by Ashor Sarupen and Khume Ramulifho
Country Background and Context
Algeria, a north African country, is the largest country in Africa by territory, after the South Sudan declared independence from the Sudan. Algeria is bordered by the Mediterranean on the north, on the west by Morocco and Western Sahara, on the southwest by Mauritania and Mali, on the southeast by Niger, and on the east by Libya and Tunisia.
The present boundaries were set during the French conquest of Algeria in the nineteenth century.
Algeria is divided into 48 wilayas (provinces). Each wilaya has a wilayat (provincial council) headed by prefects appointed by the president and 1,539 local authorities. The Director of Education for each wilaya administers the plans and operations of the schools.
The combined Arab-Berber people comprise more than 99 percent of the population (Arabs approximately 80 percent; Berbers 20 percent), with Europeans less than one percent. Islam is the official state religion, with Sunni Muslims numbering over 98 percent of the population.
Algeria was annexed to France in 1842, after which the French started colonizing the entire country. The French colonists wished to be ruled by the home government rather than by military authorities, and a very close connection with France developed, whereby Algeria came to be regarded as an integral part of France, with representatives in the French parliament. Assimilation, however, was never complete and Algeria enjoyed considerable autonomy.
The colonial authorities imposed a policy of cultural imperialism intended to suppress Algerian cultural identity and to remold the society along French lines. Local culture was actively eliminated, mosques were converted into churches, and old medinas (Arab cities) were pulled down and replaced with streets. Prime farming land was appropriated for European settlers. White French settlers controlled most of the political and economic power, and the indigenous peoples became subservient.
Algerian independence came in 1962 after an eight-year war. A national assembly was elected and a republic was declared. Three years later, a military junta overthrew the government and ruled for 10 years before new elections were held. The National Liberation Front (FLN), the sole political party in Algeria, was a party of primarily secular socialist policies.
The post-independence policy of Arabization that included replacing French with Arabic as the state language. After independence, free and compulsory education was guaranteed for all. School enrollment rose from 850,000 in 1963 to 3 million in 1975.
In 1992, democratic elections were cancelled just as the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)was headed for a landslide victory. The president resigned and handed power over to the military, which led to a civil war between the government and the Islamic fundamentalists. The FIS laid siege to the secular government. The death toll was placed at 45,000.
The right to form political parties is guaranteed, provided such parties are not based on differences in religion, language, race, gender, or region, and regular elections are held. In reality, the military controls the state and the civilian government has limited power, with the ruling party having been in power since independence and the president having been in office since 1999. The country was awash with propaganda promoting the military and the ruling party.
The Algerian Government has social intervention programmes. These include amongst others:
- Scholar Transport
- Nutrition program
- Text Books
- Medical Services i.e. eye glasses
- School uniforms including sport gear etc.
Findings on the Education System in Algeria
History of the Education System
Since gaining independence in 1962, education has been a high priority for Algeria; the country has always committed a substantial proportion of its resources to the education sector – one of the highest proportions in the world, estimated to be 7.5% of GDP. More than 10 million Algerians currently attend school (28 per cent of the population).
From 1984 to 2013, the number of students doubled from 5.1 to 10.1 million and spending on education rose from 20 billion Algerian Dinars to 1,260 billion.
In 2003, a new general law governing education triggered a reform of the education system which involved reorganizing educational structures, reworking teaching methods and revising school programmes around a framework in order to ensure quality of learning, with the objective of improving quality outcomes. Social support systems (integrated with other departments such as health) are integrated into the education system to ensure that disadvantaged citizens have equal access to educational opportunities. The reforms implemented since 2003 was driven by politics: public and international criticisms of national education on the lack of quality and efficiency initiated drastic changes. Two major projects were launched as part of the reform process: reformed school curricula in the form of skills and textbooks, which was the cornerstone of the generalization of the reform and adapting the competency-based approach that focuses on a pupil (learner-centered) rather than on the teacher during the teaching and learning process. In this approach the pupil is trained to act and build knowledge by himself (to seek information, to organize, to analyze situations, to develop hypotheses, to respond to problem situations and evaluate solutions based on acquired knowledge). It aims at making learning more concrete and operational, geared towards meeting the demands of the local labor market.
