The Ivoirian education system is an adaptation of the French system, which was introduced at the end of the nineteenth century to train clerks and interpreters to help administer the colony. The education system was gradually expanded to train teachers, farmers, and artisans, but by 1940, only 200 Africans had been admitted to primary schools. In 1945 the nation had only four university graduates, despite an official policy, described as "assimilationist," aimed at creating a political elite that would identify with France and French culture. The education system was made into a department of the French national system under the jurisdiction of the minister for education in Paris in the last decade of colonial rule, but by limiting access to a tiny minority of Africans, it generally failed to supplant Ivoirian values with French ones.
Education assumed much greater importance as independence approached, leading some village elders to establish and support village schools. Primary-school enrollments increased eightfold during the 1950s; secondary-school enrollments increased ninefold. Schools began to prepare students for the university, and scholarship programs were implemented to send a select few to Europe or to Dakar, Senegal, for further study.
During the 1980s, education was an important national priority; it received nearly one-third of the national budget in 1985. Responsibility for educational development lay with the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research, which also prescribed curricula, textbooks, and teaching methods; prepared qualifying examinations; and licensed teachers, administrators, and private educational institutions.
As a result of its emphasis on education, Côte d'Ivoire boasted a 43 percent literacy rate overall, 53 percent for men and 31 percent for women in 1988. About 15 percent of the total population was enrolled in some type of educational institution, but enrollments were still much higher in urban than rural areas.
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