SEATTLE — Located in Western Africa, Mauritania is a large, mainly desert country that gained its independence from France in 1960. The government began to reform the education system in 1999. Improvements have been made, but education in Mauritania remains a work in progress.
The reforms of 1999 brought many changes. All Mauritanians now learn under one system of education. Before the reforms, some students were taught in Arabic, others in French. Now, students learn all their first grade subjects in Arabic. They learn French beginning in their second year and English as they enter secondary school.
The government also created professional training centers in each region and added another year of secondary school. Students now spend seven years before earning their Baccalaureate. Science, math and computer classes (which students learn in the fourth year of secondary school) are taught only in French.
Reforms have improved education in Mauritania. The post-primary levels have seen an increase in gross enrollment from 80 percent to 97 percent. The completion rates in post-primary levels also improved, rising from 53 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2013.
Despite this progress, there are still many issues that need addressing, including minimal involvement of civil society, local communities and the private sector in education, fewer girls than boys in secondary school and an insufficient number of qualified secondary school teachers.
The Education Sector Development Plan II is the second education plan since the reform of 1999. It covers the period 2011-2020 and focuses on 11 goals to further improve the education in Mauritania. The goals are as follows:
- Provide a better education for disadvantaged children.
- Promote better access to education.
- End inequality (gender, socio-economic, or environment related).
- Establish better technical and vocational training adapted to social demand.
- Develop a policy for the development of higher education and promote scientific research.
- Improve the quality of learning and relevance of education at all levels.
- Fight illiteracy through functional literacy and post-literacy programs.
- Promote traditional teaching and enhance its contribution to basic education.
- Establish and implement a new human resources management strategy and materials for equitable distribution of educational opportunities to transform inputs into results.
- Strengthen sector management through continuing the decentralization process, involving all stakeholders, and developing management tools.
- Regulate the change in staffing (or teaching force) in secondary education to better align the education system with the needs of the markets.
While education in Mauritania has improved since 1999, there is still room for more improvement. Hopefully, the Education Sector Development Plan can help.
– Solansh Moya