Iran bans English being taught in primary schools

‘This is because the assumption is that, in primary education, the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid,’ says head of the state-run High Education Council

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei aims to stand up to ‘colonial expansionism’ and the ‘inculcation’ of Western values
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei aims to stand up to ‘colonial expansionism’ and the ‘inculcation’ of Western values

Iran has banned English from being taught in primary schools after the country’s Supreme Leader said learning the language in the early years paved the way for a Western “cultural invasion”.

A senior education official announced the language had been banned because the Iranian culture of students is established during primary level education.

In Iran, where Persian is the country’s official national language, primary school starts at the age of six and lasts for six years.

While the teaching of English generally starts in middle school in Iran – which students attend around the ages of 12 to 14 – some primary schools below that age also have English classes.

“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, said on state television late on Saturday.

He continued: “This is because the assumption is that, in primary education, the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid”.

He said non-curriculum English classes may also be blocked under the new rules.

Iran’s Shia-Islamist leaders have often issued pleas about the risks posed by a “cultural invasion”.

In 2016 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds the final say in all state matters, expressed fury about the “teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools”.

According to the text of that particular speech to teachers posted on a website run by his office, Khamenei said: “That does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but [this is the] promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.”

“Western thinkers have time and again said that instead of colonialist expansionism ... the best and the least costly way would have been inculcation of thought and culture to the younger generation of countries”.

It is worth noting that the quality of English education in schools has been deemed not satisfactory by many and most of the students are forced to take English courses privately in order to gain a better grip of the language.

Despite the fact there was no specific reference to the announcement coming after more than a week of protests against the clerical establishment and government, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have claimed the turmoil was also fuelled by foreign opponents.

Thousands of young and working-class Iranians showed their anger at unemployment and the growing polarisation between the upper echelons of society and those at the bottom living below the poverty line.

After six days of demonstrations, the Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday said it had deployed forces to quash unrest in three provinces where most of the trouble had occurred. This was the clearest indication authorities were taking the protests seriously.

The Revolutionary Guard was instrumental in suppressing an uprising over alleged election fraud in 2009 in which dozens were killed.

Iranian officials said the most recent protests which swept more than 80 cities and rural towns resulted in 22 people being killed and more than 1,000 being arrested.

Additional reporting from agencies

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