Education in Palestine

Primary/Secondary Education OPT* West Bank Gaza Strip#
Total no. schools (2013/14) 2,782 2,094 688
Government (Public) 1,668 397
Private 329 48
UNRWA^ 97 243
Students/class (average (2013/14) 27.2 36.1
Higher Education OPT* West Bank Gaza Strip#
No. accredited institutions 53
Universities (up to MA) 14 9 5
University colleges (up to BA) 18 12 6
Community colleges (up to diploma) 20 13 7
Open University (up to BA) 1 (22 branches)
Total students enrolled (2012/13) 213,581 (total); 126,138 Female (59%); 87,443 Male (41%)

* Occupied Palestinian Territory (West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem)
^ United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
# Data for Gaza Strip as at 2011/12

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).
  • Education for children in Area C of the West Bank (area under full Israeli military control) sees significant shortage of classrooms, inadequate infrastructure and the constant threat of Israeli demolition orders. With 50,000 students in 183 schools, almost 10,000 students began the 2011/12 school year accommodated in tents, caravans, or tin shacks. [UNOCHA, May 2012]

The Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip means…

  • The UN was forced to turn away 40,000 children due to extreme classroom shortages in 2010/11.
  • The Israeli prohibition on the import of construction materials (cement, steel, gravel) into the Gaza Strip has delayed the building of 105 new UN schools. These basic construction materials are defined by Israeli authorities as “dual-use” (civil-military) items and, as such, their import is subject to Israeli approval. [UNOCHA, Humanitarian Monitor Report, Feb.2012]
  • 85% of schools in Gaza operate on daily double shifts, with class sizes of up to 50 students.
  • The 2008-09 Operation ‘Cast Lead’ Israeli military invasion of the Gaza Strip saw 18 schools and kindergartens destroyed and over 250 damaged.


“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).

Download the full AUSPalestine Factsheet on the Education sector in Palestine.

See also the AUSPalestine Resources page for further information.

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