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Iran bans the teaching of English in primary schools, official says

Move comes after warnings by Islamic leaders that early learning of language opened way to western cultural invasion

Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior education official has said, after Islamic leaders warned that early learning of the language opened the way to a western 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.

The assumption is that in primary education the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid, he said.

The teaching of English usually starts in middle school in Iran, at the ages of 12 to 14, but some primary schools below that age also have English classes.

Some children also attend private language institutes after their school day, while children from more privileged families attending non-government schools receive English tuition.

Irans Islamic leaders have often warned about the dangers of a cultural invasion, and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, voiced outrage in 2016 over the teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools.

Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, said in a speech to teachers: That does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but [this is the] promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.

While there was no mention of the announcement being linked to more than a week of protests against the clerical establishment and government, Irans Revolutionary Guards have said that the unrest was also fomented by foreign enemies.

Quick guide

Telegram in Iran

Its hard to overstate the power of Telegram in Iran. Of its 80m population, an estimated 40m use the free app created by Russian national Pavel Durov. Its clients share videos and photos, subscribing to groups where everyone from politicians to poets broadcast to fellow users.

While authorities ban social media websites like Facebook and Twitter and censor others, Telegram users can say nearly anything. In the last presidential election, the app played a big role in motivating turnout and spreading political screeds.

Telegram touts itself as being highly encrypted and allows users to set their messages to self-destruct after a certain period, making it a favourite among activists and others concerned about their privacy. That too has made it a worry of Iranian authorities.

A channel run by an exiled journalist, Roohallah Zam, helped organise some of those who took to the street, including times and locations for protests, and was suspended by Durov after Iranian authorities complained that it was inciting violence.

Zam, who denies the allegations, responded by launching new channels to spread messages about upcoming protests before the government ordered the app shut down.

Iranian officials said 22 people were killed and more than 1,000 arrested during the protests that spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, as thousands of young and working-class Iranians expressed their anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.

A video of the announcement of the ban was widely circulated on social media on Sunday, with Iranians calling it the filtering of English, jokingly likening it to the blocking of the popular app Telegram by the government during the unrest.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/07/iran-bans-teaching-english-primary-schools-official-says

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