Education in Syria


  1. Key Country Statistics
  2. The educational system in Syria
  3. Education in action

Accurate as of May 2013; unless indicated otherwise, the websites are all in English. Acknowledgements: AA, SJ, KS.


Key Country Statistics

The following are key statistics relevant to education in Syria:

  • Population: 22,530,746 (July 2012 est.)
  • Population growth rate: -0.797% (2012 est.)
  • Languages: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian (widely understood); French, English (somewhat understood). See the CIA World Factbook for further information on who speaks what languages in Syria
  • Literacy rate as of 2010 for 15-24 year olds: Men 96% (World Bank) and Women 94% (World Bank)
  • In 2008, 93.5% of students started grade 1 and reached the last grade of primary school. The number of pupils who complete the primary stage differs from year to year, however, and had been on a remarkable upward trend between 1991 and 2008 (United Nations Statistics Division)
  • Total net enrolment ratio in primary education, girls and boys: 97.3 % in 2002 (United Nations Statistics Division).

Finally, the Syrian government finances education at all levels, notably boosting the proportion of its total expenditure from 12.6% in 2000 to 15.7% in 2005. During this time, the ratio of education expenditure to GDP increased from 2.7% to 4.3% (see this link).

The educational system in Syria

The educational system in Syria is delivered in many different stages: primary education; middle education; secondary Education; vocational education; and tertiary education.  For further details about each of these stages, see this link (Classbase), and for additional information about the universities and further education in general, see this link.

Education in action

Over the last few years, the current Syrian government has tried to reform the educational system. This has included many attempts to improve the legislative framework for universities and the participation of the private sector in the educational process. Laws and other regulations concerning education and much more information can be found @ UNESCO. At the same time, the Syrian regime has been concerned about the intentions of international organisations in Syria and it has thus been difficult for many NGOs to work in Syria in the area of education and for them to provide vocational training.

In addition, there are very few sources of support for NGOs. Ministries occasionally channel technical training from Arab or international organisations to Syrian associations. Various organisations have provided some capacity building for NGOs in recent years, including the Danish Institute, the Said Foundation, the Aga Khan Foundation, the British Council, the Dutch Institute, SEBC and the EU. There are now also a few for-profit outfits in Syria which provide this training. Overall, training opportunities are still limited (for further information, see this paper by INTRAC).

In its latest Five Year plan (2006-2010), the Syrian government addressed the, until now, limited role of civil society. Recognising that “the role of the civil associations and institutions in the socio-economic development wasn’t as good as desired”, the plan envisaged “radical changes in order to activate and enhance the capabilities of the civil society role in the coming stage”.

This new vision included the concept of new partnerships between the public, private and voluntary sectors in order to face some of Syria’s most serious socio-economic problems including illiteracy/poor skills, poverty (especially in the regions) and environmental degradation. There are currently around 1,400 officially registered associations in Syria, not all of which are active and the majority of which are charitable organisations; the Government is keen to see the creation of more developmental type bodies, modern NGOs which are more able to meet the needs of Syrian society (see this link).

At present, hundreds of thousands of Syrian students are deprived of education as a result of the crisis (for more information, see this link on the UN website). More than a million Syrian citizens have become refugees in neighbouring countries. During this period, education has remained the only spark of hope for students and their parents (for more information see this link).