Iran, banning English teaching in primary schools

View of the Tehran Iran

The head of the state-run High Education Council, Mehdi Navid-Adham, said to local TV on Sunday that English classes in primary schools are "against laws and regulations".

'This is because the assumption is that, in primary education, the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid'.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has previously lambasted the spread of English to younger students, though the language has persisted as citizens in the Islamic Republic use it to connect to the global community in academia, business and other fields.

In Iran, English is regarded as a gateway to new knowledge in areas like science, economics and literature, to help students develop functional communication skills, and to pass worldwide tests.

However, Narguess Farzad, Senior Fellow in Persian at the School of Oriental and African studies in London, thinks that despite the ban English will still occupy an important part in Iranian society and young Iranians "will find ways of learning it". English classes usually start after the age of 12 but many primary schools have included the subject in their syllabus. He has repeatedly said that teaching English to children from an early age could lead to "western cultural infiltration". Some students attend private language classes after school while more privileged families attending non-government schools receive English tuition.

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In the Iranian education system learning a foreign language, as well as Arabic, is compulsory in high school. But he had little power to stop the ban.

'Western thinkers have time and again said that instead of colonialist expansionism the best and the least costly way would have been inculcation of thought and culture to the younger generation of countries'.

The move comes amid significant turmoil in Iran.

The ban on English comes on the back of anti-government protests which has seen 21 people dead.

Ayatollah Khamenei blamed unspecified external "enemies" for the unrest.