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Education in Algeria by Nick Clark

Introduction

At independence in 1962 the Algerian education system was highly exclusive and geared toward the training of French colonial elite. With the creation of the Ministry of Education in 1963, the process of building an inclusive and open national education system was set in motion.

Since then, many reforms occurred. An education reform passed in 1971 introduced the nine-year basic education program. Further reforms in 1976 extended the period of compulsory education from six years to 10 years while also guaranteeing that education at every level is provided free to all. In addition to guaranteeing tuition-free instruction, the reforms of 1976 mandated that education be the exclusive domain of the state. Reacting to a need to reduce the burden on the state, the government passed an executive decree in 2004 that amended the 1976 reforms and explicitly allowed for the establishment of private institutions of education under well-defined regulations. Private education in Algeria still remains, however, very much a nascent industry. 

The Ministry of National Education is responsible for the supervision of basic and secondary education.

PRIMARY EDUCATION

The first five years of schooling are compulsory for all children of school age (usually age six and above). French is the only foreign language taught at the primary level. Students start learning French a first foreign language from the second year of primary education where English is not taught at all.

BASIC EDUCATION

English is introduced in the first year of Basic Education, at the beginning it is considered as the second foreign language. It is taught for four year. New syllabus has been designed and new textbooks have been published. The new approach introduced is "Competency-Based Approach"

At the end of basic education, students take the national basic education certificate examination (BEM) Brevet d’ Enseignement Moyen). Students who are successful on the examination and in their final year of studies are awarded the Brevet d’Enseignement Moyen (BEM), which grants them access to The Secondary Education.

SECONDARY EDUCATION

Three main streams are included in the first year of secondary education: languages and social studies, sciences and technology.

These three main streams give  access to other streams in the second and third year.

1)   Philosophy and literature

2)   Literature and foreign languages

3)   Sciences

4)   Mathematics

5)   Economy and Management

6)   Chemistry

7)   Mechanical technology

8)   electrical technology

9)   civil technology

Students are streamed according to their personal preferences, the opinion of their teachers and counsellors, their results at the end of their first secondary school year, All in all, promotion to successive grades is based on students’ performance through the year.

Students sit for the baccalaureate examinations at the end of the third year of secondary education, and admission to tertiary-level institutions is based on student performance in these exams. Students are examined in each subject studied during their final year and get the baccalaureate if they score a combined average of over 50 percent (greater than 10 on a 20-point scale) in all subjects.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Admissions

Access to postsecondary studies is open to holders of the baccalaureate or a foreign equivalent. In addition to passing the baccalaureate, students must also meet requirements set annually by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research based on the following considerations:

  •  
    • Student choice
    • Field of study in the baccalaureate
    • Average score in specific fields on the baccalaureate
    • The number of available seats in each field and jurisdiction.

Institutions

Higher education in Algeria is offered at 27 universities, 13 university centres, 6 national schools, 6 national institutes, 4 teacher-training institutes and 2 university annexes. Universities and university centres are centrally administered by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, while specialized schools and institutes generally fall under the portfolio of the ministry to which its specialization is most closely related.

Unlike universities and university centres, specialized schools and institutes fall under the joint control of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and an associated ministry, i.e. agriculture, health, industry etc. National schools (écoles nationales) are highly selective and tend to specialize in the theoretical and applied sciences. Students are selected on the basis of their scientific baccalaureate scores, with places being reserved for those scoring top grades. National institutes have traditionally offered specialized professional training programs lasting two and a half years and leading to the award of the Diplôme de Technician Supérieur (DTS). In an effort to meet the burgeoning demand for university education in Algeria, many of these institutes now offer a wider range of specializations as well as university-track awards. Some institutes now enrol baccalaureate holders into five-year engineering programs leading to the Diplôme d’Ingénieur and a number of institutes have recently been merged to form new universities.

Since 1991, the ministry has been phasing out the DTS in favor of the three-year Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Appliqués (DEUA), which, like the DTS, is primarily offered in technological fields in addition to some natural science fields and applied psychology, library science, statistics, and accounting. The DEUA is offered at both university and non-university institutions.

In addition to traditional bricks and mortar universities, L’Université de la Formation Continue (University of Continuing Education) has, since 1990, offered non-baccalaureate holding students the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education by special entrance examinations, in addition to offering open admissions to holders of the baccalaureate. The institution offers short three-year programs in 18 subject areas leading to the DEUA. Courses are offered through a network of 51 study centres and also by correspondence and via the Internet. Students are required to pay tuition.
 
In 2003, almost 6000 foreign students were enrolled in an Algerian institution of higher education, of which 4000 were from French-speaking Africa.

PROGRAMS AND DEGREES

Current System

The specific degrees awarded by institutions of higher education, whether of the university or non-university type, are determined by the field of study and not the institution, therefore, there is often a fair degree of overlap between the credentials offered by universities and institutes. In general, however, students graduating from university programs tend to do so from long-cycle programs, whereas those graduating from non-university institutions typically do so from short programs. All awards are issued by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research or in professional/vocational fields by the associated ministry.

