Education in Iran

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Iran's population reached 70 million in 2006. More than two-thirds of the Iranians are under the age of 30, and the literacy rate stands above 82%. Ali Parsa.jpg
Iran's population reached 70 million in 2006. More than two-thirds of the Iranians are under the age of 30, and the literacy rate stands above 82%.

Education in Iran is centralized and divided into K-12 education plus higher education. K-12 education is supervised by the Ministry of Education and higher education is under supervision of Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Health and Medical Education (Iran). As of September 2015, 93% of the Iranian adult population are literate. [2] In 2008, 85% of the Iranian adult population were literate, well ahead of the regional average of 62%. This rate increases to 97% among young adults (aged between 15 and 24) without any gender discrepancy. [1] By 2007, Iran had a student to workforce population ratio of 10.2%, standing among the countries with highest ratio in the world. [3]

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With 82 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the political and economic center of Iran, and the largest and most populous city in Western Asia with more than 8.8 million residents in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area.

Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion of secondary education. It represents levels 6, 7 and 8 of the 2011 version of the International Standard Classification of Education structure. Tertiary education at non-degree level is sometimes referred to as further education or continuing education as distinct from higher education.

Ministry of Education (Iran) Iranian ministry responsible for education

The Ministry of Education established in 1964, is an Iranian government body responsible for the oversight of K-12 education in Iran. Each year, 20% of government spending and 5% of GDP goes to education, a higher rate than most other developing countries. 50% of education spending is devoted to secondary education and 21% of the annual state education budget is devoted to the provision of tertiary education. Also Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University and Farhangian University are the university of teacher education and human resource development in Ministry of Education.


Primary school (Dabestân دبستان) starts at the age of 6 for a duration of 6 years. Middle school, also known as First 3 years of Dabirestân (Dabirestân دوره اول دبیرستان), goes from the seventh to the ninth grade. High school (Dabirestân دوره دوم دبیرستان), for which the last three years is not mandatory, is divided between theoretical, vocational/technical and manual, each program with its own specialties and in the end of it, students are given High school diploma. [4] The requirement to enter into higher education is to have a High school diploma, and finally pass the national university entrance examination, Iranian University Entrance Exam (Konkur کنکور), which is the equivalent of the French baccalauréat exam.

Primary school School in which children receive primary or elementary education from the age of about five to twelve

A primary school is a school for children from about four to eleven years old, in which they receive primary or elementary education. It can refer to both the physical structure (buildings) and the organisation. Typically it comes after preschool, and before secondary school.

A middle school is an educational stage which exists in some countries, providing education between primary school and secondary school. The concept, regulation and classification of middle schools, as well as the ages covered, vary between, and sometimes within, countries.

A high school diploma is a North American academic school leaving qualification awarded upon high school graduation. The high school diploma is typically studied for over the course of three to four years, from grade 9 to grade 12. The diploma is typically awarded by the school in accordance with the requirements of the local state or provincial government. Requirements for earning the diploma vary by jurisdiction, and there may be different requirements for different streams or levels of high school graduation. Typically they include a combination of selected coursework meeting specified criteria for a particular stream and acceptable passing grades earned on the state exit examination.

Universities, institutes of technology, medical schools and community colleges, provide the higher education. Higher education is sanctioned by different levels of diplomas: Fogh-e-Diplom or Kārdāni after 2 years of higher education, Kārshenāsi (also known under the name “licence”) is delivered after 4 years of higher education (Bachelor's degree). Kārshenāsi-ye Arshad is delivered after 2 more years of study (Master's degree). After which, another exam allows the candidate to pursue a doctoral program (PhD). [4]

A medical school is a tertiary educational institution, or part of such an institution, that teaches medicine, and awards a professional degree for physicians and surgeons. Such medical degrees include the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Doctor of Medicine (MD), or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). Many medical schools offer additional degrees, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Master's degree (M.Sc), a physician assistant program, or other post-secondary education.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

History of education in Iran

Achaemenid Dynasty

Scholars have discovered documents from around 550 BC relating to an emphasis on education in ancient Persia (modern day Iran). [5] The documents urged people to gain knowledge in order to better understand God and to live a life of prosperity. [5] Religious schools were set up in limited areas to serve the government. Although the majority of the problems focused on religious studies, there were also lessons regarding administration, politics, technical skills, military, sports, and arts. The first higher education organization, Gundeshapur or Jondishapoor (which still exists) was formed during the Achaemenids period, around the 3rd century. [5]

