Country Basic Information

Official name of the country

The Republic of Iraq





Arab States

Area (km2)

438 317

Population (2006)

28 505 843



Type of economy (2006)

Lower middle income

Gross Domestic Product per capita (2004)


Human Development Index, HDI (2004)


HDI rank out of 177 countries (2004)




Duration of compulsory school (2006)

6 years

Education for All Development Index (EDI) (2004)


EDI rank out of 125 countries (2004)




General statistics

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Education statistics

UNESCO Institute for Statistics




Sources: United Nations Population Division and Statistics Division ; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ; UNESCO Institute for Statistics ; EFA Global Monitoring Report ; United Nations Development Programme ; World Bank ; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
[…] Data not available.



Updated version, March 2007. PDF Version

Principles and general objectives of education

The education system in Iraq is based on values and principles derived from the religious, human and national characteristics of society. The most prominent is the belief that education is a social process, sensitive to time and place factors, and dependent on social ideology, needs and available material and human resources. Within this framework, the State ensures the right to free education for all citizens at all levels, compulsory education at the primary level, and eradication of illiteracy. In implementing the principle of democratization of education, the State undertakes to: provide equal learning opportunities for all citizens without discrimination regardless of sex, race or religion; encourage talent and creativity in all intellectual, scientific, and artistic activities, with special attention to females and inhabitants of rural and remote areas; overcome economic and social obstacles, so as to facilitate access to educational institutions; promote the role of education in establishing mutual understanding, co-operation and peace on the international level and respect for the rights and basic freedoms of human beings.

The overall objective of education in Iraq is to bring up an enlightened generation, believing in God, loyal to the Homeland, and devoted to the Arab nation, adhering to scientific thinking as well as morality, relying on work and self-education, possessing the will to struggle and the power to confront the crucial challenges of the contemporary world. The education system endeavours to cover the social, cultural and religious aspects of life. In the light of these general aims, all types of education develop specific areas related to physical, senso-motor, mental, emotional, spiritual, patriotic, national, human, social and behavioural dimensions. The educational aims, which are translated into the curriculum, involve, inter alia, assimilating the sources of the Arab-Islamic culture, concentrating on the challenges facing the Arab nation, and fulfilling the learners’ needs.

Current educational priorities and concerns

Iraq’s education system has witnessed major developments and achievements during the last decades. The Ministry of Education has developed the educational process so that it may keep up with the educational developments and innovations at the international level. However, a number of problems and obstacles have arisen as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq as well as the great damage suffered during the war of 1991. These aggravated the difficulties faced by the education system: the total value of the damage suffered by educational institutions is estimated at more than 214 million Iraqi dinars (ID).

The education system faces a number of interrelated problems which hinder the achievement of its objectives, the most important of which are: providing and maintaining adequate school buildings so as to meet the requirements of quantitative and qualitative development; providing adequate number of teachers to meet the increasing need for education at various levels; providing instructional materials, in particular stationery and school furniture; providing prerequisites for curricula, teaching aids and educational technologies; and developing evaluation and examination techniques through the introduction of modern technologies.

During the school years 1993/94 and 1994/95, the Ministry of Education pursued the implementation of the National Religious Campaign for teaching the recitation and interpretation of the Holy Quran at all educational levels. This Campaign was initiated in order to achieve the desired educational revival through incorporating Islamic education into the educational process. Islamic education, which involves spiritual, moral, educational, and scientific dimensions, plays a vital role in shaping an integrated and balanced personality, in creating a socially and morally virtuous individual and in relating education to the issues of man and society and the philosophy of existence, knowledge and ethics.

Taking into account the conditions, available resources, and the nature of the problems and challenges facing the educational process, in the second half of the 1990s the Ministry defined a number of future developments for the education sector, the most significant of which are the following:

        Pursuing the implementation of the National Religious Campaign to teach the Holy Quran and providing essential resources to ensure its success and achieve its objectives in correcting students  behaviour through reciting the Holy Quran, understanding its meanings and abiding by Islamic divine values and laws for human behaviour. Due attention will also be devoted to the development of Islamic education curricula and programmes in order to foster students’ spiritual and ethical values.

        Preparing educational plans for all school levels, including new projects according to modern trends in the education system.

        Developing school curricula so that they may keep up with technological, scientific and social progress. In this connection, due attention will be given to science and mathematics curricula since they represent the starting point for overall progress.

        Raising teacher education to the university level through establishing teacher colleges and providing in-service training based on modern techniques.

        Integrating secondary education with vocational education, as well as establishing links with other forms of education.

        Developing educational research and conducting interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary studies and research projects.

        Improving the administrative and technical performance by utilizing modern equipment, expanding the use of computers and preparing the software programmes in order to contribute to the development of the education system.

        Improving the teacher’s economic, social and scientific status as well as motivating and rewarding highly efficient teachers so that they may perform their various roles effectively and function as educators and social leaders.

        Paying due attention to gifted and talented students through developing means of detecting their abilities and determining methods of promoting their talents and capacities.

        Paying due attention to the process of evaluation in various fields, particularly in relation to educational programmes, innovative projects, students  achievement, etc., so that the evaluation process becomes a vital factor in developing work and achieving the educational objectives.

