PUBLIC PRIMARY EDUCATION
FREE public primary education extends over six grades and is offered to any Iraqi child who has reached the age of six years. In theory, primary education is compulsory in areas where adequate facilities exist; in practice, in the few instances in which the Ministry of Education has declared attendance to be compulsory in given areas, social and economic conditions, together with inadequate planning, have made the ruling ineffective.
Except for certain modifications in schools in Kurdish or Turkish districts, or in the few so-called "model rural primary schools," the primary course is uniform throughout Iraq. Thus, a child moving from one district to another, from urban to rural or tribal district, is not handicapped by basic variation in the curriculum.
To a large extent, primary education segregates boys from girls, with boys schools taught by men and girls schools by women. The Ministry of Education, however, has made considerable progress in recent years, especially in the cities, in overcoming the traditional prejudice against coeducation. In 1933-34 the Ministry opened kindergartens, later called "junior schools," which admitted both boys and girls and employed women teachers. In the larger cities, particularly in Baghdad, the kindergartens soon were enlarged to include first- and second-grade classes. Rather hesitant about adding classes at first, the Ministry was encouraged by the popularity of this experiment to enlarge the program. By 1938-39 junior schools had sprung up in the capitals of almost all the provinces, and in spite of the war these schools continued to flourish, increasing in number and attendance until in 1944-45 there were 56 schools attended by 8,512 children, 4,322 boys and 4,190 girls. At the present time the typical junior school consists of the first four grades and parallels the work of those grades in the public primary school. A few junior schools offer a five- or six-year course. Apart from these planned coeducational schools, coeducation at the primary level is tolerated in many rural villages where no girls schools or only incomplete ones exist.