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Libya is a large country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, the third-largest country in Africa by area and the seventeenth-largest in the world, with a total geographic area of roughly 700,000 square miles.  The country is bordered to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, to the east by Egypt, to the southeast by Sudan, to the south by Chad and Niger and to the west by Algeria and Tunisia. Tripoli, Libya’s capital and its largest city, is home to 1.7 million of the country’s 6.4 million people, and the three traditional parts of the country are known as Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica.

Libya is usually portrayed as an extremely densely populated country, but in actuality the population density is only about 130 people per every square mile.  The reason for this confusion is that most of the population is concentrated on the Libyan coastline, and approximately 90 percent of the 6.4 million residents live in this area—an area that represents only 10 percent of the total geographic area.  Native Libyans, who are primarily Arab or a mixture of Arab and Berber ethnicities, account for the majority of the population.  Among all the foreign residents in the country, the majority hail from other African nations, particularly from Egypt and the Sub-Saharan African countries.  There are also smaller numbers of Bangladeshis (60,000), Chinese (35,000) and Filipinos (30,000) living in Libya. 

Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of Libya and is used for all government business, public communications, commerce and education.  Libyan Arabic, however, a local dialect that combines Standard Arabic with indigenous languages, is spoken colloquially among the Libyan people.  Islam is the predominant religion of the country; the religious preference for over 97 percent of the population.  The majority of those practicing Islam adhere to the Sunni branch of the religion, which also has a bearing in the public sector, especially public policy decisions.  The remainder of the population practices Christianity, along with a variety of other religions practiced by very small groups within Libya.

Education in Libya

Education in Libya is the responsibility of the national government and is overseen by the Ministry of Education.  Basic education in Libya is free for all citizens of the country and compulsory up to the secondary level.  The system consists of three levels:  primary education, secondary education and tertiary or higher education.

Primary education in Libya spans 8 years for students between the ages of 6 and 14.  This is the only compulsory level of education, although the majority of Libyan students do opt to move on to secondary studies following the completion of primary school.  The curriculum in primary school is very broad and includes courses in mathematics, science, Arabic language and literature, religious studies, civics, geography, history, art, music and physical education.  The net primary enrollment rate is over 90 percent and one of the highest in all of North Africa.

At the secondary level, which serves students between the ages of 14 and 18, students have the option of continuing their academic studies—a college preparatory track that helps prepare students for tertiary educational opportunities—or opting instead for vocational/technical education—a program in which they receive training and instruction in one or more career fields, usually with the goal of joining the workforce upon graduation.

Of the 1.7 million students in Libya, 270,000 will go on to study at the tertiary level.  There are now nine universities in Libya, where students can pursue undergraduate, graduate, and in some cases, post-graduate degrees (depending on the university) in a variety of academic fields.  There are also over 84 technical and vocational institutions that help train students for advanced-level careers important to the Libyan economy.

Libya has an adult literacy rate of 82 percent, the highest in North Africa and one of the highest on the continent.

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