Every child in school, and learning
Access to Education
Decades of conflict and under-investment in Iraq have destroyed what used to be the best education system in the region and severely curtailed Iraqi children’s access to quality learning. Today, there are close 3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children out of school.
The situation is especially concerning in conflict affected governorates, such as Salah al-Din and Diyala, where more than 90% of school-age children are left out of the education system. Almost half of all school-age displaced children — approximately 355,000 children – are not in school. The situation is worse for girls, who are under-represented in both primary and secondary schools.
Out of school children are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including child labour, recruitment by armed actors and early marriage.
Children and teachers have experienced the trauma of conflict, displacement and the losses of loved ones. Such trauma has long-lasting psychological impact which may affect teaching and learning processes and abilities.
Iraq’s infrastructure is in ruins in many parts of the country; one in every two schools is damaged and needs rehabilitation. A number of schools operate in multiple shifts in an attempt to accommodate as many students as possible, squeezing the little learning time that children have
Evidence shows there are significant differences in the success rates of the primary education certificate exam by type ofschools and whether the school runs multiple shifts. The pass rate of students attending the morning shift is 92%, as compared to a 72% passing rate for the evening shift.
Moreover, recent growth in the total number of teachers, the number and share of qualified teachers in Iraq has decreased at all educational levels, with the exception of pre-school.
Investment in Education
Iraq’s national budget has in the past years allocated less than 6% of its national budget to the education sector, placing Iraq at the bottom rank of Middle East countries.
Years of conflict have weakened the capacity of the Iraqi government to deliver quality education services for all. Violence, damage to infrastructure and mass displacement of children and families have disrupted the provision of education services.
The Government of Iraq has given priority to the decentralisation of service delivery, including education. The capacity of education departments at the governorate level need to be boosted in order for them to oversee the implementation of education policies and plans, the recruitment and management of human resources, the supervision of schools, and the management of educational infrastructure.
UNICEF is supporting the MoE in its implementation of the Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) for out of school children and pupils who need extra classes to make up for years they spent out of school
Through e-learning, UNICEF is also meeting the education needs of Syrian refugee children. In the Southern Governorates UNICEF continues to expand access to schools, especially for girls, in areas where there are no schools.
Quality learning is critical to undoing many of the negative impacts of conflict and violence Children must not only be in school, they also need to have the right conditions in place to enable them to learn.
UNICEF is working with the MoE to support three initiatives for the improvement of learning environments and learning outcomes in Iraq.
- School Based Management (SBM):this approach promotes decentralisation and power sharing between head teachers, teachers, parents, and community members, allowing many stakeholders to take part in day-to-day decisions that will improve school governance. Moreover, school Management Committees (SMCs) and Parents and Teacher Associations (PTAs) are collaborating to develop School Improvement Pans (SIPs), with the support of school block grants from UNICEF.
- Mainstream life skills into the teaching and learning system: UNICEF is working with the MoE to make school environments safer and conducive for meaningful quality learning. UNICEF is supporting the development of learning frameworks and materials including textbooks, resource materials. UNICEF will also look at developing qualitative assessment tools to measure the success of the life skills programme. Psychosocial training, positive discipline, civic education for social cohesion are part of the core skills that UNICEF is supporting.
- Improve quality teaching:UNICEF and UNESCO plan to work with Ministry of Education (MoE) to improve the quality of teaching. The two UN organizations are supporting the MoE’s work to develop a 5-year teacher training and development plan at the national and governorate levels. UNICEF is also supporting training on participatory teaching-learning, subject matter training and regular classroom-based mentoring by supervisors and school principals.
By 2024 children and adolescents, especially the most vulnerable, benefit from equitable access to quality and inclusive education. Main bottlenecks to be addressed include inequitable financing; insufficient education infrastructure, especially schools in rural and crisis-affected areas; lack of critical education supplies limiting effective learning; lack of adequate and conducive WASH facilities for boys and girls; and inequitable distribution of qualified teachers, particularly in the most crisis-affected areas. The programme will emphasize curricula revision, development of child-centred teaching and learning materials and development of unified national standards for quality education.
The principal interventions will focus on strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Education to effectively plan, budget, implement and monitor equitable delivery of quality education services, especially at governorate levels. Special attention will be on collect and analyse data through better use of the Education Management Information System and to develop and implement decentralized governorate education sector plans in support of the school-based management approach, promoting a culture of effective school leadership and community participation in school management. Continuous teacher development focusing on monitoring learners’ achievements and integration of Life Skills and Citizenship Education in classroom practices will be a major element of change. Psychosocial support will be integrated in teacher training to help children to cope with conflict and displacement.
Capitalizing on the previous country programme cycle, this programme will prioritize multiple pathways to learning to ensure that the most vulnerable children and adolescents, especially those out-of-school, including internally displaced and refugee children, can develop to their full potential and acquire life skills. The programme will expand access to secondary education for adolescent girls in rural and poor communities to facilitate transition from primary to secondary education.
Integrated programming in early childhood and adolescence will bring the education programme together with other sectors. Pre-schools will be used as the entry point for early identification of disabilities and developing parental skills, while schools will involve adolescents actively in their learning and community-based engagement.