Iraqi Education is strictly controlled by the national Iraqi government, through the Iraqi Ministry of Education. This public state education is provided free, from Primary School, all the way to Doctoral degrees. Private education institutes exist; however, the contrasted expense of these schools make them unattractive to most Iraqi citizens. The main attraction to them is their freedom, or lack of control by the Iraqi government, allowing students to decide which study and career path they would like, based on individual preference.
Iraqi education is known to be of extremely high caliber throughout the Middle East, taught in both Arabic and English. Iraqi graduates have an advanced knowledge of complex subjects such as chemistry, math (algebra, calculus), biology and other scientific fields of study.
The official educational cycle in Iraq extends to 12 years, including 6 years of mandatory primary education, which starts from the age of six years, followed by 3 years of intermediate school, then 3 years of secondary education, which is divided into general secondary of scientific and literary and secondary vocational industrial, agricultural or commercial.
Students who finish high school and get the minimum qualifications for post-graduation study join universities or technical institutes, which extend study for four years at a minimum. The students of teachers institute as well as students of secondary vocational types who get excellent grades in the final examinations can join colleges and universities to pursue higher education.
Preschools serve children of age 4 to 5 years.
Students are eligible for enrollment at age 6. Primary School consists of 6 grades. The passing of a national examination and receipt of Primary School Certificate makes them eligible to attend Intermediate School.
Primary education is suffering due to the difficult economic conditions, which leads to parents either not sending their children to school or children dropping out of school at an early age. Moreover, there is frustration among teachers because of low salaries, severe shortage of textbooks and teaching aids, and miscommunication between teachers and parents.
One of the most prominent problems of primary education is the high rates of failed students. Causes of failed students include: the lack of qualified teachers, poor conditions of schools, lack of textbooks and teaching materials, child labor to increase family income and increment of student density in classrooms.
Students then attend Intermediate Schooling, grades 7-9. Upon completion of the 9th grade, students take the National Intermediate Baccalaureate Examination. Upon passing, students can then enter a secondary general or vocational school.
Some schools in Iraq include only intermediate stage and therefore the students have to complete the preparatory education (secondary level II) at another school. Most schools have intermediate and secondary stages; the student chooses after the first year in the preparatory stage either literary or scientific study.
There is a need to bring experts from abroad to train secondary teachers, because the local trainers have been isolated from international developments and are in need for modernizing.
Intermediate school students take 34 classes per week including subjects of Islamic education, Arabic language, English, Science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology), history, geography, social studies, mathematics, fine art education, and military physical education. The female students take additional lessons in household education. Some elective courses are added to the preparatory stage, such as Kurdish, sociology, economics, and patriotism education. Evening classes are exempted from physical education and military training, organizing some out-of-curriculum activities.
Students attend Secondary School from 10-12th grades. In Iraq there are two categories of Secondary Schools: General and Vocational. General schools offer a well-rounded education with a Literary/Humanities track and Scientific track. There are three branches of Vocational schools: Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial. Agricultural schools prepare students for a job in the crops-raising field; Industrial schools prepare students for a job in auto machinery, metal work, or in other industrial sectors; and Commercial prepares students for a job in business administration or accounting. Students are eligible for graduation in the twelfth grade. To complete Secondary School and receive a certificate of completion, each student must take a Baccalaureate exam. If a student does not pass this exam on attempt one, he/she is able to attend school for one more year and try to pass it again. If the student does not pass the exam a second time, he/she is not eligible to attend any other college or school.
This strict education policy is what leads many teenagers to the streets, vulnerable to terrorism groups, as they have no ability to get a job or produce an income.
Secondary education consists of two phases, each 3 years. The first three years constitute intermediate school, leading to the baccalaureate from the third level, and the remaining three years constitute a preparatory stage leading to the baccalaureate level of the sixth.
According to the Ministry of Education, secondary schooling in Iraq faces severe problems, such as a lack of infrastructure of schools and educational institutions, a lack of qualified teachers, the failure of the curricula to follow the developments of the global academic standards and a lack of textbooks and teaching aids. Some pupils in secondary education have only one textbook available to be used by five or six students.
