Reforming School Curriculum Project
Concern over Iraq’s educational curriculum was raised at the first dialogue among civic and political leaders from Christian, Shebak, Yazidi, and Sabean-Mandean communities in January 2010.
Historically, the education system had marginalized and ignored minority communities, often referring to the mosaic of Iraqi society as “Arabs, Kurds, and others.” Reforming the curriculum to recognize these communities, acknowledge their culture and contribution to Iraqi history and society, and dispelling some of the stereotypes and falsehoods against them was deemed a priority objective. This objective might not only improve the situation for these communities (under the theory that the existing ignorance bred bigotry and contempt), but also educate all Iraqi youth on the nation’s diversity to strengthen inter-communal tolerance and trust.
The goal of the project is to reform school curriculum for elementary and intermediate stages in a way that constitute for a new national culture that enhances concepts of peaceful coexistence and partnership among various components of Iraqi society, and contributes to the promotion of social and political stability in the country. The specific goals of the project are:
-Assessing the gaps and problems with the existing curriculum
-As a group, agreeing on an alternative curriculum that adequately conveys the existence and contributions of Iraq’s smaller components
-Drafting alternate curricula consistent with the agreed upon recommendations of AIM
-Working with Iraqi officials to adopt AIM’s recommendations
-Successful incorporation of AIM’s recommended curriculum
AIM approached the Ministry of Education with a unified front in the beginning of 2012 and reached an agreement to cooperate on reforming school curriculum. The project, which involved elementary and intermediate grades (grades 5-9) and four subjects (history, geography, civics, and Arabic language) envisioned two phases.
On April 27, 2012, the Alliance of Iraqi Minorities (AIM) held a conference in Erbil, Iraq to present the findings and recommendations of its six month project, funded and supported by United State Institute of Peace (USIP), to reform Iraq’s educational curriculum as it relates to Iraqi minorities. Attending the conference were AIM members and representatives of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Human Rights, Council of Representatives Education Committee, and Baghdad Provincial Council. At the end of the conference, participants were able to announce specific reforms that include explicit naming and recognition of Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, Shabak, and Sabean-Mandeans in the educational curriculum for the first time in Iraq’s history.
The 2012 text books were released in September 2012. As expected, many (but not all) of the reforms and additions were present in the new curricula. Additional changes were also promised for the 2013 text books.
AIM’s curriculum reform project is a success for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, Sabean-Mandaens, and Shebak, as well as the nation as a whole. For the first time in Iraqi history these communities were formally recognized- their culture, religion, historical figures, and historical contributions depicted favorably, and their holy texts portrayed side by side with the holy Koran. In the words of one AIM member, “every Iraqi child will now know who we are, and with knowledge will come tolerance and peace.”