Within the framework of UN Women mission in Iraq, the current project “Gender Review and Analysis of Ministry of Education (MoE) Policies, Strategies, Curricula and Textbooks” designed to review the education policy documents, curricula and textbooks used in basic education (grades 1 to 9) in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as well as an analysis of classroom processes to determine the gender sensitivity of the basic education. The study looked at current Ministry of Education overall policies and strategies and reviewed their gender sensitivity in addition to looking at both the content of curricula and textbooks and present policies and strategies for classroom delivery.
The assessment covered the following four main components: 1) Gender mainstreaming in Educational Policies and Strategies; 2) Gender sensitivity of the Curricula and Textbooks; 3) Gender mainstreaming in Classroom Settings; and 4) Gender mainstreaming in Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP). This study has been conducted using four different assessment tools to gather qualitative data. The study team interviewed the MoE focal points in Erbil, assessed 6 selected primary schools, visited 3 selected ALP schools, analyzed 26 selected textbooks (Annex 3), and finally organized a workshop to discuss the findings with the focal points team. The key findings of using assessment tools and study activities can be summarized as follows:
Findings Related to Gender mainstreaming in Educational Policies and Strategies
• Although girls represent almost 47% of the students in the general KRG schools, they make up only 34% of those who finish the primary cycle.
• There was almost no reference to gender in the MoE strategies, plans, and activities. However, the education partners implemented psychosocial activities, hoping to establish a general understanding of common vocabulary, goals and best responses to gender issues within psychosocial programming. MoE focal points would like to bring all stakeholders together to talk about psychosocial and the difference between female/male needs and experiences.
• No real psychosocial teacher training to date.
• There is a need for Vocational Training, sector still underdeveloped and MoE would welcome technical expertise/ideas/projects, with special focus on girls related specializations.
• Mixed schools exist in most governorates of KRG, but they are perceived as a hindrance to girls’ education.
• There are no other alternatives for girls who have either dropped out of school or never enrolled. This is of particular concern for those girls who live, or have lived, in areas experiencing great insecurity and very remote areas such as the disputed areas.
Findings Related to Gender sensitivity of Curricula and Textbooks
• School curriculum and textbooks in Kurdistan region are mostly modern textbooks and well-designed based on the world’s best practices. In fact, the science, math, and languages textbooks are copied from other countries textbooks, such as Sweden and US.
• Science, math, and languages textbooks have s been imported to Kurdistan regions without proper modification to reflect the Kurdish culture, for example the names and pictures are still the same foreign and not related to the Kurdish culture.
• Science, math, and languages textbooks have been imported to Kurdistan regions because there are no enough experts in Kurdistan who can develop school textbooks for these school learning subjects, the MoE focal stated.
• Subject experts in the curriculum department have never received training in gender mainstreaming. Mr. Araz Abdullah1 indicated that they have integrated gender related concepts in all school textbooks, and this task has been carried out intentionally according to the MoE strategies that respect gender equality. The number of women employed in the curriculum department are more than men.
• As for humanitarian school subjects such as civic education, languages, and religion, they are all developed by national teams from KRG.
• In general, school curriculum and textbooks in Kurdistan region are free of gender bias, except very small notions.
• Different portrayals and stereotypes of the sexes exist in the school textbook. The man represents the power, intelligence, and decision maker, while the women are passive recipients of the orders, money, and always in need for the man’s support. In the Human Rights Textbook, Grade5, Page 31, you can see in a picture a man sitting in his office while a woman (girl) stands in front of him like a slave while she is informing him of a complaint.
• Curriculum Reform in KRG during the last three years covered the delivery of new textbooks, such as English Curriculum and Math and Sciences.
• Sex education is a real need but difficult in KRG context.
Findings Related to Gender Mainstreaming in Classroom Settings
• Teacher Training in KRG was identified by every stakeholder as a major gap.
• School children in KRG carry excellent textbooks, but mostly they do not have qualified teachers inspire them to learn from these textbooks. Teacher trainers have had little access to modern teaching and methodologies as well as limited access to articles/professional papers in their specialization.
• Other findings from the assessment show that the Arabic schools in the city of Erbil do not have enough space to meet the demand. Because of this, all of the classes are overcrowded.
• One of the biggest gaps is Water/Sanitation (and, in turn, disease prevention), many schools are dilapidated and have no functioning sanitation facilities.
• No toilets in some schools in the contested areas which prevented girls from attending school.
• Overall, the assessment showed a need for PTAs in all the schools. This was echoed by both staff and parents.
Gender Mainstreaming in Accelerated Learning Programme (Please find the detail findings and recommendations for the ALP programme in KRG in Annex 4).
Based on the analysis of the findings, several recommendations for the government in KRG and recommendations for future programming for UN Women/UNICEF in Iraq are drawn. Recommendations also include proposed activities for achieving gender equity at basic education level, which focused on ensuring that staff in the Ministry of Education in Erbil are trained in gender equality issues and that teachers have training on how to manage classroom processes in a gender sensitive manner.