Technical and Vocational Training
Vocational training is a branch of the secondary education system. The Iraqi students have the right to choose the vocational secondary education immediately after the intermediate stage instead of continuing education in the academic year. The vocational centers aim to provide students with professional and technical skills in order to prepare them to engage in various types of careers after graduation. The vocational training stage extends to three years leading to public examinations. The top 10% with the best scores of the students can continue their studies in technical colleges.
Although the students have the freedom to choose among the main four branches of vocational education, this right does not exist always in practice, either because of lack of containment of all branches at the vocational school, the geographical distribution of schools, or availability in some places and non-existence of them in others.
In 1984 / 1985, the Ministry of Education began to upgrade the role of teachers to Teacher Training Institutes. These institutes accept graduates of intermediate stage and its study extends for a period of 5 years divided into 3 years of general education and two years of specialization. Students can choose to be specialized in Islamic studies, Arabic language, English language, Mathematics, Science, Physical education and Fine arts. Students can complete their studies in university colleges afterwards.
In addition to Teacher Training Institutes, a Central Training Teachers Institute was founded in Iraq. These institutes accept graduates of secondary level of secondary schools « Class 12th » where the students receive specialized study for two years.
The Colleges of Education in universities train teachers who are likely to join the teaching field at secondary level. Some of the graduates of these colleges preferred to teach at the primary stage to secondary stage because they preferred to work in a close geographical area to their residences where sometimes there were no secondary schools around.
In northern Iraq, UNESCO has held a number of diverse in-service training courses for teachers in various stages of secondary education and most of the stages of higher education as part of its duties under the Oil for Food program. More than 1,000 teachers, inspectors and headmasters have benefited from these courses in a variety of subjects (teaching methods, management, and basic skills in English and computer … etc.) during 2001 and 2002. These programs targeted teachers in both urban and rural areas through self-education packages, coupled with direct follow-up for Teachers Training Centers.
The major problems of the teachers include: teachers’ low salaries, discouraging vocational participation, a shortage of teachers, especially in the subjects of English, math (often times teachers shift to private sector where there is higher payment rates). Furthermore, there is no time, energy or income source enough to develop teachers professionally. Because of the harsh conditions in Iraq, they neither have the means to communicate with foreign colleagues nor have access to reference books, modern periodicals and computers and Internet that help in professional development.
Iraq is home to the some of the oldest universities in the world. Al-Mustansiriya University was established in 1280. Higher education institutions in Iraq consist of 19 universities (including 3 in the north); 9 technical colleges (in the center and south) and 38 technical colleges (including 11 in the north).
Students who pass the Baccalaureate exam are assigned a degree by the Iraqi national government. Each student’s test scores are processed by a computerized data assessment which determines, based on a categorical score, the strengths/ skill set of each student. Colleges require a certain score level for degree seekers. Students attend college for 4 years for most degrees (excluding, Architectural, Veterinary, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical degrees, which take 5 years) before receiving their Undergraduate degree. Each student has the option to either pursue more education, or enter the work force.
Degrees in veterinary, pharmacy, and dentistry need 5 years to complete, while medicine takes six years.
Students are accepted in Iraqi universities on the basis of a high school certificate or equivalent. There is a great demand towards the faculties of medicine, engineering, and science. The humanitarian faculties are not as prolifically considered. Each university consists of colleges of education to train and graduate teachers, especially for secondary schools. Languages of study are Arabic and English in the center and south, but French is used only in the University of Mosul while there are Kurdish and English languages in the north. In some cases, professors from Baghdad are assigned to teach at universities in the North.
The academic year begins in October of each year and continues for thirty weeks. The State funds universities with the exception of private colleges. However, as a result of the difficult conditions that prevailed during the past two years in the center and south, the new student registrees are asked to pay a $12 USD registration fee.
The most important country’s universities are the University of Technology (Baghdad), Mustansiriya University, the University of Babylon, Kufa University, the University of Basra, Mosul University, and the University of Dhi Qar. In the Northern provinces, there is Salahaddin University, the University of Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah University.
