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Baghdad Educational Symposium Begins

More than 250 Iraqi education, business, civic, political and religious leaders gathered today in Baghdad for the first day of a two day symposium on the future direction of Iraq's educational system. The symposium continues the nationwide dialogue on education reform and curriculum begun by the Ministry of Education in 2003 and will specifically focus on the critical issue of reforming Iraq's education

According to Dr. Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, one of four members of the Iraqi Governing Council attending the symposium, "It is easy to rebuild infrastructure, the harder task is to rebuild the person to take his place in a free Iraq." According to IGC member Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq's new educational system and curriculum must "teach individuals respect for humanity." "Changing Iraq's curriculum is a holy duty," concluded Chalabi

During the symposium, Dr. Ala'din Alwan, the Iraqi Minister of Education, presented a new paper on the future process and framework for curriculum reform. According to the paper, "curriculum reform is considered one of the basic pillars of improving the quality of education" in Iraq. A translated copy of the curriculum reform working paper is enclosed below.

Following the presentation, the symposium's 250 attendees broke into working groups to discuss the proposals laid out in the curriculum paper. During the symposium's second day, attendees will report back on their working group discussions and make recommendations on how best to move forward with the much needed reforms.

March 30, 2004

Ministry of Education, Iraq

Second National Seminar On Strategies and Curriculum Reform
of the New Education System

Proposals for the General Framework and Recommended Methods for Education Curriculum Reform and Development Project in Iraq

In the past few months, a study undertaken by the Ministry of Education on the current state of education identified the problems and challenges the education sector faces. Of these problems, the most important are those related to the education curriculum and its characteristics under the former regime. As a result of the extreme centralization of the system itself, the curriculum can be described as being static, harsh, and highly politicized in terms of the elements and goals of the curriculum. In design, there is a lack of compatibility between the curriculum and the needs of the workforce. The current system must also face the challenges of correcting outdated teaching methods, negative learning, rote memorization without deep comprehension, and its distance from modern instructional methods that have been proven effective on the world stage.
In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Education has approved a new direction for the education policy which aims at improving the overall quality of education. This new policy will allow Iraq to catch up to the level of the high performing countries in the area of education. With new instructional methods for primary and secondary teachers, we will improve the skills, abilities, and position of this group. Curriculum reform is considered one of the basic pillars of improving the quality of education. With significant reform we will be able to achieve a better fulfillment of the needs of the workforce and of continuous development. The Ministry of Education has adopted, since the beginning of the rebuilding efforts in 2003, the following principles in terms of reviewing and modernizing the curriculum:

One:- The education reform process must be based on objective study and evaluation of the current situation, and a precise diagnosis of the problems of the current system and the obstacles facing reform and rebuilding.
Two:- In order to guarantee the participation of all sectors of Iraqi society in the reform process, the responsibility of reforming the education system must extend beyond the Ministry of Education and its institutions.
Three:- All decisions concerning reform of the curriculum must be strictly Iraqi and in line with Iraqi values and culture.

With this third principle, we must mention that the curriculum development process is part of a comprehensive education reform movement that aims at a proper building of the Iraqi personality. This would include enlightened religious upbringing, the establishment of and appreciation for the values of democracy, free speech, human rights, justice, equality, and tolerance. It would also discourage sectarianism and racism. The new curriculum will emphasize the role of education in continuous development and become responsive to the needs of the workforce. It will embrace the scientific method, encourage critical thinking, and adopt modern instructional methods that have been proven effective. The new curriculum will also address adult education, and a program for erasing illiteracy. All of these elements will help us make full use of our human resources and ultimately support the national economy.

Curriculum Reform and Development: Why Now?

Today, the Iraqi education sector faces big challenges as a result of a general decline in education quality during the last two decades and the loss of many educated people. With the end of the policies of the previous regime and the entry of Iraq into a new era, the time has come to work on pulling the education system from the hole it has fallen into. This will require the complete rebuilding of its institutions and structures There is a dire need to reform the curriculum for the following reasons:

* The change in the political and economic system, and its effect
on social life and the job market.
* The politicization of education, which requires filtering out
political pressure, propaganda, and violent tendencies from the curriculum.
* The decline of the education system and the high rates of
dropouts and repetition.
* The weakness and lower quality of graduates.
* A new openness to international experiences and instructional
methods after a long period of being closed off.

What Do We Want: Education Reform or Curriculum Development?

