History of Education in Libya
The Ottoman Empire encouraged Koran schools from the sixteenth to the twentieth
century’s in Libya. Small kuttabs, or Arab Koran schools, were affiliated with mosques
and taught children to read the holy Koran and write Arabic script. Higher order religious
training was available through institutes, such as Murad Pasha and Darghut Pasha.
Here students could also study law (figh). Zawiya stressed the study of astronomy,
science, geography, history, mathematics, and medicine, as well as religion.
Some zawiya also taught military arts to defend the faith.
Italy expanded educational opportunities as compared with the Ottomans. By 1939,
Libya had 93 Italian schools. However, these were for the exclusive education of Italian
settlers and children of administrators. These schools rivaled schools in Rome, but
Arabs and Bedouins could not attend them. In addition to the Italian schools for Italian
youth, there were 16 Jewish schools, 1 Greek school, and 418 Arab schools, which
were religious schools or Kuttabs for the most part. Libyans graduating from
these kuttab schools were not able to compete with Italians. The only secondary
schools in the country were built to educate Italian children; Arabs and Bedouins were
again not allowed to attend.
Under Italian rule, Libyans were denied education beyond the fourth grade and
discouraged from learning either the Bedouin or Arabic language. They were taught
Italian, to love Italy, and not to trust Arabs or Bedouins. Poor Italians did menial labor,
semi-skilled, and skilled work. Little was left for the Libyans.
Italian schools continued to function, but Libyan Arab education was added. Textbooks
and syllabi were rewritten in Arabic. Government primary and secondary schools were
built throughout Libya and it reopened Koran schools that had closed during the
independence struggle. This gave education a strong religious element. A shortage of
qualified Libyan teachers led to rote learning, rather than reasoning. Despite these
limitations, school enrollments rose rapidly, especially primary education. Jewish
schools declined and closed as Jews migrated to the new state of Israel. Vocational
education was added, and Libya's first university was opened in 1955 at Benghazi.
Women began to attend school in growing numbers, and adult education was added to
the system. Total school enrollment at the end of the colonial era was 34,000. Between
1951 and 1962 enrollment increased to 150,000 and by 1969, just before the revolution,
enrollment had increased to 360,000 students. Mobile classrooms became common, as
did prefabricated classrooms. Classes were even held in tents in desert oases. Through
these efforts, enrollments totaled 1.2 million students by 1986. There were 670,000
males (54 percent) and 575,000 females (46 percent). One third of the Libyan
population was enrolled in school or in some other form of educational endeavor.
Between 1970 and 1986, Libya built 32,000 new classrooms for primary, secondary,
and vocational schools. The number of teachers rose from 19,000 to 79,000 during the
same time period. The student teacher ratio also rose and the quality of education
In 1951, about 10 percent of Libyans were literate. At that time there were no female
teachers. Secondary school teachers numbered 25, and only 14 Libyans held university
degrees. A national education system was built virtually from scratch. By 1977, literacy
rose to 51 percent. The literacy rate for women during the same time-frame rose from 6
percent to 31 percent. By the late 1980s more than 70 percent of men were literate as
compared to 35 percent of women.
In the early twenty-first century, education at all levels is free, and university students
are given very generous stipends to encourage them to pursue higher education and
modernize the workforce. For students ages 6 through 15 years of age, education is
compulsory. Roughly 8 percent of Libya's entire budget is dedicated to supporting
education up through university level. The revolutionary regime has considerably
expanded the educational system that it inherited from the monarchy. All types of
education are seen as equal, since human knowledge is viewed as inherent to building
a modern civilization. Many schools are needed to fulfill these aims.
Libya still suffers from a shortage of qualified Libyan teachers at all levels, and female
attendance at the secondary and higher levels is low. An attempt to close all private and
religious schools since 1970 has created problems. Vocational and technical training lag
the rest of the system. In 1977, fewer than 5,000 students were enrolled in 12 technical
high schools. By 1990, most doctors, dentists, and pharmacists were expatriates,
despite having nearly 17,000 Libyan students studying for degrees in these disciplines.
