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The Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, commonly known as the Ivory Coast, is a country in West Africa with a total geographic land area of approximately 125,000 square miles. The country shares borders with several African countries, including Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina-Faso and Ghana, and its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. A treaty in 1883 established the Ivory Coast as a French protectorate territory, and in 1893, as many European countries participated in the “scramble” to colonize Africa; the region became a colony of the same. However, in August of 1960, the Ivory Coast declared its independence from France, and throughout the 1960s and 1970s, due in large part to its exportation of coffee and cocoa, the country became a major economic player in Africa. This prosperity would be temporarily interrupted during the social and political turmoil of the 1980s, but today the economy is once again strengthening, based largely on agriculture that is produced by small farming operations and subsistence farmers.
The population of Cote d’Ivoire is an estimated 20.5 million and is very ethnically diverse. By percentages, the largest groups in the country are the Akan (42%), Voltaiques, or Gur (17.6%), Northern Mandes (16.5%), Krous (11%), Southern Mandes (10%) and other groups (2.8%), which includes small numbers of French and Lebanese. While French is the official language of the Ivory Coast and is used in all official capacities, including as the language of instruction in schools, there are over 65 languages spoken in the country, including the popular trade language called the Dyula. Native-born Ivoirians are religiously split into three main groups: Muslim, Christian (particularly Roman Catholic) and animist. Due to its economic success, twenty percent of the population in Cote d’Ivoire is comprised of foreign workers from the neighboring countries of Liberia, Guinea and Burkina-Faso.
Education in Cote d’Ivoire
Education in Cote d’Ivoire is under the administration of the national government and is divided between three distinct levels: primary school, secondary school and higher education. Primary education is free and compulsory and serves children between the ages of 6 and 12 in grades one through six. Initially the instruction is comprised of reading, writing and arithmetic, subjects that are gradually supplemented by history, geography, natural sciences, music, art and physical education.
Secondary schools are broken down into lycees, which are funded and overseen at the national level; colleges, administered by individual municipalities; and vocational schools, which are also locally overseen, and provide instruction and training in career fields important to that specific town. Lycees and colleges both teach a chiefly academic track, which for a small minority of students will lead to university admission.
Graduates of either the national lycees or local colleges are eligible to enroll in one the country’s two universities, but due to lack of space in these schools the admission requirements are very rigid. Students who are accepted can pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees in one of a small number of academic disciplines offered by the school.
Education in Cote d’Ivoire continues to face many challenges and obstacles. Nearly half of the adult population is illiterate, and because of this, many families neglect to make education a priority for their children, leading to a significant percentage of students between the ages of 6 and 11 who do not attend school. Education is also inequitable between males and females, due in large part to the way women are perceived in African society. While primary schools have a fairly equal number of male and female students, at the secondary school level and beyond the overwhelming majority of students are male.