Education in Palestine

Primary/Secondary Education OPT* West Bank Gaza Strip
Total no. schools (2015/16) 2,914 2,194 720
Government (Public) 1,740 395
Private 358 68
UNRWA^ 96 257
Students/class (average (2015/16) 26.5 36.9
Higher Education OPT* West Bank Gaza Strip
No. accredited institutions 50
Universities (up to MA) 14 9 5
University colleges (up to BA) 17 12 5
Community colleges (up to diploma) 18 12 6
Open University (up to BA) 1 (22 branches)
Total students enrolled (2015/16) 216,028 (total); 130,843 Female (60%); 87,185 Male (40%)

* Occupied Palestinian Territory (West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem)
^ United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

Key facts

  • Palestine was the first Arab country to teach English from the 1st Grade, with the introduction of the first Palestinian national curriculum in 2000 by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education – replacing the Jordanian and Egyptian curricula in use since 1967.
  • Compulsory basic education covers 10 years (Grades 1-10), with Grades 11-12 optional.
  • Tertiary education is offered in universities and technical colleges (mostly four-year programs), and ‘community colleges’ (mainly two-year diploma courses).
  • Tertiary enrolment is over 40% in the 18-24 age group (high in comparison with middle-income countries).
  • The illiteracy rate among Palestinians 15 years and older has dropped from 13.9% in 1997 to 3.3% in 2015 (female 5.1%; male 1.5%).
  • 26.4% of children aged 36-59 months attend an early childhood education program.
  • In the Gaza Strip, 75% of United Nations schools and 67% of government schools run on double shifts due to the shortage of classrooms: “At least 20 new schools need to be built in Gaza each year to keep pace with population growth, but only 20 new schools have been built over the past eight years (all in 2013).” [Source: UN-OCHA, 7 October 2016]


“After the completion of the Wall, I used to cross through a tunnel, which was one meter high, full of dirty water and blocked at the two ends by stones. …My daily journey to school would take about two hours. I was caught many times and taken to the police station for interrogation. The days I got through I would arrive at school exhausted, but smiling because I had won my daily fight. …My permit expired in July. …[I can] no longer reach Jerusalem.”

– testimony of school principal Abeer, East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, p.92, March 2011.

Right to Education and Protection of Children

Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990, ARTICLE 28:
“1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity…”

Fourth Geneva Convention, 1949, ARTICLE 50:
The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.”

Israel is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by Israel 3 October 1991) and the Geneva Conventions (ratified by Israel 6 July 1951).

Research Resources

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – access here >

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees – education

United Nations Children’s Fund – access here >

Defence for Children International Palestine – access here >

No Way To Treat A Child campaign – access here >


See also the AUSPalestine Resources page for further information.

Return to FACTSHEETS >>>

Return to home >>>