On Education » Iran

Education in Islamic Republic of Iran

Population: About 71 million people

Literacy Rate: 80%

GNP: USD2,770 per capita

Human Development Index: 0.76

Most Iranian reside in densely populated urban areas. Iran's capital city is Tehran. The population of the Tehran Metropolitan Area including the city, some of its suburbs and the surrounding area is approximately 12 million.  Most (about 98%) of the 71 Million people are Muslim of which 89% are Shia Muslim.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, the educational system of the country has gone under qualitative and quantitative changes. As far as quantitative changes are concerned, this education profile provides an overview of the Iranian education system.

The school system is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Training. In addition to schools, this Ministry also has responsibility for some teacher training and some technical institutes. The Ministry of Education employs the highest number of civil servants -42 per cent of the total- and receives 21 per cent of the national budget. A total of 15,018,903 students were enrolled in 87,024 schools with 485,186 classes throughout the country in the academic year 1990-91. The breakdown was as follows: 509 schools for disabled children, 3,586 kindergartens, 59,280 elementary schools, 15,580 intermediate schools, 4,515 secondary schools, 380 technical schools, 405 business studies and vocational schools, 64 agriculture schools, 238 urban and 182 rural elementary school teachers' training colleges, seven vocational and professional teachers' training colleges and 19 institutes of technology. There are also 2,259 adult education schools.

The structure of the educational system under this Ministry is divided into the following cycles:

Pre-school Education cycle - A one-year program for children five years old in which they receive the basic notions needed to enter primary schools. There is no exam at the end of this cycle and children proceed automatically to the following cycle.

Primary Education cycle - The five-year primary cycle covers grades 1-5 for children 6 to 11 years old. This phase is both free and compulsory. Students take exams at the end of each year on which their promotion to the following grade is based. At the end of the grade 5, students take a nation-wide examination. Those who pass the exam are qualified to proceed to the next cycle.

Middle (Guidance) Cycle - This cycle covers grades 6 to 8 for children 11 to 13 years old. Like the preceding cycle, this cycle also provides students with general education. In this phase, the abilities as well as the interests of students are recognized, so they become prepared to decide which branch (academic or technical/vocational) they intend to choose in the next cycle. At the end of guidance cycle, students take a regional examination under the supervision of provincial boards of education. Those who pass the examination are eligible to proceed to the next cycle i.e., secondary cycle.  Having finished their guidance cycle, students can proceed to secondary cycle choosing either vocational/technical or academic branch.

Secondary Education cycle - This is a four-year stage which covers grade 9 to Grade 12, from age 14 to 17. Secondary education is divided into two main branches namely, academic/general and technical/vocational. The choice of either branch is up to pupils themselves. The academic branch, also known as the "theoretical branch" is divided into four mainstreams namely, literature and culture, socio-economic, physics-mathematics, and finally experimental sciences. The technical/vocational branch is particularly designed to train technicians for the labor market. This branch covers three mainstreams namely, technical, business/vocational, and agriculture. There are specific subject and performance requirements for admission to some secondary programs. National examinations are conducted at the end of each grade during the secondary cycle. Accordingly, the secondary education cycle is reduced to three years during which students are required to complete 96 units in order to be awarded the High School Diploma. The secondary graduates who are interested in post-secondary education must complete one preparation year to be entitled for attending the university entrance examination known as KONKUR. This nation-wide examination serves as the general National Entrance Examination for admission to universities.

Other Post-Secondary Programs - Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, new universities and colleges have been established, offering wide range of specializations. Moreover, since 1987, masters and doctorate courses have been offered in many different disciplines. In 1989 the MCHE reported that there were over 100 institutions of higher education of which 30 were universities, 14 were university complexes and colleges, 5 were non-governmental private colleges and 36 were higher education centers and government agencies.

Updated On: 11.12.01