. Figures of 2001 show that only 46% attended primary school. As one could expect, attendance in urban region areas were better than the average, in the worst cases, rural areas could have as little as 20% attendance.
Until 1990 there were 6 years of primary education, followed by 3 years of junior secondary schools.
The primary language of all schools is Arabic, even in non-Arabic regions.
About 21% attend secondary school, according to 2001 figures. There are programs of 3 or 4 years. Higher secondary programs aiming at higher education lasts 3 years. Courses that are considered final educations, like those at commercial, agricultural or other technical schools offer 4 year programs. Teacher education is also offered at this level, taking 4 years.
For higher secondary programs academic subjects like chemistry, biology, physics and geography are now introduced.
Sudan has 33 universities, but there is uncertainty here, as several universities may have a low level of activity.
Foremost are the University of Khartoum that opened in 1956; the Omdurman Islamic University that opened in 1912; and the University of Juba that opened in 1975; the University of Gezira in Wad Madani; the Khartoum branch of the University of Cairo. There is also the College of Fine and Applied Art in Khartoum. The Omdurman Ahlia University was established as a private initiative, aiming at offering work-oriented education different from the curricula of the governmental universities, especially in fields like Administration; Environmental Studies; Physics and Mathematics; and Library Science.
Arabic is now the dominating language at the universities, and has almost fully replaced English.