TUNISIA CASE STUDY
A Commitment from the Top
Tunisia provides an example of top-down directives aimed at achieving school connectivity. Goals are elaborated at the highest level of government, written into development plans, and then converted into action by the Ministry of Education.
Unlike many developing countries, where the aspiration to provide school connectivity is a top-level policy goal but follow-up is poor, Tunisia has successfully converted policies into concrete results. One major factor is the ability to back its commitments with adequate financial resources. According to a study of 63 countries, Tunisia ranks first in relative public expenditure on education (8.1 per cent of GDP).143
For a developing country, Tunisia has had a long history with the Internet. It was the first Arab country -- and the African country -- to attain connectivity in 1991. In 1997, President Ben Ali announced a goal of connecting all secondary schools to the Internet by the end of 2001, with primary schools to follow.144Funds were earmarked from the educational budget for this goal, and the rate of secondary school Internet connectivity rose from 30 per cent in 1998 to 100 per cent -- all 460 secondary schools -- by 2000.
The President reiterated the goal of connecting all schools to the Internet in 2001. This was elaborated in the educational plan for 2002-2007, which called for 100 per cent Internet connectivity at junior secondary schools by 2002, and at primary schools 2005.145 By 2006, all of the 775 junior secondary schools were connected, as were 87 per cent of the 4,500 primary schools.
Having achieved a high rate of school connectivity, Tunisia is now working to achieve improved quality by increasing the number of computers in schools and accelerating connection speeds. The Ministry of Education and Training signed an agreement with incumbent telecommunications operator Tunisie Télécom in February 2008 for broadband connectivity to schools.146 Under the terms of the agreement, Tunisie Télécom will provide Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connectivity to about 6,000 primary and secondary schools, as well as training institutes. Schools will be given DSL modems at the rate of about 250 schools per month.
Internet connectivity for all primary schools has been an elusive target, given the number of rural schools that are not connected to the telephone network. An interim measure has been the “Informatic Bus” programme, a fleet of 10 buses that contain computers and roof-mounted satellite dishes for connection to the Internet. These vehicles travel to unconnected schools to provide Internet links.147
Figure 6.1: Percentage of Schools Connected to the Internet, Tunisia
Source: Ministry of Education, Tunisia
143UNESCO Institute of Statistics. 2006. Education counts. Benchmarking Progress in 19 WEI countries World Education indicators – 2006. http://www.uis.unesco.org/ev.php?ID=6833_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC
144“In order to prepare, as of now, the platform with such an evolution and the purpose of improving the output of the education system, we order, today, to generalize connection to the Internet network of all our university institutions and scientific research, the connection of the colleges and colleges having to follow by stages, from here the end of the current plan, with the .perspective one to connect the primary schools to this network in the following stage.” Président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, “Discours du Président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali à l'occasion du dixième anniversaire du Changement”. (Carthage, Tunisia, 1997)http://www.carthage.tn/fr/index.php?option=com_events&task=view_detail&agid=5387&year=1997&month=11&day=07&Itemid=87 (accessed 14 September 2009).
145Ministry of Education and Training, The New Education Reform in Tunisia: An Education Strategy for the Future 2002-2007 (2002).
146Ministère de l'Education et de la Formation, “L'ADSL généralisé dans les établissements scolaires et éducatifs.” Press Release, 25 February 2008 http://www.edunet.tn/actualites/adsl_fr.htm (accessed 14 September 2009).