        Developing educational and social counselling and vocational guidance for students with a view to solving their problems and promoting correct social behavioural patterns.

        Promoting an efficient educational supervision for the purpose of improving students’ scientific level and developing teachers’ skills.

        Continuing the development and diversification of secondary education in both its academic and vocational streams.

        Encouraging the teaching of other foreign languages (French, Russian and Spanish) in addition to the English language, in order to promote co-operation and exchange of expertise with developed countries.

The Ministry of Education also introduced new experiments in different areas, including curricula and textbooks, methodology, laboratories, teacher education and training, educational supervision and examinations. The major innovations were: integrating education with development in all sectors, as well as relating education to the objectives of society; emphasizing the productive aspect of education and stressing the value of work; updating curricula, teaching methods and teaching aids as well as relating curricula to the environment and society; encouraging field and applied studies; introducing computer studies in the curricula of certain secondary schools and using computers as an aid in the teaching and learning process; and unifying primary and intermediate education into a nine-year programme.

After the conflict of 2003, the prevailing picture is one of acute shortages and urgent needs. Most of the education institutions require physical rehabilitation, furniture, equipment and materials for the teaching of science, technology, other practical subjects, and replenishment of libraries. In-service training for teachers, who had long been cut off from the outside world, including access to international journals, textbooks as well as internet communications, remains a prerequisite for the introduction of innovative practices and changes into the education system. Teacher trainers need to be exposed to the nature of active learning, student-centred education, and practice in critical, creative and caring thinking as a foundation for responsible citizenship. The curriculum, likewise, has been static and limited by political constraints. Renewal of curriculum and textbooks is an urgent challenge, with a need for updating, especially in the sciences and technology, and infusion of the values of peace and human rights, respect for others, active citizenship and democracy. The Iraqi education system is generally soundly structured with committed national staff. Recent salary increases have improved staff motivation. However the management and governance issues will need to be addressed, and resources will be required for updating skills and promoting modern management and administration processes. Exposure of policy-makers to modern educational planning and management structures and procedures constitutes a key element for the renewal of the education system in general. (UNESCO, 2004).

The new education system in Iraq will be guided by the following major policy directions:

        Access: Reaching universal access to quality education; eliminating drop-outs and ensuring free access to basic education irrespective of ethnic origin or socioeconomic status; promoting access to lifelong learning.

        Equity: Eliminating disparities between girls and boys, regional and rural/urban disparities, ethnic and socio-economic differences.

        Excellence and relevance: Upgrading quality to compete at the international level and increasing relevance to local needs, labour market, and sustainable development.

        Citizenship and governance: Depoliticising education and ensuring the independence of education; promoting human rights, freedom of thought and expression, tolerance, and national unity.

        Participation: Strengthening community involvement in planning, executing, and evaluating the education system; achieving closer coordination with higher education and other relevant sectors; encouraging the contribution of the private sector to quality education.

        Institutional management: Changing to evidence-based planning, performance-driven evaluation, and decentralized management; overcoming corruption.

Implementing the above-mentioned policy directions and addressing the problems facing the education system in Iraq is a formidable task and will require both political will and a sustainable commitment at the highest level of the national government and its partners in the global community. Those at the uppermost level of the government structure in the new Iraq should be entirely convinced of the need to place education on the top of its priority list. Restoring Iraq's education system to at least the level of the early1980s must be at the heart of the reconstruction effort. But reconstruction alone will not be enough. It is also essential to introduce effective strategies and concepts of teaching and learning as well as educational management to renew and engage the system and enable it to compete at the international level. In the rebuilding process, the most immediate task is to separate politics from education, introduce the values honouring human rights, and to intensify work to achieve the targets set by the international community under Education For All and the Millennium Development Goals. By achieving universal access to education and improving its quality, Iraq will be investing in the human capital required to revitalize the economy and break the poverty cycle.

In this context, at the beginning of 2004 an agenda has been set on the following short- and medium-term priorities:

        Updating and improving the quality of data for evidence-based planning and establishing the education management information system (EMIS).

        Implementing the new structure of the MOE and upgrading its management capacity.

        Rebuilding the physical infrastructure of the education system particularly school buildings

        Re-orienting the teaching staff and developing a comprehensive programme for teachers training, focusing on instructional and learning methods as well as citizenship.

        Reaching consensus on the future shape of the Iraqi education system and initiating the process of curriculum reform. (Ministry of Education, January 2004).

Laws and other basic regulations concerning education

Educational legislation aims at ensuring the State’s supervision over educational policy, as well as organizing, financing and orientating the various types of education in accordance with the philosophy, general objectives and aims of the various educational levels. This is achieved through laws, regulations, and instructions which organize the various aspects of the educational process, particularly those concerning free education and compulsory primary education (age group 6-11 years), granting professional and transportation allowances to supervisory, administrative, and teaching staff.

A number of regulations which contribute to the development of the educational process have been issued, the most prominent of which is the Parent-Teacher Councils Regulation. Certain laws, regulations and instructions have been amended. These include laws concerning schools for the gifted, examinations, foreign students, teacher training institutes, fine arts institutes, educational television and scouting.