Libyan youth avoid scientific and technical training, preferring white-collar jobs
associated with prestige and high social status. Reliance on foreign technicians will
characterize Libya's economy well into the foreseeable future.
From 1981, compulsory military education for males and females formed part of the
curriculum for all secondary schools and universities. Male and female students must
wear uniforms to class and attend daily military exercises and physical training.
University students are not forced to wear uniforms, but they must attend military camps
for training. Females are encouraged to attend special female military academies.
These measures are not popular, especially among the families of many females. A
backlash might be expected in the future. The increase in female enrollment is
remarkable, considering the fundamentally conservative and religious nature of Libya
society on gender issues.
Libya's first university was founded at Benghazi in 1955, and it had a branch in Tripoli.
These two campuses became separate universities in 1973. In 1976, they were
renamed Gar Yunis University and Al Fatah University, respectively. A technical
university, specializing in engineering and petroleum, opened at Marsa al Burayqeh in
1981. Al Fatah added schools of nuclear engineering, electronic engineering, and
pharmacy during the 1980s. An agriculture college was constructed at Al Bayda and
technical institutes exist at Birak, Hun, and Bani Walid. The expansion of opportunities
in higher education is seen as vital to meeting personnel requirements by the
revolutionary regime. Eventually, many secondary schools will be converted into special
training institutes whose curriculums dovetail with those of vocational, technical, and
Technically trained students are compelled to work in the areas of their training, which
causes some discontent. The idea is to end dependence on foreign technical workers,
but this is unlikely in the near future, especially in light of recent cutbacks in spending on
technical education. Enrollment trends for higher education have moved steadily
upward from independence to the present. There were 3,000 university students in
1969. By 1975 this number increased to 12,000, and by 1980, it reached 25,000. In
1992, this figure soared to 72,899, of whom 46 percent were female. The increase in
female university enrollment is especially impressive, considering that in 1970 females
were only 9 percent of the university student population.
Libya formerly paid totally for students to attend foreign universities and, by 1978, some
3,000 Libyans were studying in America. But in 1985, Libya cut back on fellowships for
foreign study, forcing many Libyan students to continue their education locally.
University students were among the few groups to openly express dissatisfaction with
that. Students feel that university education is the path to personal and social
advancement best left free from government interference. They resent constant efforts
to control their thought and to politicize education at every level. For example, in 1976,
university students mounted violent protest in Benghazi and Tripoli over compulsory
military training. Students studying French and English at Al Fatah University frustrated
efforts to close their departments and destroy their libraries.
Education System in Libya
Extends for 3-4
extends from 3
Colleges on to
6 years at
The first 9 years of school education in Libya are compulsory and free. This basic
education program includes lessons in Arabic, Islamic languages, Jamahiriyi society,
mathematics, natural sciences, history, geography, art, music, and technical and
physical education. The first 6 years of this take place at primary school.
The final 3 years of basic education take place at middle school. Upon completion,
a basic education certificate may be awarded, following which pupils have the choice of
finding work, or going on to secondary school.
Grades 10 to 12 at secondary school complete the Libyan schooling cycle at general
level, where students may choose between science and arts to prepare to go on to
university. Should they prefer to go to technical secondary school instead, then they
may spend 4 years studying one of economics, arts and media, biology, engineering or
social sciences there, with a view to perhaps spending time at a higher institution later
Vocational education programs are available to pupils who do not complete their 9
years of basic education, although they may receive these during this period too. Over
44 programs are available in fields as diverse as electrical & mechanical, building &
carpentry, architectural, agricultural and marine fishing, and even in what are referred to
locally as female vocations.
Higher education in Libya is provided by both general and specialized universities, and
polytechnics, higher institutes and teacher training colleges too.
