Today, the Iraqi Ministry of Education is directly responsible for pre-university education in most areas of the country, employing a teaching-staff of nearly 300,000. A semi-autonomous education ministry in the northern Kirkuk province serves the nation’s Kurdish population, and the Ministry of Higher Education oversees all college and university studies throughout the country. Children begin with six years of compulsory primary education followed by six years of secondary (intermediate and high school) education. Upon completion of the primary phase, national examinations are administered that determine whether or not a student will continue schooling at the intermediate and high school levels. Those who do not pass the exam are required to attend vocational schools; those who do pass enter seventh grade. Education then becomes segregated by gender.
In most areas of the country, students have three class periods per week of Islamic education. Previously, Islamic Studies classes and Qur’an classes were taught as two separate class sessions at all levels preceding university. The two classes have now been merged into one Islamic Studies and Qur’an class for grades one through six, meaning that students are now dedicate half as much time to Islamic courses during their primary education. Students who are not Muslim are not required to attend these religion classes, however some have expressed feeling pressured to do so. Depending on the location and number of non-Muslim students at a particular school, courses in other religions, such as Christianity, may be offered. Private schools, such as Al-Massara School for Girls run by the Eastern Orthodox Church, are now operating in the country after having attained licenses from the Director General of Private and Public Schools.
Next: Higher Education