Move on Private Schools Criticized

Move on Private Schools CriticizedMove on Private Schools Criticized

The bill to make permanent the existing ad hoc law on opening private schools and educational institutions with financial assistance from the Education Ministry that is to be proposed to Parliament soon, has already run into controversy.

Advocates of the bill say it will help expand public participation and private investment in education as well as better supervision of private schools. Opponents, however, charge the Education Ministry of privatizing education contrary to Article 30 of the Constitution, which states that education must be free for children and young adults, reports the Persian language ‘Iran’ newspaper.

Article one of the proposed bill states that an organization headed by the deputy minister and affiliated to the Education Ministry will be launched to support investment in non-government schools and institutions and promote public participation in education. Such schools will be a joint endeavor of both the private and government sectors.

Education in Iran is centralized and up to grade 12 is supervised by the ministry. State-run schools are funded by the ministry and private schools charge a tuition fee that is regulated annually by the Organization of Non-State Schools, by considering factors such as the school size and the quality of education and teacher performance.

The Supreme Council of Education is the body that decides all education-related policies and regulations. Private schools (non-profit) are partially government funded and operate under the supervision of the Education Ministry.

  Opposition From Lawmakers

Several lawmakers however are opposed to the bill. Alireza Salimi, member of the Majlis Education and Research Commission said if the bill is approved, “educational justice will fall into ruin.”

Nearly 1.3 million children are already “deprived of education due to financial constraints and the number will go up should the bill become law. These children cannot even pay the basic cost of education in public schools and the bill will lead to further discrimination,” he said.

Education officials, however, dismiss the charges as baseless. The proposed law is not against the Constitution because public schools will still offer free education.

Moreover, law authorizes the Education Ministry to issue permits for non-state schools after scrutinizing the applicant’s eligibility.

Marzieh Gord, deputy education minister told the newspaper that regulations on establishing non-state schools have been in existence for almost three decades and the ministry intends “to make the ad hoc law permanent.”

The ad hoc law allows the ministry to give priority to non-state schools and encourage private investment in education. It is in operation since the past eight years to identify the shortcomings. The approval of the bill will help plug the loopholes according to Gord, who also heads the Organization of Non-State Schools.

“The tuition fee structure for private schools has been addressed and a supervising network will be launched once the bill is approved,” she said.

Teachers Guild activists are also opposed to the bill and have criticized governments over the past ten years “for not giving education its due value and passing hasty bills that threaten educational justice.”

  Costly fees

Mehdi Bohloui, a guild activist fears that all schools will gradually turn into private institutions if the bill is approved.

“Drawing on public participation is against the Fundamental Reform Document of Education,” approved in 2011 as part of the 2025 Vision plan to promote the scientific, moral and technological position of the country by overhauling the formal education system, he said.

“The bill must also consider the plight of children who cannot afford tuition fees.”

It is generally believed that many parents with children in private schools are not satisfied with the quality of education. Reports have it that the performance of state-run schools also leaves much to be desired.    

The same is true of the private kindergartens. A case made by the parents is the exorbitant fees the private institutions charge.  Many say it’s a raw deal simply because the returns (education training) are not of the high caliber expected from such schools.    

 Many parents also complain that private schools have grown like wild mushrooms in the big cities and are focused more on the monetary side and less on what the students need and must learn. There are plenty of cases where the schools/kindergartens charge more than an average monthly salary of an employee for a month’s fee for the tiny tots who hardly spend three hours a day in class.