Under the monarchy, all Libyans were guaranteed the right to
education. Primary and secondary schools were established all
over the country, and old Quranic schools that had been closed
during the struggle for independence were reactivated and new
ones established, lending a heavy religious cast to Libyan education.
The educational program suffered from a limited curriculum, a
lack of qualified teachers--especially Libyan--and a tendency
to learn by rote rather than by reasoning, a characteristic of
Arab education in general. School enrollments rose rapidly, particularly
on the primary level; vocational education was introduced; and
the first Libyan university was established in Benghazi in 1955.
Also under the monarchy, women began to receive formal education
in increasing numbers, rural and beduin children were brought
into the educational system for the first time, and an adult education
program was established.
Total school enrollment rose from 34,000 on the eve of independence
in 1951, to nearly 150,000 in 1962, to about 360,000 at the time
of the 1969 revolution. During the 1970s, the training of teachers
was pushed in an effort to replace the Egyptian and other expatriate
personnel who made up the majority of the teaching corps. Prefabricated
school buildings were erected, and mobile classrooms and classes
held in tents became features of the desert oases.
In 1986 official sources placed total enrollments at more than
1,245,000 students, of whom 670,000 (54 percent) were males and
575,000 (46 percent) were females (see table 2, Appendix ). These
figures meant that one-third of the population was enrolled in
some form of educational endeavor. For the 1970-86 period, the
government claimed nearly 32,000 primary, secondary, and vocational
classrooms had been constructed, while the number of teachers
rose from nearly 19,000 to 79,000 (see table 3, Appendix). The
added space and increased number of new teachers greatly improved
student-teacher ratios at preprimary and primary levels; rising
enrollments in general secondary and technical education, however,
increased the density of students per classroom at those levels.
At independence, the overall literacy rate among Libyans over
the age of ten did not exceed 20 percent. By 1977, with expanding
school opportunities, the rate had risen to 51 percent overall,
or 73 percent for males and 31 percent for females. Relatively
low though it was, the rate for females had soared from the scanty
6 percent registered as recently as 1964. In the early 1980s,
only estimates of literacy were available--about 70 percent for
men and perhaps 35 percent for women.
In 1987 education was free at all levels, and university students
received substantial stipends. Attendance was compulsory between
the ages of six and fifteen years or until completion of the preparatory
cycle of secondary school. The administrative or current expenses
budget for 1985 allocated 7.5 percent of the national budget (LD90.4
million) to education through university level. Allocations for
1983 and 1984 were slightly less--about LD85 million), just under
6 percent of total administrative outlays.
From its inception, the revolutionary regime placed great emphasis
education, continuing and expanding programs begun under the monarchy.
By the 1980s, the regime had made great strides, but much remained
to be done. The country still suffered from a lack of qualified
Libyan teachers, female attendance at the secondary level and
above was low, and attempts in the late 1970s to close private
schools and to integrate religious and secular instruction had
led to confusion. Perhaps most important were lagging enrollments
in vocational and technical training. As recently as 1977, fewer
than 5,000 students were enrolled in 12 technical high schools.
Although unofficial estimates placed technical enrollments at
nearly 17,000 by 1981, most doctors, dentists, and pharmacists
in the early 1980s still came from abroad. Young Libyans continued
to shun technical training, preferring white collar employment
because it was associated with social respect and high status.
As a consequence, there seemed to be no immediate prospect for
reducing the heavy reliance on expatriate workers to meet the
economy's increasing need for technical skills.
A major source of disruption was the issue of compulsory military
training for both male and female students. Beginning in 1981,
weapons training formed part of the curriculum of secondary schools
and universities, part of a general military mobilization process
(see Conscription and the People's Militia , ch. 5). Both male
and female secondary students wore uniforms to classes and attended
daily military exercises; university students did not wear uniforms
but were required to attend training camps. In addition, girls
were officially encouraged to attend female military academies.
These measures were by no means popular, especially as they related
to females, but in the mid-1980s it was too soon to assess their
impact on female school attendance and on general educational
Data as of 1987