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Tunisia’s new general curriculum for ‘the citizenship-focused school’



Public education has been one of the most important achievements of modern Tunisia. Reforming education has always topped the list of concerns of successive generations. Recent educational reforms (2002-2016) have aimed to modernize the country.

Throughout its long educational history, the Tunisian school has played a central role in building the nation-state and in achieving social development and economic growth. This has made education and learning absolute priorities and a cornerstone for inclusive social development. But when the school ceased to play its role as an agent of social mobility, and the quality of learning and output regressed, the crisis of education became a crisis of meaning.

The contents of the school curriculum became disconnected from everyday life, the labor market, scientific and technical developments, the threats to Tunisian society and universal concerns. The school was not addressing the learner as a biological, psychological, social and epistemic being. It addressed the learner as an epistemic being, prioritizing theoretical learning at the expense of the social, emotional and relational dimensions of education. The values of citizenship and humanity were therefore neglected. Learners were not able to grasp the significance and implications of learning, and even enlightened students achieved excellence without acquiring the skills that would ensure their success in life.

The project to reform the educational system (2016)
On this basis, it was decided that the general curriculum should be reviewed; firstly for social reasons, as Tunisian society needs to progress and keep abreast of accelerating developments and to link education to employment; secondly for methodological reasons, because the educational system requires a clear methodology to provide learners with the skills and competences to ensure personal development. Finally, this reform was essential for cognitive reasons, because of the need to keep pace with scientific variables and technology, as well as the need to make sense of learning.

A wide variety and volume of stakeholders were involved in the diagnosis and critique of the education system and the development of reform, proposals, and programs. The national education strategy has involved all educational stakeholders, including educators, principals, teachers, students, parents, partners, Charity Sector and other organizations and political parties, with the aim of defining the characteristics of the school and the profiles of graduates equipped to undertake responsibilities in life and at work. This participatory approach produced a practical vision for a new citizenship-focused form of schooling, based on nine strategic objectives, 25 general objectives, 100 specific objectives and projects and 363 implementation projects and programs over a short to medium term time-span.

Tunisia's new general school curriculum projects to restore the status of schools as beacons in society, and as a lever for development and as a tool for social mobility. The project to reform education focuses primarily on the acquisition of 21stC life skills, including the cognitive, social and emotional dimensions that would provide young learners with the skills to adapt to the changing communal environment. The project was based on a number of mechanisms, particularly reviewing the general curriculum, formal programs and pedagogic methods, along with the effective use of non-formal education styles and social learning. This reform project also adopted standards and evaluation tools that are consistent with the nature of these skills. The nine strategic objectives range across all components of the educational system as follows:
  1. Achieving equity and equal opportunities
  2. Reviewing geographical distribution of schools
  3. Developing human resources
  4. Developing students’ achievements and the quality of their learning
  5. Developing school life (extra-curricular activities)
  6. Restructuring preparatory and secondary education
  7. Reducing the failure and dropout rates
  8. Developing ICTs in teaching and learning
  9. Mainstreaming the principles of good governance into the educational system
The main criterion against which the educational system will assess the success of its mission is the extent to which it prepares graduates:
  • to become individuals in harmony with their community;
  • to enable them to effectively continue their professional or higher education;
  • to prepare them for lifelong learning; and
  • to prepare them for conscious integration within their social, economic, cultural and human environment.
In order to achieve such goals, the school must focus on the curriculum, activities, laws, educational processes, and relationships between educational stakeholders, which will help learners to develop a balanced personality in cognitive, social and emotional terms.

The citizenship-focused school curriculum
The new general curriculum for the citizenship-focused school includes a focus on human rights, equality, education for all, inclusive education that is compatible with sustainable development, education for life that responds to learners’ mental and personal development and active involvement in social life which includes integrating those facing learning difficulties and those with special needs at school and in society as a whole. Education experts and specialists are keen to ensure that the new general curriculum is in harmony with the educational system and the community project as defined by the Tunisian Constitution, the successive evaluations of the educational system, and international standards and research, taking into consideration the specificities of the Tunisian society.
Amor Ouelbani, General Director of Exams, the Ministry of Education Tunisia