Iran Education system needs a huge reform-2

In my last blog post, I talked about several problems in Iranian educational system. In this post, I want to clarify some of my points.

The first problem regarding to admission process for college studies in Iran is high inequality of opportunity in the system. As the country becomes richer and developed after the end of Iran-Iraq war, inequality increases in the country. One of the aspect of inequality which is harmful for economic growth and development of a country is inequality of opportunity. Inequality of opportunity means inequality in outcome due to circumstances beyond individuals’ control. For instance, inequality in outcome due to gender of individuals is unjust.

The university entrance exam (Concur) is one of the institutions in Iran education system which causes improvement in inequality of opportunity. Based on “Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) test (which is again a standard test but at least it gives us a measure to compare students worldwide!) Iran has great index of inequality of opportunity (IOP) in education outcome in the Middle East. This exam is held for students in eighth grade both in mathematics and science and Iran’s score in IOP is one of the largest one in the region. Although we don’t have access to data of Concur, the education system mechanism stimulate IOP in education outcome as students move forward in education system from one grade to upper grade. I try to explain the intuition behind that mechanism here.

All families and students know that if they want to be successful, they should be good in multiple choice exam and they should understand all high school materials in a way to answer entrance exam questions in the shortest time. So having a good skill in taking an exam with lots of multiple choice questions is vital. In addition, if a student gets admission from top ten university, she/he can be hopeful to get good job after graduation or have a chance to continue her/his education abroad. So those students who have educated parents or their parents can support them financially to go to good private high schools have more chance to be successful in Concur. While we know parental income or parental education is beyond an individual’s control and as a result it causes IOP.

The second problem related to Concur system is killing innovation and creativity among high school students. Those talented and diligent high school students prefer to study as much as they can during high school to get good points in Concur. At the end of the day, they will rank based on their scores in Concur, so there is no incentive among high school students to be creative, do innovative research, or be active in sport, art, and other extracurricular activities. I don’t want to say that high school students do not do these activities at all, my point is, ranking students just because of one score, give them a signal to be prepared for that exam only rather than doing other activities where they don’t have any point in their college admission.

The third problem is due to inefficient resource allocation due to this system. Part of this problem as I described in previous post is due to cultural problem but the other part is because of education system. When the system gives a signal to high school students that engineering and medical science is good, and then most of good students prefer to go to engineering school or medical school. Since each student can register and take Concur in only one field (Math, biology, Humanities, Art) even if the student finds engineering or medical studies boring and beyond his/her interest, he/she has long and hard time to change his/her major. If the student wants to quit the engineering college for instance and studies in sociology in the middle of his undergraduate studies, he should take Concur again in humanities field which is very risky and stressful. So if a person becomes disappointed by his undergraduate studies, most of people will decide to finish their undergraduate studies and earn a bachelor degree and continue in a field he really likes in graduate school (in Master’s level) which means that person loses at least 2 or three years of his life and his precious youth time. In addition, some of excellent universities in Iran do not offer courses in all fields. For instance Sharif University which is one the most prestigious and well known universities in Iran, is a polytechnic university and courses are offered only in Math, Physics, Chemistry and engineering fields, so if a student is in Sharif University, which means that student is really talented and diligent, s/he does not have any chance to be familiar with sociology, law, political science or even biology and business majors. As a result, that student might be very successful if s/he had a chance to study in business majors, but due to education system, s/he ends up with mediocre outcome!


Filed under education, gedivt, Iran

7 Responses to Iran Education system needs a huge reform-2

  1. Thanks for this very detailed explanation of the testing regime in Iran. I learned a lot reading it, and the exchange you had with Xiang and Milad last week was fascinating. I think tracking and using standardized tests to screen are really widespread practices globally, but it sounds like the particulars of Iran’s system present fiendish challenges for would-be reformers. Thanks again!

    • atiehv

      Thanks Dr Nelson for your comments and thanks for encouraging us in class to write blog posts. I have been thinking about education system in my country but never write it down. GEDI class helps me to write my opinions and think more deeply about various aspect of education system in my country. Thanks for giving us this opportunity!

      • You are welcome, Atiyeh, but give yourself the credit! Your blog is yours and will be what you make of it. I’m just grateful that I can share it with you this semester.

    • I do not like the stigma (regime, fiendish) for my country. You may have your own opinions and I respect them. But if any person wants to insult other countries and cultures, I believe that it is very far from humanities. My religion and my culture taught us to respect others and stand for our rights!

