World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Iraqi Education Seven Years After Regime Change (371) - Roundtable

· Date: THU 22, 2.30-4.30 pm

· Institution: Cognitive Acceleration Associates, London (UK)

· Organizer: Mundher Al-Adhami

· Sponsored by: International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies (IACIS)

· Language: English

· Description: The roundtable addresses the current state of Iraqi higher and general education, and attempts to identify, or frame for further study, key issues in these sectors. Some of the distinctions in this complex field are: Which of these issues have only emerged as part of the invasion and occupation, and therefore pose challenges and problems that are intrinsically reliant for their solution on the political evolution of the country, i.e. on the politicians? Which issues are more endemic or historical, and therefore require policy and practice approaches for Iraqi education that are in the hands of Iraqi academics and professionals, irrespective of the political set up? And what is the possible role of communities and civil society outside the schools and universities, but are the constituents for education?
An organising principle for discussion in this roundtable across the main contributions is to formulate questions for research on Iraqi education. One set of questions relate to ways of validating positions taken by significant sections of the Iraqi public as well as foreign journalists and observers at time of extreme violence and deliberate lack of hard data and statistics. Another set of questions relate to ways Iraqi academics, teachers, students and their families are coping with the traumas they are passing through, and also of feasible solutions under conditions that are likely to persist for the medium term.

Chair: Dirk Adriaesens (Member Brussels Tribunal Executive Committee, Brussels)

Presenter: Professor Saad Naji Jawad (Department of International Studies, College of Political Sciences, Baghdad University), "State control, material provisions, and international contacts of Iraqi universities after regime change in 2003"
Saad Jawad looks at how the first few years of occupation exacerbated the problems in Iraqi universities, including those originating during the 13 years of sanction that preceded the 2003 invasion. He looks at this in terms of actual material provisions, extent of international contacts, and degree of political control. Under each of these headings he compares, from his first hand experience at Baghdad University from late 80s to about 2009, what was available under the dictatorship, and what the post invasion regimes offered. On the first he suggests that there is a real decline in the material support for all the functions of the national universities, inexplicable given the wealth of the country and the declarations of the occupying powers and the Iraqi governments. On the second he looks into the continuing isolation of Iraqi Universities from their international equivalents, and the inevitable continued decline in standards. On the third he suggest that the modest and indirect moves Iraqi higher education institutions like universities had made away from being mere professional training bodies for the state, to being national institutions with a degree of autonomy has been reversed. Some had argued that these developments were inevitable once the US abandoned the pre-occupation-prepared plans and switched to reliance on Iraqi allies organised on sectarian-ethnic quota line. Others argued that these may well be deliberate. Under each heading Dr Jawad suggest some key points to address for further research, but also some obvious requirements form educational management, based on what worked in the past in the country.

Presenter: Dr. Basim Al- Janabi (Department of International Studies, College of Political Sciences, Baghdad University), "Effects of militia violence after the 2003 occupation on the education process in Baghdad University".
Basim Swidan focuses on spread of violence to academia, of which he is a witness as a lecturer at the University of Baghdad. He looks first on the general effects of militia violence in the streets on the functioning of the universities, in terms of attendance and work of students, teachers and clerical staff. Then on the atmosphere within the university and how the armed groups outside campus interfered with normal flow of the academic process. One issue is what possible long-term effects the violence and intimidation have on the structures of university, whether in staffing or the curriculum. Fearful acquiescence of staff or corruption, have led to implementing arbitrary unworthy policies and decisions which normally can be ignored or diverted, as in any self-respecting institution attempting to preserve its identity and autonomy. What lessons are to be learned from this period, and what chances are there for such changes to be reversed, and for standards to be re-established?

Presenter: Mr. Mundher Al-Adhami (Director, Cognitive Acceleration Associates, London), "Priorities in Iraqi general education and teacher education after regime change"
Mundher Al-Adhami gives an overview of the problems in Iraqi general education, viewed in comparison with European and other advanced nations to which Iraq has aspired in the past. He addresses Primary and Secondary schools on the one hand, and the associated fields of teacher education and adult illiteracy on the other. He looks into three areas of priorities: school buildings, their locations and facilities including hygiene; educational management, including of examinations, staff appointment, inspection, and provisions; and the issues of pedagogy, in terms of both curriculum and teaching methods. In each of these areas he handles issues in relation to long term national re-building and development priorities, and the possible role of communities and civil society, implicitly assuming that the political dimension will be either negative or largely irrelevant and neglectful of education. He comes down on the need for initiatives on raising the levels in pedagogy through experimentation and the development of highly skilled core of teachers and other educators who focus on the development of thinking powers in youngsters across subjects rather than mere acquisition of extant knowledge. The implication is of the need for teacher training and in-service teacher education that addresses such tasks in a responsive, collaborative manner, based on socio-cognitive approaches.