Contents relates to the countries of Middle East and North Africa (MENA). There is a cultural and historical affiliation between these countries, but also numerous differences and distinctions. Still, the countries can roughly be understood within important "borders". Turkey meets Europe, North Africa is divided by Sahara from black Africa, and Iran is the last country before the heartlands of Asia begin.
As for educational histories, these countries fall into two categories, those that have their own long histories of building and sustaining structures of education at all levels, and those that have had little but traditional and simple systems. Most countries have in recent decades built systems that correspond to Western systems, but religious education is gaining force, both as part of a the predominantly secular system but also as real and independent alternatives.
Few countries have sex segregation in classes and schools, this happens for real first in the Arabian peninsula. This situation seems to be stable.
Sex segregation in schools are often used by Western commentators as an indicator of sexual suppression of women. While this very much is the case, new trends in modern educational science more and more suggest that young boys and girls have very different moods and needs in the class room, and that segregation allows better opportunities for learning for all. From this, there are few incentives for conservative countries to change in this respect.
Reforms and Challenges
Pre-university education in most countries follow patterns that were developed in recent decades, Yemen is an exception that is right in the middle of a reform.
Practically all countries have rather ambitious programs for their systems of higher education, but as the efforts follow quite different models between countries, some seem to be on a good path of fulfilling their goals, other seem to have begun an insustainable growth. The main challenges is that the growth in number of institutions never exceeds what available qualified personnel allows. Qatar leads here, not building any new university, rather cooperating with well-functioning Western universities that establish small satellite campuses in Qatar under attractive terms. A country like Libya appears to be on the other end; the record-high university attendance and high university density go poorly together with none of the country's universities making it to the World Top 6000 ranking.
Illiteracy is substantial across the MENA region, but it represents in itself a problem of modest dimensions. Illiteracy is often among those in society that live lives where tradition makes no demand on being literate; the young in most countries learn to read and write. Yet, many countries have taken serious measures in reducing adult illiteracy.