Go Public! Strengthening Iraq’s public education system

published 27 May 2024 updated 5 June 2024

Public education in Iraq has been severely impacted by years of crisis, armed conflict, and economic challenges. Education International’s affiliates in Iraq are rallying under the Go Public! Fund Education campaign, advocating for a well-resourced, equitable public education system that empowers, respects, and values teachers and education professionals.

Public education in Iraq is underfunded, with only 5.7 per cent of the government budget allocated to this sector. This lack of investment has resulted in overcrowded classrooms, unsafe school buildings, and insufficient educational resources. Additionally, teachers in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have not been receiving their salaries regularly since October 2023, leading to significant disruptions in the education system. Teacher salary promotions have been halted since January 2016, and many teachers are not formally employed despite years of service. This dire situation has led over 70,000 teachers to stop teaching and more than 700,000 students to drop out of school.

Education unions leading the charge

Iraqi education unions have been at the forefront of advocating for enhanced government investment in public education to overcome these challenges. Their persistent efforts led to the government’s recent decision to appoint over 300,000 new teachers in the public sector.

The Go Public! Fund Education campaign was officially launched in Iraq in September 2023. A delegation from Education International traveled to Baghdad to meet with the president and prime minister, along with the Iraqi Teachers’ Unions and EI member organizations in Arab countries.

On 6-7 May 2024, Education International together with the Iraq Teachers Union (ITU) and the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU) organized a planning workshop in Baghdad, bringing together key representatives from the unions to strategize further actions under the Go Public! Fund Education campaign.

"A well-funded public education system is crucial for empowering teachers and students”, said ITU President, Ouday Hatem. He emphasized that the current push for privatization is not the solution to Iraq’s education crisis. “Private schools often reduce quality, misuse funds, and limit democratic control over education. The focus should instead be on improving and adequately funding public schools to ensure equitable access to quality education for all children,” Al Sudani concluded.

"We need public investment so that teachers can feel confident in their role, can feel well supported in their role, and we need the infrastructure, the schools, and teaching and learning materials to be able to achieve quality education for all," added KTU President, Ahmad Saber.

Saber went on to say: “Ensuring adequate government funding and resources will help overcome the current challenges and build a robust public education system that benefits all students. This collective effort underscores the importance of public education as a public good that is essential for the country's future.”

Call to action

Education International’s Go Public! Fund Education campaign, advocates for policies that ensure adequate funding and resources for public education globally. The campaign highlights that investing in education is investing in the future, aiming to build equitable and democratic societies where every child has access to quality education.

Additionally, the recommendations from the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession emphasize the need for governments to prioritize investment in teachers. This includes improving teacher training, providing competitive salaries, and ensuring professional development opportunities, which are essential for fostering a quality education system.