White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Iranian Education System

Rodman writes from Iran:

"An admired friend of mine told me last night that undergrad is not for learning, it's for gaining experience for life. You know, getting away from the family for the first time and beginning to become mature as a person. And as long as you get that useless degree at the end you have accompolished the mission. These words really made me feel better. At least another being in the universe thinks that I haven't wasted nearly six years of my life at the university."

He's right. I don't mean his point is right about undergrad studies, but his point is completely understandable based on what I know about the Iranian education system!

His posting suddenly brought all my memories about the dry Iranian education system and the sense of depression that most of the time I felt in that system. I lived in Iran till age 20 and I tasted both Iranian highschool and university (for one year) and I tasted the stress of the Iranian Konkoor (National University Entrance Test) which at least had a good result for me. Iranian education system is to large extent still stuck with the old fashion dry seminary school style filled with punishment and minimal level of support and appreciation. It's totally biased towards creating a few elite students and whoever that is not in the top 10%, is practically treated as a looser and should not survive in that system. The government spends some money to find those few elite and hard working ones and send them to international competitions for Math, Physics, etc. and the remaining students should deal with a system with minimal evaluation and change. In that system teachers and university profs survive with no scientific evaluation of their teaching performance and what students say do not affect anything. Most of university professors have a lifetime position (if they're politically right) and they expect students to respect them with no reservation. Let me make it clear that here I do not want to discredit the effort that these folks are putting in the academic circles of Iran (which has minimal payoff for them too). My problem is with an unhealthy atmosphere of debate between instructors and students which results in a continuous sense of emptiness and disappointment in students.

Why the general mentality of our education system does not catch up with the world and still is a very militaristic system? We keep talking about democracy and democratization of Iranian government, while in the top cultural institutions of our country which are supposed to be the exporters of the knowledge and understanding, there is not a democratic debate going on? I believe it's naive to blame everything on the political state of the country.

I have been truly lucky to taste the American education system which is filled with honesty and support for every inch of hard work and of course my judgment is biased towards the American way as I haven't tried any system which is somewhere between Iran and US. Of course, I agree that the American system is too much laid back and specially in American highschools, students have too much of freedom and practically learn very little (comparing with Iran). But in practice American schools are running by a democratic process of continuous evaluation. There might be a little bit of politics here and there, but in general the system tries its best to offer support for hard work. I can not see the reason for this difference only in the financial or political differences of two countries. I have seen very poor state universities in US that their budget is way bellow many Iranian top universities (a rational comparison). But still healthy debate atmosphere between students and professors holds in those schools.

The discussion of Iranian Education System is quite long and needs to be done in more depth by looking into several aspects of it. But it's a very important issue which affects the general public discourse in our society very much. I promise to continue this discussion in the future and I appreciate your comments.
Weblog Trackback by HaloScan.com