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The “Islamization” of Schooling: Iranians Can No Longer Study at Foreign Schools

October 27, 2023
3 min read
Students crying after they were banned from attending schools run by foreign embassies
Students crying after they were banned from attending schools run by foreign embassies
“My son who is just nine years old tells me he wants to leave Iran,” says the father of a student who can no longer allowed to attend his school
“My son who is just nine years old tells me he wants to leave Iran,” says the father of a student who can no longer allowed to attend his school

According to information received by IranWire, last week three schools run by the German, Italian and French embassies in Tehran sent notices to parents of children enrolled with them saying that Iranian and dual national students have been banned from attending these schools. “We did what we could to avoid this but the problem proved impossible to solve,” the notices said. The schools have all been active in Iran for decades.

The development is unexpected and comes a month after the school year had already started.

In a letter to the Iranian foreign ministry, Education Minister Yousef Nouri announced that it was “illegal” for Iranian students to attend schools that belong to foreign embassies. The letter led to the closure of these schools and left hundreds of students and their families with no place to turn. A little later, Abolfazl Kamali, director of the Education Ministry’s Office of International Affairs, went on television and, without explaining why Iranian students have been denied the right to attend these schools a month into the new school year, said: “We did not close these schools; we only made them law-abiding.”

IranWire spoke with several parents, some of whom are now considering sending their children abroad to continue their education, such as the parents of a nine-year-old student who told his father “I want to leave Iran” after he learned he could no longer attend his school.

The Islamic Republic seems to be changing its approach to school-age Iranians – especially after 2022 when students were one of the most important and active groups in nationwide protests. Besides their courage in expressing their views and beliefs, one of the characteristics of these students is their knowledge of the world beyond Iranian borders, possessing a clear idea of liberties that exist in democratic countries, and knowledge of languages other than Persian.

In May of this year, in a meeting with teachers, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addressed the educational policies of the Islamic Republic and told the assembled educators that they should revive an “Islamic identity” among their pupils. His statements led to new and serious changes in school curricula and policies as well as the content of textbooks.

Security Agencies Enforcing Educational Policies

A person who works for the Italian school in Tehran also told IranWire: “We did a lot of counselling so that, at least, this decision can be implemented gradually. We even got a letter that said Iranian students can continue to attend the school but, on Tuesday afternoon, a number of security agents and plainclothesmen came and demanded that the school be closed. Finally, the ambassador and the foreign ministry made it clear that the school can continue its activities only if Iranian and dual-national students are expelled.”

In a letter to the families of students, the Italian embassy told them: “It is with great regret that we have to inform you that from Sunday, October 22, Iranian students and even dual-nationals (Iranian and other countries) at all levels (kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school) will not be able to attend our school.”

For the past few months, some websites affiliated with the government, have been directing various criticisms at these schools “for the privileged”, including over their higher tuition fees.

Students Are The Victims

Expressing deep concerns about the situation of her daughter, Yalda’s mother told IranWire: “For the students who for years have studied in these schools with their special methods and content, a sudden change in the educational environment and content is definitely a big blow the education and the morale of these children. Unfortunately, however, the only thing that is ignored are the students themselves.”

A father of a student at the German school told IranWire: “The fact the we, on our own, denied Iranian students what foreigners can enjoy in Iran is an example of self-inflicted apartheid and, unfortunately, the embassies accepted it without any resistance.” But, he added, “Such orders cannot prevent generational cultural changes.”

The father sent IranWire a recording of sound of his child’s crying because he had been forced to say goodbye to his friends. “My son, who is just nine years old, tells me he wants to leave Iran,” the father added.

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