Every child in school, and learning

© UNICEF/UN0253754/Anmar


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. 

 Learning Quality

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

As of 2016, Iraq’s national budget 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. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

UNICEF and UNESCO jointly support the scale up of a functional Education Management Information Systems (EMIS)in order to generate timely and quality data for evidence based planning. UNICEF will also support MoE to ensure that data on out-of-school children is collected and used to expand services.  

UNICEF will support the Directorates of Education (DoE) in select governorates by conducting rapid diagnoses of the education sector and develop plans for improvement. UNICEF will also support MoE in the decentralization process of education, as part of continued reform in the education sector. Moreover, UNICEF continues to advocate for increased budgetary allocation to education. 

UNICEF will continue to work with MoE towards establishing a national system for assessing and monitoring learning achievements for Iraq.