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Officials Express Concern over Illiteracy Conditions: Ten Million Iranians Cannot Read or Write

Niusha SaremiBy Niusha Saremi, Rooz Online

According to the latest official statistics provided by Iran, there are now some ten million Iranians who cannot read or write at all. The Markaze Sarshomarie Amar (Statistical Center) 14 percent of people over the age of 6 and seven percent of individuals between the ages of 10 and 49 are illiterate. Ali Bagherzadeh, the head of Iran’s literacy organization (Sazemane Nehzate Savadamoozi) expressed his concern over these figures and called them “disturbing.”

In addition to the alarming statistics on illiterates, the number of individuals who are classified as having low levels of literacy is also very high. According to the official figures published by the UN Human Development program in 2010, about 61 percent of women and 43 of men over the age of 25 in Iran have completed middle school or less.

One expert on educational issues in Iran said that while the figures on literacy in Iran are not accurate, “Officials have acted poorly regarding identifying illiterate individuals and groups. During polling, many illiterate individuals may not admit that they cannot read or write.” According to him, anyone who can read the Quran is deemed to be literate whereas this person may not be able to read a single sentence in another source.

The Literacy Movement

Despite the creation of the Literacy Movement organization some three decades ago, whose goal was to eradicate illiteracy, current statistics speak of a crisis in the country in this regard. When Rooz inquired a specialist on the causes of this failure, he said, “The literacy movement performed relatively well in the first years of its formation. Subsequently, however it appeared as if the organization lost its direction and failed to identify who are the illiterate and thus provide them with an education. Instead of focusing on villages and provincial towns that had deprived populations, the organization focused on the large towns and cities, which in fact needed less such support.”

He continued, “Had the organization devised good plans during these 30+ years, illiteracy would have been eradicated in Iran. But we see that this did not happen and if they do not change their current approach, illiteracy will not be eradicated in the future as well.”

The Literacy Movement was created in 1979 on orders from ayatollah Khomeini for the purpose of providing literacy to adults and children who had no access to schools.

The Role of the Ministry of Education

Experts in the field point out that this issue is not related to adults alone. The number of children who have been left behind in education too is alarming. Recently, the parliament’s research center issued a disturbing report on the 2006 census. According to the report, “There are over 3.2 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 who been deprived of education. These individuals have either not gone to school at all or have dropped out.”

The literacy statistics that the ministry of education releases however present a completely different and contradictory picture. It says that only about 5 percent of eligible children have not attended school while villages have continued their classes even if there was just one student attending a class. In reality however, many villages have schools only up to grade 5, which has been cited as the cause of children not pursuing their education.

This education specialist points out that “At this level it is the responsibility of the ministry of education to ensure the existence of classes at this level and beyond.” He adds that in every country in the world the ministry of education is tasked with providing education to the population of 6 to 18 year olds. “In other words, the literacy program is merely a complement to the work of the ministry of education. Unfortunately, this ministry does not even provide accurate information on the number of children without education. I have been to many villages where classes exist only up to ninth grade. And since children students cannot leave their villages or parents and move to cities or towns, they simply drop out when no classes for them exist. Are these students not deprived of an education?”

Does Literacy Mean the Ability to Read and Write?

As human society has changed, so has its definition of literacy. Traditionally, any person who could read, write and add in one language was considered literate. Today, however, the ability to simply read and write no longer constitutes literacy, according to this specialist. “Today, a literate person is he who can not only read and write and add, but also someone who has the ability to participate in his society/community and develop his life to higher levels. In addition, in advanced societies and the current world, a citizen must also have specialized expertise in some field, especially in new technologies, communications and foreign languages. He needs this to have a better life. Some even add the ability to uses the Internet to the literacy criteria.”

Even if we not apply the modern definition of literacy, Iran not only lags behind at the global level but ranks poorly even at the regional level marking it behind countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Kuwait. This is despite the goal that is outlined in Iran’s Development Vision document which states that Iran should lead the region in science and technology by the year 2025.

... Payvand News - 07/10/13 ... --

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