Sunday, August 19, 2007

UNESCO Supports Iraqi Education

The Director General of UNESCO has submitted a report on the Cultural and Educational Institutions in Iraq in preparation for the next meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board. He reports on progress achieved by UNESCO in contributing to ongoing reconstruction and development efforts by the United Nations in Iraq since June 2006. He states in introducing the report:
The period of reporting was characterized by a highly volatile security situation despite stepped-up security measures. Escalating sectarian violence, as well as violence targeting journalists, artists, academics, teachers and students were of particular concern to UNESCO. On 13 June 2007, a second bombing at the Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra destroyed two 36-metre high minarets. The first bombing, which occurred in February 2006, had destroyed the golden dome of the shrine and sparked inter-sectarian violence throughout the country. The second bombing is stirring fears for renewed inter-community tensions, including further attacks on religious sites and monuments. The phenomenon of targeted violence affecting professionals and academics continued, with over 830 documented murders of university academics, medical doctors, journalists, media workers, lawyers, as well as teachers and students. Through advocacy, research and the development of professional support and solidarity networks, UNESCO sought to raise continuous attention on this matter within the international community.

The number of displaced populations both internally and to neighboring countries have reached unprecedented levels. According to reports by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 1.9 million persons are now internally displaced and 2 million have left Iraq temporarily for neighbouring countries. This situation creates important humanitarian needs as large population groups suffer from problems of access to basic services. Of particular concern to UNESCO is the continued access to education for displaced schoolchildren, as well as the conditions and status of Iraqi teachers and academics who have left the country.
With respect to education the report states:
During the period under review, education remained the main area of UNESCO assistance to Iraq. Assistance focused on capacity-development of the Ministry of Education (MoE), of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR), as well as of the provincial directorates to support educational planning and management, as well as effective service delivery. Within the United Nations Country Team for Iraq based in Amman, UNESCO continued acting as deputy cluster coordinator for Cluster B (Education and Culture), chaired by UNICEF. UNESCO was also an active member of the Education Sector Working Group (SWG), which meets in Baghdad under the chairmanship of the Iraqi Minister of Education (MoE).

UNESCO started three new projects in the field of education, one on Training of trainers in teacher education for sustained quality education ($2.3 million), and one ICT in education ($1.9 million) thanks to contributions from the European Commission (EC) through the UNDG Trust Fund. The third project, also funded through the UNDG Trust Fund, is a component of the Local area development programme ($30 million total), an inter-agency programme which focuses on three localized areas of Iraq. The programme aims at working with local partners to stimulate local economic development, generate short-term and sustainable employment using labour intensive approaches and improve the service delivery capabilities of local authorities in the three selected areas. UNESCO’s activities within the programme ($3.23 million) focus on strengthening capacities for delivering opportunities for vocational training. Finally, several projects approved in 2004 were operationally completed in December 2006, while three projects are still ongoing.

9. The following three projects funded by the UNDG Trust Fund for Iraq were completed:
• Textbooks quality improvement project ($7.1 million, EC funds under UNDG Trust Fund). Following the successful completion of the printing and distribution of 9 million school textbooks in March 2006, focus was put on strengthening in-country capacities for future textbook development. Hence, a Prepress Centre was set up in Baghdad and training organized for MoE staff on the principles of writing and designing textbooks. UNESCO also established a Textbooks/CDs Library, and contributed to the formulation of a National Textbooks Printing and Distribution Policy.

• Education management information system – EMIS ($1.5 million, earmarked funds to UNESCO from Japan through the UNDG Trust Fund). As a direct result of the equipment and capacity-building provided under this project, the educational data for four directorates have been compiled and the EMIS was used to develop indicators and produce statistical reports. The instructional material developed earlier in cooperation with the Open University Worldwide was translated into Kurdish and made available in July 2006.

• In-service training of secondary-school teachers of science, mathematics and English language ($2.35 million, funded by Japan under the UNDG Trust Fund). By March 2007, the "Institute of Educational Training and Development" at the MoE in Baghdad had been fully equipped with film, projection and editing material for classroom observation for teacher training purposes. Training material was also produced and mentors trained on the use of new material and methods in intermediate and secondary schools.
Ongoing projects included:
• Training of trainers in teacher education for sustained quality education ($2.3 million, EC funds under the UNDG Trust Fund). Under this project, five of ten master trainers in peace, democracy and human rights are currently studying in Turin, Italy. Master trainers in English language and in computer skills attended training courses in Amman in March 2007. The first Teacher Training Network for Iraq (TTNI) Steering Committee meeting took place in May 2007, with a view to launching the Teacher Training Network for Iraq, establishing a work plan for the implementation of the remaining capacity-building programmes under the project and formulating a national strategic action plan for teacher training in Iraq.

• The project Strengthening secondary education in Iraq ($4.7 million, EC funds under the UNDG Trust Fund) focused on training on specific aspects related to the reconstruction and reform of secondary education, such as: low-cost equipment for science education; laboratory skills and competencies for science teachers, library supervision, and the development of science experiment manuals. As a result, teacher experiment manuals in physics, chemistry and biology were developed. Also, furniture, equipment and materials for science laboratories and school libraries are being provided and installed.

• The Literacy and life skills development project ($2.3 million, earmarked funds to UNESCO from Japan through the UNDG Trust Fund). One national literacy resource centre (NLRC) in Baghdad and three community learning centres (CLCs) in the cities of Baghdad, Dyala and Samawa have been established, including refurbishment of the centres and provision of furniture and equipment. A training for non-formal education (NFE) facilitators, animators and volunteers on the function of CLCs and NLRCs was organized (Cairo, July 2006), and so was an expert group meeting to formulate the national NFE policy paper (Amman, December 2006).

• Revitalization of technical and vocational education and training in Iraq ($3 million, funded by Japan and the European Commission under the UNDG Trust Fund). MoE instructors were trained on programme design and review of equipment specifications, while training material was prepared by international experts for the following vocational disciplines: electronics, sewing, agriculture, communication, electrics, automotive, mechanics, food service and production and construction. UNESCO is currently in the process of delivering the last lots of supplies and equipment to the MoE, which are expected to be distributed and installed in the different vocational centres by September 2007.
In the field of higher education, all activities under the “International Fund of higher education in Iraq” are being completed. The Fund, which benefited from a generous $15 million donation from the First Lady of Qatar, was a major contribution to the reconstruction of main universities in Iraq, through the provision of equipment for laboratories, reference materials to libraries and textbooks to students. In addition, more than 300 short-term fellowships were granted to university professors and students, of which 157 have already completed their programme and are back in Iraq with new knowledge and skills.

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