University Programs

Stage I: At the undergraduate level, programs are offered on two parallel tracks. The first is the short three-year track, which in most cases does not give access to further studies. Students graduating from short-track programs are awarded the Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Appliqués (DEUA). More common are four- to five-year long programs leading to the Licence or Diplôme d’Etudes Superieures (both four years) or, in technological institutes the Diplôme d’Ingenieur (five years), which is awarded in technological fields and some natural and earth sciences. The Licence is awarded in the humanities and social sciences to graduates of universities, teacher-training institutes and specialized institutes. The Diplôme d’Etudes Superieures is awarded in scientific and technological fields.

Other five-year degrees include the Diplôme d’Etat d’Architecte, Diplôme de Pharmacien and the Diplôme de Doctor Vétérinaire.  In fields such as engineering, students who have completed a DEUA in a related field can enter the third year of a Diplome d’Ingenieur program. The Diplôme de Docteur en Médecine requires seven years of study.

Stage II: The first research degree (diplôme de postgraduation) offered to graduates of relevant first-tier long programs (Licence, DES) is the two year Diplôme de Magister. Students take core practical and theoretical classes in addition to classes and electives in their area of specialization. Students are also required to study a foreign language and conduct original research culminating in the preparation and defense of a thesis. If they plan to become educators, students are required to take pedagogical classes. In addition to completing a long first-tier program, students must pass an entrance examination to enroll in a magister program. In most cases the diploma certificate will mention the field of studies, specialization, overall grade and thesis title. Magister programs are offered at both universities and institutes with qualified faculty.

Stage III: The Doctoral degree is the highest degree awarded in Algeria. It is open to holders of the magister and requires three to five years of original research, publication of at least one article in a scholarly journal and the preparation and defense of a dissertation. A grade of honorable or très honorable on the dissertation is required for acceptance.   

“LMD” Reforms

The Algerian framework of university degrees is currently under reform with the traditional system, modeled on the French structure, to be gradually replaced with a three-tier system deemed to be more internationally compatible. The reform, known as the “L.M.D,” is set to introduce a degree structure based on the new French model of bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees (Licence, Master, Doctorat). Introduced by executive decree in 2004, the reforms are being undertaken as a pilot project at 10 Algerian universities, which are working in consultation with a number of European universities. The new degree framework is similar in structure to the reforms being undertaken in Europe through the Bologna Process:

  •  
    • The licence, corresponding to three years of study beyond the baccalauréat (bac+3);
    • The master, corresponding to two years further study beyond the licence (bac+5);
    • The doctorat, corresponding to three years of research beyond the master (bac+8).

It is hoped that the new system will make program offerings from Algerian universities more compatible with those around the world, thereby increasing the international mobility of Algerian faculty and students. In addition, the reforms are aimed at increasing student flexibility in choosing and transferring courses and credits; making the system more efficient as relates to the time it takes for students to graduate; increasing lifelong learning opportunities; and increasing institutional autonomy while producing learning outcomes more attuned to the needs of the labour market.

NON-UNIVERSITY / PRFESSIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION

Postsecondary non-university instruction is offered at national institutes of professional higher education (institus nationaux de formation supérieure (INFS)), which fall under the joint control of the associated ministry and the Ministry of Higher Education. As in the academic sector, administration of the non-university sector is highly centralized, and the ministries are responsible for determining among other things admission requirements, length of studies, and program and institutional recognition.

Instruction at the undergraduate level (graduation) is offered through long and short programs. At the lower level, 2.5- to 3-year short programs (cycle de court durée) are open to baccalauréat-level students who have completed 12 years of schooling. Graduates are awarded the Diplôme de Technician Supérieur, which takes five semesters to complete, or more commonly the three-year Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Appliqués (DEUA). The DEUA is awarded in technological fields, natural and earth sciences, in addition to a small number of economics and management fields

The long five-year program leads to the award of the Diplôme d’Ingénieur and is open to students who have completed a secondary education and passed the baccalaureate examination. In addition, professional diplôme programs are offered in the fields of architecture, dental surgery, pharmacy, medicine, and veterinary science. All programs are five years except in medicine, which is seven years.

The long program is considered of university level and grants access to graduate studies (postgraduation) while the short program is generally a terminal degree, although graduates with relevant professional experience or top marks may join the third year of studies of a related long-cycle program.

At the graduate level, programs are offered in the academic stream as described above (Stage II & III) and are open to holders of a long-cycle degree. In addition, Diplômes de Postgraduation Spécialisées (specialized professional graduate diplomas) are also awarded. Normally 12 months in duration, these programs provide job-specific training organized by institutions of higher education in conjunction with employers. They are open to holders of a first-level degree with at least three months of professional experience. Graduates from these programs may continue on in a magister program.

TEACHER TRAINING

Students wishing to enroll at an école normale supérieure, which trains basic and secondary school teachers, must have passed the baccalauréat examination.

Basic Education Teachers

Basic education teachers train for three years to earn the Diplôme de Maître d’Enseignement Fondamental or for four years for the award of the Diplôme de Professeur d’Enseignement Secondaire. The final year of these programs is normally reserved for practical teacher-training placements combined with pedagogical and theoretical training. In the first two to three years of the teacher-training program, students generally take classes in their subject area specializations.

Secondary Education Teachers

Secondary school teachers are required to train for five years. Successful completion of the five-year program leads to the award of Diplôme de Professeur d’Enseignement Secondaire. As with the training for basic education, the final year of training for secondary school teachers is generally reserved for practical and theoretical methodology classes and practical in-school training.