Rebuilding Education in Iraq

Rebuilding Education in Iraq

Education in Iraq and people who are changing it

Education in Iraq is scarce thanks to years of war and conflict. Now that Iraqi troops took back Mosul and Islamic State fighters are leaving Kurdish land, the need to rebuild begins. War, politics and economic turmoil have affected the education system in Iraq but also has the concern around human welfare. So many kids are stricken by poverty, no access to transportation, or other factors. The key to rebuilding starts with the education of the youth.


Background Information

According to The Middlebury Institute Site Network, education was not recorded until after the formation of Iraq.  Around 1920. Iraq was once the center for knowledge with some of the greatest scholars coming out of the area.  

The Sumerians were the first to introduce sexagesimal as a way to measure angles, coordination and time. In fact, the Sumerians helped create the circular division we see in clocks and spheres today. The Sumerians were a part of the Mesopotamian area known as modern-day Iraq and Kuwait. The creation of The Epic of Gilgamesh talked about the need for knowledge and education.

Written language can also be traced back to the Sumerians who created Cuneiform.  The golden age of Islam, under Abbasid rule, made Baghdad the center for knowledge and culture. Museums, hospitals, libraries and mosques were all created under this time.

According to Thought Company, “his period of glory has become known as the "Golden Age" of Islam. A time when scholars of the Muslim world made important contributions in both the sciences and humanities: medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, literature, and more.”

Jamileh Kharrazi
Illustration of Sumerians writing Via (Tes Teach)

No matter how booming the area of Iraq once was with education, the system in place in modern Iraq is barren.  Because of poor economic and social conditions, many of the people of Iraq lived in isolation. Different groups learned to be on their own, after 1920, with education seen as a way to bring everyone together.

According to International Center for Peace Studies, “The old Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Mosul and Basra, which constitute the Iraq of today, had been only slightly affected by the cultural revival witnessed by some other Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. Modern schools were very few in number and access to them was limited to a very small wealthy elite. Traditionally, religious institutions provided education, basically in the form of the Katatib (singular, Kuttab: elementary school) at which small children received basic religious education by a mullah. Though the system and content of education was unsuitable, the Katatib continued to serve as the principal centre of primary education until the end of the Ottoman rule and the passing of the country into British hands after the World War I”

However, illiteracy rates continued to rise as the rate of which education was introduced did not keep up with the growing population. This took a turn in 1970 when investment in the education system gave Iraqi people the right to education. It was based on the Provision Constitution. This marked a rise in literacy rates, strong framework and a 100% gross enrollment rate according to IRFAD.

Again, the system failed Saddam Hussein and the war against terror brought another period of unrest.


Education in modern day Iraq is still undeveloped like much of the country is. UNICEF released a report on Iraq’s education budget for 2015-2016 that showed only 5.7% of the government budget spent. This would put IRAQ at the bottom of Middle Eastern Countries effort on education.

جمیله خرازی
Boy stands next to what is left of his home in northern Iraq Via (Kurdistan24)

This has not stopped the efforts of some.

Aido Khiro Omar fled oppression as Islamic State radicals took over Sinjar, Iraq. This was a community for Yazidi religious Practitioners.  Omar was granted a scholarship to study at United World College, according to Hindustan Times. He hopes to better education chances for orphans in Iraq. A place where learning has been stalled by war and displacement.

UNICEF is looking to better education, access and quality across Iraq. They aim to help children displaced and host community children according to Medium. “UNICEF has mobilized tremendous resources to support the Government of Iraq to address education needs. In 2016 UNICEF helped an estimated 682,000 children access education.”

Hollywood has also begun mobilizing in the fight for equal education. George Clooney and his wife Amal took in a Yazidi refugee from Iraq. The boy was on a bus to Mosul when ISIS troops captured the bus. They threatened to shoot any who wanted to go to college.

According to Pop Sugar, Clooney told the Hollywood reporter, “He survived and came to America. He got through all the checks, and once he got through those, it was like, 'Listen, we got your back. You want to get an education? You want to move your life forward? This is something that we can do.'" The young man is now attending the University of Chicago.”

جمیله خرازی
George and Amal Clooney Via (Daily Mail)

The future of Iraq begins with reforming their education. Rebuilding structures for a safer schools, improving the quality of education and equal access is needed.

“Iraq has struggled with identity because of years of conflict,” said JK. “This does not mean that the nation can’t change with the help of allies like UNICEF and others who believe that everyone deserves an education for a brighter future.”

With an educated mass, a peaceful rebuilding of the once golden region can begin again.