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Iran: crackdown on foreign languages and international schools

Iran’s education ministry has announced a ban on all foreign language teaching in kindergartens and primary schools, effective immediately, according to a report from Iranian state media last week.

Education ministry official, Massoud Tehrani-Farjad, has said: ‘The teaching of foreign languages is prohibited in kindergartens, nursery schools and primary schools, because at this age, the Iranian identity of the child is being formed.

‘The ban on the teaching of foreign languages does not only concern English, but also other languages, including Arabic.’

English was already banned in primary schools back in 2018, with the intent to strengthen language skills in Persian, Iran’s official language. However, secondary schools can still offer English as a foreign language choice.

The violation of international schools

This announcement comes shortly after a surprise move to ban Iranian pupils from attending international schools in September.

In an effort to fight ‘westernisation’, new rules have been laid out by the Supreme Council of Education. They state that Iranian national, or dual-national students may not attend international schools. Foreigners living in Iran, or Iranian students who completed part of their education abroad may still enrol.

As a result of these changes, international schools have been hit hard, with only 10% of students fitting the criteria to be allowed to attend.

A French school in Northern Tehran currently has only 60 students attending, out of an original 359 who registered at the start of the academic year. Similarly a German school has just 50 down from 380 students.

State media has said that international schools are in violation of Iranian regulations.

‘None of the official textbooks approved by the education ministry are taught in these schools,’ says Tasnim news agency.

Parents are looking for alternatives, including home-schooling, and English schools that follow Iranian curriculum. Others have left Iran for Europe.

‘It is traumatic for the children who lose their bearings and their friends,’ said one mother. ‘It’s heart-breaking for them.’

Image courtesy of Javad Esmaeili
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