The State is obliged to provide and facilitate 8 years (6-13 of age) of free and compulsory education from primary to lower secondary school including compulsory education and literacy courses for illiterates of less than 40 years old. A 1-year non-compulsory pre-primary program is provided for children of 5 years of age.
Education financing in Iran is highly centralized through the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for planning, funding, and administration. For higher education, the High Council for Cultural Revolution holds authority. It authorizes the creation of new establishments, oversees educational policy and planning and controls admission.
The total expenditure on education of Iran was USD 17.9 billion in 2018 (4% of GDP). There are approximately 92,500 public education establishments and a total enrollment of 17.5 million pupils. The country has approximately 1.36m school aged children in pre-primary school, 7.8m in primary, 6.7m in secondary, and 6m in tertiary school (21.9 m overall).
Children from rural areas and remoted areas
Between 1990 and 2009, the government financed a total amount of USD 32 million or 0.2% of the 2009 education expenditure for students in rural areas, including IRR 1137 billion (USD 27 million) for rural daily schools and IRR 212 billion (USD 5 million) for rural boarding schools. Likewise, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security assisted financially nurseries to be established in rural regions or underprivileged areas.
The Ministry of Education established schools in central villages and provided free transportation for students. There are currently over 1454 high schools operating in central villages, covering 103,300 students (1.5% of secondary school-aged children). In 2009, it established 1,266 boarding high schools and boarding technical schools in geographically remote areas to provide serve over 170,000 students living in scattered and under-populated villages (2.53% of secondary school-aged children).
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Commerce have implemented distribution of free milk to students of the most disadvantaged provinces 2-3 times a week. The program implemented in 2019 has 3 million beneficiaries (19% of school aged children from pre-primary to secondary school) and a cost of IRR 20bn (USD 480,000, or 0.003% of education expenditure in 2018). Likewise, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education provides childcare services including one hot meal per child in disadvantaged rural daycare centres for children aged 3-6. The number of beneficiaries was approximately 165,000 (12% of pre-primary school aged children) in 2011.
Children with disabilities
Disabled persons can benefit of free education in educational units that are affiliated to public institutions and at the Islamic Azad University (private establishment). In 2012, 17,047 university students benefitted from this program and in 2008, children with special needs receive education in 2029 regular schools, 815 special schools, and 219 special classes in regular schools.
Refugees and undocumented children
Iran’s Ministry of Education in partnership with UNICEF and UNHCR seeks to reduce school drop-out from undocumented Afghan children refugees. Since 2016, refugee children do not have to pay refugee-specific school fees, which stood at USD 70-90 per child. The government also co-funded with UNHCR the construction of 29 schools in densely refugee-populated areas between 2017 and 2019. The cost for 2019 construction of a dozen school buildings for refugees and Iranians was USD 7.8 m (0.04% of the 2018 education expenditure). Nearly 480,000 Afghan refugee and undocumented children are currently enrolled in school for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Iranian Government through a partnership with UNHCR and Educate A Child Programme (EAC), provides education to Afghan refugees, regardless of their legal status. The government provides school supplies to 2,496 students and transportation to 223 students in Bushehr, Fars, Gonbad, Gorgan, Kerman, Khuzestan and Qom. Until 2018, the program reached 11,000 children.
Plan for Honoring Orphans (2013)
Protects and supports children without guardians or financial support by providing them with a monthly allowance and by covering the costs of their education, medical treatments, and clinical services. For girls, the service is provided up to their marriage and for boys up to the age of 18. In cases where they are studying the service will continue up to the age of 25, and in cases of illness or physical disability, without any age limitation. For example, in 2009/10, the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, a government supported institution, provided protection for 675,000 students (4% of school aged children from pre-primary to secondary school).
Refugees and girls
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) in partnership with the World Food Program provide refugees living in 20 settlements with assistance. In addition to food support, the families of 3,300 refugee girls of school age receive USD 5 as an incentive for full school attendance. In February 2020, the program reached 30,000 people (0.2% of school aged children from pre-primary to secondary school), distributed 270.5 MT of food assistance and USD 136,000 through cash-based transfers. The allocated contributions of WFP in 2020 are US $ 13 million.