Marshalling resources into the education sector has contributed to a major reduction drop in illiteracy (from 75 per cent in 1966 to 22 per cent in 2008). The net school enrolment rate of 6-16 year olds went from 88.3 per cent in 2006 to 92.9 per cent in 2013 with full parity between boys and girls. In 2013, the population aged 6-16 was estimated at 6.95 million children (3.55 million boys and 3.4 million girls). Out-of-school children aged 6-16 therefore represent a population of 494,000 including 252,000 boys and 242,000 girls. In 2006, the population of 6-16 year olds was estimated at 7.6 million children (3.88 million boys and 3.72 million girls). The number of out-of-school children aged 6-16 was reduced by almost a half between 2006 and 2013. The Algerian education system is therefore characterized by high rates of school enrolment and rapid growth in numbers for the different educational cycles, resulting in students staying in school for longer.
Private Schooling in Algeria
In 1976 and private schools were abolished, and only permitted again in 2004. The private sector is small and there has not been very significant growth. There are now 136 private schools in Algeria, but their impact is limited by high fees and the fact that more than half of them are located in Algiers.
Only 0.5% of primary and secondary pupils receive private school education. Other private institutions have been permitted to offer only the state’s Brevet de Technicien Supérieure (BTS), but have to some extent circumvented this limitation by offering, in partnership, the diplomas of foreign institutions. Only one serious project for a private university is in the tightly controlled pipeline.
Projected growth in private education in Algeria, particularly accessible private education for lower and middle income households, are anticipated to be key to improving education in Algeria, according to OECD and WEF reports.
Structure of the School System
The curriculum is delivered over 13 years of schooling, in four distinct phases. Phase one is a single year of school readiness at age 4-5, or pre-school (a global standard in line with ECD recommendations by the world economic forum). School readiness programmes such as a year of pre-school has been implemented to combat the dropout rate in later years, as well as combat illiteracy in adolescents and adulthood. The implementation and management of effective ECD has allowed Algeria to reduce the illiteracy rate for its population over age 15 to 20%, while reduced school drop-outs to 50 000 per annum (in stark contrast to the South African figures). This reduction in negative indicators in later years, and its link to pre-schooling is driven by the fact that engaging young children from a very early age in cognitive, social, and emotional developmental activities is directly correlated to success or failure in later years of schooling. Parental engagement and stimulation in early years through communication, games, and reading is essential for early childhood development, and where this is not adequately done due to poverty or poor education levels amongst adults, it is essential that these tasks, along with socialization of children in a structured environment with qualified educations help them prepare children for more structured school learning. Some 63% of Algerian children aged four to five are enrolled in state run pre-schooling. To this end, Algeria noted a drop in the number of primary school children (due to changes in the population demographic distribution) and in 2010 introduced a preparatory class for five-year olds in public primary schools.
The second phase of schooling is, grades 1-5, is delivered to learners aged 6-11, at the end of which, all learners write a common primary school-leaving exam. This use of standardized testing allows for the system to identify gaps in the outcomes of the system early on, allowed for corrections to happen in middle school in order to ensure that the system meets key outcomes in literacy and numeracy, as well as identify underperforming schools and teachers at an earlier phase than the South African system.
Phase three involves four years of middle school (grades 6-9), at which point mandatory education ends at grade 9 with another set of standardized, school leaving national exams. The graduating certificate here is entitled Bulletin d’enseignement Moyen or Middle School Certificate. During this time, scientific and technical literacy is the main objective of the system and close connections between schooling and work informs the system.
At this point, point learners are streamed, based on academic performance, into one of two streams – a further three years of academic high school leading to a Baccalaureate (similar to the South African matric certificate) which allows the learner entry into academic tertiary education. The success rate for the 2016 baccalaureate exams was 49.47% – students are given the opportunity to repeat subjects through the distance learning system or by remaining in the formal system, and results are not massaged to promote a high pass rate at the expense of the quality of the passes. The second stream is into three years of vocational and technical education, which is steadily harmonized to meet the needs of the market and industrial players in Algeria, ensuring employability at the completion of vocational and technical education. The vocational system does not preclude entry into the university system, however, but does ensure that less academically inclined learners are equipped to enter the job market without the need for tertiary education.
Classical Arabic is the compulsory language of instruction in the Algerian schools. French is taught from the third year onwards, it is also the language of instruction for advanced mathematics and science courses. English is taught from the first year at middle school. Students can also learn Spanish, Italian or German at secondary level. The Tamazight language (Berber language) became a national language registered in the Algerian constitution, thus since 2005, it was studied at primary, middle and even at the secondary school.
