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About Iran » Education in Iran

Iran's population is about 70 million currently. More than two-thirds of the Iranians are under the age of 30, and the literacy rate stands above 80%.

Education in Iran is highly centralized and is divided to K-12 education and higher education. K-12 education is supervised by the Ministry of Education and higher education is under supervision of Ministry of Science and Technology.

The Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010) envisages upgrading the quality of the educational system at all levels, as well as reforming education curricula, and developing appropriate programs of vocational training, a continuation of the trend towards labor market oriented education and training.

History of education in Iran
Modern education

The first Western-style public schools were established by Haj-Mirza Hassan Roshdih.

There are both free public schools and private schools in Iran at all levels, from elementary school through university. Education in Iran is highly centralized. The Ministry of Education is in charge of educational planning, financing, administration, curriculum, and textbook development. Teacher training, grading, and examinations are also the responsibility of the Ministry. At the university level, however, every student attending public schools is required to commit to serve the government for a number of years typically equivalent to those spent at the university, or pay it off for a very low price (typically a few hundred dollars). During the early 1970s, efforts were made to improve the educational system by updating school curriculaion, introducing modern textbooks, and training more efficient teachers.

In 1980, the Cultural Revolution Committee was formed to oversee the institution of Islamic values in education. An arm of the committee, the Center for Textbooks (composed mainly of clerics); produced 3,000 new college-level textbooks reflecting Islamic views by 1983.Teaching materials based on Islam were introduced into the primary grades within six months of the revolution.

Age Levelof education (Persian) Duration US degree equivalent Remarks
5-6 Pre-primary/Kindergarten 1 year (K-12)   Optional
6-11 Elementary education/Dabestan 5 years (K-12)   Although elementary education is free and compulsory, full enrollment in elementary education has not yet been achieved (2004).
11-14 Lower-secondary/Rahnamayi 3 years (K-12) Middle school/orientation cycle Mandatory (6-8th grade)
14-17 Upper-secondary/Dabirestan 3 years (K-12) High school diploma (Diplom-Metevaseth) NOT mandatory. Orientation: Manual; Professional/technical; or Theoretical. Each program with its own specialties (i.e. for theoretical: math & physics; experimental sciences; literature & humanities)
17-18 Pre-University course 1 year Entrance exam (Konkoor) In 2009: ~11% admitted; 1,278,433 entrants; 60% female[4]
18-20 Higher education or Technical/vocational School 2 years Baccalaureate (Fogh-e-Diplom or Kārdāni) Optional for university students (see below)
18-22 University 4 years Bachelor degree (Kārshenāsi or Licence) Academic term divided in 'semesters' and 'course credits'
22-24 University 2 years Master degree (Kārshenāsi-ye Arshad or Fogh Licence)  
(24-27) Doctoral program 3 years PhD. (Karshenasi-arshad-napayvasteh or Doctora) After an entrance exam

Approximately 6% of upper secondary institutions are private. These schools must conform to the regulations of the Ministry of Education, though they are financed primarily through tuition fees received from students. Academic year: September through June, with two semesters; note that students attend classes Saturday through Thursday.

Internet and distance education

Full Internet service is available in all major cities and it is very rapidly increasing. Many small towns and even some villages now have full Internet access. The government aims to provide 10% of government and commercial services via the Internet by end-2008 and to equip every school with computers and connections by the same date.

Payame Noor University (established 1987) as a provider exclusively of distance education courses is a state university under the supervision of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology.

Teacher education

Teacher Training Centers in Iran are responsible for training teachers for primary, orientation cycle, and gifted children’s schools. These centers offer two-year programs leading to a Fogh-Diploma (associate degree). Students that enter Teacher Training Centers, have at minimum, completed the orientation cycle of education; most have a High school diploma. A national entrance examination is required for admission.

In order to teach 9-12 grades (high schools), in theory, a bachelor's degree is required; Teachers are trained in universities and higher institutes. There are seven teacher-training colleges in Iran.

Higher education

Iranian universities churn out almost 750,000 skilled graduates annually.

The tradition of university education in Iran goes back to the early centuries of Islam. By the 20th century, however, the system had become antiquated and was remodeled along French lines. The country's 16 universities were closed after the 1979 revolution and were then reopened gradually between 1982 and 1983 under Islamic supervision.

In 1997, all higher-level institutions had 40,477 teachers and enrolled 579,070 students. The University of Tehran (founded in 1934) has 10 faculties, including a department of Islamic theology. Other major universities are at Tabriz, Mashhad, Ahvaz, Shiraz, Esfahan, Kerman, Babol Sar, Rasht, and Orumiyeh. There are about 50 colleges and 40 technological institutes.

Women in education
First Iranian women who attended University. circa 1935
Women make up more than 50 percent of Iranian university students with some fields in science and engineering having more than 70 percent of their alumni comprising of women. The opportunities for women education and their involvement in higher education have grown exponentially after the Iranian Revolution. According to UNESCO world survey, Iran has the highest female to male ratio at primary level of enrollment in the world among sovereign nations, with a girl to boy ratio of 1.22: 1.00.
Schools for Gifted Children

The National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET), also known as SAMPAD(a Persian Abbreviation), maintains Middle and High Schools in Iran. These schools were shut down for a few years after the revolution, but later re-opened. Admittance is based on an entrance examination, and is very competitive, especially in Tehran. Their tuition is similar to private schools, but may be partially or fully waived off depending on the student's financial condition. Some NODET alumni are world leading scientists.

Organization for Educational Research and Planning (OERP)

OERP is a government affiliated scientific, learning organization. It has qualitative and knowledge-based curricula consistent with the scientific and research findings, technological, national identity, Islamic and cultural values.

OERP's Responsibilities:
  • To research on the content of the educational
  • To study and develop simple methods for examinations and educational assessments
  • To write, edit and print text-books
  • To identify and provide educational tools and the list of standards for educational tools and equipments
  • To run pure research on improving the quality and quantity of education
  • To perform other responsibilities issued by the OERP Council.

There are approximately 92,500 public educational institutions at all levels, with a total enrollment of approximately 17,488,000 students.

  • According to the CIA World Fact book, from information collected in 2002, 83.5% of males and 70.4% of females over the age of 15 are literate, thus 77% of the population is literate.
  • A literacy corps was established in 1963 to send educated conscripts to villages. During its first 10 years, the corps helped 2.2 million urban children and 600,000 adults become literate. This corps was shut down with the Islamic Revolution.
  • In 1997, there were 9,238,393 pupils enrolled in 63,101 primary schools, with 298,755 teachers. The student-to-teacher ratio stood at 31 to 1. In that same year, secondary schools had 8,776,792 students and 280,309 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 26 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 83% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.6% of GDP (not budget).
  • In 2007, majority of students (60%) enrolled in Iranian universities were women.
  • According to UNESCO world survey, Iran has the highest female to male ratio at primary level of enrollment in the world among sovereign nations, with a girl to boy ratio of 1.22: 1.00.

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