A major challenge for expats moving to Iran with children will be finding a suitable school. Not least because choosing the appropriate school will have a significant impact on the child’s transition to expat life in Iran.
Education is highly valued in Iranian society and, consequently, the literacy rate throughout the country is high. That said, children do feel pressure to perform well academically.
While mainstream schooling begins at kindergarten and ends in grade 12, only primary school is compulsory. Although high school is not mandatory, students who wish to enter higher education need a high school diploma and must pass the Iranian University Entrance Exam. Schools in Iran are also generally single-sex, with boys and girls going to separate schools.
Public schools in Iran
Public education in Iran is highly centralised and monitored by the Ministry of Education. While public primary education in Iran is free, Persian, or Farsi, is the language of instruction. The lack of English instruction therefore limits the viability of public schooling for most expat children.
Primary school (Dabestân) starts at grade one at the age of six and continues for five years. Middle school (Râhnamâyi) runs from grade six to eight. This is where English is introduced as a foreign language. High school (Dabirestân) is a further three years of study but is not compulsory in Iran.
Private schools in Iran
A number of small private schools operate in Iran. These schools charge high fees but offer a better standard of teaching. That said, they still follow the national curriculum as determined by the Iranian Ministry of Education. Typically, the language of instruction is also Persian/Farsi, but English and French are taught in most private schools.
International schools in Iran
Most expats opt to send their children to international schools in Iran, most of which are found in Tehran. While there are a handful of local children that attend these schools, the student body overwhelmingly consists of international expat students.
International schools in Iran follow a variety of curricula. There are schools that follow models from the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan. There are also a number of schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. The language of instruction will depend on the curriculum followed. The major advantage of international schools for expat children is that these schools provide similar standards of schooling to those found at home, which makes for an easier transition.
Admission procedures vary from school to school, but space is often limited. It is therefore always best to apply as far in advance as possible. Fees also tend to be expensive but standards of teaching are generally excellent, with small class sizes and first-rate facilities.
Special-needs education in Iran
Despite Iran providing free education to special-needs students until the end of secondary school, these students often struggle in school, or don't attend at all. A lack of training for teachers to deal with the needs of these children, and physical inaccessibility means many disabled children don't attend school. The Iranian government, however, is trying to promote inclusive education by increasing the budget for special-needs education. The aim of this is to make all schools accessible and to train the teachers to adequately cater for differently-abled children.
There are a number of special schools in Iran that offer education to children with special needs.
Tutoring in Iran
Private home tutoring is definitely an option for children in Iran. There are many companies that represent private tutors, which can be found online. Tutors offer extra lessons for anything from English and Farsi to dancing, or for those preparing for big entrance exams.
Parents won't struggle for find a suitable tutor for their child, but they should pay attention to the reviews on the tutoring website, to avoid scams.