The main objective of pre-board education is the integration of the child, gradually, into the school environment through attractive and appropriate games to introduce him to the first elements of reading, writing and calculation and to develop his practice of language through communication situations induced by the proposed activities and games.
The purpose of primary school is to help children to master the basics of reading, writing and numeracy. Moreover, its aim is to promote the development of personality in pupils and to create good habits by training them in community life.
The aim of fundamental education is to equip students with essential learning to develop their identity in harmony with social, spiritual, ethical values and traditions arising from the common cultural heritage, to embrace the values of citizenship and the demands of life in society, to develop their sensitivity and to sharpen their aesthetic sense; their curiosity; their imagination; their creativity and their critical thinking to understand the living and the world and to learn to observe and solve problems.
It is divided into general secondary education that consists of five specialties: the exact sciences, the sciences of nature and life, humanities and letters, literature and living language, and religious sciences. The technical secondary education includes the following specialties: electronics, electrical engineering, mechanics, public works and construction, chemistry and accounting techniques. General secondary education and technical secondary education vary in the following specialties: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, management, and economics. The orientation of pupils in the first year of secondary school towards the technical or general specialties of secondary education is done at the end of the year according to their wishes and their results. The end of schooling is marked by the baccalaureate exam. The secondary schools aim at consolidating and deepening the knowledge acquired in the different disciplinary fields, developing methods of analysis; synthesis; reasoning and taking responsibility, having an openness to foreign civilizations and cultures and to accept differences and to coexist peacefully with other peoples and preparing pupils for the pursuit of further studies or higher education.
Algeria’s scores and rankings in the WEF Africa Competitiveness Report are disquieting. While its positions on secondary (52nd/144) and tertiary (74th/144) enrolment are very good against the other countries of the region, the same cannot be said of its quality measures.
On “Quality of the Education System” it ranks 131st/144, ahead only of Egypt (139th) and Libya (142nd), and behind Tunisia (68th) and Morocco (105th). On “Quality of Science and Maths Education”, it stands 129th, on its management school, 131st, and on the extent of staff training, last of the five countries at 142nd/144.
The reform initiative begun in 2003 has not been entirely successful. It has “failed” – according to a report issued by the CLA (the Council for Secondary Schools in Algiers), an independent teachers’ union, in March 2013 – or it “wasn’t fully implemented” according to SNAPEST, the CLA’s official counterpart. CLA’s grievances include the assertion that “pupils don’t master the three academic elements (reading, writing and arithmetic)” and the statement that 70% of maths teachers report pupil levels as “low”.
Their demands are for smaller classes, the extirpation of ideology in the classroom, reform of the curriculum, opening schools up to “universal knowledge”, encouraging children’s self-expression and – interestingly – “a return to technical education”.
In early 2014 widespread teachers’ strikes over professional and salary demands paralysed education for over a month, as they had in 2009 and 2010, with a claimed 65% teacher participation (9.3% according to the Ministry of Education). As noted above, the WEF’s assessment of the overall system quality, and its contribution to national competitiveness, is still not high.
In an attempt to improve outcomes in the teaching and learning of English, the British Council has been involved with the Ministry of Education in work on the teaching of English. In 2014 this was embodied in the very ambitious SEEDS programme, a comprehensive strategy for blended learning/training at all levels of the schools education system.
In 1990 80% of primary schoolchildren completed (87% male, 74% female), though only 33% achieved the BEF certificate. By 2011 93% completed, with more girls (94.6%) than boys (91.1%). Figures for 1999 show that only 55% of the cohort actually then progressed to secondary education. But by 2011 this figure had reached 97.7% (100% of boys and 95.3% of girls).
Promotion from primary into middle school is by assessment, and many fail at the first attempt: the pass rate in 2010 was 66.4%. The repeating of whole years is common (arguably another French cultural legacy), and accounts for the high gross enrolment figures. At the end of the second cycle, grade 9, a progression certificate is issued, permitting progression to secondary school for those who succeed – 66.4% of pupils in 2010.
Progression from secondary school to university through the final school leaving exam leaves a lot to be desired: in 2012 only 35% of students reached the pass mark on the first sitting, with another 9% passing on the re-examinations at the end of the summer. The attrition rate of pupils at all levels is a major concern, with at least half a million students leaving the system unqualified each year.
