The Lebanese, along with the Palestinians, had one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. The rate was estimated at nearly to 80 percent in the mid-1980s, but like most other spheres of Lebanese life, communal and regional disparities existed. In general, Christians had a literacy rate twice that of Muslims. Druzes followed with a literacy rate just above that of Sunnis. Shias had the lowest literacy rate among the religious communities.
The war adversely affected educational standards. Many private and public school buildings were occupied by displaced families and the state was unable to conduct official examinations on several occasions because of intense fighting. Furthermore, the departure of most foreign teachers and professors, especially after 1984, contributed to the decline in the standards of academic institutions. Admissions of unqualified students became a standard practice as a result of pressures brought by various militias on academic institutions. More important, armed students reportedly often intimidated - and even killed - faculty members over disputes demanding undeserved higher grades.
In the 1980s there were three kinds of schools: public, private tuition-free, and private fee-based. Private tuition-free schools were available only at the preprimary and primary levels, and they were most often sponsored by philanthropic institutions. Many private fee-based schools were run by religious orders.
Public schools were unevenly distributed among Lebanon's districts. The Beirut area had only 12.9 percent of the country's public schools, but a large number of Lebanon's private fee-based schools concentrated in or near Greater Beirut.
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In 1987, five years of primary education was mandatory and available free to all Lebanese children. The curriculum of grades one through five was mostly academic, and Arabic was the major language of instruction. French and English were also major languages of instruction in private schools, although foreign languages were taught in public schools as well. No certification was awarded upon completion of the primary cycle. At the end of the fifth grade, the student qualified for admission to the four-year intermediate cycle, or the seven-year secondary cycle.
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Intermediate education was a four-year cycle, consisting of grades six through nine for intermediate schools and one through four for vocational schools. Three different tracks were offered at this level: lower secondary was a four-year academic course designed to prepare the student for the baccalaureate examination; the upper primary track consisted of three years similar to lower secondary and a fourth year of preparation for entering vocational schools or teacher training institutes; and vocational study was a three-year practical course for less skilled trades. At the end of this cycle, students received an academic, technical, or professional certificate.
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This consisted of grades eleven through thirteen for academic programs, or years one through three for vocational programs. Three tracks were available at this level. The secondary normal track consisted of three-year training programs for prospective primary and intermediate school teachers. A teaching diploma was awarded to normal school students who passed examinations at the end of the twelfth school year. The secondary vocational track prepared students for careers in such fields as business, commerce, tourism, hotel management, electronics, construction, advertising, nursing, telecommunications, automobile mechanics, and laboratory technology. Finally, the secondary academic track offered concentrations in philosophy (liberal arts curriculum), mathematics, and experimental sciences. The Baccalaureate I certificate was awarded to students who passed the official examination given at the end of the twelfth school year, and the Baccalaureate II was awarded to students who passed official examinations at the end of the thirteenth school year. The Baccalaureate II was necessary for admission to institutions of higher education in Lebanon. Many of the courses taken during the year were comparable to those at the college freshman level.
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Technical and Vocational Education
There existed in Lebanon in 1987 around 130 technical and vocational training institutes. Seventeen of these were state run, and the remaining 113 were private. Eighty-six of the private schools were in the Greater Beirut area. Major public institutes included the Industrial Technical Institute, the Technical Institute for Tourism, and the Technical Teachers Institute.
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In 1987 there were sixteen colleges and universities in Lebanon, and all but the Lebanese University were privately owned. The Lebanese University, established in 1952, was under the Ministry of Education. It had two main branches - one in East and the other in West Beirut - and smaller branches in the provinces of Ash Shamal, Al Janub, and Al Biqa. University faculties (departments) included law, political science and management, engineering, literature and humanities, education, social sciences, fine arts, journalism and advertising, business administration, and agriculture. The language of instruction was Arabic, and one foreign language was required by all faculties.
Beirut Arab University was established in 1960 and was officially an Egyptian-sponsored institution under the auspices of the Maqasid Society of Beirut. All affairs were controlled by Alexandria University in Egypt. Approximately 85 percent of the students enrolled at Beirut Arab University in the 1980s were non-Lebanese, coming primarily from Persian Gulf countries. Arabic was the primary language of instruction.
Saint Joseph University, established in 1875, was administered by the Society of Jesus and had strong ties to the University of Lyons in France. Saint Joseph University had branches in Tripoli, Sidon, and Zahlah. French was the primary language of instruction, although some courses were offered in English. Faculties in 1987 included theology, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering, law and political science, economics and business administration, and letters and humanities.
The American University of Beirut (AUB) was initially established in 1866 by the Evangelical Mission to Syria. In 1987 final authority over the affairs of AUB rested with the Board of Trustees whose permanent office was in New York City. The university was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. The faculty of arts and sciences awarded bachelors and masters degrees; the faculty of medicine awarded bachelors and masters degrees in science, masters degrees in public health, and certificates in undergraduate nursing and basic laboratory techniques; the faculty of engineering and architecture awarded bachelors and masters degrees in engineering as well as bachelors degrees in architecture; the faculty of agriculture and food sciences awarded masters degrees in all departments, as well as doctorates in agronomy. English was the language of instruction at AUB.
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Source: Federal Research Division - Library of Congress
(Edited by Thomas Collelo, December 1987)
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