Education in Mali

Public education in Mali is, in principle, provided free of charge and is compulsory for nine years between the ages of 7 and 16. The system encompasses six years of primary education beginning at age seven, followed by six years of secondary education, generally divided into two three-year cycles.

Mali's primary school enrollment rate is low, in large part because families are unable to cover the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and other fees required to attend public school.

Primary education
In the 2000-01 school year, primary school enrollment was estimated to include only 61 percent of the appropriate age-group (71 percent of males and 51 percent of females). The primary school completion rate is also low: only 36 percent of students in 2003 (and lower for females). The majority of students reportedly leave school by age 12. The secondary school enrollment rate in the late 1990s was 15 percent (20 percent for males and 10 percent for females).

Government expenditures on education in 2000 constituted about 15.6 percent of total government expenditures and about 2.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). According to Malian government estimates for the 2003-04 school year, Mali had 318 pre-primary institutions with 971 teachers and 35,000 students; 8,714 general primary and secondary institutions with 36,064 teachers and 1,650,803 students; and 37,635 students in tertiary institutions. The education system is plagued by a lack of schools in rural areas, as well as shortages of teachers and materials.

Secondary education
Increased spending on primary education, especially for children in rural areas and girls, has had the unintended effect of overtaxing the secondary school system. At the end of their primary schooling, students may take entrance exams for secondary school admissions, called the diplôme d'étude fondamentale (Fundamental Studies Diploma or DEF). In 2008 more than 80,000 students passed these exams, yet around 17,000--40% of whom were girls--were denied placement in secondary schools. While the government contends these students should be placed in limited places based on their diploma, their age, and their academic history, some Malians contend that gender discrimination plays a role in denying spots to girls.

The government has stressed primary education funding, hoping to reach universal primary education by 2015 in line with the international Millennium Development Goals, but the Basic Education Minister of Mali says that this has overtaxed the secondary school system. The government reported that from 2002 to 2007, the percentage of girls enrolled in primary school increased from 56 percent to 68 percent and boys from 78 percent to 88 percent.
At the same time the government estimates 35 percent of primary school students in the 2010 graduating class will not meet Secondary School requirements. The government plans to invest in an expanded system of both Secondary academic vocational education to meet the demand.

Students in Mali pay no tuition fees, but private secondary and vocational schooling may charge $600 a year (in Bamako, 2008), in a nation where the average yearly salary was $500 in 2007 according to the World Bank.

According to United States government estimates, the adult literacy rate (defined as those over age 15 who can read and write) was 46.4 percent for the total population in 2003 (53.5 percent for males and 39.6 percent for females). According to United Nations sources the literacy rate is lower - 27-30 percent overall and as low as 12 percent for females, among the lowest rates in Africa.

Higher education
One of the oldest universities in the world -- Sankore in Timbuktu -- dates to the 15th century.
The University of Bamako, also known as the University of Mali, is a 1990s aggregation of older institutions of higher education in the Bamako area. Its main campus is in the neighborhood of Badalabougou.

The University includes five Faculties and two institutes:
The Science and Technology faculty (Faculté des sciences et techniques or FAST),
The Medical faculty (Faculté de Médecine, de Pharmacie et d'Odento-Stamologie or FMPOS),
The Humanities, Arts, and Social Science faculty (Faculté des Lettres, Langues, Arts et Sciences Humaines or FLASH),
The Law and Public Service faculty (Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques FSJP),
The Science of Economy and Management Faculty ("Faculté des Sciences Economiques et de Gestion" or FSEG,
The Institute of Management ( "Institut Universitaire de Management" or IUG),
The Higher Institute for Training and Applied Research ("Institut Supérieur de Formation et de Recherche Appliquée" or ISFRA).

Public education is directed and funded from the national level. The Ministry has two Ministerial level officers, each heading one independent arm of the Ministry. The Ministre de L'Education de Base, de L'Alphabétisation et des Langues Nationales (Ministry of Basic Education, Literacy, and National Languages) is responsible for Primary education, literacy programs outside the schools, and the promotion and standardisation of "National Languages", such as Bambara and Tamcheq, other than the official language, French.

The Ministre des Enseignements Secondaire, supérieur et de la Recherche scientifique (Ministry of Secondary and Superior Education, and Scientific Research) is tasked with government Secondary schools, university, and an array of vocational, technical, and research centres. As of 2008, the Minister of Basic Education, Literacy, and National Languages was Sidibe Aminata Diallo and the Minister of Secondary and Superior Education, and Scientific Research was Amadou Toure