Iran's Minister of Education, Mohsen Haji Mirzaei, told the state-run Channel 2 TV on Thursday, September 3 that his department would be overseeing kindergartens and children nurseries across Iran.
In the past, the country's State Welfare Organization controlled preschool institutions' administration in the clergy-dominated country.
"We discussed the issue in the cabinet and decided that the Ministry of Education should supervise all educational activities in all kindergartens, and 'Behzisti' (Iran's State Welfare Organization) agreed to hand over the responsibility," Haji Mirzaei said.
The decision was made after the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed concern over local daycare centers and their curriculum. In a virtual meeting with education officials on September 3, Khamenei lamented that kindergartens in Iran have been "abandoned" and left "unbridled," with conditions in the schools "not good at all, according to reports received."
Khamenei's extremist allies have long criticized the practices of Iranian kindergartens and children nurseries, with clerics including the Friday Prayer Imams in the cities of Shiraz, Qom, and Bojnourd previously lambasting Iran's kindergarten curriculums for allowing dancing and swimming lessons without respecting gender segregation.
Following Khamenei's critical remarks, the head of State Welfare Organization of Iran, Vahid Qobadi (Ghobadi) Dana, praised the Supreme Leader's comments as "instructive," and a "breakthrough" and called for the assignment of a governmental body to control the Mahd-e Koodaks, as the children nurseries are called in Persian.
Qobadi Dana admitted that a "traditional disagreement" existed between the State Welfare Organization and the Ministry of Education over the performance of the country's kindergartens.
According to the Islamic Republic Constitution, education up to the university level must be completely free. Nevertheless, in many public schools, large sums of money are collected from parents under various headings.
Meanwhile, at least 85% of kindergartens in Iran have been privatized and made unaffordable for many female workers. While Iran's minimum wage is currently fixed at about $215 per month, tuition at private kindergartens can run anywhere from 150 million rials (about $3,600) to 300 million rials per year.
On April 19, the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) referred to a sharp drop in public kindergartens, quoting Habibollah Masoudi Farid, the Deputy for Social Affairs of the State Welfare Organization, as saying, "Since the necessary funding for public kindergartens is not provided, the coverage percentage has also decreased."
Currently, 661,000 children in Iran attend kindergarten, amounting to just 7% of children under six years old.
Following the recent amendment of school and university textbooks, Iranian authorities are also set to change kindergarten textbooks' content. "Kindergartens are the best place to set up manners because manners formed at preschool age cannot change easily," Haji Mirzaei said.