The term ‘ICT’ is mentioned in many Iraqi documents and plans, such as the 2018-2022 National Development Plan and the 2007 ICT Education in Iraq. According to the 2012 Iraqi Curriculum Framework, ICT is defined as “New tools and processes of accessing and processing information, as well as communicating it based on electronic means, such as computers, TV, Internet, other digital means”.
The 2012 Iraqi Curriculum Framework defines the term E-learning as “Learning that is based on using new information and communication technologies with a view to enhance access to information, as well as its effective and responsible usage in the context of (commonly) networked and distance activities”.
Constitution and laws: The right to access education for all children at all levels is enshrined in Article 34 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution: “Education is a fundamental factor for the progress of society and is a right guaranteed by the state. Primary education is mandatory and the state guarantees that it shall combat illiteracy”. However, the Constitution does not include any article related to technology.
Article 8 of the 1998 Law of Education stipulates that primary education is compulsory for all students aged 6 and above. However, educational laws in Iraq do not refer to any term related to ICT.
Policies, plans and strategies: The 2018-2022 National Development Plan states that one of the main objectives of the Ministry of Planning is to develop the use of new education technologies as well as the relevant capacities of curricula authors and designers. Moreover, the Ministry of Planning aims to adopt modern approaches to curricula evaluation in order to modernize the educational system. It also plans to strengthen the development role of vocational education by developing the technological capacity of workshops and factories, and modernizing curricula to satisfy the needs of the labor market in the country.
In collaboration with UNESCO, the Ministry of Education has planned and prepared the 2012 Iraqi Curriculum Framework, which goes in line with the Iraqi Constitution, National Education Strategies and Educational Philosophy. The objective of this framework is to adapt the educational system of the country to the latest global developments in the area of curricula.
The country has established in April 2007 a project entitled “ICT in Education for Iraq”, designed to support the Ministry of Education (MoE) in building sustainable capacity for the continuing quality of curriculum, student assessment, learning and teaching by focusing on the effective use of ICT. The main objective of this project is to combat ICT illiteracy and enhance the technological skills of students and teachers. The Ministry has developed workshop activities for more than 1500 MoE staff in order to raise awareness and improve the understanding of the main concepts of ICT and their relation to education.
Digital competency frameworks: There is no national competency framework for digital skills development.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: No change in policies, strategies, laws or plans were found after the COVID-19 pandemic
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: Iraqi laws do not mention the use of electricity in schools. Most of the laws focus on the renewable energy sector. For instance, the Ministry of Electricity has recently adopted the Law No. 53 of 2017 that regulates the use of renewable energy by “encouraging the private sector to invest in building stations that operate on renewable energy, while providing the necessary incentives”.
In partnership with Malteser International, People in Need has initiated the installation of solar panels on 11 schools in villages located in northern Iraq. This initiative is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and is planned to be expanded in order to bring brightness to all classrooms in the country. Moreover, the UNICEF and the Iraqi government have installed solar panels in 12 schools within the framework of the Paris agreement for climate change. The objective of this initiative was to solve the power outage issue in many Iraqi schools.
Computers and devices: The country has not adopted any One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) policy or initiative. However, UNICEF has implemented a small scale pilot project in Al-Najmi region.
Internet connectivity: With the financial support of the European Union, UNESCO and UNICEF have signed a roadmap with the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) to provide over 3000 schools across 10 governorates in Iraq with internet connectivity and WIFI devices. The objective of this imitative is to develop and rollout a new online Education Management Information System (EMIS) in order to improve the quality of learning in Iraq. The launch of this roadmap ensures the delivery of a fully functioning EMIS by 2022 with the required hardware at schools.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
In 2015, a ministerial order (1205, 2015) was approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Academic Research to form a high–level committee for virtual learning in the Ministry Center. The main goal of this committee is to come up with strategies of virtual learning to be operationalized in Iraqi Higher Education. In addition, the Minister of Higher Education approved the Scientific and Technological Information Center activation in the Iraqi Commission for Computing for virtual learning according to the Ministerial Letter Numbered B.T. 2/1704 of March 5, 2015. This was the departure point of virtual learning in Iraqi education.
UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have launched the 1001 nights series on education for TV and online platforms in Iraq to provide alternative learning platforms and support education initiatives for the most vulnerable students in the country. They also partnered with Big Bad Boo Production, through the Inc.’s 1001 Nights Life Skills and Civic Education Program (the 1001 Nights Program), which uses cartoons, activities, and discussions to develop educational programs that teach children life skills, civic values, resilience, and social-emotional skills in formal and informal learning environments. Furthermore, the Big Bad Boo Production launched online campaigns via Facebook to reach more students and get more feedback on their programs. The program is available both in school and at home, so that students can continue their learning safely during the pandemic and school closure. In June 2021, the episodes of the 1001 Nights Program have reached more than 20.6 million views on Facebook, only three months after the first broadcast. The MoE is also planning to provide guidance materials that can be used by teachers facilitators, and parents to engage with the students for successful distance-based learning.
The Ministry of Education has also used YouTube Channels to broadcast lectures by the educational television for all levels provided by professors and the General Directorate of Curricula and produced by the Educational TV Directorate. Moreover, the ministry has created online platforms that provide knowledge covering all educational levels (primary, secondary, and university). One of these platforms is “ta3leem.iq”, which is designed according to the standards of international platforms in order to be the first leading platform in Iraq. By participating in the educational courses, the student has a list of his own courses, and from the mark field, the student can know his grades in the exams and the extent of his progress by attending the lessons via the platform. Registration on the platform is available to all students via personal email. Finally, other platforms were also developed, such as “Newton”.
