Tunisia’s National Plan to Create an Educated Nation

Since gaining the status of an independent nation in 1956, Tunisia has been focused on education as a means of developing the economic and social potential of their nation. This devotion to their educational goals and the prudent development of their education system has resulted in their scholastic levels exceeding that of other countries with a similar economic position as Tunisia. With as much as 20% of the Tunisian government’s budget allocated to education, in recent years Tunisian education has risen to be ranked 98th out of 182 countries, and is now ranked 2nd across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), right behind Jordan.

The greatest part of the focus on education in Tunisia is on higher education, and many of the governmental policies are specifically aimed at producing a high number of college graduates ready to take Tunisia into the 21st Century technologically. To do this, the government has made university education free for all citizens that have passed the high school examinations. While as many as 60% of students that sit these government exams pass them, there are still enrollment rates of 30,000 to 40,000 new college students every year. There are currently 13 universities and 24 Institutes of Higher Technological Studies in Tunisia, meaning that 57% of people entering the labor market are college educated.

The focus of the Tunisian government’s developmental plans for the higher education sector is on improving human developmental indicators to equal those of the most developed nations by supporting science and technology studies. The objective is to increase the numbers of graduates in these fields by almost 50% over their 2009 numbers by 2014. Tunisian education initiatives are now also focusing on the education of as many as 9000 engineers in this period, in a bid to create the educated class of people that they need to develop their infrastructure so they can begin to approach that of the much more developed nations of Europe and America.

Criticisms of the higher education system in Tunisia range from the relatively low numbers of students in private colleges to claims that Tunisians have been overeducated in an employment marketplace where the low demand for these higher skills sees most college-educated Tunisians working in jobs that are well below their level of qualification. The government’s policies that discourage foreign investment in higher education, and which don’t allow part-time foreign teachers, as well as the fact that the Tunisian education system is not in synch with European or American models, are the greatest impediments to the government’s plans. Recent restructuring of their degree system and a closer association with European institutions are aimed at addressing these issues while large infrastructure development plans by the government, that will begin to employ many of the college graduates at levels that better suit their tertiary qualifications, are put in place.

Higher education in Tunisia seems set to continue to develop towards a greater parity with the systems in more developed countries. In an increasingly technological world Tunisia is developing its greatest asset as their most important national resource, its people.


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