Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Positive Step for Iraqi Education and Communication

Installation of a transmission unit

The Iraqi education and communication network received a large boost yesterday as UNESCO and the Education Minister of Iraq launched the Iraqi Educational TV Channel (IRAQ EDU). This channel will run 24 hours a day on NILESAT at 10775 Hz; it will broadcast programs based on Iraqi school curriculum. Its focus is primary and secondary students within and outside of Iraqi.

This project, funded by the European Union for US$6.5 million, aims to act as a way to counter the high security risks many students feel in attending school. These risks have led to high rates of absenteeism and the subsequent closing of schools. They have also contributed to low initial enrollments rates. In fact, data from UNICEF-Iraq show initial enrollment rates were around 46% in 2006, and the Ministry of Education reported only 28% of 17-year-olds sat for their final exams that same year.

However, there is much optimism about this new measure. It is particularly interesting to note that IRAQ EDU will emphasize peace and tolerance in its programs. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, indicated this and the other contributions IRAQ EDCU will make could certainly"inspire initiatives in other countries and regions that are in conflict or post-conflict situations."

And it seems that there is certainly work to be done to restore the Iraqi educational system to its former regional eminence. In the early 1980s, the Iraqi educational system was seen as one of if not the best in the region. UNESCO reported Gross Enrollment Rates around 100% and illiteracy rates for ages 15 to 45 less than 10%; yet there has been constant instability ever since.

Yet the war with Iran in the mid-1980s, the Gulf War, and the instability beginning in 2003 have left the educational system tattered to say the least. Class size can average in size of 100 students, teachers face constant threats of violence, and the scheduled curriculum may be rarely finished or addressed. Although many positive programs have been enacted, much more clearly needs to be done. It is initiatives such as IRAQ EDU that may provide another way to access this deserving population: the children of Iraq.

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