Afef Abrougui
Last updated: 16 October, 2012

COMMENT: Tunisia needs an educational revolution

“Education in Tunisia is lame and boring. It is traditional and outdated,” said Marwa Toumi a recent graduate, holding a bachelor degree in English studies.

Feeling frustrated at traditional education, Marwa is not keen to go back to university for a master’s degree.

“Studying for another year in such boring and annoying circumstances is not an experience that I would eagerly look for,” she said.

The literacy rate in Tunisia is estimated at 80% and primary school enrollment is 100%. Free public university education is guaranteed for high school students who pass a national exam. Education is free and accessible, but the quality is lacking.

Tunisia’s education is primarily theoretical and lacks practicality. As a result, each year thousands of students graduate from university, but with no professional skills that match the demands of a changing labor market.

Earlier this month, a business monitoring study group published a report about unmet labor demands in Tunisia. According to the report, there are 120.000 unfilled vacant positions in the textile, construction and electronic industries.

In his book, La Prochaine Guerre en Tunisie , published last year, Cyril Grislain Karray argues that winning the war against “exclusion and unemployment” relies on reforming the education sector.

He mentions the head of a textile company who was seeking to hire hundreds of qualified workers but to whom “the employment agency was only recommending graduates of arts, history and sociology…”

“(Holding) a degree is good, but (having) a job is better,” states Karray. “We need to transform our whole education and training system in a way to produce entrepreneurs with know-how (skills) instead of knowledgeable graduates.”

According to recent official figures, the unemployment rate among university graduates is 35%. That is two times higher than the overall rate.

The cradle of the so-called “Arab Spring” needs to revolutionize its educational system and transform it into a progressive and practical one to reduce the unemployment rate and help fix the country’s economy.

The state has to stop sending too many students to university, and should rather devote more money to vocational training. University graduates have less chances of getting hired than those who hold vocational diplomas.

Introducing entrepreneurship education to school and university curricula could also serve as one alternative. Graduate entrepreneurs are very likely to take risks, launch their own business and create jobs. A knowledgeable graduate however, is only going to ask for a job.

Afef Abrougui is an International Relations student and a contributor for Global Voices Online. She reported for Index on Censorship on freedom of expression issues in Tunisia, and also worked as editor-in-chief of Tunisia Live.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Your Middle East.