0635 GMT July 31, 2021
On Wednesday, June 30, I had an online meeting with Austrian Ambassador Stefan Scholz and UNICEF Representative in Iran Mandeep O'Brien.
The subject of the meeting was the cooperation of the Social Welfare Deputy Department with UNICEF and with the Austrian Government in related fields.
One of the main causes of poverty in Iran and the world is the lack of access to proper education for the poor.
Education systems in most countries are faced with a problem called elitism.
Elitism means designing an educational system in accordance with the capacities and goals of high-income groups and not paying attention to the limitations and career prospects of low-income groups.
Take a look at the state of our education system to understand the concept of elitism. Most of the students who are admitted to the university entrance exams are students who have had access to expensive private schools, supplementary materials, private tutors, and preparation classes for the entrance exam.
Therefore, a small number of university graduates can earn a good income in the future. That is, both in design and in foresight, only financial elites and a percentage of intelligent elites can move up the educational and career ladders.
Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, laureates of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, examined the issue of elitism in several countries of the world and showed that in order to get rid of poverty.
We must find a solution to elitism in the education system. Austria, along with several other countries such as Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, is among the most successful countries in countering this elitism in the education system.
In Austria, 75% and in Germany 80% of students are trained in technical and vocational fields. This ratio is said to be 35% for Iran.
Iranian policymakers set the goal to increase this ratio to 50% in the Sixth Development Plan. Minister of Education Haj-Mirzaei in the June 1st meeting of the Higher Council of Technical, Vocational and Skills Training raised the question of why we have failed to achieve this goal.
Leading students to technical and vocational training, as demonstrated by Banerjee and Duflo in India, is an important tool in tackling educational poverty and elitism.
The answer to the question of why we have failed in the quantitative and qualitative development of the education system is very important for our nation.
The reason for this is clear, but the solution is difficult. In Austria, high school students spend four-fifths of their time in a real environment or the industry (industry in the general sense of it, implying any kind of business activities, rather than manufactory) and they spend the other one-fifth in schools. This method has several major advantages:
In Iran, skills training is always the responsibility of the government, and the government is facing a serious problem in providing this cost.
The cost of theoretical schools is at least 30% lower than vocational schools. Funding for training is not the only problem of vocational schools, many masters and students (vocational teachers) prefer to leave the educational environment after a few years and engage in private businesses.
The educational system of Iran and Austria has fundamental differences so that the presence of Austrian students in the real work environment exposes only the tip of the iceberg of the difference between the educational systems of Austria and Iran.
Austria's success lies in linking the public education system with the real industry environment and in creating a coordinating mechanism between the two systems.
The body that coordinates the public education and industry system in Austria is a council formed by the guilds and the chamber of commerce, along with the education and technical and vocational training organization. This council is governed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
In Iran, too, the Higher Council for Technical, Vocational and Skills Training must do the same.
In the 1980s, the KAD project was supposed to achieve the same goal. However, tackling educational poverty and reducing unemployment requires a link between the country's education system and industry.
We must work for the connection between the two. This goal, the link between the two systems, was summed up in one phrase by UNICEF Representative in Iran, O'Brien: Learning to Earning.
This slogan is a response to the same common theme of students' writing: Which one is better? Knowledge or wealth. Training for income through the expansion of technical and vocational training is the solution to link knowledge and a good life.
* Ahmad Meidari is Iran’s deputy minister of cooperatives, labor and social welfare.