Private Schools Gaining Ground, Albeit Slowly

The government wants private schooling to account for 20% of the education by 2022
It is reported that only 11% of the schools are private.
It is reported that only 11% of the schools are private.

Non-government schools have helped reduce the financial burden on the Education Ministry to a considerable degree, according to a ministry official.

Currently, there are 1,400 such schools with 1.5 million students across the country.

According to Hassan Masoudi, director of the Non-State Schools Office at the ministry, if this number of students were also enrolled at government schools, around 30 trillion rials ($791 million) would be added to the government’s education expenses.

The ministry’s budget for this fiscal (started in March) is 330 trillion rials ($8.7 billion).

“To address the mounting challenges of school education, the government has no other way but to promote private schools,” the official was quoted as saying in a report on the ministry’s website,

One of the fundamental reasons for supporting private schooling, according to Masoudi, is to reduce the government’s role and influence in the key sector.

“Private schools have been established to foster healthy competition in offering services to the public and their pioneers want to reduce dropout rates and sdtop/reverse the deterioration in the quality of education and academic performance.”

It is reported that only 11% of the schools are private but 200,000 from among the best educated instructors are working for non-state school while 75% of their founders have over 25 years of relevant (teaching) experience and university degrees.

“Based on the sixth five-year development plan (2017-22), non-state schools should make up 15% of all schools in the country, but the government is seeking the more ambitious target of 20%,” Masoudi said, adding that the Fundamental Education Reform Document also highlights the expansion of private schools as a way to ease the education system’s challenges.  

  Not Immune to Financial Issues

Despite the seemingly plus sides private schools also have their own financial problems. Masoudi warned that such schools will not be able to stay open much longer without government support.

While cutting the ministry’s costs is one of the main reasons behind allowing private schools to flourish, the government might need to provide support to these schools also to help reduce their operational costs if and when necessary.

“Loans at 4% interest to investors has been proposed but not yet approved,” Masoudi said. “We have held talks with the Central Bank of Iran and hope to be able to offer the loans by the beginning of the next academic year (in Sept).”

Medical and retirement insurance for teachers and admin staff in private schools is one big  challenge, but according to the official, the government is legally obliged to contribute and cover at least a portion of the staff’s insurance premium.

“The Education Ministry must protect the rights of students and staff, provide support for the private school founders and monitor the schools’ performance,” he said. 

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