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See how students in Timor Leste study, what their classrooms look like and what learning materials they use

Education in Timor-Leste

The overarching vision of the government of Timor-Leste for the education sector is that all individuals will have access to a quality education that will allow them to participate in the economic, social, and political development process. Timor-Leste has made significant progress in recent years, specifically in the number of schools and enrollment levels. Within 5 years, the net enrollment rate grew from 67% to 83% and gender disparity significantly decreased in basic education.

Despite this progress, Timor-Leste’s education sector still faces some challenges. Within basic education, drop out and repetition rates are high, while approximately half of six-year olds do not begin their schooling at the right age.

The National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) 2011-2030 aims to achieve universal completion of basic education, eliminate illiteracy, and ensure gender parity through priority programs, strategies, and activities in early childhood, basic, secondary, higher, and recurrent education.

The strategies highlighted in the NESP include:

Early childhood education

  1. Provide revised plans for utilizing school buildings and classrooms, and adequate furniture and teaching materials.
  2. Prepare and implement a strategy to stimulate public purpose partnerships for private sector development of new classrooms and school accreditation policies.
  3. Develop and implement a new curriculum framework.
  4. Develop new in-service and pre-service teacher training, and the recruitment or reassignment of teachers.

Basic education

  1. Provide revised plans for utilizing school buildings to achieve equitable quality and low student/teacher ratio.
  2. Ensure refurbishment of school furniture and equipment to meet minimum standards.
  3. Expand social inclusion policy tools to ensure enrollment and retention including cash transfers, scholarships, and transportation solutions.
  4. Introduce accelerated learning programs to support overage students.

Secondary education

  1. Provide a comprehensive plan for infrastructure development for secondary and technical-vocational schools.
  2. Make formal linkages with industry and marketplace to provide direct experience in the workplace.
  3. Develop a program to retrain and attract talented teachers into technical secondary education.
  4. Develop and implement a new curriculum framework.

Higher education

  1. Develop an inter-institutional system, establish a regulatory framework, and develop capacity building program to better manage, define higher education system, and support administrative services.
  2. Establish the polytechnic system including defining purposes, structure, curriculum, and teacher training.
  3. Develop measures to increase student participation and completion of higher education.

Recurrent education

  1. Increase the capacity of initial literacy programs.
  2. Continue with community-based promotion through the National Literacy Campaigns.
  3. Extend the utilization of television as aid for distance education through introducing literacy lessons and education programs.
  4. Provide recurrent education community centers in al sub-districts.

The NESP also details the specific results and activities within each sub-sector of education that will support these strategies.


All amounts are in US dollars.

Grant type Years Allocations Disbursements Grant agent
Program implementation 2012-2015 2,537,205 2,537,205 IBRD
2009-2010 4,861,428 4,861,428 IBRD
2006-2009 8,188,095 8,188,095 IBRD
  TOTAL 15,586,728 15,586,728  


Source: World Bank - Education Data
Data on education are compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics from official responses to surveys and from reports provided by education authorities in each country.


Primary completion rate (%)

Lower secondary completion rate

Out-of-school rate for children of primary school age

Out-of-school rate for adolescents of lower secondary school age

Pre-primary gross enrollment rate

Gender parity index for out-of-school rate – Primary and lower secondary

Public expenditure on education as share of GDP (%)

Public expenditure on education as a share of public expenditure (%)

Students/trained teacher ratio

Teachers trained (%)

GPE in Timor-Leste

Primary school students work on solving math problems in Timor Leste. Credit: GPE/Tara E. O'Connell

The last GPE program of US$2.5 million in Timor-Leste focused on strengthening the capacity and systems of the ministry of education. The project directly benefited the staff of the ministry of Education, with the goal of benefitting of the students and teachers in the education system.

The five components of the grant were:

  1. Strengthen senior and general management systems in core management directorates to support the implementation of the NESP.
  2. Strengthen public financial management and evidence-based planning capacity through providing technical support to strengthen policy and planning systems capacity, quality and transparent financial management systems, procurement and contract management functions, and monitoring and evaluation of the NESP.
  1. Support the capacity of the Basic Education Cluster Schools management teams through providing technical support in the development and strengthening of training modules, materials, and systems and procedures in the areas of school grants, school feeding, and learning materials. This component will also provide training to school directors and deputy directors.
  2. Strengthen teacher management through implementing and monitoring the pre- and in-service training program, supporting the management activities of the National Institute of Training of Teachers and Professionals of Education, developing evidence-based teacher policy planning systems, and supporting the implementation and monitoring of teacher training.
  3. Strengthen effective and timely monitoring and evaluation through providing technical support to strengthen the education management information system (EMIS), extend its coverage, and train offices in its use.

The ministry of education led the program with the World Bank as the grant agent and UNICEF as the coordinating agency.

Source: World Bank project appraisal document. June 2012


The last GPE program focused on strengthening the management of the education sector through building the capacity of the ministry of education.

GPE funding has contributed to strengthening the education sector through the following outcomes:

  • Transparency and competition have improved in the ministry of Education by publishing bidding information openly and establishing a complaint handling mechanism.
  • An annual monitoring report has been produced and a performance assessment framework developed to establish a results-based planning and monitoring system.
  • Support to basic education cluster schools was provided through school grants manual, school feeding program manual, and parent-teacher association manuals, as well as a mother tongue-based multilingual education pilot program.
  • Financial management staff has been trained on accounting, asset management and school finance management to promote a more transparent budgeting and finance system.
  • EMIS staff has been trained in guidelines and data analysis.

Source: World Bank implementation completion report. August 2015

Prior GPE programs in Timor-Leste have contributed to progress in the education sector, including the following:

  • Increased enrollment in Grades 1-3 by 13.2% in remote area schools in one year.
  • Established an Inclusive Education Resource Centre and Inclusive Education Office.
  • Developed of an early grade reading assessment to provide baseline-reading data.
  • Decreased the primary grade-specific dropout rates from 10-11% in the 2008-2009 school year to 3-4% in 2010.
  • Provided 520,000 books and 6,000 guidebooks for literacy and numeracy.

Source: Timor-Leste Education For All Fast Track Initiative catalytic fund grant – Implementation completion and results report (March 31, 2011)

Last updated January 14, 2018