Iraq: Union demands respect for professional autonomy and the necessary time for teachers to provide quality education

published 6 October 2023 updated 9 October 2023

The Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU) has urged public authorities to consult teacher representatives before making policy decisions that prevent teachers from delivering the full curriculum and putting quality education at risk.

At issue are the number of days students are in school each year, and the time needed to deliver the whole curriculum to ensure students are taught at grade level. KTU President Abdalwahed Mohammad Haje called on the authorities in this Iraqi region to exert caution when considering making Saturdays holidays with no school, as this could lead to a disruption for teachers in delivering the curriculum – and therefore jeopardize the whole academic year - and undermine quality education.

Ensuring the full curriculum is taught

The curriculum taught in the Kurdistan Region requires 200 days (or 900 hours) to cover the academic content in both practical and theoretical terms. This is the minimum amount of time teachers must have to teach the whole curriculum.

Since this curriculum has been taught, there has not been sufficient time allocated to complete the study programmes, due to too many holidays and insufficient daily hours, the union noted.

The KTU leader added that 30% of educational institutions are two and three-shift, “which reduces the daily hours of study and affects the annual hours, and therefore school programmes and teachers. This means the educational goals are not achieved, and students haven't benefited from all the subjects.”

He insisted that this situation has led to some study subjects being taken away or practical aspects being neglected, which undermines students’ understanding of what is taught.

To provide students and teachers with the best possible solutions for quality education, he recommended:

  • Reducing holidays, especially spring holidays.
  • Not shortening the duration of lessons from 40 to 35 minutes, “because ultimately, students will be the main losers”.

Keeping in mind that reducing the number of lessons means reducing school hours. Haje highlighted that, with Saturdays not being holidays, educational programmes are not completed on time. For example, he reported, during the 2022-2023 academic year, 173 days were used to study, for the studying time of 692 hours, which was much less than the full academic year.

Haje also explained: “Many teachers told me that their biggest concern is not Saturdays becoming holidays, but several other basic issues related to the need to implement measures aiming to enhance the status of the teaching profession”.

These actions include:

  • Salaries should be paid on time.
  • Promotions should be granted.
  • Great attention should be paid to the continuous development of teachers, including lecturers.
  • A law must be adopted protecting teachers and their dignity.

According to Haje, “these measures will encourage teachers to improve their teaching skills and accomplish their tasks correctly, as they have been doing constantly for their students’ benefit”.