By Maryam Qarehgozlou

The challenge of setting a school start date

May 21, 2018

TEHRAN — While the current school year is still underway and students are preparing themselves for final exams Education Ministry is dealing with a not very new issue: altering school calendar for the next school year.

Normally in Iran school year begins on the first day of autumn falling on September 23 and it ends by late spring with regard to each school, their curriculum and the students’ grade. 

The Iranian parliament, also known as Majlis, passed a law in 1997 recognizing the very first day of the autumn as the beginning of school year nationwide and for all school grades. Since then the law hasn’t changed.  However, a look through the records of past years school year calendars indicate that there had been times when the school year started in the middle of the sixth Iranian calendar month of Shahrivar falling on September 6. 

For one, as per the guidelines introduced during the 75th session of the Education Supreme Council (affiliated to the Education Ministry), held in 1971, schools in different districts were authorized to begin the school year from September 6 to October 7 depending on the distinguishing climatic conditions of each region. 

While beginning the school year on the September 23 day didn’t seem to be much of a problem for years, for the past two years the Education Ministry is planning on making changes to the school calendar. 

This might be mainly due to the unplanned holidays in late autumn and winter. Most significantly during winter, the administration will be forced to shut down schools and in some cases the working places due to the heightened air pollution in metropolises as well as southwestern cities affected by sand and dust storms.

Therefore, in order to work around such unwanted and unplanned holidays the ministry has come up with different plans for the school year start date.

Education Minister Mohammad Bat’haei announced on May 16 that the school year will begin one week earlier (September 16) and end one week later than normal, so that students will have a two-week break during autumn or winter. He didn’t reveal any more details on the exact date of the break. 

In January, chief of the Department of Environment Isa Kalantari, proposed one-month break in late autumn and early winter for Tehran and northern cities to “ward off students from air pollution”. He proposed the implementation of the break from December 6 to January 5 and instead starting the school year in early September.

At the same time, tourism chief Ali-Asghar Mounesan, explained that winter break would serve the tourism industry well particularly in southern provinces and islands of Iran, situated fairly near equator, which can be best spots for trips during winter. 

There is need for altering school calendar year, but one main question still remains: what kind of school calendar suits us best? A fixed one when students nationwide attend schools on the same day or a flexible school calendar when each district is allowed to choose the beginning of the school year regarding the climatic conditions.

The former seems to be a lot easier, choosing a fix date and mandating all schools nationwide to conform. However, the latter, sounds more logical given that Iran is a big country with a wide range of climates. But it sure is much more difficult to make arrangements for such a dramatic change. 

There are four months left and the ministry has to make a choice. 

MQ/MG

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