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Iran bans English in primary schools fearing ‘cultural invasion’

School pupils in Iran [Reuters]
School pupils in Iran [Reuters]

Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior official has said, in order to stop the spread of “cultural invasion”.

“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run high education council, told state television over the weekend.

“In primary schools, the foundations should be laid to promote Farsi and Iranian culture,” Navid-Adham said.

The ban on English comes on the back of anti-government protests which has seen 21 people dead. Though the move may be unrelated to demonstrations, it can cause “despair” said a reformist politician reported by the Financial Times. “It is not even do-able, with [many] families prioritising English in their children’s education,” he said.

Read: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says unrest fomented by foreign enemies defeated

In the Iranian education system learning a foreign language, as well as Arabic, is compulsory in high school. English classes usually start after the age of 12 but many primary schools have included the subject in their syllabus. Some students attend private language classes after school while more privileged families attending non-government schools receive English tuition.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticised his country’s education system in 2016 for favouring English over other foreign languages. “Is it logical to promote their language with our own money?” he asked. Spanish, French and German could also be taught, he said, while insisting he did not mean to “stop teaching English at schools tomorrow”.

According to Khamenei it was “unhealthy” to have just English as the main foreign language.

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