Decentralizing Education

Decentralizing EducationDecentralizing Education

The Education Ministry is determined to decentralize education and share the responsibilities and tasks with regional officials in its efforts to improve and augment its literacy programs.

“Rather than making policy at the national level the shift will be provincial,” said Ali Baqerzadeh, head of the Literacy Movement Organization (LMO), speaking on the occasion of the Literacy Movement Week (Dec 26-Jan 1).

There is currently a global trend of decentralizing education systems. Most countries are experimenting with or contemplating some form of education decentralization. The process transfers decision-making power from the ministries to provincial education departments, local communities and schools.

An article on education and decentralization on the website says the ongoing global debate about the appropriate locus of decision making within the education sector remains unresolved. It says this is because it requires that policy makers rationalize and harmonize a complex set of complementary functions, mainly: curriculum design, teaching methods, student evaluation, textbook production and distribution, teacher recruitment and pay, school construction and rehabilitation, education financing, and parent-teacher linkages.

Decentralized education promises to be more efficient, better reflect local needs and priorities, encourage participation, and, eventually, improve coverage and quality. Community financing has emerged as means for central governments to off-load some of the fiscal burden of education service provision, says the article.


Baqerzadeh, who is also the deputy education minister, said more than 405,000 people had enrolled in literacy programs till Dec. 21, 2015, half of whom were absolute illiterates. Also, based on the Education Ministry’s program, over 90,000 illiterate parents were identified and given education coverage by school authorities.

Over eight million illiterates have been educated since the formation of the LMO in 1979.

Around one million people are currently illiterate as many have been removed from the list for having acquired literacy during the period since the last population and housing census in 2011, or had died, or were identified as uneducable and grown older than 50 years, Baqerzadeh said.

For illiterate foreigners, most of whom are Afghans, a special literacy scheme is underway.

Bagherzadeh said one million Iranians had been educated in the past four years. The lack of up-to-date statistics on illiteracy and low motivation are the major challenges to illiteracy.

However, the literacy status of nearly four million people is still unclear.

The four million, among whom a little over half a million are above 25 years, have not declared their literacy levels to the Statistical Center of Iran. No information has been recorded about them in datacenters, in the 2011 census.


Literacy in many countries is measured based on the ability to read and write and some countries have also added basic arithmetic to it. In Iran, the criteria includes the ability to read, write and perform basic calculation as well as being able to read the Qur’an.    

As the need to provide education according to the different backgrounds of the target groups has been felt, the ministry has designed specialized course materials for women, prisoners and conscripts in the armed forces. Study books for workers and guilds are being drafted as well.

In a bid to encourage people towards literacy, a punitive scheme was proposed to deprive illiterates from some privileges from the next year (starts March 20, 2016), namely driving and business licenses and pension from the State Welfare Organization and Imam Khomeini Relief Committee.

“The scheme was rejected but will hopefully be approved after revision,” Baqerzadeh said without elaboration.

Labor, street kids and children of negligent parents who are deprived of their studies for not being able to pay tuition fees and for stationary and uniform, will also be covered by the LMO next year in cooperation with NGOs.

 Decentralization of education systems demands harmonization of a complex set of functions, each for primary, secondary, tertiary, and non-formal education.

At present, the international consensus is that tertiary education, and specific functions such as curriculum design and standards setting are best retained by central governments; secondary and primary education should be devolved as far as possible; local participation in school management improves accountability and responsiveness, and fosters resource mobilization. Yet, the devil is in the detail, and there are many details that need to be sorted out on a country by country basis.