Years of war have had a ruinous effect on Iraq’s education system, which was once among the best in the region. Enrolments have been increasing since 2004, but one in five children between the pre-primary and lower secondary levels are still out of school and there are huge disparities between boys and girls.
In 2013, some 777,0005-year-oldswho should be in pre-primary were out of school (76%), along with nearly 485,000 primary school aged children (8%)and over 651,000 lower secondary school aged children (26%).
In 2014, the armed conflict has resulted in almost 500,000 additional out-of-school children who are internally displaced.
At particular risk of being excluded from school are: girls, the poor, children whose mothers are not educated and children with disabilities.
BARRIERS AND BOTTLENECKS
Lack of awareness of the importance of education. This is partly attributed to the effect of widespread illiteracy (21%) and low levels of education among mothers.
Poverty and living conditions. Approximately one fifth of Iraq's population lives below the poverty line, and surveys show the negative impact of economic-related social problems on school enrolment.
Popular traditions regarding the role of women and the acceptance of early marriage for girls. Rates of early marriage have declined in the Kurdistan region but worsened in other parts of Iraq. Some 23% of women marry before the age of 18.
Lack of school places, facilities and well trained teachers.
POLICIES AND STRATEGIES
The Comprehensive National Strategy for Education and Higher Education 2012-2022 aims to reform the education system, including meeting the needs of minority groups. It sets high enrolment targets and calls for obligatory basic education, financial incentives for poorer students, community awareness programmes on the importance of education, and improvements in the educational environment.
Since 2009, Iraq has developed a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy that aims to improve access to education through extending obligatory education to the intermediate stage, establishing and improving schools in poor neighbourhoods, reducing illiteracy and linking vocational education with the labour market.
A basic obligatory educational system has reduced the number of children missing out on lower secondary school in the Kurdistan region.
- Enforcing of the obligatory education law.
- Expanding the scope of the group covered by obligatory education to include the age group between 5 and 14 and in the governorates of Iraq.
- Focusing on developing and implementing a strategy for training teachers in kindergartens and public education.
- Developing a plan of school distribution among regions.
- Providing facilities for the private sector in order to open kindergarten classes and national schools.
- Applying the law stipulating monthly financial grants for primary school students and intermediate stage students in order to help them meet their basic needs to complete their studies.
- Increasing the expenditures allocated to the Ministry of Education from the state budget and developing techniques of financial programming and successful methods of budget implementation.
- Giving high priority to caring for children with special needs and providing them with special care. Promoting cooperation between the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education in the development of private institutes for people with special needs, increasing their number, equipping them with specialized teaching cadres, providing appropriate facilities for creating an enabling learning environment, and expanding their scope to include all governorates.
- Finding modern, working mechanisms that will reduce repetition in the primary stage with the inclusion of a school card as a reference for student performance evaluation, reconsidering the mechanism by which primary school students move to the intermediate stage, and taking all necessary educational measures to reduce the repetition percentage in the fifth grade.
Awareness and participation:
- Activating the role of boards of parents and giving them the powers required.
- Raising awareness among households, especially in rural, poor and remote areas, of the necessity and importance of education for both girls and boys.
- Developing a plan for communication and awareness, which may initially depend on the initiative of the specialized resources of the Ministry of Education in preparing educational programmes for households to enlighten them on the value of education and learning and explain the risks of their children dropping out.
Educational services and their quality:
- Emphasizing the practical side of the application of scientific subjects in daily life, adopting an educational curricula based on activities and technology, providing an effective learning environment, and encouraging critical thinking, as well as providing the requirements of these curricula including competent teachers, effective educational administration, and modern buildings, laboratories, and technology.
- Activating the role of social workers in primary and intermediate schools and giving them the necessary power to instruct, guide and follow the students, especially those who are at risk of dropping out.
- Encouraging cooperation between the schools and medical clinics affiliated with the Ministry of Health in providing periodic medical examinations of students and promoting health awareness.
- Providing enabling, therapeutic education for students who have learning difficulties.
- Giving rewards to outstanding students and teachers, and awarding scholarships to teachers to complete their studies inside and outside of Iraq.
- Developing teacher skills by organizing on-the-job training courses for them.
- Encouraging the appropriate use of various evaluation techniques according to their specific goals, and not limiting evaluation to the cognitive side only.
- Paying attention to vocational education and developing it according to international standards.
To complement this study, we propose the following recommendations:
- Conducting annual follow-up surveys of the implementation of the study's suggestions for the purpose of evaluating and measuring what has been achieved regarding increasing the number of enrolled children.
- Conducting a study evaluating the curricula followed in Iraq, including the objectives and content of scientific material, the teaching methods and the evaluation techniques, for the purpose of analysing the actual reasons behind student repetition, especially the students of the fifth grade. Some people believe the reason behind this repetition is related to the curriculum being followed. This study shall be conducted according to accepted international standards.
- The number of students at risk of dropping out in every governorate can be determined by finding an accurate scientific mechanism, through field research, to determine the characteristics.