Tunisia's education system includes early, primary, lower-secondary (or middle), secondary, and higher education. The duration of compulsory schooling is nine years, meaning that school attendance is usually mandatory for children aged six to 15 years and normally includes primary and lower-secondary education (from grade one to nine). Due to the country’s history, education in Tunisia has been influenced by the French system. Together with Arabic, French is a language of instruction at all educational levels, being predominantly used in scientific and technical degrees. Some higher education courses are also offered in English. Tunisia has both public and private educational institutions, with tuition fees varying according to educational level and school type. However, the government provides financial support to students enrolled in public education.
High enrollment in primary education
Elementary school attendance in Tunisia is high compared to other educational levels. In absolute terms, primary education has the largest number of enrollees. These amounted to around 1.3 million as of the 2020/2021 school year, compared to nearly 1.1 million students in lower-secondary and secondary school. The gross enrollment ratio in primary education exceeds 100 percent, meaning that elementary school is attended by a higher number of children than the official age group. Despite the high number of pupils, primary education in Tunisia has a reasonable pupil-to-teacher ratio, with an average of 18 children per teacher.
Lower-secondary and secondary education
After primary school, children attend lower-secondary and secondary education for three and four years, respectively. In the 2020/2021 school year, around 538,000 girls and 443,000 boys were enrolled at these educational levels. According to the latest available data, the gross enrollment rate in secondary school stands at around 93 percent. Upon successful completion of secondary education, students obtain a high school diploma - the baccalauréat. Holding a secondary degree is not extremely common in Tunisia. The share of people aged 25 years and older having reached - but not necessarily completed - at least some secondary education was around 45 percent in 2019.
Tertiary education and difficulties in entering the job market
Students holding a high school diploma can access higher education in Tunisia. Public tertiary institutions attract the vast majority of students, despite a gradual increment in private university enrollments. The public institutes of Sfax, Carthage, and Tunis El Manar lead the ranking of main universities by number of enrolled students. Universities in Tunisia offer a wide range of degrees. Commercial, administrative, engineering, and computer science degrees are the most popular among tertiary students. Despite the high levels of education achieved, entering the job market can be challenging. Government figures show that Tunisians holding university degrees face the highest levels of unemployment in the country. This is due to a mismatch of skills between education and the job market’s demands.
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