Mehdi Navid Adham (second from right), the head of the Iranian High Education Council, attends a meeting with the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (center left) in Tehran on August 6, 2016. Photo: Iran Expediency Council
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Iran has announced it intends to ban teaching English to young students across the Islamic Republic, claiming primary school lays the "groundwork for the Iranian culture."
“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run High Education Council, told state television on Saturday.
The announcement would only affect English in primary schools, and curriculum varies by region.
“This is because the assumption is that, in primary education, the groundwork for the Iranian and Persian culture of the students is laid, the Persian language and literature of the students is laid,” Navid-Adham said, adding that non-curriculum English classes may also be blocked.
Depending on the family, some students attend private language institutes or tutors after school. These language institutes — not just limited to English — are already all across Iran.
The change would mark a victory for Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who in May 2016, warned a gathering of educators of an "international hegemonic system" orchestrated by the West, Israel, and other "enemies."
Khamenei lamented at the time that in some places "instead of Persian, English is promoted and it has got to the point that English is being taught in kindergarten."
He said that Iranian officials haven't planned to confront plans by enemies who desire to spread their culture through Iran; instead, they should teach an "identity of independence, honor and religiousness."
Iran ranked 75th in the world (ahead of Azerbaijan, behind Sri Lanka) in a 2013 UN Development Report ranking education by the mean years of schooling and excepted years of schooling. Norway topped the list, while Niger was at the bottom. Iraq was 120th.
English is not the first language to come under the assault in Iran. In 2017, Iran’s intelligence agency banned publication of a Kurdish language instruction book, entitled "Reading and writing Kurdish Kurmanji."
Article 15 of the Iranian Constitution allows Kurdish and other spoken languages in the country to be used as languages of study, but implementation of the article has been difficult.
In the 2013 presidential election campaign, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government would work to gradually implement the article.