République Islamique de Mauritanie (The Islamic Republic of Mauritania) is located on the northwest coast of Africa and is bordered by the Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali, Senegal and the North Atlantic Ocean. The population is 3,364,940 and the literacy rate is 51.2%. Arabic is the official and national language, and Pulaar, Soninke, and Wolof are also national languages. French is widely spoken, especially by the educated.
The original inhabitants of present-day Mauritania were the Bafours, who were displaced by Berbers who came to the area from North Africa. For over 500 years, there were continued clashes between the Berbers and Arab invaders. In 1904, the Mauritanian emirates became a French colony, and, by 1920, Mauritania was a part of French West Africa. Mauritania was granted independence in 1960. A military coup ďetat on August 6, 2008 gave the military control of the country.
Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 14, but attendance is not enforced, and most children complete only 5 years of education. Previously, there were 2 educational systems: one that taught only in Arabic, and a bilingual (Arabic and French) system. An April 1999 reform decreed that only one educational system be used. Currently, Arabic is the language of instruction beginning in the first year of primary school, and French is introduced as a foreign language in the 2nd year. At the secondary level, all science and math courses are taught in French.
Primary school is 6 years beginning at age 6. Upon completion, students are awarded a Certificat d'Études Fondamentales (CEF).
Collège (Lower secondary school) is 3 years and leads to the Brevet d'Études du Premier Cycle (BEPC).
Lycée technique (Vocational upper secondary school) is 3 years and leads to the Brevet d'Enseignement Professionnel (BEP). Students who have completed at least 2 years of vocational upper secondary school can enter a 2-year program leading to the Brevet de Technicien (BT).
Lycée(General upper secondary school) is 3 years. Students are placed in one of four tracks: Lettres Originales/ Series LO, Lettres Modernes / Series LM, Science Natural / Series D, and Mathematiques / Series C. At the end of the 3rd year, students sit for a national, external examination leading to the Diplome du Baccalauréat de l'Enseignement du Secondaire.
Because there are very few places available for university-level studies, admission is extremely competitive and is based on grades received on the Baccalauréat examination, and some programs may require an entrance examination.
After the first 2 years of study, students are awarded a Diplôme d'Études Universitaires Générales (DEUG). Following a further 2 years of study, students are awarded a Maîtrise. Graduate programs are not currently offered in Mauritania.
Vocational post-secondary studies are 2 years and lead to the Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS). A Brevet de Technicien (BT) is required for admission.
Beginning with the 2008 - 09 academic year, the Université de Nouakchott introduced the L - M - D (licence, master, doctorat) system in its School of Letters and Human Sciences and the School of Sciences and Techniques. Under this system, the Diplôme d'Études Universitaires Générales (DEUG) and Maîtrise programs have been discontinued and the L - M - D has been implemented. The Licence is now 3 years following a Diplome du Baccalauréat de l'Enseignement du Secondaire. A Master will be an additional 2 years of study following the Licence, and a Doctorat is 3 years following a Master.
Primary school teachers are trained at an École normale d'Instituteurs (ENI) (primary teacher training school) in a 2-year program leading to the Certificat d'Aptitude Pédagogique. A Brevet d'Études du Premier Cycle (BEPC) is required for admission.
Lower secondary school teachers are trained in 1-year program at the école normale supérieure (ENS) (higher teacher training school). Upon successful completion of the program, students are awarded a Certificat d'Aptitude aux Fonctions de Professeur du Premier Cycle (CAPPC). A Diplome du Baccalauréat de l'Enseignement du Secondaire is required for admission.
Upper secondary school teachers are also trained at the école normale supérieure (ENS) (higher teacher training school) in a 2-year program leading to the Certificat d'Aptitude au Professorat de l'Enseignement Secondaire (CAPES). A Diplôme d'Études Universitaires Générales (DEUG) is required for admission. Students who hold a Maîtrise can complete the program in 1 year.