Safavid Dynasty

This dynasty marks the first of modern education in Iran. [5] There was a mixed emphasis on Islamic values and scientific advancements. [5]


Formed in 1898, the Educational Committee (Anjuman-i Ma'arf) was the first organized program to promote educational reform not funded by the state. [6] The committee was composed of members of foreign services, ulama, wealthy merchants, physicians, and other prominent people. The conflicting interests of people involved led to difficulties enacting, however they did succeed in the opening of many new primary and secondary educational schools. It also created a public library, offered adult classes, published an official newspaper (Ruznamah-i Ma'arif), and established a printing company called The Book Printing Company (Shirkat-i Tab'-i Kitab). [6]

The Literacy Corps (1969-1979)

The literacy corps took place over the White Revolution, which occurred under Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. [7] It was believed by the government that the majority of the population was illiterate and the Literacy Corps was an attempt to change the statistics. The program included hiring young men who had a degree in secondary education to serve in the Literacy Corps, and involved teaching children between the ages of 6 and 12, and of which had not attended 2nd grade education, to read. The goal being to improve literacy in Iran in a cheap and efficient manner, which they also believed would improve workmanship. 200,000 young men and woman participated in the Literacy Corps, teaching 2.2 million boys and girls and over a million adults. [7] In many cases, the volunteers would continue to work as educators after their conscription ended. [7]

Post-Islamic Revolution

At first, post 1979 Islamic Revolution placed heavily emphasis on educational reforms. [5] Politicians wanted Islamic values to be present within the schooling system as quickly as possible. However, pressures due to the Iran-Iraq War and economic disparities forced plans for education back as other issues took priority. [5] However, there were some significant changes made. First, came Islamization of textbooks. The schools were then segregated regarding to the sex of the student. Observation of Islamic Law in the schools became mandated and religious ceremonies maintained. [5]

By the 1990s, more significant changes arose. [5] The annual academic system switched to a system based on credits. So, for example, if a student were to fail a class, rather than repeating the whole year they simply would retake the credits. The mandatory duration of high school was shortened from four years to three, however the fourth year was still available as an option to bridge the gap between high school and university. [5] Also, many technical and vocational programs were added to help train students for the workforce, which proved to be popular with students.

Modern education

Literacy Rate of Iran population plus 15 1975-2015 by UNESCO Institute of Statistics UIS Literacy Rate Iran population plus 15 1975-2015.png
Literacy Rate of Iran population plus 15 1975-2015 by UNESCO Institute of Statistics

The first Western-style public schools were established by Haji-Mirza Hassan Roshdieh. Amir Kabir (the Grand Minister) helped the first modern Iranian college establish in the mid-nineteenth century, and the first Iranian University modeled after European Universities established during the first Pahlavi period. [8] There are both free public schools and private schools in Iran at all levels, from elementary school through university. Education in Iran is highly centralized. The Ministry of Education is in charge of educational planning, financing, administration, curriculum, and textbook development. Teacher training, grading, and examinations are also the responsibility of the Ministry. At the university level, however, every student attending public schools is required to commit to serve the government for a number of years typically equivalent to those spent at the university, or pay it off for a very low price (typically a few hundred dollars) or completely free if one can prove inability to pay to the Islamic government (Post secondary and university). During the early 1970s, efforts were made to improve the educational system by updating school curriculation, introducing modern textbooks, and training more efficient teachers. [9]

The 1979 revolution continued the country's emphasis on education with the new government putting its own stamp on the process. The most important change was the Islamization of the education system. All students were segregated by sex. In 1980, the Cultural Revolution Committee was formed to oversee the institution of Islamic values in education. An arm of the committee, the Center for Textbooks (composed mainly of clerics), produced 3,000 new college-level textbooks reflecting Islamic views by 1983. [10] Teaching materials based on Islam were introduced into the primary grades within six months of the revolution.