Algeria has not taken part in TIMSS, PIRLS or PISA exercises making quality comparisons difficult. Girls dominate educational enrolment at all levels above primary (99.5%:95.7% Gross Enrolment at secondary; 37.7%:25.4% at tertiary 28. Education is clearly seen as an instrument of empowerment, a route to personal betterment in a society that is still fairly traditional in many aspects. Dropping-out of education is a predominantly male phenomenon. But this is regionally different: in the rural south, where dropout rates are anyway higher than on the coast, girls represent a higher proportion, withdrawn by their families for domestic and agricultural duties.
And despite higher female participation rates, the imbalance of employment outcomes in favour of men is remarkable. The figures for women are higher than those for men at each level, the discrepancy grows significantly, to 10.3 percentage points for secondary completers (17.2% for females, against 7% for males) and 19.9% for graduates (33.3% against 10.4% for males).29
Furthermore, the unemployment rate for women with university degrees is 20–30% higher than that for men in all disciplines.
In 2009 there were 24,600 schools at all levels, and 370,000 teachers; and the Ministry intended the addition of 3,000 primary, 1,000 middle, 850 secondary and 2,000 boarding schools (crucial for the education of children from remote rural communities) over the present five-year plan period.14
The recruitment of qualified teachers and continuing education is a fundamental vector of the quality of education, teachers able to transmit the values of human and humanist values enshrined in the national of law 2008 are essential.
ICT in Schools
Algeria is encouraging and fostering the use of ICT to enhance the development process in general and the development of the educational system, paving the road for an ICT policy framework along with an implementation strategy.
The government has placed weight on the development of ICT-related human resources. Considering the globally emerging knowledge and information society, Algeria has formed a committee in charge of defining the elements of an Algerian national information society strategy. It is anticipated that the committee will work on creating synergies among the different sectors in the area of infrastructure, training, and research as well as information systems and ICTs.
The committee will identify a national ICT working group, which will be charged with formulating short-, medium-, and long-term action plans for ICT.
The government is committed to set forth a policy for the integration of ICT within the educational system. The reform of the educational process and inclusion of ICT with a set structure was formally included in the country’s formal ICT policy in June 2002 with an allocation of three billion dinar.
The Ministry of Education is working on building the infrastructure for enabling the ICT environment. All secondary schools were equipped with computer labs (15 computers: 10 for students, five for teachers) connected to the Internet through ADSL, and 30% of this foundation had Internet access via cable modem.
Half of the middle schools have adopted ICT as an integral part of the educational programme. In the case of the primary schools, the ICT policy remains limited to the administrative process and teacher training. The existence of computer labs at primary schools remains subject to local contributions and donations by parents and community members.
All universities have computer labs and Internet access for faculty, students, and administration in addition to the availability of digital libraries. Each university has its own ICT policy to accelerate the educational process and offer better learning opportunities in virtual universities and with distance and open learning. Within the framework of enhancing the level of ICT penetration and usage in education, the government has signed a number of agreements with international organisations. For example, UNESCO is undertaking a number of initiatives for the proper integration of ICT in the Algerian education system, and the Japanese government has provided funding for teacher-training programmes totaling to USD$750,000.
There are a number of initiatives that have been adopted in an attempt to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The related strategies, under the heading of e-learning, were set forth to:
- Promote the development of e-learning resources
- Facilitate public-private partnerships to mobilise resources in order to support elearning initiatives
- Promote the development of integrated e-learning curriculum to support ICT in education
- Promote distance education and virtual institutions, particularly in higher education and training
- Promote the establishment of a national ICT centre of excellence
- Provide affordable infrastructure to facilitate dissemination of knowledge and skill through e-learning platforms
- Promote the development of content to address the educational needs of primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions
- Create awareness of the opportunities offered by ICT as an educational tool to the education sector
- Facilitate sharing of e-learning resources between institutions
- Integrate e-learning resources with other existing resources
In Algeria all education institutions deliver the same ICT curriculum as designed by the Ministry of Education. However, the plan is to integrate ICT within the different subject matters to enhance learning and education. It therefore becomes a process of learning through the use of ICT rather than learning about the technology.
In Algeria the programme of ICT training for teachers has been limited to basic information, with most receiving 30-60 hours of training. Although 100% of secondary teachers and 60% of middle school teachers received the basic ICT training, this has to date very little impact on the quality or method of delivery of education in the classroom.