Administration and management of the education system

According to the Ministry of Education Law No. 34 of 1998, the organizational structure of the Ministry comprises the Minister’s Bureau, three Undersecretaries Bureaus (the senior, the technical and the administrative), the Department of Legal Affairs, and eighteen General Directorates, each including specialized departments.

The Ministry of Education undertakes the responsibility for managing the education system: all short-term and long-term decisions concerning educational policy and plans are taken by the Minister, who depends in his/her decision-taking on research results and on the findings and recommendations of the specialized educational seminars and forums. More specifically, the Ministry of Education provides various educational services, including:

        Direct supervision of general education at all levels (kindergarten, primary, secondary, vocational and teacher education). This consists of all types of supervisory activities including class visits, educational workshops, seminars and training courses according to the needs of administrative and teaching staff. The total number of supervisors in Iraq amounts to 1,577. About 500 are specialized supervisors of secondary schools and pre-service teacher training institutes. The remaining are responsible for primary schools and kindergartens.

        The Higher Committee for educational counselling and vocational guidance is responsible for educational counselling. Sub-committees are formed at the provincial level for the same purpose. There is also a specialized consultative committee offering technical advice to counsellors. Educational counselling aims at finding solutions for the problems a student may face in the school, as well as helping him/her to select his/her future profession in accordance with his/her inclinations, capacities and aptitudes, and in conformity with social needs and orientations. The educational counselling service covers 140 intermediate and preparatory schools.

        Social counselling, a new type of service which the Ministry of Education has provided by appointing social counsellors in the city of Baghdad on an experimental basis. This initiative is regularly evaluated, continually developed and expanded according to mid-term and long-term plans which extend over the years of the educational plan (1992-2006).

        School health services, providing students with health education and basic health services in order to protect them from diseases and improve health conditions in schools. Desirous of bringing up healthy citizens capable of shouldering the responsibility of building up the society, the Ministry of Education co-operates with the Ministry of Health to give students periodical check-ups. This serves to promote prevention as well as identification and early treatment of pathological cases.

The General Directorates of Education in the governorates supervise the implementation of the educational process and ensure the provision of material and technical prerequisites in co-ordination with the central administration, according to the principle of centralization of planning and decentralization of implementation.

There also are a number of Higher Committees, such as the Higher Committee for Curricula, Teaching Aids and Examinations, the Permanent Body for General Examinations and the Higher Council of Scouts and Guides. The Higher Committee for Developing Curricula, Teaching Aids and Examinations has the responsibility of approving, revising and developing curricula, textbooks and teachers  guides. This Committee includes a number of directors, experts and university professors, specialized in various subjects.

At the provincial level, there are twenty-one General Directorates. These are responsible for the implementation and follow-up of educational plans, the provision of teaching staff, and school supervision at various educational levels.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research defines the policy of higher education and supervises the administration and organization of the higher education system. However, both private and public universities in Iraq are autonomous in financial, administrative and technical matters. A number of other ministries such as the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, and the Ministry of Oil, administer vocational training centres in order to produce skilled manpower in various fields of specialization.

Structure and organization of the education system

Iraq: structure of the education system


Pre-school education

Pre-school education (kindergarten) lasts two years and caters to children aged 4-5. Pre-school education is not compulsory.

Primary education

Primary education lasts six years. It is compulsory for all children in the age group 6-11.

Secondary education

Secondary education extends over six years for the age group 12-17 and comprises two stages, each one lasting three years: intermediate education, leading to the Third Form Baccalaureate, and preparatory education, leading to the Sixth Form Baccalaureate. Preparatory education is divided into two streams (scientific and literary) starting from the second year. For students completing the intermediate stage there are a range of options at the preparatory level: continuation of general secondary education, joining a secondary vocational school or entering a teacher training institute. General and vocational preparatory schools cover grades 10 to 12, while training for the teaching profession takes either five years (grades 10-14) or two years (grades 13-14). Teacher Training Institutes (TTIs) enrol graduates of the intermediate cycle, after they complete Grade 9, and offer a five-year teacher preparation programme: three years for general education and an additional two years for subject specialization.

University studies, to which students are admitted after completing secondary education, range from four to six years in duration. Applicants are registered in colleges and universities to pursue their studies in various specializations such as arts, science, medicine and engineering. In addition to colleges, there are two-year postsecondary technical institutes preparing students for various technical professions. The minimum duration that leads to a diploma is two years, usually offered by the Technical Institutes. Central Teacher Institutes (CTIs) enrol graduates of the preparatory level of secondary education, after they complete Grade 12, for a two-year pre-service programme. The first stage of higher education leads to a bachelor’s degree in arts, law, economics, science and engineering (four years); architecture, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine (five years); and medicine (six years). The second stage leads to a master’s degree which is offered in various fields (usually, two-year programmes). The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is awarded in some fields three years after a master’s degree.

The average length of the school year is thirty-six working weeks, each week consisting of six working days.

The financing of education

Education in Iraq is financed at two levels. The first level includes pre-university education, namely kindergarten, primary, secondary, vocational and teacher education. The second level includes post-secondary technical education as well as undergraduate and post-graduate education. Financing at the second level is of two types, the first of which is free of charge provided by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, while the second type, covering private undergraduate education, is provided by professional and private organizations and associations.

