Many sectors of Palestine's educational system are well-developed, which is mirrored in very high literacy rates. Academic training from the levels of primary through to higher education is in total good, but still of varying quality between institutions.
The backbone of Palestine's system was developed until the mid-1980's. But the years of Intifada, from 1987 up until the formation of basic state structures in 1994, resulted both in the stop of building of infrastructure during a time of substantial population growth, as well as many groups of expertise weakened or even lost. Since 1994, great efforts have been put into building and enlarging schools. Also no country in the Middle East has benefitted more from foreign assistance in this field than Palestine. With the year 1994 begins also direct centralized Palestinian control over education. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education controls both its own schools, as well as schools run by the United Nations (UN).
Earlier, education was done in shifts, there could be up to 3 a day, trying to make the best possible use of school facilities. This has improved drastically, although there still are schools that are forced to operate 2 shifts. In a few areas, access to school is difficult for some children. Improving this is one of the goals of present Palestinian education plans.
As of 2003, 18% of total government spendings were used on education. In addition came substantial aid from the UN as well as foreign organizations.
The very high literacy rates of Palestine comes partly from sad reasons. High population density and the loss of access to traditional work life, has motivated education among the many. But this dream has materialized for only a small part.
Also, foreign aid has focused much on education, making schooling widely available to all sectors of society.
About 1/3 of Palestinian children go to kindergartens, beginning at the age of 4. Practially all kindergartens are private. About as many boys as girls, and only very few kindergartens are gender-segregated.
Primary education is divided into two parts: Preparation, which is 4 years; and Empowerment, which is 6 years.
In Palestine there are both gender-mixed schools, as well as pure boys and girls schools .Enrollment in school is high, about 98%, higher for girls than for boys.
Formerly, school curriculum on Gaza Strip was basically similar to the Egyptian, on West Bank, a Jordanian curriculum was in use. Since 2007, a unified Palestinian curriculum for both parts of Palestine.
From 4th grade and on, pupils not achieving a minimum score on tests, must retake a class. Pupils failing a second time, are effectively dismissed from school.
Upon completing the 10th grade, pupils graduate with school assessments. Many pupils fall out of school before finishing the full program. The Palestinian authorities offer examination for drop-outs, granting diplomas for use in work life.
Secondary education is 2 years in Palestine, and programs are divided into academic and vocational.
About 75% of all in one age group attend secondary school, more female than male: 82% female, 69% male. Also at this level, schools are in general sex segregated. Only 7% of secondary schools at West Bank are co-educational, but there are even less on Gaza Strip, where there is only one such school. About 3% of the pupils at this level attend private schools.
Upon completing secondary school, pupils at the academic branches will obtain the Certificate of General Secondary Education Examination, which grants access to universities.
Technical and Vocational training
Palestine's system of technical and vocational training is poorly underdeveloped compared to academic education. The main programs are Industrial; Agricultural; Commercial; Hotel; and Home economics.
Vocational training is reportedly little in demand, and the low interest in such training is also a reflection of the low standing of many forms of labour in the Palestinian society.
Palestine has today 9 pure universities, offering international programs and degrees. Most of the present universities were established during the time when Palestine was fully under Israeli occupation. Palestinian universities are financed largely by tuition fees. About 40% of unversity budgets come from the government, as well as by fundraising. In addition to the universities, there are several other higher learning institutions.
Bachelor's degree is 4 years, and can be followed by a 2 year Master study. A great majority of higher students follow studies in social science, education, and humanities and arts. Science and Engineering are strongly unrepresented.
In total, almost half of all in each age group attend universities and equivalent institutions: In 2007, 51% of women, 42% of men.
Universities and schools are now part of Palestinian responsibility, and the closed universities of the time of Intifada are history. Palestine has as much as 8 universities, most which are of good quality. In addition there is a branch of the al-Azhar University (Cairo, Egypt) on the Gaza Strip.