EDUCATION AND WELFARE
The impact of government policies on the class structure and
stratification patterns can be imputed from available statistics
on education and training as well as employment and wage structures.
Owing to the historic emphasis on the expansion of educational
facilities, the leaders of the Baath Party and indeed much of
Iraq's urban middle class were able to move from rural or urban
lower-class origins to middle and even top positions in the state
apparatus, the public sector, and the society at large.
This social history is confirmed in the efforts of the government
to generalize opportunities for basic education throughout the
country. Between 1976 and 1986, the number of primary-school students
increased 30 percent; female students increased 45 percent, from
35 to 44 percent of the total. The number of primary-school teachers
increased 40 percent over this period. At the secondary level,
the number of students increased by 46 percent, and the number
of female students increased by 55 percent, from 29 to 36 percent
of the total. Baghdad, which had about 29 percent of the population,
had 26 percent of the primary students, 27 percent of the female
primary students, and 32 percent of the secondary students.
Education was provided by the government through a centrally
organized school system. In the early 1980s, the system included
a six-year primary (or elementary) level known as the first level.
The second level, also of six years, consisted of an intermediate-secondary
and an intermediate-preparatory, each of three years. Graduates
of these schools could enroll in a vocational school, one of the
teacher training schools or institutes, or one of the various
colleges, universities, or technical institutes.
The number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools
was highest in the central region and lowest in the north, although
the enrollment of the northern schools was only slightly lower
than that of the south. Before the war, the government had made
considerable gains in lessening the extreme concentration of primary
and secondary educational facilities in the main cities, notably
Baghdad. Vocational education, which had been notoriously inadequate
in Iraq, received considerable official attention in the 1980s.
The number of students in technical fields has increased threefold
since 1977, to over 120,090 in 1986.
The Baath regime also seemed to have made progress since the
late 1960s in reducing regional disparities, although they were
far from eliminated and no doubt were more severe than statistics
would suggest. Baghdad, for example, was the home of most educational
facilities above the secondary level, since it was the site not
only of Baghdad University, which in the academic year 1983-84
(the most recent year for which statistics were available in early
1988) had 34,555 students, but also of the Foundation of Technical
Institutes with 34,277 students, Mustansiriya University with
11,686 students, and the University of Technology with 7,384 students.
The universities in Basra, Mosul, and Irbil, taken together, enrolled
26 percent of all students in higher education in the academic
The number of students seeking to pursue higher education in
the 1980s increased dramatically. Accordingly, in the mid-1980s
the government made plans to expand Salah ad Din University in
Irbil in the north and to establish Ar Rashid University outside
Baghdad. The latter was not yet in existence in early 1988 but
both were designed ultimately to accommodate 50,000 students.
In addition, at the end of December 1987, the government announced
plans to create four more universities: one in Tikrit in the central
area, one each at Al Kufah and Al Qadisiyah in the south, and
one at Al Anbar in the west. Details of these universities were
With the outbreak of the war, the government faced a difficult
dilemma regarding education. Despite the shortage of wartime manpower,
the regime was unwilling to tap the pool of available university
students, arguing that these young people were Iraq's hope for
the future. As of early 1988, therefore, the government routinely
exempted students from military service until graduation, a policy
it has adhered to rigorously. This policy, however, has likely
caused resentment among the poorer classes and those forced to
serve multiple tours at the front because of continuing manpower
Data as of May 1988