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Education and Youth

Libya students
Libya students
Education was one of the successes of the Gaddafi regime. Libya has the lowest basic illiteracy rate in North Africa, but before the 1969 coup more than 80 percent of the population was illiterate. In 2009 89.2 percent of the population over the age of 15 was literate. Public education expenditure is 3.4 percent of GDP.

Education is compulsory from six to fifteen years. Secondary school begins at twelve years. In Libya, girls generally are educated longer than boys (ten years for girls and eight for boys), which is unusual for an Arab country. The average number of years of education received by people aged 25 and older is 7.3. At school entrance, a child can expect, on average, 16.6 years of schooling (UNDP). The combined gross enrolment in education for both sexes is 57.1 percent.

In 2002, there were more than a million boys and girls in public schools. Officially, there is no state kindergarten system, though private initiatives are present. More than 300,000 students were enrolled in universities, of which there are nine in Libya:

  1. Umar al-Mukhtar University (in Bayda and Tobruk)
  2. University of Benghazi (formerly University of Garyounis)
  3. University of Tripoli
  4. Misrata University 
  5. Sabha University
  6. Sirte University (formerly al-Tahaddi University)
  7. Zawiya University (formerly Seventh of April University)
  8. al-Mergib University (in Khoms)
  9. Azzaytuna University (in Tarhuna)

There are four higher institutes of technical learning:

  1. Libyan International Medical University (in Benghazi)
  2. al-Asmarya University of Islamic Sciences (Zlitan)
  3. Petroleum Training and Qualifying Institute (Tripoli)
  4. Academy of Graduate Studies (Tripoli)

Standards are not high: in the Ranking Web of Universities, the top-ranking Libyan university (Umar al-Mukhtar) is number 12,081. The majority of university teachers come from Egypt, Jordan, India, and the Philippines. A Libyanization policy was ineffective, because there were not enough Libyans with higher degrees. A further problem, also driven by nationalist considerations, was that of language: only Arabic could be used in street signs, and, in response to the US air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986, English was forbidden to be taught. This created a major gap in the educational development of almost an entire generation. In 2005 the ban on teaching in English was lifted, causing a boom in language institutes. People who could afford it preferred to take language courses in Malta.

Public-school education in Libya consists of six years of primary education (starting at age six) and three years of middle-school education, which is compulsory and free. The basic education program includes Arabic, mathematics, natural sciences, history, geography, art, music, and technical and physical education. Once a basic education certificate is awarded, pupils have the choice of working or continuing for three years in secondary school. Secondary education consists of three years in a general secondary school, with a science or an arts stream, which is also a preparation for university. The alternative is a technical secondary school for four years.


Despite a decreasing birth rate over the past forty years (see Family), nearly half the Libyan population is younger than thirty years. The lack of opportunity, high unemployment, and the advent of satellite television broadcasting daily life in other countries encouraged the participation of youth in the 2011 revolt.

Youth unemployment is a problem. In 2011, total employment was 46.4 percent for men and women over the age of 15 but only 24.2 percent for those between 15 and 24 (World Bank).

Libya students
Libya students

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