AgeLevel of education (in Persian)DurationUS degree equivalentRemarks
5-6Pre-primary/Kindergarten 1 year (K-12)Optional. 50% of children at that age are enrolled in pre-primary education.
6-12Elementary education/Dabestan6 years (K-12)Although elementary education is free and compulsory, full enrollment in elementary education has not yet been achieved (2004).
12-16Lower-secondary/ First 3 Years of Dabirestan3 years (K-12) Middle school Mandatory (6-9th grade). (Free) The aim of this level of education is to figure out the capabilities and skills of a child so that the education system could guide her or him to the most appropriate track after the end of compulsory education.
15-18 (or older)Upper-secondary/Second 3 Years Dabirestan3 years (K-12) High school diploma (Diplom-Motevaseth)In Iran, upper-secondary education is NOT compulsory. By 2010, 80% of children aged between 14 and 17 were enrolled. Approximately 6% of upper secondary institutions are private. [4] These schools must conform to the regulations of the Ministry of Education, though they are financed primarily through tuition fees received from students. There are three school types: the theoretical branch, the technical-vocational/professional branch, and the manual skills branch (Kar-Danesh). The latter two prepare students to directly enter the job market in the trading, agricultural, industrial professions. The Kar-Danesh track develops semi-skilled and skilled workers, foremen, and supervisors. Besides, each path has its own specialties (e.g. 'math/physics'; 'experimental sciences' or 'literature/humanities' in the case of the theoretical path). Students with High school Diploma Certificate earn the right to take the Konkur, i.e. the competitive National Entrance Examination. In 2009: ~11% were admitted (1,278,433 entrants), 60% of which were female [11] Students passing the Konkur obtain the degree equivalent of a GCE A-levels and/or International Baccalaureate.
18-20 (or older)Technical/Vocational School OR (see below)2 years Associate Degree (Fogh-e-Diplom or Kārdāni)Students are able to study two more years in tertiary education, which provides them with the skills to become a highly skilled technician and receive an “integrated associate degree”
18-22 (or older)University (undergraduate)4 years Bachelor degree (Kārshenāsi or Licence)Academic year: September through June. Students attend classes Saturday through Thursday. Academic term divided in 2 'semesters' and 'course credits'. Universities receive their budget money from the state, and students normally do not pay for tuition and boarding at these institutions (except for Islamic Azad University).
22-24 (or older)University (graduate)2 years Master degree (Kārshenāsi-ye Arshad or Fogh Licence)Iran hosts some of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East such as Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran University, Sharif University, Amirkabir University of Technology, and Iran University of Science and Technology (all five rank among the top 1,000 universities of the world according to SCImago international rankings). Shiraz University, Isfahan University of Technology, Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran, and Ferdowsi University of Mashhad are other prominent higher education institutes in the country. See also: List of Universities in Iran
24-27/8 (or older)Doctoral program3-4 years PhD. (Doctora)Students are admitted following an entrance exam. See also: Higher education in Iran. In 2012, Iran had 120,000 PhD students. [12] In 2013, only ~60,000 PhD students according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. [13]
Grading scale
10-11.99DPass: GPA above 10
0-9.99F or 'Fail'7 may be considered a passing grade in some individual subjects, while a grade above 10 is required for Persian language.
6th grade 7th grade 8th grade
Persian Language and Literature555
Natural Sciences444
Religious Education222
Social sciences111
Technical/Vocational Education333
Foreign language-44
Military service preparation (for boys only)--1
The Quran 222
Source : World Education Services, 2004 [4]


Each year, 20% of government spending and 5% of GDP goes to education, a higher rate than most other developing countries. 50% of education spending is devoted to secondary education and 21% of the annual state education budget is devoted to the provision of tertiary education. [14]

Education reform

The Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010) has envisaged upgrading the quality of the educational system at all levels, as well as reforming education curricula, and developing appropriate programs of vocational training, a continuation of the trend towards labor market oriented education and training. [15]

With the new education reform plan in 2012, the Pre-university year will be replaced with an additional year in elementary school. [16] Students will have the same teacher for the first 3 years of primary school. Emphasis will be made on research, knowledge production and questioning instead of math and memorizing alone. In the new system the teacher will no longer be the only instructor but a facilitator and guide. [17]

Other more general goals of the education reform are:

  1. Making the education more global in terms of knowledge.
  2. Nurturing children who believe in the one God.
  3. Providing a socially just education system.
  4. Increasing the role of the family in the education system.
  5. Increasing the efficiency of the education system.
  6. Achieving the highest standard of education in the region.

Teacher education

Farhangian University is the university of teacher education and human resource development in Ministry of Education. [18] Teacher Training Centers in Iran are responsible for training teachers for primary, orientation cycle, and gifted children's schools. These centers offer four-year programs leading to a BA or BS degree in teaching the relevant subject. Students that enter Teacher Training Centers, have at minimum, completed a High school diploma. A national entrance examination is required for admission.

