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Iraqi Education Past and Present: The Role of Policymakers and Their Ideological Background

Hadi T Pir, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The history of Iraqi education unmistakably illustrates how policymakers have consistently operated within the same worldview since 1920. Despite apparent differences among Iraqis in terms of race, religion, sect, geography, and social and tribal norms, a shared worldview has emerged, which I term the Traditional Iraqi Paradigm (TIP). This shared worldview comprises a set of interconnected postulates. The divergence among Iraqi groups lies not in the postulates themselves but in how they translate these postulates into actions and behaviors. These translations have become historical, institutional, and psychological aspects of reality contributing to the political, social, and educational differences, conflicts, and challenges observed in Iraq today. The Traditional Iraqi Paradigm (TIP) is underpinned by shared core postulates revolving around race, religion, sect, language, and geography. Iraqi political and educational policymakers, as well as the broader society, have long regarded these postulates as immutable truths, viewing them as positive and integral aspects of reality. Consequently, both politics and education have been shaped to align with and reinforce these beliefs, while alternative worldviews and postulates are consistently rejected and perceived as threats.In this qualitative study shaped by grounded theory, interviews with 20 Iraqi policymakers reveal not only the existence of this worldview but also its creation of a prisoner’s dilemma reality, wherein Iraqi educational policymakers find themselves constrained to adhere to its rules. After analysis of the data, it becomes evident that without escaping this paradigm, the solutions to Iraq's educational and political challenges and avenues for resistance and change are severely limited. The study also demonstrates how the two most dominant Western paradigms of critical theory and postmodernism can have adverse effects on Iraqi education by diverting attention away from the true sources of Iraqi educational challenges and focusing on less relevant issues. To conclude, a theory generated from the combined knowledge learned from the literature and through extensive interviews with policymakers is introduced, offering several research avenues and strategies aimed at assisting Iraqi policymakers, educators, and researchers in addressing and mitigating the influence of the TIP on Iraqi education.

Subject Area

Education|Islamic Studies|Political science

Recommended Citation

Pir, Hadi T, "Iraqi Education Past and Present: The Role of Policymakers and Their Ideological Background" (2024). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI31144859.