International conference on rebuilding Iraqi educationIraqi Education Minister, Abdel Falah Hassan Al Sudani, as well as some 40 Iraqi education policy-makers and other experts, will attend an international conference on rebuilding Iraq’s education system to be held at UNESCO Headquarters on 8 and 9 December.
Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, will open the conference, “Towards a New Education System for Rebuilding the Iraqi Society: From Vision to Practice”, which will also be attended by representatives of civil society, the European Union and the donor community.
Debates will focus on reforming the education system and adapting it to the needs of a society rebuilding itself, and on educational policy issues, partnerships, curriculum development, learning materials, teacher training and management to improve the quality of learning for all.
“Twenty-four years of dictatorship, conflict and unrest have taken their toll on Iraq’s educational system,” Mr Matsuura declared ahead of the meeting. “Yet this system,” he said, “has a proud tradition of excellence that enabled Iraq to achieve a high level of basic education and internationally recognized expertise in many fields. This valuable legacy must be revitalized as part of the reconstruction of Iraqi society. I hope that the international community will help Iraqi experts adapt their country’s schools and curricula to the requirements of democratic participation of Iraqi citizens in their society, in their region and in the world.”
Historically, Iraq had an outstanding educational system, covering primary through higher education and vocational training. As part of its cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of Education, in 2004 UNESCO conducted a comprehensive needs assessment of the country’s education system. In February this year, UNESCO organized a Round Table on the Revitalization of Higher Education in Iraq, which contributed to Iraq’s policy in higher education and helped raise international assistance. The Organization has also helped the Ministry of Education rehabilitate offices, obtain essential materials for the printing of textbooks, revise mathematics and science textbooks, build a model secondary school for girls in Baghdad, and train Ministry personnel.
Given the urgent need of the economy for skilled manpower, UNESCO is presently assisting the Ministry of Education with technical and vocational education. It has helped provide equipment to laboratories and workshops in 11 vocational schools, and the same number of schools stand to benefit from this programme in 2006, when UNESCO will also provide technical expertise to help the Ministry upgrade programmes and staff skills.
With a view to improving the quality of education, UNESCO is contributing to a programme on new teaching methods, which will have trained some 30,000 secondary school teachers in the sciences, mathematics and English by the end of the 2005/2006 school year. This will be complemented, in 2006, by the rehabilitation of secondary school libraries and sciences laboratories, and training for personnel.
Within the framework of UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), the Organization is also designing and implementing community-based non-formal literacy programmes for adults, and women in particular, to deal with a growing problem of illiteracy in Iraq, which once boasted the highest literacy levels in the Arab region.
Journalists will be able to attend the opening and closing sessions of the conference (8 December from 9.30 am to 10.30 am and 9 December from 4.15 pm to 6.00 pm).
Photo © UNESCO/Domoinique Roger: Higher Education medical school, miscroscope