The distribution of the educational budget (expenditure) for the school year 1993/94 was as follows: 2.2% for kindergartens; 64.3% for primary education; 27.6% for secondary education; and 5.9% for vocational education. The distribution for the school year 1994/95 was: 2.8% for kindergartens; 64% for primary education; 27.9% for secondary education; and 5.3% for vocational education.

The education budget was reported to be 5.2% of the gross national product (GNP) in 1970 and 4.1% in 1980. With the progressive increase in allocations to the military, expenditures declined to 3.3% of the GNP in 1990. Much more severe budgetary constraints followed the 1991 Gulf war. Over the period 1993-2002, the annual average expenditure per student is reported to stand at approximately US$ 47, funded largely from the Oil for Food Programme. Reliable information on the education budget in Iraq is scarce. It has been reported that in 2003 the budget for education, which includes basic and higher education, amounted to Iraqi Dinars 690 million or US$ 2.5 billion. About 50% of the budget was spent on primary education, compared to about 27% for secondary education and 20% for university education. (Ministry of Education, January 2004).

The educational process

In order to enable the learner to develop fully and to help him or her adapt to social, economic, scientific and technical changes, the curriculum encourages teachers to care for individual differences, to link scientific knowledge with students’ real-life situations, and to foster the pupils' critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The curriculum also calls for a continual revision of the schoolbooks.

The central authorities at the Ministry of Education are mainly concerned with plans for education, educational contents, implementation and follow-up. The Consultative Body takes decisions regarding curriculum evaluation, student examinations, overall educational plans and teacher training strategies. The High Committee for the Development of Curricula and Teaching Aids and Examinations, which consists of specialists in various subjects and of Directors General, plans, designs, approves and revises the curriculum. It also approves textbooks and teachers' guides.

  The following educational strategies have been recently adopted: applying learner-centred teaching approaches in the classroom; improving access and enrolment rates; providing basic schools with teaching materials; and introducing computers in the teaching and learning process.

Pre-primary education

The project Integrated Experiences Unit has been introduced in kindergartens. It aims at removing the boundaries between school subjects and promoting integrated educational situations which arouse children’s interests and increase their energy so as to ensure the full development of the child’s personality in all aspects (physical, psychological, social, and mental) taking into consideration individual differences.

In 1997/98, the enrolment rate of children in the age group 3-5 was estimated at 6.8%. (Ministry of Education, 1999). In 1999/2000, the gross enrolment ratio was estimated at 5.7%. The children-teacher ratio was 15:1. In 2001/02, about 54,000 children were attending pre-primary education or less than 7% of children aged 4 and 5 years.

Primary education

The weekly lesson timetable for the primary stage is as follows:

Double-shift schools follow the above-mentioned plan. Two class periods are allocated to agricultural education in rural schools, provided that the second class period is taken from science in the fourth, fifth and sixth classes. Islamic education is considered a basic subject of school curricula. Christianity is taught two class periods per week in schools where the majority of students are Christians. Students practice extracurricular activities in the practical, artistic and athletic fields according to a schedule prepared for this purpose.

School and general examinations aim at measuring and evaluating students' achievement. Evaluation and examination instruments are periodically revised and developed by a specialized committee. At the primary level, general examinations qualify graduates for admission to the secondary level.

     In 1997/98, the average repetition rate at the primary level was 14.5% (13.2% in Grade I; 13.2% in Grade II; 12% in Grade III; 13.7% in Grade IV; 22.7% in Grade V; and 7.2% in Grade VI). (Ministry of Education, 1999). In 1999/2000, the gross enrolment rate at the primary level was 101.6%. The pupil-teacher ratio was 21:1. Official data from 2000/2001 indicated that at the turn of the century there were some 11,709 primary schools, with some 4,031,346 students (44% female) and 190,650 teachers (about 72% female). (UNESCO, 2004).

Secondary education

As mentioned, secondary education comprises two cycles: the three-year intermediate stage, aiming at enriching knowledge the learner received in the primary stage––particularly in the area of language and general education––and the three-year preparatory education, the aim of which is to prepare students for university education or the labour market. The following tables show the weekly lesson timetables for the two stages:

Double-shift schools follow the above-mentioned timetable. Evening schools follow the same plan except for the omission of physical education and military training. Two class periods are allotted to practical activities in the schools applying the experimental vocational arts sections. Islamic education is considered a basic subject of school curricula. Students practice extracurricular activities in the scientific, educational, social, literary, artistic, athletic, agricultural and industrial fields according to a schedule prepared for this purpose.

Double-shift schools follow the timetable above. Evening schools follow the same plan except for the omission of physical education class periods, and the addition of that time allocation to the teaching of the Arabic language. Islamic education is considered a basic subject of school curricula. Students practice extracurricular activities in the scientific, educational, social and practical fields according to a schedule prepared for this purpose. One class period is allocated to national education and added to the study plan in Forms V and VI (scientific and literary). The curriculum needs review, in terms of reducing the large number of subjects, and updating subject matter and pedagogy. The trend towards subject diversification should be replaced by curriculum integration, where several subjects with similar features or themes can be integrated into one subject area. The current emphasis of the Education Ministry on the inclusion of citizenship education is to be commended. (UNESCO, 2004).

