A sustainable future for Iraq’s education systems

In three years, the Support to Improving the Quality of Education in Iraq project has made incredible gains, helping to improve learning outcomes for over one million primary and secondary school students and to increase the relevance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and physical education and sport in schools.

Funded by the EU and managed by the British Council, the project set out to improve education at all levels for students in Kurdistan and central and southern Iraq. Working at the policy, institutional and individual levels, it has achieved a significant amount in its lifetime, setting the course for a brighter future for Iraq’s education systems.

A strong focus on bringing relevant stakeholders together has led to real change at strategic levels. In school education, new school standards have been distributed throughout the country as the basis for making schools more accountable for the education of pupils. In sport, a curriculum committee composed of education officials introduced new resources in participating schools to support teachers to deliver participative and inclusive physical education and designed context-specific activity cards to help teachers to involve differently abled students. While in TVET, policy makers, industry representatives and education leaders came together for the first time to create a coherent, more market-led TVET strategy that better meets the needs of students and employers alike.

Improved teaching skills are benefiting students in classrooms in over 11,000 schools. Training has been provided to over 100,000 teachers, principals and supervisors to enable them to implement a more student-centred approach to learning. School principals are now taking on the role of ‘leaders of learning’ in schools, while supervisors are seen as ‘critical friends’ to ensure continued improvement.

Working with the Youth Sport Trust, Iraqi teachers and supervisors have been trained in new teaching methodologies, which has changed the way physical education is taught. Sport has been used to develop leadership skills in young people and the project has increased opportunities for students of all abilities to participate in high–quality physical education and sport in school. Through partnerships with specialist sports colleges in the UK, nine Iraqi secondary schools piloted new approaches to sport and cross-curricular learning,  supporting a network of other schools in their areas to deliver high-quality inclusive education and sports curricula and establishing stronger links with organisations in their communities.

Through partnership with the Association of Colleges in the UK, the project provided training and job shadowing opportunities for TVET college leaders across Iraq. Learning from UK best practice, these college leaders have turned their institutions into centres of excellence for other colleges in Iraq. The centres of excellence are now committed to working together as a country-wide network dedicated to continuous TVET quality improvement.

A first-time TVET strategy for further education and training colleges and institutes, vocational schools and training centres has been developed and approved for implementation by ministries in central and southern Iraq and Kurdistan. This strategic alignment will be vital to ensure the TVET system can equip Iraq’s workforce with the skills to meet the country’s needs for the future. 

As the project draws to a close, the shared working and learning carried out through Support to Improving the Quality of Education in Iraq has gone some way to enabling sustainable and high-quality education systems for the future.

Read more about our international development work in the Middle East and North Africa.