Private schools increasing in Kurdistan Region
Private schools are using TV channels to advertise for their schools, some academics say advertising for schools on TV is not legal
In the past years private schools have increased throughout Kurdistan region, particularly after the U.S-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some of these schools have started advertising on TV channels, and according to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Education’s regulations, advertisement for schools is strictly prohibited. Many have been outraged by this new ‘practice’ and want the advertisements to be halted as soon as possible to ensure fairness and equality in the region.
Advertisements for schools on TV channels creates many problems. It puts pressure on low-income families, and it glorifies one school despite the credentials being unknown while other schools are hidden from public eye. Samira Kareem, a mother of three said, “My children asked me to register their names in a nearby private school because they are better than public schools”. Private schools claim to bring a new educational system that is better than what the local schools provide. In many of these private schools, English is spoken as the main language as opposed to Kurdish, which is the local language.
Kareem explained her frustration, “The Advertisements are aired in the evening when we are all watching TV with our children”. She added that the tuition fees are high, and Middle-class families are unable to afford high tuition fees. People have a new heightened awareness of the importance of foreign languages, such as English, French and German. However, private institutions opening that teach these languages or have a curriculum based on European system tend to be very expensive and create a imbalance within society between the rich and poor.
The imbalance between rich and poor is created through the educational system because from an early age children are being taught that a good education can only be found within private schools. The teaching standards at some public schools is quite poorly, Saman Fatah who is a father of two, and works in the public sector says, “I believe the KRG should improve the curriculum of public schools, and to help improve the standard of teaching, so that Middle and poor class families are not put at an disadvantage”.
Fatah explained that private schools can afford to paint their buildings in an attractive, and fun way while public schools don’t have this. The Ministry of Education should consider improving the design of public schools, and to make an effort in raising scientific and methodical levels of primary teachers, explained Fatah.
Recently the Ministry of Education changed all primary school books in order to improve the education system in Kurdistan. The new system is Swed- ish, but is still criticized by many academics. Hajar Dawood, the Ministry’s head of press department said the number of private schools have increased dramatically, but the number of state schools are still higher in comparison. She clarified that according to the Ministry’s rules private schools are legally prohibited from advertising for private schools near public schools.
Two-shift-school hinders education
Iraqi Council of Minister’s committee of education has recently announced that there are more than 13,700 two-shift state-paid schools across the country. The council has formed a committee to look into construction contractors who allegedly postponed building new schools. Adil Fahd, head of the education committee has said the shortage of school buildings has created many problems across the country. He suggested that it is possible for some Iraqi ministries to transfer part of their budget into the Ministry of Education’s financial account in order to build more new schools in different provinces.
The head of education committee also revealed that Arif Tayfoor, a Kurdish politician and second deputy to Iraq’s parliament speaker, is assigned as the head of the new investigative committee, adding that they will definitely fine negligent companies that have not finished construction of schools.
A view of the building of a private school in Erbil.