In 1999/2000, the gross enrolment ratio at the secondary level was estimated at 38.3%. The student-teacher ratio was 19.7:1.

Official data from 2000/2001 indicated that at the turn of the century there were some 3,701 general secondary schools, with some 1,291,309 students (39.5% female) and 73,989 teachers. There were some 263 vocational secondary schools, as well as 139 teacher institutes. (UNESCO, 2004).

According to the survey carried out in July-August 2003, the great majority of secondary students (a total of 1,443,436 students in 4,042 secondary schools), were enrolled in general secondary education, whether in schools that cater mainly to grades 7 to 9 (known as intermediate schools), to grades 7 to 12 (known as secondary schools), or to grades 10 to 12 (known as preparatory schools). There were a further 128,573 students at secondary level (8%) who were enrolled in vocationally oriented institutions, including teacher training. The survey showed wide disparities in student numbers between the 18 governorates. The proportion of female students varied according to the type of institution, with girls being in the majority for teacher training, and boys for other institutions. About a half of all boys and a third of girls appeared to be participating in education at secondary level. The overall gross enrolment ratio was estimated at 44.2%. The total number of teachers in secondary level institutions was found to be 85,417, and a slight majority were women (58%). The majority of these teachers (77,357) were employed in general secondary education. (Ibid.).

Repetition rates were high, even before the period of sanctions. In 2001/02, they were recorded by the Ministry of Education as 31% for boys and 22% for girls at intermediate level; and as 28% for boys and 16% for girls, at preparatory level. Cross-sectional data for 2002/03 suggests that there is significant drop out after each grade of secondary education, except perhaps grade 11. (Ibid.).

Vocational education includes schools in the fields of industry, commerce, agriculture and home science, with 21 areas of specialization. The vocational cycle is of three years duration (grades 10-12), ending with national examinations. The top 10% of students in these final examinations can go on to pursue degree programmes in technical colleges. Enrolment in the 231 vocational preparatory schools responding to the UNESCO survey was 73,941 students. The survey found a total teaching force of 4,694 in the 231 vocational preparatory schools that completed the questionnaire. About half of the teachers were male (2,311) and half were female (2,383). The number of teachers was substantially less than in 2000/01, when the teaching force was estimated at 7,483. Vocational education curricula have not been reviewed for over two decades.

Assessing learning achievement nationwide

Information is not available.

Higher education

As mentioned, university studies range from four to six years in duration. Applicants are registered in colleges and universities to pursue their studies in various specializations such as arts, science, medicine and engineering. In addition to colleges, there are two-year postsecondary technical institutes preparing students for various technical professions. The minimum duration that leads to a diploma is two years, usually offered by the Technical Institutes. Central Teacher Institutes (CTIs) enrol graduates of the preparatory level of secondary education, after they complete Grade 12, for a two-year pre-service programme. The first stage of higher education leads to a bachelor’s degree in arts, law, economics, science and engineering (four years); architecture, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine (five years); and medicine (six years). The second stage leads to a master’s degree which is offered in various fields (usually, two-year programmes). The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is awarded in some fields three years after a master’s degree.

According to the survey carried out in July-August 2003 (UNESCO, 2004), Iraq’s higher education system comprises 20 universities and 47 technical institutes, under the general management of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR). There are also about ten private colleges, offering studies in computer science, business administration, economics and management.

Modern universities in Iraq were established in the second half of last century. Iraq’s first and largest university, Baghdad University, was founded in 1957, uniting several colleges that had been established earlier. The development of higher education during the 1970s was characterized mainly by the creation of technical institutes. At the beginning of this development (in 1969), they were part of the University of Baghdad, but they soon received an independent status (1972). This reflected the immense demand for qualified technicians and workers created by the booming oil industry at that time. During the last 20 years, the official policy of establishing a university in each governorate has led to a considerable quantitative expansion, with 14 new universities. Two of them, those in Thi-Qar and Kirkuk were established as recently as 2002 and Wassit in February 2003. The 20 universities that existed in August 2003 had some 200 colleges with about 800 departments and 28 specialized institutes or research centres. This is in addition to the Commission for Computers and Informatics offering specialized courses for postgraduate students. At the university level, deans of colleges constitute the University Board, together with a representative of the academic staff and representatives from Ministries relevant to the specialization of a university (e.g. the Ministries of Industry, Reconstruction or Health) and/or deans of colleges in other universities with identical or similar studies. In some universities, a student representative has a seat in the Board.

The major fields offered by the universities are: Education, Arts, Law, Social Sciences, Administration, Economics, Pure and Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Medical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and Agriculture. Education is offered in nearly every university (17 out of 20), followed by the traditionally highly regarded studies in law (14), engineering (14) and medicine (13). All universities with the exception of the University for Islamic Studies offer basic subjects in sciences. In the field of education, there are 24 education colleges preparing teachers for secondary schools, seven teachers colleges preparing teachers for primary schools and kindergarten, and seven colleges for physical education. Five colleges are only for girls. Baghdad University has different education colleges for arts (Ibn Rushd) and sciences (Ibn Al-Haitham). Only the University of Technology has a specialized college for technical education, which trains teachers for vocational schools and technical institutes.