      • I don’t see any insult or any offense in my writing! If you don’t want to see any critique about the system in Iran, you are free not to read it but in long run, the system will collapse like other systems which do not get feedback and do not solve their problem whenever they should do!
        I myself love my country and because of that I wrote these two blog posts. Education is the most vital and important institution for improvement of a country and unfortunately education system in Iran does not work properly and in long run if it is not fixed, it will cause lots of problem for country!
        I see not insult in my posts, I think it is immoral if someone accuse a person for something s/he does not do that.

  2. I criticized the Iranian education system in Iran in my blog post as well.
    But, I believe that Atiyeh needs to state the scientific reason instead of superficial statements. For example, what is her statistical data for this claim: “Iran has great index of inequality of opportunity (IOP) in education outcome in the Middle East”
    She mentioned this statement: “inequality in outcome due to a gender of individuals is unjust”. I remember that a female American student in Preparing the Future Professoriate course told us that Iran has the most number of females in engineering schools. Atiyeh may look at the statistics and find that the 60% of admitted students in Iran are females.

    The best universities in Iran are public universities. Public universities are free and there are a lot of applicants (around 1 million) each year. All of them want to be admitted at Sharif University of Technology and University of Tehran. University if Tehran has all scientific fields and Atiyeh could select University of Tehran instead of the Sharif University of Technology. So, it is her fault. There is a counselor in each high schools and student can talk to them and ask them about their interested fields. So, if Atiyeh had a wrong decision, it is her fault.
    I do not know when Atiyeh left Iran, but the representatives of Parliament are working to change the entrance exam now. They want to use the GPA instead of the entrance exam.

    I always try to criticize the current situation of my country because I want to have a perfect country. But I always present alternatives as well. It is very easy to criticize but if we want to help our country it is much better to present alternatives as well.

    • It seems you don’t read my blog post and just try to write a comment based on what you imagine!

      I never said that there is inequality of opportunity based on GENDER in Iran. That sentence refers to definition of IOP to give some sense to reader of the post what I mean by using inequality of Opportunity and how it differs from inequality in outcome.

      About my statement in high IOP in Iran, I gave a reference in my post. the calculation is based on TIMSS data. If you read my post carefully, you would see the reference. The methodology of calculation is beyond the scope of this post and a weblog post, it is part of my doctorate dissertation and I just summarized my findings in one sentence. You can download TIMSS data and take a look at Iranian students performance there. I mentioned also that high IOP in Iran is mostly due to parental education and income and I never mention anything about gender. In fact IOP in education outcome based on gender is not an issue in Middle East any more at least in primary education.

      Interestingly, Education system in Iran works for me! I am very very happy to choose Sharif for my undergraduate and graduate studies and I am also happy with choosing mathematics and physics for my high school. However, my feeling does not guide me to be silent about that inefficient and crappy education system we have in Iran. When the quality of most of universities are horrible, this is not the fault of students to choose the best one. This is the fault of the system that could not provide higher education in acceptable standard. I don’t know about your high school but in most high schools in Iran either we don’t have counselor or the counselors don’t know exactly what should s/he do. I think this is the deficiency of the system that allocate resources so ineffectively not the fault of students.

      About the GPA, they are talking about this alternative at least more than a decade. But I don’t see any effective policy yet! In addition, in my view, proposing an alternative needs information, data, expert knowledge and it is not trivial that each person wants to propose an alternative for such an essential problem we have. I don’t see enough expert in myself to just open my mouth and say something about the alternative. Although I have worked on economic education, proposing effective alternatives need deep knowledge and information. Unfortunately, even the simplest data for doing that are not available for researchers. Substituting GPA with Concur is not an alternative in my view and it will not solve the problem (it may alleviate part of the problem and it may cause other problems as well)

      I think and I believe it is important to understand and realize the nature of the problem before designing an alternative or a policy. In my view, criticizing a system in a true way is not as easy you described! And understanding a problem through a valid critique is a starting point to find a suitable policy and solution. In the last two posts I try to describe the system and its problems and I think my critiques are based on reality. By saying “choosing university x instead of y is the fault of a student”, nothing is solved ever!
      Just as an example, the best Iranian students choose electrical engineering in Sharif University for their undergraduate studies and more than any other majors, students with electrical engineering bachelor may change their field for graduate school: In my view, this is the weakness of system which allocate its resources in a bad way not the fault of those diligent students who study so hard and they don’t have enough information at the time they want to enter to college.

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