Iraq: Educational standards plummet, say specialists

BAGHDAD, 16 May 2007 (IRIN) - Education specialists in Iraq say they are concerned that pupils and students in the current academic year will leave school without completing this year's curriculum, and new graduates will not be competent to pursue their careers.

"Violence and lack of resources have undermined the education sector in Iraq. No student will graduate this year with sufficient competence to perform his or her job, and pupils will end the year with less than 60 percent of the knowledge that was supposed to have been imparted to them," said Professor Fua'ad Abdel-Razak, an educationist at Baghdad University.

"Many other factors have worsened the situation, including the lack of experienced professionals or good salaries for teaching staff, a paucity of text books and no work experience during their last year at college," Abdel-Razak added.

Country-wide violence is keeping more and more children at home, while public infrastructure continues to deteriorate. With municipal workers facing daily attacks, streets are in need of repair, street lighting is often non-existent, open sewers are common and many public and school buses lie in garages awaiting repair.


Abdel-Razak said the situation was particularly difficult for graduates, who would end their courses without the necessary skills.

"Medics, pharmacists, biologists and dentists are desperately seeking training in hospitals because what they have learnt so far does not give them enough confidence to treat patients. There is a really huge difference between now and the times of Saddam Hussein when medical graduates left college with the competence to treat any patient," he said.

"Other professions are encountering similar problems and we hope the government will be able to devise a new plan for the educational system before the country finds itself in total chaos for lack of competent professionals," Abdel-Razak said.

Primary schools

According to Lina Muhammad, a primary school teacher in Baghdad's Mansour district, no teacher in her school will be able to complete this year's curriculum because of violence, low attendance by students and lack of teaching materials.

"More than a quarter of the curriculum for every subject has not been covered. We hope we can teach them next year what they have missed this year," Lina said.

"Children's capacity for learning has been reduced and the main reason for this is the effect the violence has had on their minds and this might continue to affect them for years to come," she added.

Low attendance

A senior official and analyst in the Ministry of Education, May Makin, said teachers were forced to go over old lessons with their students many times because many of them had a low attendance rate in school because of violence and displacement and there was not enough time to cover the curriculum.

"Teachers cannot abandon those children who did not attend school because of the violence, so they have to take special care of them and, unfortunately, many other students were forced to go over the same lessons again and again so as to help their classmates catch up," Makin said.

Students who are about to graduate said they were worried about leaving university without enough knowledge and experience.

"I remember when I entered college and students were graduating with detailed knowledge, and leaving direct to the global job market, but unfortunately today I and my colleagues find ourselves graduating knowing that , with our lack of experience, no one would employ us," said Salman Rafi, a sixth year student at Mustansiriyah University's Medical College.