Major training components:
- Basic ICT training: basic operations, Windows-based software, e-mail, and Internet
- Intermediate training: classroom applications, Internet for teaching, and e-mail as a medium for communication and collaboration
- Advanced training: development and creation of educational software, on-line classes, telecommunication, e-mailing, development of interactive Web sites, production of multimedia presentations, producing creative work
Programmes and teacher training is still limited to basic ICT training with no connection or relevance to integration into the educational process. Professional development and ICT programmes lack connection with content and curriculum development in a manner that allows for proper implementation of reform. The disconnection among the different development programmes impedes proper impact and progress.
E-learning, Distance Learning and Blended Learning
Distance learning, in the form of e-learning, is provided to the entire population of Algeria, from middle school through to the completion of high school. This allows for blended learning as classroom teaching is augmented with e-learning.
The distance learning system has undergone various incarnations – from books in the postal service, to video tapes, to CDs and now to a fully online system. This system is monitored in real time to ensure sufficient capacity to meet the demand load for users on the system.
The e-learning system is fully interactive, with full time tutors available to guide learners, answer questions and facilitate where needed or where material is not well understood. A dedicated departmental office (OFFICE NATIONAL D’ENSEIGNEMENT ET DE FORMATION A DISTANCE), based in Algiers, focuses on this function, from which the data center is run, as well as where tutors are based, and materials are generated in conjunction with the education department.
An innovative tool to improve quality is the Algerian system is the creation of individualized learner profiles based on psychometric analysis, which is then tied into blended learning using both distance and contact learning at middle and high school levels.
Learner profiles determined how best learners learn (self-learning, group learning, experiential learning, etc.), allowing teachers to direct their efforts at an individualized level, and further allowing a customized experience on the blended learning system.
Learner profiles power personalized learning through data that informs a competency-based education system. Competency-based environments encourage ownership over learning and allow students to have flexibility in how they learn, how they demonstrate learning and advancing at a flexible pace and according to their own needs.
Advantages of this system are:
- Learner profiles encourage student ownership
- Learner profiles encourage anytime, anywhere learning
- Learner profiles encourage personalization
- Learner profiles allow for portability across systems
- Learner profiles facilitate demonstration of college and career readiness
Legal and Constitutional Obligations
The principles governing the Algerian educational system are stipulated in the Algerian Constitution, in particular Article 53, that education is an inalienable right.
The school system is characterized by the centralization of programs, methods and schedules. However, the management of institutions and staff is decentralized. Law No. 08-04 of January 23rd 2008, laying down the National Education Act, enshrines the right to education through Articles 10, 11, and 12:
Article 10: The State guarantees the right to education for all Algerians and Algerians without discrimination on grounds of sex, social origin or geographical origin.
Article 11: The right to education is embodied in the generalization of basic education and in the guarantee of equal opportunities in terms of the conditions of schooling and the pursuit of studies after basic education.
Article 12: Education is compulsory for all girls and boys aged 6 to 16 years.
The past few years have also seen the use of regulatory tools to step up enrolment rates. Year-long expulsions of pupils from schools have been banned, and a system of fines was implemented in 2010 for parents who do not ensure that their children attend school. For the 2015/16 school year, approximately 8.1m students were enrolled in primary, middle and high school education.
Recommendations and conclusion
- The Algerian e-learning system is replicable in South Africa as a way to augment teaching and provide leaners with additional resources at minimal costs – this should be further explored from a policy perspective for blended learning as an avenue to improve outcomes in schools.
- Learner profiling allows for more effective teaching and should be further explored for policy development.
- ICT in education needs to be more effectively rolled out starting with a strategy, as the devices themselves are just enabling technology – it’s not an achievement to distribute technology, teacher training is essential and must be based on a co-ordinated strategy – this should be an area for political exploitation in Gauteng.
- The need to inculcate the culture of community ownership of schools including facilities and equipment,
- School environment must be safe and secure, ensure cleanliness.
Algeria’s education system, while plagued with similar problems to South Africa, and while criticized for its quality, achieves better outcomes than South Africa, particularly in STEM. The homogenous nature of Algerian society means that many lessons are not cross-compatible, but ideas around blended learning, learner profiling and ICT in education provide policy and political opportunities for the DA to explore and exploit.