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1. Geography
2. Political situation
3. Defense
4. Economy
a. Figures
b. Currency
5. Health
6. Education
a. Universities
7. Demographics
8. Religions
a. Freedom
9. Peoples
10. Languages
11. Human rights
12. History
13. Cities and Towns

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Index / Education
Open map of IranFlag of IranIran /

Key figures
77% (women 70%, men 84%)
MENA rank: 14 of 22.
Basic education access
World rank: 118.
MENA rank: 12 of 22.
130, of which 54 are public.
Density: 1:560,000.
Internationally ranked: 30%.
5.3% of total population.
MENA rank: 2 of 22.
3.5 million.
$700/capita, 5.1%/GDP.
MENA rank: 7 of 20.
MENA rank
among 22 countries.

MENA = Middle East and North Africa.

Adult literacy class to Turkmen women, Iran

Adult literacy class to Turkmen women. Photo: ISNA (Ebrahim Asghari)

Damghan University, Damghan, Iran
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Damghan University. Photo: jiahungli

Until the early 20th century, schools of Iran were organized and run by Islamic institutions, each of the communities had their own schools. The number of schools were, however, limited to only the elite, whether it was the bureaucratic or the economic elite. Instruction was limited to basic subjects, and with a great focus on religion.
In order to enter higher education it was only required with a few years of elementary schooling, involving that the pupils were still early teenagers. At this level, there was even more of a focus on religious subjects. The first Western-style higher school was established in the middle the 19th century. Through the remaineder of the century, more such schools were established, but the growth was slow.
Following the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1907), serious efforts were put in place to establish a nationwide, public, primary school system. Again, the process was slow and could not catch up with the needs in the Iranian society.
After Reza Shah Pahlavi took the throne in 1925, more progress came about, all public and private schools came under control of the Ministry of Education: A system based upon the French state's and non-religious was developed. Uniform curricula for primary and for secondary education were drafted. But again, development was slow compared to the needs across the nation, and by 1940 only 10% of children attended primary education.
Another round of reforms came in the 1960's, and now, finally, development started to catch up with the needs across the country. By the end of the 1970's, there was 75% participation at primary and 50% at secondary levels.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 did bring about several changes to the educational system. Islam was reintroduced as a ethical framework and as part of the curriculum, teachers not considered Islamic enough were removed, conservative dress codes were imposed.
Changes by the revolution at the levels of higher education caused quite some unrest. Following demonstrations among students and staff, all institutions were closed in April 1980, some remained closed for more than 3 years. A large part of the teachers were dismissed, and students either left or were forced to leave, effectively making 2/3 of the students never to return. The female participation dropped from 40% to 10%.
Through the 1980's things were normalized, and private schools were permitted 1988, but only non-profit and those fitting strict Islamic curriculum.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 5.1% of GDP by 2006, which in 2008 figures means ca. $700/capita.
One minority, the Baha'is are discriminated by the authorities, they access primary and secondary schools like all other Iranian children, but are not permitted into universities.

Through the 1960's and 1970's there were corps sent to villages all across Iran to teach reading and writing. Several millions learned these basic skills by this. This program was closed down after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Over the last 30 years, there has been some reduction in illiteracy but not at impressive levels: 9 million Iranians above the age of 40 were illiterate in 2006. But at one point there has been radical changes, as most of the improvements have been with women.

Special education
Special education in Iran begins 1920 when a blind school opened in Tabriz. A special bureau within in the Ministry of Education was established 1968.
Iran has identified the need to allow children will lesser impairments or disability special attention. Also to develop services outside the larger town and cities.

Pre-Primary education
Kindergarten is offered to children at the age of 5, lasting for a year. The purpose is to prepare the children for school, very basic pedagogical programs are followed.

Primary school
Primary school is free and compulsory, begins at the age of 6 and lasts for 5 years. An exam has to be taken at the completion of every year, to allow entry to the next cycle.
Even today, many kids are not attending school. This has often to do with priorities made by the parents, as schools are easy to attend, and found in even small villages.

Middle school
Middle school is 3 years, classes 6 through 8. This level is designated as the guidance cycle and involves the first steps towards specialization. Abilities and interests are determined by exams, and the main division is between Academic and the Vocational/Technical.
At the end of 8th grade, regional exams are taken to determine who are eligible to proceed to secondary education.
English is introduced in the 7th grade.

Secondary education
Secondary school in Iran is simply called High school. It is 3 years, and follows either Academic/General; or Vocational/Technical/Manual. As with earlier education, each year is concluded with a exam to determine if the pupils are qualified to proceed to the next cycle.
The Academic/General has 4 directions; Literature and culture; Socio-Economic; Physics and Mathematics; and Experimental Sciences.
The Vocational/Technical/Manual covers several programs of specialization, all training for the work life. There are 3 main directions: Technical; Business and Administration; and Agriculture.
Upon finishing High school pupils may succeed in obtaining the High School Diploma. One more year must be taken to continue on to university. The exam for this is called KONKUR, and is nationwide.

Higher education
Western-style, higher education in Iran begins in 1851, when the Darolfonoon was founded. It offered programs in military science, technology, accounting and European languages. The first university was established in 1934, when several higher institutes were joined to form the University of Teheran. From 1945 several more universities were established in the largest cities, Tabriz, Esfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Ahvaz.
Today, Iran has extremely many universities, 322, of which 54 are public. Private institutions vary immensely in size, but also in quality. Iran is a country where public universities has a higher status, and overall, better quality compared with private ones.
Webometrics' ranking of world universities place the University of Tehran as the nation's best, and no 987 in the world. Iran's next universities are Isfahan University of Medical Sciences at 1035; Tehran University of Medical Sciences at 1135; Isfahan University of Technology at 1924; Ferdowsi University of Mashhad at 1932; and Sharif University of Technology at 1977, among those on the world top 2000 list.
Iran has around 100 more institutions at university levels, of which some are of very high standards. These are institutes of technology, medical schools and community colleges. Despite the Islamization process, most secular subjects still have a secular approach.
Normal university studies are divided into 3 degrees, each of 2 years of study. The lowest degree is the Fogh-Diploma; then follows Karshenasi, which corresponds to the Bachelor's degree; while the Master's degree is known as Fogh-Licence.
Studying abroad has for generations been considered superior to studies in Iran. Many of those going abroad, have then not returned to Iran. Programs since the revolution has aimed at preventing young talents leave Iran for their higher studies; these programs have had some success.

By Tore Kjeilen