The typical subjects at educational colleges are Arabic, English, History, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. Educational and psychological studies are offered as major subjects in 12 of the educational colleges, and computer sciences in 11. The Kurdish language is taught only in the three educational colleges in the North, i.e. in the universities of Salah al-Din, Sulaymaniyah and Dahuk. Islamic education and methodology of teaching Quran are offered in four education colleges.

The 2003 survey showed a total student enrolment of 251,175 from the 20 universities that responded to the survey questionnaire. Of these students, some 42% were women. Out of the 19,112 university teaching staff reported in the survey, an estimated 56.5% were males and 43.5% females. Faculty members were concentrated in Baghdad, which accounted for more than 37% of all higher education teaching force in the country.

The minimum educational qualification for a teaching post in higher education is a master’s degree. Faculty members with Ph.D. studies are preferable because of their capacity to handle graduate students and to advise them in their master’s and Ph.D. theses. The survey showed, however, that about one third of faculty members lack a master’s degree (33% had only a bachelor’s degree).

ICT equipment was one of the main targets of the looters during and even after the conflict. Only 3,400 computers out of 11,800 existing at universities before March 2003 were left after the looting. In the Commission for Computers and Informatics, which was looted and burned during the war, only 3 out of 600 Pentium IV PCs were left.

The 2003 survey indicates that there were about 66,000 students studying in morning and evening courses in the technical institutes and technical colleges. During the first years of their existence, the Technical Institutes were attached to the College of Engineering of the University of Baghdad. In 1972, they were placed under a Foundation for Technical Education (FTE), now called the Commission for Technical Education. Students enrol in technical education courses directly after the completion of the preparatory cycle of general education. The best-placed graduates of vocational schools can also be admitted to technical institutes. The majority of students in technical education study engineering and technology (61.5%), followed by administration (20.5%), and medicine and allied medical fields (15%). Just over 1% of the students were enrolled in agriculture and in applied arts. A few were enrolled in journalism. Nearly 30% of the students were studying in evening classes, a system that was introduced in 1994/95. The basic qualification to teach in the technical institutions is a master’s degree. Instructor assistants are required to have a first degree. However, due to a shortage of adequately qualified teachers, individuals with lesser qualifications were hired. Thus, 50% of the faculty had only a bachelor’s degree, while 40% had master’s degrees and 10% hold a PhD. The situation was less satisfactory in the North where only 3% of the faculty held PhD, 37% master’s, and 60% only bachelor’s degrees. Baghdad had the best staffing with two technical colleges having over 40% of their staff with PhD degrees. (UNESCO, 2004).

Special education

The Ministry takes special care of slow-learners and students with special learning difficulties in order to develop their personalities and abilities so as to enable them to keep up with their normal schoolmates. This is mainly done through opening special classes, annexed to certain primary schools in all governorates, and supplying them with adequate equipment, furniture, teaching aids and special tests.

In 1996, the total number of these classes (Grades I-IV) amounted to 460, with 574 teachers and 3,705 pupils enrolled. In 1999, there were 383 classes, with 463 teachers and 3,360 pupils enrolled.

Private education

Private institutes supervised by the Ministry of Education offer vocational courses and provide training opportunities for those who desire to learn a certain profession such as typewriting, sewing, hairdressing, etc.

No further information is available.

Means of instruction, equipment and infrastructure

Among the various services provided by the Ministry of Education, educational television aims at providing new educational experiences and fostering educational concepts and tendencies through programmes prepared and presented by specialized scientific committees. Educational television is widely used in various areas and at all educational levels.

The Ministry endeavours to provide schools with teaching aids, such as transparencies, illustrations, slides and graphs, as well as science and language labs. It tries to improve and diversify teaching aids as well as to supply equipment to productive centres in the governorates so as to meet existing needs. The Ministry also pays special attention to developing school libraries and endeavours to apply the experiment of the comprehensive library (which includes educational technology and teaching aids in addition to references and books) in a number of schools, as a preliminary step to a wider application. There were 6,594 school libraries at the end of the 1990s (Ministry of Education, 1999), but the situation considerably worsened after the events of 2003.

The economic sanctions, as well as the great damage suffered during the war of 1991, have aggravated the difficulties faced by the education system in terms of infrastructure and equipment.

Educational infrastructure has been neglected for more than two decades. The situation has been compounded by the great damage inflicted upon the system following the destruction and looting that took place in March-April 2003. According to the Needs Assessment Survey carried out in July-August 2003 (secondary, vocational and higher education), only 48% of secondary schools operated on a single shift basis, while 43% shared a building with another school, on a double shift or occasionally a triple shift basis. Few of the buildings were in good condition, with 47% partially damaged, 23% in very poor condition and 10% totally unsafe. More than half the schools were without access to running water and few had well-functioning sanitation. Power supplies were irregular or lacking: most schools were in fact connected to the grid but lacked the needed standby generators. Some 81% of secondary schools reported that they did not have a functioning library. (UNESCO, 2004).