The problems and major issues for institutions of higher education include:
• Inadequate infrastructure and facilities, such as laboratories and libraries.
• Inadequate equipment in the faculties of engineering, science and technical institutes.
• The need to establish channels of communication between colleges in Iraq and foreign universities.
• There is a very weak link between higher education, its graduates and the labor market.
• The need for a comprehensive review of the management systems of higher education, including adaptation of curricula and contents of courses to keep up with changes in social and economic situation in the country. It must develop a strategic plan to make sure that universities will lead the role of mediator in the process of democratic transition, and to ensure that officials take their roles based on their merit in accordance with the professional basis but not political grounds.
• Reduction in government support for students and encouraging public and private sectors to play their part in supporting higher education and expedite implementation of projects and economic reforms in order to lift the pressures experienced by the community, which affect the scientific development.
Awarded upon at least one year of higher education after a completed Bachelor’s Degree.
Awarded upon at least three years of higher education after a completed Master’s Degree.
According to a report published in September 2013 by the Ministry of Planning and Development, the literacy rate among Iraqi youth, 15 years and younger, is 74%. 26% are considered illiterate-have dropped out of school or are unable attend due to familial financial responsibilities.
This is a drastic drop from the 100% enrollment Iraq declared in 1991. According to UNESCO report, Iraq during pre-first Gulf War of 1991 had a system of education which was considered as one of the best education systems in the region. The estimated percentage enrolled in primary education at that time was approximately 100%, as well as high literacy rate:
• Male: 55%
• Female: 23%
However, education has suffered dramatically due to Iraq wars, sanctions and the current lack of security.
In response to the decline in literacy rate, the Iraqi government created the High Commission for Literacy. This Commission is in charge of a National Campaign for Literacy, which seeks to restore literacy, and open special literacy centers in all provinces except Kurdistan (where the lowest literacy rates occur).
Education after the invasion of Iraq in 2003
Post-invasion of Iraq, amendments were written that led to the removal of Baathist identification within Iraqi curricula and also led to the increase the salaries of teachers and trainers who were marginalized during the reign of Dictator Saddam Hussein. Due to the lack of support for education in the pre-2003 period, it appeared that approximately 80% of Iraqi schools (15,000 schools) needed reform and rehab for sanitary facilities.
The status of education in Iraq deteriorated after the first Gulf War because of a lack of government support for the sector as well as a decreasing percentage of eligible students participating in the education. Many Iraqi children went to work instead of school. There were an estimated 240,000 pupils in Iraqi schools and universities before 2003. After the overthrow of the former Iraqi regime, Iraq’s education system included approximately 6 Million pupils from nursery level through 12th grade, in addition to approximately 300,000 teachers and administrators. Education is compulsory in Iraq until completion of elementary school. Students are then given the choice to complete their studies according to their results in the final exam. Although there is an option of vocational education in the Iraqi education system, few of the students select it due to the poor quality of education provided therein.
The Iraqi education system separates between genders starting from the seventh grade.
Public & Private Iraq Universities
Al-Monsour University College
American University of Iraq-Sulaimani
Al Yarmouk University College
Al-Turath University College
Al Maarif University College Anbar
Al Nahrain University
Al Rafidain University College
Al Rasheed University College
Bu Ali Sina University
Dijlah University College
Hamadan University of Medical Science
Hawler Medical University
Islamic Azad University – Shiraz
Ilam University of Medical Sciences
Islamic Azad University of Hamedan
Islamic Azad University of Kermanshah
Jundishaper University of Medical Sciences
Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences
Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences
Madenat Alelem University College
Mansour University College
Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz
Shiraz Payame Noor University
Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences
Shiraz University of Medical Sciences
University of Kurdistan
University of Mustansiriyah
University of Technology-Iraq
University of Sulaimani
University of Kurdistan-Hewler
University of Basrah
University of Mosul
University of Kufa
University of Dohuk
University of Babylon
University of Wasit
University of Misan
University of Baghdad
University of Al Qadisiyah