Established in 2011, Afrooz Online School of Civic Education gives Iranian educators insight into the practice of democratic citizenship; they experiment in the classroom to foster experiences for students to think independently and analytically about their surroundings.
Problems and Purpose
Afrooz Online School of Civic Education gives Iranian teachers the "opportunity to reflect, experiment, and create classroom experiences aimed at teaching their students how to think, rather than what to think" . The online school was designed in order to provide "an alternative to existing top-down, ideological, and teacher-centred civic education in Iran" for educators . The approach of the school is to "encourage teachers and, by extension, their students to think independently and analytically about their surroundings through activities and reflection" . The unique pedagogy illustrates the possibility of providing teachers with experiential training in democratic civic education despite and within the existing civic education context in Iran, which defines citizenship as devotion to religious ideology . Through Afrooz's model, not only can teachers "gain meaningful insight into the practice of democratic citizenship, but they also can enact changes in their classroom behavior and lessons that pass such understandings on to their students" .
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Online School of Civic Education is an independent institution. Iran's Ministry of Education is careful to ensure educators do not transgress the dictates of the government, forcing prospective teachers to confirm that they:
- Believe the officially recognized religions;
- Agree and comply with the rules of Islam;
- Have and continue to recognize and abide by the authority of the supreme leader;
- Have no history or membership in politics or political parties; and
- Are a "moral person"
Due to the 'transgressive' nature of the Online School's course material, its name is not disclosed in this entry.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The online course is open to all educators in Iran. Teachers wishing to participate must first complete an online application form in Persian which asks questions about demographics, type of school (private, public, or community-based), primary subject matter and age-level taught, their personal or professional experience with the kind of material offered through the Online School, and how they intend to use the course in the classroom. While each course draws approximately 60-70 applicants, only the top 30-35 are accepted at the discretion of a committee comprised of course facilitators, the school programme officer, and the course expert . Teachers selected for entry are those who indicate both a high level of interest in the Online course, a willingness or openness to teaching new concepts, and a strong intent to pass on the new concepts to their students.
Each cohort of teachers is ethnically, religiously, and geographically diverse. Teachers also come from different sectors of the education system; from private schools teaching middle- and upper-class students to public or community-based schools working primarily with lower-class and immigrant pupils.
Due to the large geographic spread of participants, the Online School has made the course accessible to those with low-speed or unstable internet connections. All the content is text-based, available for download and printing for offline review.
Methods and Tools Used
The School attempts to provide teachers with experiential training in democratic civic education despite and within the context of the existing civic education paradigm in Iran, which defines citizenship in terms of devotion to religious ideology. This model give teachers meaningful insight into the practice of democratic citizenship, encouraging them to enact changes in their classroom behavior and lessons that pass such understandings on to their students.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
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Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
According to one report, the Online School's conscious inclusion of different demographics adds another layer of education and experience to be gained by participants: "[d]iversity along different dimensions helps to foster discussions in the online forums and provides an opportunity for teachers to learn more about other communities as well as school settings in different parts of the country. It also creates a network of teachers who continue collaborating and interacting after they complete the course" .
 Abolfazli, M. and Alemi, M. (2013). Promoting Civic Engagement in Schools in Non-Democratic Settings: Transforming the Approach and Practices of Iranian Educators. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 15 (2): 53-62. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1016197.pdf
Afrooz Online School of Civic Education [Persian]