Prior to 1990, the Ministry had in place an efficient system of providing textbooks and other teaching-learning materials to students and teachers. However, the economic sanctions imposed in the 1990s severely affected the government’s capacity in this respect. The breakdown of the Ministry’s printing press in Baghdad worsened the situation necessitating re-use of at least 50% of textbooks by students over many years. Between 1996 and 2003, the Ministry, through the Oil for Food Programme, was able to supply approximately 30% of the needed teaching-learning materials. According to a Ministry official in January 2003, the textbook-student ratio was sometimes as low as one for every six students. During the events of March-April 2003, many schools were looted and lost valuable textbooks, library reference materials, computers and teaching kits, thereby exacerbating the resource shortages at secondary level. The survey of 2003 recorded a stock of about 1.7 million textbooks in secondary schools. (Ibid.).

Adult and non-formal education

Due attention is devoted to non-formal education considered as part of the network of educational institutions in the country within the framework of lifelong education. The objectives of non-formal education––which mainly takes the form of parallel education––are: to follow technological progress and find new educational channels to face this challenge; to add flexibility to the education system; to expand the scope of vocational training through organizing further specialized courses; and to develop mass media organizations to support educational and training programmes.

Within this framework, non-formal education has recourse to various means and techniques such as television, radio, newspapers, public libraries, cultural and religious centres, trade unions, cinemas, theatres, clubs, women’s education and health education institutions, self-education programmes, educational technologies, etc. It includes:

        Juvenile classes for children aged 10+ who did not enter primary school but are not older than 15 years. Such classes help to achieve the principle of equal educational opportunities for all. The duration of study in juvenile schools is four years during which students study the primary school curricula which include practical and theoretical elements. Graduates from juvenile schools are qualified to pursue their studies or to enter the labour market.

        Summer activities in schools during the summer vacation or in special centres offering various programmes.

        Training centres within the framework of women’s organizations as well as farmers and workers mass organizations offering cultural and health education programmes.

        Lifelong educational activities offered through training centres, workshops and vocational sections in vocational schools aiming at expanding citizens  involvement in vocational, industrial and agricultural activities, acquainting them with the latest developments in these areas, and providing them with basic skills which serve the development plan in the country.

Adult education is related to the Overall National Literacy Campaign launched in 1978. This Campaign represents a qualitative progressive formula in dealing with illiteracy so as to achieve democratization of education. Moreover, this Campaign attained the following qualitative objectives:

        Eradicating illiteracy and raising the cultural level among citizens, teaching them to read, write and calculate, as well as developing their professional skills, enabling them to perform their public duties, enjoy their rights and enhance their self-confidence.

        Successful completion of the basic and supplementary stages––the duration of each being seven months––thereby qualifying the learner for admission to Grade IV of primary education.

        Enabling those who wish to complete the primary stage to pursue their studies in the popular schools.

        Helping citizens to achieve self-sufficiency so as to enable them to pursue their education, develop their skills and abilities.

        Fostering new values, habits and practices among citizens in accordance with social needs and ideals.

The Overall National Literacy Campaign provided further opportunities for adult education and active participation in building the society. In addition, due attention was devoted to non-formal education as part of the network of educational institutions in the society. Popular schools were considered as parallel channels to primary schools. About 150 four-year schools were also established for 9-15-year-olds. These schools adopted special curricula and specifications related to both psychological and educational aspects. Grades I-II subjects are taught during the first year, Grades III-IV subjects during the second year, Grade V subjects in the third, and Grade VI subjects in the fourth year.

The follow-up of literacy and post-literacy programmes as well as further education is based on integrating and coordinating the efforts of various institutions such as women’s organizations and mass media with a view to developing adult education, as well as meet the increasing demand for television programmes, correspondence teaching materials and textbooks.

As a result of two decades of wars and economic hardship, UNESCO estimates literacy rates to be less than 60%.

Teaching staff

Teacher education is offered in teacher training institutes to which students are admitted after completing the intermediate stage. The course lasts five years and graduates are qualified to teach in primary schools. There are also institutes offering two-year courses to students who have completed secondary education. Most of these institutes were converted into four-year teacher colleges at the university level in recent years. The minimum academic qualification normally required for secondary school teachers is a first bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) from a university, preferably from a faculty of education or science. During the sanctions period, however, graduates from the teacher training institutes were allowed to teach students in the first years of the intermediate cycle. Teachers recruited under this policy were encouraged by the Ministry of Education to pursue a four-year education degree either from a faculty of education in a university or from the Open College of Education in Baghdad.

Vocational teachers are expected to hold a university degree. Most teachers for these specializations obtain a two-year diploma from a Technical Institute and then study at the University of Technology in Baghdad in the Technical Education Department for a further three years. Zafaraniya Technical Institute is the only institution of its kind in the country for training industrial teachers. Similarly teachers for agriculture receive their training at the College of Agriculture, and commerce teachers in the College of Business Administration or Economics.

The Ministry of Education has always endeavoured to improve teacher education in accordance with the economic, social and cultural changes and their effects on the various roles of teachers. Due attention is devoted to the professional preparation of teachers to improve their skills and increase their efficiency. The major developments in the area of teacher education include the conversion of teacher institutes into teacher colleges, the introduction of special courses of Islamic education in teacher institutes and colleges, and the development of teaching practice programmes in pre-service teacher training institutions.

