Iraq: Recognise the importance of teaching in the Kurdish mother tongue and teaching Kurdish history!

published 8 February 2023 updated 17 February 2023

The Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU) has urged authorities of this Iraqi region to pay special attention to and push for Kurdish mother tongue and history classes in schools.

“Education and learning involve a wide range of subjects to produce new leaders who can take the responsibility of serving their country,” noted KTU President Abdalwahed M. Haje, adding that mother tongue and history are “crucial topics” which “must be given top priority during the teaching and learning process”.

Teaching in the mother tongue: Not losing the Kurd identity

Concerning the teaching and learning of the Kurdish mother tongue, he insisted that this must “begin before the primary and elementary school years and continue until university level”.

For him, “language serves as a symbol of social cohesion and achieving national objectives. This is a universal reality that applies to all nations around the world. As a result, in a vast majority of countries, mother tongue is given special attention and value.”

Regretting that Kurdish as a mother tongue is about to be completely ignored at all education levels, Haje also recalled that KTU “previously expressed our concern about losing the identity of the Kurdish language in a meeting with decision-makers in education”.

He further explained that the authorities “claimed that teaching centres have very few Kurdish teachers who teach Kurdish alphabets, because those who graduate from early childhood education and primary education colleges want to teach in high schools. They are unwilling to teach Kurdish alphabets in basic and primary school.”

He underlined that he thought that this is not a good start, “because it means that in a few years, there will be no teachers teaching the Kurdish alphabets. Then we will face a big problem and its solution will be very hard to find.”

Organising training sessions for teachers dedicated to Kurdish history

When it comes to history, Haje recommends that the Ministry of Education give this issue high priority saying that, even though this issue is not as severe as the mother tongue, it is a significant one, as:

  • Authorities do not give this field enough consideration. “It is crucial that they accept that history has given them the ability to lead their nation,” he stressed.
  • The curriculum is challenging and dry.
  • There is a tendency to study the subjects conceptually rather than practically and ignore scientific outings to historical sites.

To solve this important problem, the Ministry of Education should work in tandem with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to develop new cadres, teachers, and specialists for all teaching levels, the KTU leader advised. This is particularly for the primary and basic schoolteachers of the Kurdish alphabets, he said.

To learn more about teaching this crucial subject and educational strategies, both Ministries should offer teachers ongoing training sessions in history.

He concluded: “The fact that teachers of the Kurdish alphabets and history are given special treatment is, in my opinion, entirely normal, as these two topics are crucial and fundamental to address the difficulties that generations face one after another. This is pretty evident to us. We reaffirm that every subject included in the educational process is crucial.”

“On Education and Democracy: 25 Lessons from the Teaching Profession”, a book co-authored by Fred van Leeuwen, Education International General Secretary Emeritus, and Susan Hopgood, Education International President, features 25 essential lessons from educators who work to defend democracy in a deteriorating context. Lesson 20 insists on the need to protect the right to learn in one’s native language.