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British share citizen practice

Iraqi ministers look at our curriculum past as they plan their own education future. Warwick Mansell reports.

British curriculum and teacher-training experts are advising Iraq's interim government on the rebuilding of the country's education system, The TES has learned.

English schools' experience in subjects such as citizenship and English are likely to be fed into a blueprint for the future of schooling in the post-Saddam era.

Iraqi experts, who are planning a major programme of reform to revitalise the country's underfunded and dilapidated classrooms, are also interested in the history of the launch of the British national curriculum.

Last month, Dr Alaa Alwan, the Iraqi education minister, met Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, and officials from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Teacher Training Agency, in a visit organised by the British Council.

The results of the discussions will be used to compile a report Dr Alwan is due to produce in April on plans for an Iraqi curriculum.

Although the Iraqi education system is functioning, buildings maintenance has been neglected for years, and underfunding means schools have been opening all hours to educate pupils in two or three shifts each day.

Tom Leney, principal international researcher at the QCA, said Dr Alwan was particularly interested in citizenship work in English schools.

He said: "The minister was interested in looking at opportunities for teaching citizenship as part of building a different kind of civil society in a changing Iraq."

Iraqi schoolchildren are taught English from the age of seven and British teaching methods in the subject could feed into Dr Alwan's report.

Mr Leney said Dr Alwan was also interested to learn of any "positives and negatives" to be taken from major curriculum and examination reforms in this country over the past 15 years.

Asked what lessons were passed on to the minister, Mr Leney was cautious.

He said: "Iraq is considering how to reform its national curriculum, and how to make it less centralised. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the curriculum is not over-prescriptive and that it may be added to and adapted over time.

"This is a key element of the national curriculum in England."

Dr Alwan is expected to take soundings from up to three other countries, believed to include the United States, before publishing his proposals.

Elections may happen in Iraq from June this year, making it impossible to be sure whether Dr Alwan will be in a position to implement any proposals.

But the British Council said it was likely that the Iraqi authorities would want to build on their work with this country.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Charles Clarke met Dr Alwan. They had a very positive discussion on rebuilding education within Iraq."

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