0813 GMT November 29, 2020
The Ministry of Education is providing all 15 million students across Iran with either in-person or online education under the present circumstances where the country is grappling with the spread of the coronavirus.
The remark was made by Qassem Ahmadi-Lashaki, a deputy education minister for legal and parliamentary affairs, in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily.
The coronavirus outbreak began in Iran in late February. The rapid spread of the contagious disease, known as COVID-19, has led to the imposition of many restrictions on public activities and gatherings, such as school attendance, in the country.
Ahmadi-Lashaki added that in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran and due to the limitations imposed on schooling and the education system as part of efforts to curb its rapid spread, an online application titled ‘Students Social Education Network,’ also known by the Persian abbreviation, ‘SHAD,’ was launched in the country to prevent any disruption in the flow of education.
At present, a total of 17 million people, including students, teachers and principals, are using the application, he said.
The deputy minister noted that of the total 15 million students in the country, 63 percent are using the application and 16 percent are using other online systems, which, although not legitimate, are still preferred over SHAD due to its shortcomings.
There are, however, three million students in the country who are deprived of virtual or online education due to a lack of access to required devices or communications infrastructure, he regretted.
“We are attempting to resolve such problems with the assistance of the government and benefactors as, according to the issue of educational equity, these students are also required to be provided with online education.”
Ahmadi-Lashaki listed holding in-person classes, broadcasting educational TV programs, and sending syllabi or books to the deprived students as substitute measures to compensate for the shortcomings.
He said the Education Ministry is not capable of solving all problems pertaining to distance education, as the resolution of part of these problems is in need of the speedy development of a domestic infrastructure, such as those required for providing Internet access in all parts of the country, which is among the responsibilities of other organizations.
Expressing relative satisfaction with the situation of online education in the country, the deputy minister stressed that solving the problems besetting the SHAD application requires some time.
He added that the first and second versions of the application had a number of problems, including in terms of interactivity, which will be eliminated in the new version.
Ahmadi-Lashaki noted that Iran is not lagging behind other states in the field of distance education, saying, “We have been among the countries that managed to start the new academic season in any way possible and prevent a halt in the education process.”
He said the reopening of schools in Iran was done while taking into account several indices, adding classes in all 116,000 schools across the country are ready to deliver in-person education and the principals, teachers and teaching staff are also prepared to provide in-person services to students.
In addition, the official noted, teachers continue to provide educational services through cyberspace even after school hours.
He gave the assurance that face-to-face and in-person classes are held in accordance with all health protocols, emphasizing that it is compulsory to maintain social distancing, wear face masks and provide adequate ventilation in classes.
“Adherence to these protocols is mandatory in all schools in Iran. In addition, schools and classes are disinfected on a regular basis.”
He stressed that $9.18 million have been spent in three stages to adopt preventive measures and provide schools with the required health facilities and equipment, noting that additional funds will be allocated in the future solely for the purpose of implementing health and hygiene protocols in the domestic education system.
Reiterating the call by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei for strenuous efforts lest a student is deprived of education under the present tough circumstances, Ahmadi-Lashaki said in the procedure of reopening schools, principals have been obliged to hold in-person classes whenever providing online education is not possible so that not a single student would be neglected.
“Accordingly, over 130 schools in the country are currently operating with only one student in attendance.”