The Ministry of Education
and the Ministry of Higher Education are primarily responsible
for all aspects of administration of the Syrian schools,
colleges, and universities, including curricula development.
Schooling is divided
into 6 years of compulsory primary education, 3 years of
lower secondary education, and 3 years of higher secondary
education. General secondary education offers academic courses
and prepares students for university entrance; the last
2 years of this stage are divided into literary and scientific
streams. Vocational secondary training offers courses in
industry, agriculture, commerce, and primary school-teacher
training. The usual entrance age for higher secondary schooling
is 15 but is 14 for teacher training institutions. This
system was established in 1967, when the country signed
the Arab Cultural Unity Agreement with Jordan and Egypt,
introducing a uniform school ladder in the three countries
and determining curricula examination procedures and teacher
training requirements for each level.
The demand for education
has increased sharply. Between 1970 and 1976, enrollment
in the primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary levels
increased by 43 percent, 52 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
During the same period, enrollments in the various institutes
of higher learning increased by over 66 percent. In 1984,
1 million boys and 818,000 girls attended primary schools,
which numbered 8,489. Nearly 1,600 secondary schools enrolled
over 700,000 pupils.
The Ministry of Higher
Education in 1984 supervised four universities, one each
in Damascus, Aleppo, Latakia, and Homs. The University of
Damascus, founded in 1923, had faculties of law, medicine,
pharmacology, letters, dentistry, Islamic jurisprudence,
agriculture, architecture, engineering, science, fine arts,
commerce, and education. The Higher Institute for Social
Work, established in 1962 to conduct research into social
and economic problems, also was affiliated with the university.
The University of Aleppo, opened in 1958, had faculties
of engineering and sciences, agriculture, and literature.
Tishrin University in Latakia had a similar curriculum.
Al Baath University in Homs, opened in 1979, was Syria's
first university with departments of petroleum engineering
and veterinary medicine.
A second major thrust
of Syrian educational planning was eliminating illiteracy.
In 1981, an estimated 2 million Syrians --42 percent of
the population over 12 years of age-- were illiterate. In
accordance with the government's drive to eliminate illiteracy
by 1991, in 1984 approximately 57,000 Syrians attended literacy
classes sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry
of Social Affairs and Labor.