There are 98 teacher-training centers in Iran, all belonging to Farhangian University. Teacher education in Iran has been considered more centralized than other Western countries such as Great Britain. [5]

Foreign languages

Persian is officially the national language of Iran. Arabic, as the language of Koran, is taught grades 7-12. In addition to Arabic, students are required to take one foreign language class in grades 3-12. Although other foreign languages such as German, French, Spanish and Chinese are offered in most urban schools, English continues to be the most desired language. [19]

Kanoun-e-Zabaan-e-Iran or Iran's Language Institute affiliated to Center for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults was founded in 1979. Persian, English, French, Spanish, German and Arabic are taught to over 175,000 students during each term. [19]

English language is studied in rahnamaei (literally meaning, guidance or orientation), an equivalent for middle school in other countries. Middle school is a period of three years and it covers grades 6-8 for students aged 11 to 13 years old. The government is now considering teaching English language from primary school level. However, the quality of English education in schools is not satisfactory and most of students in order to obtain a better English fluency and proficiency have to take English courses in private institutes. [19]

Presently, there are over 5000 foreign language schools in the country, 200 of which are situated in Tehran. A few television channels air weekly English and Arabic language sessions, particularly for university candidates who are preparing for the annual entrance test. [19]

Most teaching of English starts in middle school (age 12-14), but before 2018, some primary schools (age 12 and below) also taught English. However, in January 2018, a senior educational official announced on state television that teaching English is banned in primary schools, including non-government primary schools. [20]

Internet and distance education

Full Internet service is available in all major cities and it is very rapidly increasing. Many small towns and even some villages now have full Internet access. The government aims to provide 10% of government and commercial services via the Internet by end-2008 and to equip every school with computers and connections by the same date. [21]

Payame Noor University (established 1987) as a provider exclusively of distance education courses is a state university under the supervision of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. [22]

Higher education

As of 2013, 4.5 million students are enrolled in universities, out of a total population of 75 million. [23] Iranian universities graduate almost 750,000 annually. [24]

The tradition of university education in Iran goes back to the early centuries of Islam. By the 20th century, however, the system had become antiquated and was remodeled along French lines. The country's 16 universities were closed after the 1979 revolution and were then reopened gradually between 1982 and 1983 under Islamic supervision.

While the universities were closed, the Cultural Revolution Committee investigated professors and teachers and dismissed those who were believers in Marxism, liberalism, and other "imperialistic" ideologies. The universities reopened with Islamic curricula. In 1997, all higher-level institutions had 40,477 teachers and enrolled 579,070 students.

Admission to public universities, some are tuition-free, is based solely on performance on the nationwide Konkour exam. Some alternative to the public universities is the Islamic Azad University which charges high fees. [25]

The syllabus of all the universities in Iran is decided by a national council as a result the difference of the quality of education among the universities is only based on the location and the quality of the students and the faculty members. Among all top universities in the country there are three universities each notable for some reasons:

The University of Tehran (founded in 1934) has 10 faculties, including a department of Islamic theology. It is the oldest (in the modern system) and biggest university in Iran. It has been the birthplace of several social and political movements.

Tarbiat Modares University (means: professor training university) also located in Tehran is the only exclusively post-graduate institute in Iran. It only offers Master's, PhD, and Postdoc programs. It is also the most comprehensive Iranian university in the sense that it is the only university under the Iranian Ministry of Science System that has a Medical School. All other Medical Schools in Iran are a separate university and governed under the Ministry of Health; for example Tehran University of Medical Sciences (commonly known as Medical School of Tehran University) is in fact separate from Tehran University.

Sharif University of Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology, and Iran University of Science and Technology also located in Tehran are nationally well known for taking in the top undergraduate Engineering and Science students; and internationally recognized for training competent under graduate students. It has probably the highest percentage of graduates who seek higher education abroad.[ citation needed ]

K.N.Toosi University of Technology is among most prestigious universities in Tehran. Other major universities are at Shiraz, Tabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad, Ahvaz, Kerman, Kermanshah, Babolsar, Rasht, and Orumiyeh. There are about 50 colleges and 40 technological institutes. [10]

In 2009, 33.7% of all those in the 18–25 age group were enrolled in one of the 92 universities, 512 Payame Noor University branches, and 56 research and technology institutes around the country. There are currently some 3.7 million university students in Iran and 1.5 million study at the 500 branches of Islamic Azad University. [1] Iran had 1 million medical students in 2011.[ citation needed ] [26]

Students in higher education [1]
Field of study2010Remarks
Engineering and construction31%Highly developed with one of the highest graduation rates in the world.
Social science, business and law23%Limited because of ideology issues but is developing rapidly.
Humanities and the arts14%
Science10%Highly developed with one of the highest graduation rates in the world..