In partnership with UNESCO and the Japanese government, the MoE has initiated a project called “Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on Education through distance learning in Iraq”. This project aims to deliver distance learning through Education TV channels to provide students access to education throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. In November 2021, UNESCO held a workshop in Baghdad to review the progress of this project, and has shown that the country has more than 1700 TV lessons for Primary Education. Nevertheless, the project is still aiming to reach the most vulnerable students in the country who struggle with physical access to school and cannot catch up with the current learning.
The 2012 Iraqi Curriculum Framework is considered as the foundation of the development of educational curricula, as it supports the attainment of learner’s competencies; such as creative thinking, problem-solving, sound communication and correct decision making, and constructive criticism. The new Iraqi curriculum also provides opportunities for students to extend their learning beyond the previous traditional subjects, and discover new learning methods such as the potential and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Furthermore, the multi-platform (TV, radio, internet, and printed media) program implemented by the MoE after the COVID-19 shock is designed to teach learners civic values, critical thinking, various life and technological skills, such as the use of Excel, Power Point, Word, etc.
In 2015, KnowAtom has launched a program in partnership with STEM Synergy to deliver quality STEM education in the Kurdish region. The objective of the project is to provide children living in camps with important science instructions and establish a network of individuals who know STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and have the desire to teach these children the required subjects. The program has reached more than 8,000 internally displaced students in 10 schools across camps, and trained 300 volunteer educators who received weekly training on STEM subjects with diverse teaching methods. In 2017, the project reached 1,850 students in eight different schools, and trained 120 volunteer educators to teach the classes. Additionally, it is planned to involve the families of the students and inform them about the importance of STEM education, so that they encourage their children to learn these subjects. As a result of this initiative, students in camps became more curious and engaged in STEM subjects.
The 2007 “ICT in Education for Iraq” project aims to train a core team of 520 teachers from 82 different schools on the e-learning packages developed for the main five subjects of the grades 9 and 12 curricula. The objective of these training is to improve the technological and learning skills of in-service teachers, so that they use more ICT tools in classrooms. Moreover, the MoE has planned to train a team of 21 e-content developers and 22 ICDL and Certified Training Professional trainers to design and deliver two e-learning packages for the core five subjects of grades 9 and 12. The establishment of the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) testing centres was also a core objective of the project. More than 600 MoE staff have received the ICDL exams in these internationally certified centres, located in Baghdad, Erbil, and 4 other governorates in Iraq. Furthermore, the 2012 Iraqi Curriculum Framework states the following key principles for the new framework: Teachers should create an enabling learning environment, encourage active learning including the use of new technology in education, and follow new technologies and advanced methodologies in the educational process. Finally, in-service teacher training that appear in all videos uploaded in the YouTube Channels created by the MoE and the Newton site use technology tools, such as white digital boards, and important software, such as excel, word, and PowerPoint.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Iraq does not currently have any codified law or specific legislation that governs data protection. Rather, data protection is briefly discussed in the 2005 Iraqi Constitution and the 1969 Penal Code No. 111. For instance, article 437 of the Penal code states that any person who discloses any confidential information in the field of the nature of their work is punishable by a maximum period of two years. However, the protection of school students and their privacy as well as the rights that guarantee data privacy from the use of technology in education are not specified in the country’s legislation.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
Laws in Iraq do not include any articles that refer to cyber-bullying. However, online abuse cases in the country are usually condemned under articles 430, 431, and 432 of the 1969 Penal Code No. 111. These articles do not refer directly to cyber-bullying, but they discuss threatening and abuse crimes. For instance, articles 430 and 431 state that any person that threatens another by word, deed, in writing or verbally, or via an intermediary person in cases other than those specified in the articles, will be imprisoned for at most a year and will pay a fine that does not exceed 100 thousand Iraqi Dinar ($US 68). Moreover, cyber-bullying cases could also be condemned under article 434 of the 1969 Penal Code No. 111, which states that “Any person who insults another is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 1 year plus a fine not exceeding 100 dinars (68$) or by one of those penalties, and if such insult Is published in a newspaper or publication or medium it is considered an aggravating circumstance”. Publications in the later article include current online social media, such as Facebook. Furthermore, in response to the lack of implementation of the law, the Kurdish region has created a Child Helpline 116, which is a free helpline for children and young people in Iraq.
The Ministry of Education is predominantly in charge of primary and secondary education and all its related fields of influence. It is the entity responsible for making the main decisions, laws, policies, plans, and programs concerning the implementation of technology in the educational system (schools, administration, etc.). On the other hand, the Ministry of Communication is in charge of the implementation of all ICT policies, such as the establishment of educational websites, the introduction of methodological topics specialized in communication technology techniques in school stages, etc. However, there is no dedicated division for ICT.
The Ministry of Planning is also involved in the digitizing education process. It activates and coordinates the developments policies, plans and programs of the MoE. Moreover, it identifies the strength and weak points of the ICT strategies to optimize the benefits of these policies.
Mobile phones are banned in all Iraqi schools under the official letter No. (10/6/18465) of the year 2019, issued by the General Directorate. The Ministry of Education has circulated this letter to ban the use of mobile phones in all secondary and middle school departments.