Education Background in Syria
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education are primarily responsible for all aspects of administration of the Syrian schools, colleges, and universities, including curricula development.
Schooling is divided into 6 years of compulsory primary education, 3 years of lower secondary education, and 3 years of higher secondary education. General secondary education offers academic courses and prepares students for university entrance; the last 2 years of this stage are divided into literary and scientific streams. Vocational secondary training offers courses in industry, agriculture, commerce, and primary school-teacher training. The usual entrance age for higher secondary schooling is 15 but is 14 for teacher training institutions. This system was established in 1967, when the country signed the Arab Cultural Unity Agreement with Jordan and Egypt, introducing a uniform school ladder in the three countries and determining curricula examination procedures and teacher training requirements for each level.
The demand for education has increased sharply. Between 1970 and 1976, enrollment in the primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary levels increased by 43 percent, 52 percent and 65 percent, respectively. During the same period, enrollments in the various institutes of higher learning increased by over 66 percent. In 1984, 1 million boys and 818,000 girls attended primary schools, which numbered 8,489. Nearly 1,600 secondary schools enrolled over 700,000 pupils.
The Ministry of Higher Education in 1984 supervised four universities, one each in Damascus, Aleppo, Latakia, and Homs. The University of Damascus, founded in 1923, had faculties of law, medicine, pharmacology, letters, dentistry, Islamic jurisprudence, agriculture, architecture, engineering, science, fine arts, commerce, and education. The Higher Institute for Social Work, established in 1962 to conduct research into social and economic problems, also was affiliated with the university. The University of Aleppo, opened in 1958, had faculties of engineering and sciences, agriculture, and literature. Tishrin University in Latakia had a similar curriculum. Al Baath University in Homs, opened in 1979, was Syria's first university with departments of petroleum engineering and veterinary medicine.
A second major thrust of Syrian educational planning was eliminating illiteracy. In 1981, an estimated 2 million Syrians --42 percent of the population over 12 years of age-- were illiterate. In accordance with the government's drive to eliminate illiteracy by 1991, in 1984 approximately 57,000 Syrians attended literacy classes sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
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