In recent decades Iran has shown an increasing interest in various entrepreneurship fields, in higher educational settings, policy making and business. Although primary and secondary school textbooks do not address entrepreneurship, several universities including Tehran University and Sharif University, offer courses on entrepreneurship to undergraduate and graduate students. [27] [28] [29] [30] [31]

In accordance with the third five-year development plan, the “entrepreneurship development plan in Iranian universities”, (known as KARAD Plan) was developed, and launched in twelve universities across the country, under the supervision of Management and Planning Organization and the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. [32]

Women in education

In September 2012, women made up more than 60% of all universities' student body in Iran. [33] This high level of achievement and involvement in high education is a recent development of the past decades. The right to a respectable education has been a major demand of the Iranian women's movement starting in the early twentieth century. Before the 1979 revolution a limited number of women went to male-dominated schools and most traditional families did not send their girls to school because the teachers were men or the school was not Islamic. [34] During the 1990s, women's enrollment in educational institutions began to increase. The establishment and the expansion of private universities Daneshgah-e-azad-e Islami also contributed to the increasing enrollment for both women and men. Under the presidency of Rafsanjani and the High council of cultural Revolution, the Women's social and cultural council was set up and charged with studying the legal, social, and economic problems of women. The council, with the support of Islamic feminists worked to lift all restrictions on women entering any fields of study in 1993. After the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his new regime prioritized the Islamization of the Iranian education system for both women and men. [35] When Khomeini died in 1989, under president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, many but not all restrictions on women's education were lifted, albeit with controversy. The right to education for everyone without discrimination is explicitly guaranteed under Iran's constitution and international documents, which Iran has accepted or to which it is a party. [36] Some scholars believe that women have poor access to higher education because of certain policies and the oppression of women's right in Iran's strictly Islamic society. However, Iranian women do have fair access to higher education as seen by a significant increase in female enrollment and graduation rates as women university students now outnumber males, Iranian women emerge to more prominent positions in the labor force, and the presence and confidence of professional women in the public sphere. The opportunities for women education and their involvement in higher education has grown exponentially after the Iranian Revolution. [37] According to UNESCO world survey, Iran has the highest female to male ratio at primary level of enrollment in the world among sovereign nations, with a girl to boy ratio of 1.22:1. [38]

Schools for Gifted Children

The National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET), also known as SAMPAD (سمپاد), maintains middle and high schools in Iran. These schools were shut down for a few years after the revolution, but later re-opened. Admittance is based on an entrance examination and is very competitive. Their tuition is similar to private schools but may be partially or fully waived depending on the students' financial condition. Some NODET alumni are world-leading scientists. Other schools are Selective Schools which are called "Nemoone Dolati".These schools are controlled by the government and have no fees.Students take this entrance exam alongside with NODET exams.

Organization for Educational Research and Planning (OERP)

OERP is a government affiliated, scientific, learning organization. It has qualitative and knowledge-based curricula consistent with the scientific and research findings, technological, national identity, Islamic and cultural values.

OERP's Responsibilities:

1. To research on the content of the educational,
2. To study and develop simple methods for examinations and educational assessments,
3. To write, edit and print text-books,
4. To identify and provide educational tools and the list of standards for educational tools and equipments,
5. To run pure research on improving the quality and quantity of education,
6. To perform other responsibilities issued by the OERP Council.

Prominent high schools in Iran: historical and current

Tabriz Memorial High School Diploma. Dated: June 1, 1923 Valigholi Dilfanian Tabriz Memorial HighSchool Diploma.jpg
Tabriz Memorial High School Diploma. Dated: June 1, 1923

International Baccalaureate schools

Iran has three International Baccalaureate (IB) schools. They are Mehr-e-Taban International School, [39] Shahid Mahdavi International School, [40] and Tehran International School. [41]

Mehr-e-Taban International School is an authorized IB world school in Shiraz offering the Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme. Shahid Mahdavi School is an IB world school in Tehran offering the Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme. Tehran International School is an IB world school in Tehran offering the Diploma Programme.


See also


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