Education reform encompasses many basic issues that require agreement on the national level. Developing the philosophy of education and setting the goals of education are crucial aspects of this reform. Reform efforts must also focus on improving the quality, preparation, and training of elementary and secondary educators. Finance and management of the education system are areas that must also be addressed. These issues have greatly influenced the approved education curricula.
Part of the curriculum reform and development will require the review of textbooks and the topics in them. Textbooks must be modernized and reoriented to respond better to both the needs of the student learner and to the needs of national development. Textbook review and improvement will help Iraq to catch up to higher performing countries in the area of education.
During this critical period of Iraqi history, we believe that rebuilding the education system requires comprehensive education reform. This results in developing the education curriculum and modernizing it, which is a task that requires a comprehensive review of all elements of the system. Identifying an education philosophy, establishing a curriculum, reviewing textbook topics are instrumental to this process. In addition, we must redirect education policy, identify our goals, improve education management, and strengthen our finances.

What do we want to Accomplish as a Result of Change and Development?

* Students to obtain the knowledge, abilities, and skills that
enable them to obtain information from multiple sources and to apply knowledge through analysis and logical thinking.
* A curriculum that supports and is responsive to the needs of the
workforce and aids in the comprehensive development and transformation of Iraq into a knowledge-based economy.
* An expansion of the concept of curriculum to be broader than the
textbook alone: to include knowledge, trends, and skills that the student must acquire inside and outside school.
* Students who are able to master modern fields, especially in the
areas of science, math, languages, and information and communication technologies.
* The general inclusions of modern values and principles,
especially those related to citizenship such as democracy, justice, equality, tolerance, and social cohesion.

What are the Main Issues that must be considered?

* The depth and breadth of the curriculum.
* The balance in the content of the curriculum (i.e. the topics
and the details).
* The cohesion and balance of various subjects, the result of
which is a comprehensive and complete education program.
* The relationship between curriculum content, tradition, culture,
and national beliefs.
* The linkage between the needs of the workforce and the needs of
* The relationship between a knowledge society and globalization.

The General Framework of the Curriculum Development Project

The Essential Steps

1. To conduct a complete analysis of the current state of the education sector and
identify the direction of education policy for both short and long term strategies

2. To familiarize ourselves with examples of curriculum development from other parts of
the world and to prepare proposals regarding the method of curriculum reform

3. To conduct a national seminar on curriculum reform and development

4. To establish a national commission to oversee curriculum development project, set
educational goals and work parameters, and to follow up on implementation of the
project and to prepare a draft of the general guidelines of the new curriculum to be
presented to the education council. (Members of this commission are chosen from
among the educators, scholars, university professors, political and social
individuals, who have an interest in education and teaching).

5. To create specialized work groups from among university faculty, education
specialists, and practitioners, who have experience and knowledge of curriculum preparation and evaluation.

6. To specify the sources that will be used during reform, including prior experiences,
new developments in education and teaching, and the results of research regardless of

7. To conduct a detailed analysis of the curriculum to identify areas of weakness and
strength. Areas in need of reform will require a plan for the new curriculum

8. To prepare broad outlines for the curriculum at various developmental stages (early
childhood, elementary, secondary, and vocational)* that include the philosophical,
scientific, and psychological aspects, as well as the general goals of the education plan
for every stage. (This will also include the major elements of curriculum content in
addition to the education methods, tools, activities, learning materials, and the
measurements that will be used to oversee the implementation and evaluation of the
* The goals of each education level encompass what knowledge and skills the student is expected to master.

9. To put the new curriculum and topics in place and to make the necessary revisions.
(These suggestions will come from content area specialists who have a high
level of skill, long experience, and a good reputation, and who will be chosen by
specialized work groups, according to the broad guidelines of the various subjects).

10. To review the proposed draft curriculum by the specialized groups, to make any
revisions to it and to present it in its final form to the education commission, so that it may be studied and approved. In this stage the following matters must be addressed:

* The compatibility of the content with the specified goals.
* The content must depend on the means of developing analytical
thinking and interpretive abilities, encouraging self motivated learning, and rejecting rote learning and dry lecturing.
* Taking into consideration the situation of the student and
focusing on the problems that arise from his circumstances.
* It needs to provide descriptive material such as explanatory
graphs and tables.
* The material is written to the appropriate level for the

11. To create specialized teams for writing, from among the specialists, supervisors, and
teachers for each core subject and grade level addressed by the general guidelines of
the curriculum document .

12. To prepare effective teaching tools designed to ensure comprehensive coverage of all
the topics in the guidelines.

13. To prepare the necessary requirements for each textbook, including the technical
requirements, instructions and conditions required of the printers.

14. To prepare the necessary training programs in the new curriculum for all elementary
and secondary teachers


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