Index / Education
Syria's present school system emerged from the 1960's, becoming a tool in the government efforts of creating an Arabic unity for Syria. The system emerged first from a unified effort in 1967 between Syria, Jordan and Egypt creating a common school system in the 3 countries. 300 Christian schools and 75 Muslim schools were nationalized, which was extremely unpopular in particular among Christians.
In the 1970's, the Syrian government launched programs to secure full primary enrollment. Through the 1980's this was largely achieved, although there was a gender disparity of about 15% in disfavour of girls. By the middle of the 1980's, the disparity was grave for secondary education, where there were about twice as many boys as girls.
From the middle of the 1980's, more focus was given to creating a unified country around the one accepted political party, the ruling Baath Party.
Basic education for 6 years was made compulsory in 1981. In 2002, elementary and primary education were combined into one basic stage of 9 years, this becoming compulsory. Still, enrollment is not yet full, about 5% of girls do not attend.
Virtually all schools are public, about 2% private and there are a few run by the United Nations.
In the Syrian education system of the mid-1980's, the concept of examining a "truth" in an effort to confirm or refute it was largely unknown, and, in any event, was often viewed as an unacceptable challenge to authority.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 3.9% of GDP in 1999, which if measured to 2008 GDP would involve $190/capita. Both figures are low, placing Syria among the countries investing the least in the education sector among MENA countries.
Illiteracy is relatively high in Syria, and there remains some gender disparity, although not more than in neighbouring countries. The situation has improved, from 1981, the total number of literates have risen 18% (from 62 to 80%).
A program to fight adult illiteracy was launched in 1991, offering government-run courses.
Kindergartens are limited in Syria, about 10% of children attend in 2007, up from 8% in 2000. The institutions are mainly non-governmental, often run by labour organizations or women's organizations.
Basic education begins at the age of 6, lasting 9 years. It is provided for all inhabitants, free of charge and with free schoolbooks.
Arabic is used as language of instruction, also in the regions of Syria were the first language is another. English as first foreign language is taught from 1st grade, from 7th grade French is introduced as second foreign language.
2 to 3 hours a week is devoted to religious studies, Christianity to Christians and Islam to Muslims. Participation is compulsory, but grades are not included in the main annual grade-point average, and is ignored by many.
Syria has a very high repetition rate, in 2006 about 12%, and it is increasing year by year. Drop-out rates are also high, ca. 2% for classes 1 to 6, and 8% for classes 7 to 9.
Upon completing the 9th grade, pupils pass a national examination, in order to determine which pupils shall continue with academic secondary, and which with vocational secondary.
Secondary education is 3 years, and divided into general academic and technical and vocational programs. Attendance here was in 2007 72%. Infrastructure in rural areas is often poorly developed, and there are many regions without any secondary schools at all. Syrian government wishes to facilitate that a higher percentage of young Syrians enter vocational programs, as the academic branch produces candidates which has problems finding a place in work life.
Once a pupil has entered a branch at the secondary level, he or she is not permitted to change.
The first year, all pupils at general follow the same curriculum. The second year they specialize in either literary or scientific. Upon completing the 3rd year of secondary, all pupils pass a national examination.
Technical and vocational follow many specializations: industry, agriculture, commerce, and primary school-teacher training. There is sex segregation at vocational education. Fields of industry and agriculture is reserved men, crafts women, where as all are allowed into commercial and IT.
About 35% of all secondary pupils follow a vocational program, and about 40% are female.
The repetition rate at this level is very high, in 2006 it was about 20%, and it is increasing year by year. Drop-out rates at secondary is about 7%.
Syria's first university was established in 1923, and today, Syria offers education in all fields and at all levels. There are 4 large public universities, whereas the 5th, the Furat University, has campuses in 3 of the larger towns in the east of Syria.
In 2001, there was quite a revolution in the field of higher education, when laws were changed to allow the establishment of private institutions. After only 8 years, in 2009, there were 10 private universities, but several more have been granted license.
Entry to higher education is determined from the results of the final examination at secondary, but those with insufficient marks may enter higher institutions by paying a high fee (equivalent of $1500 to 3000). Syria's has reportedly a complicated system, with no national organization.
For those directly qualified, universities are free. Private universities are financed by full coverage by the tuition fee, making these institutions unavailable to most Syrians.
Syria does not follow the Bachelor/Master structure, rather a French model. The first stage of studies is 4 to 6 years depending on field, awarded by the License degree. The second stage is 1 to 2 years, awarded by either the DEA or the DESS degree.
Private universities have structures different from the public Syrian one.
Higher institutions in Syria graduates a great number of candidates in the fields of arts and literature, although the major demand from work life is more candidates from the fields of technology and science. A great number of higher graduates in Syria never get to use their education professionally.