People and Society, Education
Hamedan, urban system, Esfahan, eligible age, Islamic revolution
Public primary education was introduced in Iran after the country’s first constitution was drafted in 1906. Predominantly an urban system, it expanded only gradually and did not include secondary education until 1925. At the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution, only 60 percent of Iranian children of primary school age, and less than 50 percent of those of secondary school age, were enrolled in public schools; overall adult literacy was only 48 percent. Since 1979 the government has given a high priority to education, with programs focusing on adult literacy, new school construction, and expansion of public colleges and other institutes of higher education. By 2001 literacy for all Iranians aged 15 and older had reached 94.6 percent. The literacy rate was higher for males (96.6 percent) than for females (92.5 percent); the rate was also higher in cities than in rural areas.
Both the public education system and an expanding private school system consist of a five-year primary school cycle, a three-year middle school cycle, and a four-year high school cycle. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 11. All villages now have at least a primary school, and 89.6 percent of primary school-aged children were enrolled in school in 1996. Dropout rates begin during middle school and increase significantly during high school. In 1996 only 74.2 percent of secondary school-aged children were enrolled in secondary school. Dropout rates are significantly higher in rural areas, where there is a shortage of high schools within easy commuting distance. Although educational opportunities for girls improved after the revolution, the dropout rate is still higher for girls. Although 87 percent of girls of eligible age attended primary school, only 69 percent attended secondary school.
Iran has more than 30 tuition-free public universities and many other institutes of higher learning. These include medical universities and specialized colleges providing instruction in teacher training, agriculture, and other subjects. In all, only 17 percent of Iranians of relevant age were enrolled in institutions of higher learning in 1996. Tehran serves as a center for higher education, with more than 15 universities and numerous colleges and institutes. Other important universities are located in Hamedan, Esfahan, Shiraz, and Tabriz. In addition to the public system, Iran has a private system of higher education that consists of theological colleges and the Islamic Free University, which has been developing campuses in cities throughout the country since its establishment in the late 1980s.
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