Universities in Madagascar

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About universities in Madagascar

Madagascar, known officially as the Republic of Madagascar, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, located off the southeastern coast of Africa.  Formerly known as the Malagasy Republic, Madagascar encompasses nearly 270,000 square miles of total land area, making it the fourth-largest island in the world by total area.  Its land consists of the main island of Madagascar, as well as several peripheral islands, on which a total of approximately 22 million people reside, according to a 2012 estimate. 
Madagascar came under the colonial rule of the French in the late 19th century, and would remain under France’s control until the summer of 1960, at which time the island country claimed its independence.  Today Madagascar is known as a bio-diversity hot spot, with plant and animal life that exists nowhere else on earth.  However, many scientists and environmental specialists believe that hundreds of these species are now endangered due to the increase in human population.  The capital and largest city in Madagascar is Antananarivo, which is also the central hub of the country’s higher education system.
 Higher Education in Madagascar
Higher education in Madagascar has a lengthy and notable history.  Former schooling began with ancient Arab seafarers, who developed a handful of higher learning schools in the Islamic tradition and came up with a transcription of the Malagasy language using an Arab script.  This formal schooling plan did not last long, however, and it wouldn’t be until the mid 19th century that the Kingdom of Madagascar produced the most developed public school system in all of pre-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa, thanks in large part to the support of a successive line of kings and queens.  During this time, the higher education system focused almost exclusively on preparing students to take their place in the country’s social hierarchy, one dominated by the elders of the day, particularly the ancestors of Razana, who were believed to direct and manipulate the events on the earth.
Today, higher education on the island is dominated by the University of Madagascar, an institution that was established in 1955 under the name “Madagascar Institute for Advanced Studies.”  This title was changed in 1961 to the University of Madagascar, and since that time it has served as the main institute on the island for all post-secondary and higher education.
Back in 1955, the University of Madagascar began with a single branch, located in the capital city of Antananarivo.  Fast forward to 2012, and the university now has six distinct and independent branches, located in the cities of Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Toamasina, Toliara, and Mahajanga.  Prior to 1988, the additional five branches of the University of Madagascar were considered merely provincial extensions of the branch in Antananarivo, but now each institution is fully independent, consisting of a president, board of directors and an administration with the power to make decisions regarding curriculum, faculty and policy. 
Students attending the University of Madagascar have a wide range of specialties to choose from—specialties in which to focus their studies.  The university system consists of several faculties, including economics, law, science and letters and human sciences.  There are also several schools that focus on the areas of public administration, social work, medicine, management, public works and agronomy—the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber, and reclamation—Madagascar’s largest economic industry.
Although the higher education system in Madagascar has evolved greatly since the 19th century, in many respects it continues to lag behind the systems of higher learning found in some of the other African countries.  According to experts, the largest challenge facing Madagascar’s system of higher education is overcrowding.  Currently there are approximately 55,000 students attending the six universities in the country, but collectively the total capacity of these universities is only 25,000.  This congestion of students has affected the quality of education instructors can provide, as well as the time it takes to earn a degree—8 to 10 years as compared to 4 or 5 years in other African universities.

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