TO DESCRIBE the public schools of Lebanon is essentially to describe its primary and higher primary schools. At the time of the visit of the American Council Commission in 1945 the public primary school consisted of six grades. These were divided into three courses in the French fashion, the first two grades making up the preparatory course; the next two grades, the elementary course; and the last two grades, the middle course (cours moyen). The higher primary school consisted of three years, the first year of which was called the higher class, and the remaining two years were called the complementary classes (classes complémentaires). French was the only foreign language taught in the public schools and began with the first grade. The medium of instruction in the first four grades was Arabic, but children were required to study in French the arithmetic they learned in Arabic. In this way they were gradually inducted, from the first grade, into the study of subject matter through the medium of French. Beginning with the first year of the middle course (fifth grade), the study of object lessons was shifted to the medium of French, while arithmetic was carried through in both languages. Much the same pattern was kept in the classes of the higher primary school, science taking the place of object lessons. Drawing, manual arts, and physical education were allied to French, while singing was conducted in both languages.
The new course of study, issued in October 1946, shortens the length of the primary school from six to five years, gives the pupils the option of either French or English as the foreign language, and makes Arabic the language of instruction throughout the primary school. The teachers, however, are to "Habituate the pupils, beginning with the fourth year, in the understanding and use of scientific terms in French or English-- according to the choice of the pupil--in arithmetic and object lessons." In the public examination at the end of the five-year course, the pupil may choose whether he will be examined in French or English.