The Ministry is also concerned with in-service training programmes with a view to improving the efficiency of teachers and thus increasing the effectiveness of the education system. This is achieved by offering training opportunities to teachers, providing them with new experiences and acquainting them with innovations in the various fields of education and science. Some of the major achievements in this area include: strengthening the Institute of Educational Training and Development (established in 1984) as well as pre-service and in-service training departments in the governorates, and providing the required human, financial and material resources; diversifying types and methods of training and adopting modern techniques, as well as establishing co-operation and co-ordination with scientific and professional societies, trade unions, universities and training centres; adopting innovative projects such as training by correspondence and by video; developing provincial handiwork and scientific centres; making use of modern evaluation  techniques to increase the effectiveness of programmes; and establishing strong links between the training programmes and the schools.

Training activities for teachers, supervisors, educational specialists and administrators during 1994-95




Number of courses and seminars

Number of trainees

Number of courses and seminars

Number of trainees






Primary education





Secondary education





Vocational education





Educational and specialized supervision















Professional development programmes and in-service teacher training courses were not conducted regularly during the years of sanctions. In the Centre/South, in-service teacher training courses were organized by the Institute of Educational Training and Development. Between January 1998 and August 2003 some 35,200 secondary teachers attended those courses. A significant percentage of the teachers (26%) received training to enhance their teaching skills in their respective subject specialization. Other areas where teachers received training were general teaching methods (6%), school administration (4%) and educational psychology (2%). Teachers (8%) were also trained in other areas that were not identified. A majority of secondary education teachers still need training in both subject areas and teaching methodologies, including classroom management and student counselling. Even teachers who have received in-service training need refresher courses. (UNESCO, 2004).

In order to encourage primary school teachers to upgrade their qualifications through distance education, an Open College of Education was established in Baghdad in 1998, with campuses in 8 governorates and a central campus in Baghdad. The College is affiliated to the Ministry of Education and received technical guidance from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Before the conflict in March-April 2003, the College was self-financed and students had to pay tuition fees. However, after the conflict, the College was supported by government funding. The target groups of the Open College are primary education teachers with a diploma from a two-year or five-year teacher training institute, primary education teachers with only a diploma from preparatory school, and primary education teachers with a university degree in a non-teaching-related subject. Students are expected to continue their work as primary school teachers after graduation. The College began enrolling students in 2000/01. The number of satellite centres increased from 8 in 2000/01 to 15 in the next academic year. The College offers a four-year distance education programme in 9 subject areas: Islamic Studies, Arabic Language, Mathematics, Physics, History, Physical Education, Art Education and Educational Psychology, leading to a bachelor’s degree in education. The Open College of Education had 9,051 students at the beginning of the 2002/03 academic year, attached to 15 satellite centres. Fifty percent of the students were female. During the conflict of 2003, the college infrastructure was severely affected.

Teachers’ salaries have been an issue during the last 15 years, as monthly take home pay has fallen in value from US$500-1,000 to some US$5-40. The decision to pay secondary teachers US$65 per month and university professors, including administrators, a monthly salary of US$160-300, was a welcome first step in this regard. (Ibid.).

Educational research and information

The Ministry pays special attention to educational research. The Centre for Educational Research was established to conduct research projects and studies and preparing reports in co-operation with other educational bodies. The Centre is also responsible for developing and orientating educational research in accordance with educational plans and programmes, with a view to finding proper solutions for the problems encountered.

Within this context, studies were conducted on various topics for the purpose of improving the different aspects of the educational process. These studies were highly effective in developing educational, administrative and technical methods, as well as keeping pace with new educational trends, drawing up qualitative plans and making use of their findings in dealing with the problems faced in the educational process.

Among the studies and research projects carried out in 1994/95, the following should be mentioned: research on the impact of the economic sanctions on the educational performance of primary and secondary school children; an assessment concerning the experiment of schools for gifted students; an evaluation of computer teaching at the preparatory level; identification, from a psychological perspective, of undesirable behavioural phenomena among young people; and a comparative study of general examinations results in the preparatory stage of secondary education for the period 1985-1995.


Ministry of Education. Development of education in Iraq 1989-1991. International Conference on Education, 43rd session, Geneva, 1992.

Ministry of Education. Development of education in Iraq 1991/92-1992/93. International Conference on Education, 44th session, Geneva, 1994.

Ministry of Education. Development of education in Iraq 1993-1995. International Conference on Education, 45th session, Geneva, 1996.

Ministry of Education. Development of education in Iraq. International Conference on Education, 46th session, Geneva, 2001.

Ministry of Education. Education For All 2000 Assessment: country report of the Republic of Iraq. (Under the co-ordination of K.I. Al-samerra'l). Baghdad, 1999.

Ministry of Education. Education in Iraq. Current situation and new perspectives. January 2004.

Ministry of Education, Educational Research Centre. Development of education. The National Report of Iraq. International Conference on Education, 47th session, Geneva, 2004.

UNESCO. Iraq education in transition: needs and challenges. Paris, 2004.