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January 2018

Iran to ban English lessons in primary

Iran is to ban the teaching of English in primary schools, according to reports.

Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the country’s High Council of Education, told state television on Saturday: ‘In primary schools, the foundations should be laid to promote Farsi and Iranian culture’.

Navid-Adham also said that the teaching of English in primary schools was against regulations, reports in the Guardian and Financial Times newspapers said.

Arabic is the first foreign language in Iran’s schools and as the language of the Koran is compulsory from the beginning of secondary school.

A second foreign language is also mandatory in high school but the choice of English is almost universal and most private schools and some state schools offer it at primary level.

Enrolment in private language schools is also common, especially among middle class families.

Iran’s English language teachers have been reaching out to their Western colleagues with the first Iatefl conference in Iran taking place in Tehran last year.

This is not the first time, however, that Iranian authorities have criticised the growing interest in English.

In 2016, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, criticised the teaching of English in kindergarten. There have also been several crack downs on unlicensed language schools.

At the time of writing, the Gazette has been unable to establish whether the primary ban extends to language schools.

Nor is it clear that the ban is a direct result of the recent riots in the country.

While the government has been swift to blame the unrest on foreign interference, the reality may be far more complex: former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who is strongly anti-Western - has been placed under house arrest for inciting further riots by criticising corrupt politicians.

‘The ban on English teaching might not be related to the protests, but it can spread despair in the country,’ an Iranian politician told the Financial Times. The paper also quoted a primary teacher as saying: ‘It is not even do-able, with [many] families prioritising English in their children’s education.’

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