There are 8 universities of which the University of Libya (depicted here) is the oldest
having been founded in 1955. In 1973 it spawned the Universities of Benghazi
(Garyounis) and Tripoli (Al Fateh).
There is also an Open University based in Tripoli, but with 16 branch campuses spread
throughout the country.
According to figures reported for the year 2000, approximately 766,807 students
attended primary school and had 97,334 teachers; approximately 717,000 students
were enrolled in secondary, technical, andvocational schools; and about 287,172
students were enrolled in Libya’s universities.
In 2001 public expenditures on education amounted to about 2.7 percent of the gross
domestic product (GDP). Although no figures were found for government expenditures
on education, Libyan television announced on September 1, 2004, that a new ministry
for education had been formed, the General People’s Committee for Higher Education.
In the early 1980s, estimates of total literacy were between 50 and 60 percent, or about
70 percent for men and 35 percent for women, but the gender gap has since narrowed,
especially because of increased female school attendance. For 2001 the United Nations
Development Programme’s Human Development Report estimates that the adult
literacy rate climbed to about 80.8 percent, or 91.3 percent for males and 69.3 percent
for females. According to 2004 U.S. government estimates, 82 percent of the total adult
population (age 15 and older) is literate, or 92 percent of males and 72 percent of
Grading System in Libya
Libya GPA calculator
85.00 - 100.00
75.00 - 84.99
65.00 - 74.99
50.00 - 64.99
35.00 - 49.99
0.00 - 34.99
Universities in Libya
This list includes universities, colleges, vocational schools, and other higher education
جامعة س بها
جامعة ب ن غازي
University of Tripoli
جامعة طراب لس
Academy of Graduate Studies
Libyan International Medical
أك ادي م ية ال ذرا سات
ال ع ل يا
ال جامعة ال ل ي ب ية
ال ذول ية ل ل ع لىم
ال ط ب ية
Omar Al-Mukhtar University
جامعة عمر ال مخ تار
جامعة م صرات ة
Al Zawiya University
ال ساوي ة جامعة
The Higher Institute of Computer
ال م عهذ ال عال ي
ل ت ق ن يات ال حا سىب
Non formal Education
Adult Education: Libya confronts colonial neglect when it attacks adult education and
tries to remedy past abuses. In 1973, 51 percent of the population was illiterate. By
1980, this had fallen to 47.1 percent or 765,000 people, of whom 253,000 or 28.5
percent were male, and 512,000 or 69.4 percent were female. In 2000, this number
declined to 20.2 percent, of whom 9.1 percent were male, and 32.4 percent were female
(UNESCO). A variety of successful programs have been directed at illiteracy, and as the
numbers show, progress has been made.
There are centers for literacy training in each district. Baladiya or centers for literacy
training often have vocational and technical programs attached to functional literacy
programs. About 7,000 students per year benefit from these programs. The Secretariat
of Labor also runs other programs to help upgrade workers. The Secretariats of
Commerce and Electricity run programs to upgrade skills in road maintenance,
construction, airport management, telecommunications, and public transportation. The
Secretariat of Agriculture trains 700 students per year in tractor operation and
management, farm machinery, tool use, and maintenance. Worker development
programs help the government impart skills and attack illiteracy simultaneously.
Government employees are given full pay and release time to encourage personal
growth. Programs vary in intensity and last from one month to four years in duration,
depending on the goal of the program. The government's goal is to have each worker
reach a fourth grade level in reading and math, as well as to develop specific job related
skills. Despite great strides, illiteracy is still considered a major problem in Libyan
society. Because of the demand for skilled labor, there is great competition for
graduates of each program.
Distance Education: Barnamaj Nahw al-Nur and similar television programs attack
adult illiteracy by providing the basics of reading and mathematics to adults in a creative
and inviting manner. Through such programs remote populations can be reached, which
might otherwise be neglected, but the cost per student is very high.