Iran Bans English Instruction in Primary Schools to Halt Western ‘Cultural Invasion’

Iranian girls gather around their teacher in the clasroom at Sizdah Abban school in north of Tehran 01 October 2006. Iranian students went back to school a week ago. US President George W. Bush signed into law yesterday a set of sanctions targeting foreign countries that continue nuclear cooperation with …
ATTA KENARE / AFP

The Iranian regime’s High Council of Education has declared English will no longer be taught in either public or private primary schools, in order to combat a “cultural invasion” from the Western world.

“In primary schools, the foundations should be laid to promote Farsi and Iranian culture,” said Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the council, in a television interview on Saturday. He explained that “in primary education, the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid.”

The Financial Times wonders if the widespread protests in Iran, which include fiery criticism of both the secular government and Islamic theocracy, have something to do with the decision. However, it quotes an Iranian reformist politician who said it was part of a more general government program to “spread despair in the country” and make the public easier to rule.

“It is not even doable, with families prioritizing English in their children’s education,” the politician added. Several teachers are quoted by the FT agreeing with this judgment, with one of them noting that Iranian private schools actually compete over which one has the best English classes.

The BBC interpreted Navid-Adham’s comments about the “violation” of “regulations” against English as a warning to schools that have been offering extra English classes to their students, which would fit in with the teachers who spoke of schools competing to attract students by offering superior English instruction. The New York Times adds that some Iranian children attend private language institutes after school, or receive personalized English lessons from tutors.

This has been the case even though the High Council of Education has been actively pushing alternatives such as Russian and French for years, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has grumbled in public that focusing on English is “unhealthy” because it boils down to Iran spending its own money to teach its children the Great Satan’s preferred tongue.

“Western thinkers have time and again said that instead of colonialist expansionism … the best and the least costly way would have been inculcation of thought and culture to the younger generation of countries,” the ayatollah said in 2016.

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