An analysis of social and cultural changes in rural Iran, with special reference to the impact of cultural factors on educational change
The world was shocked by the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 because it was unexpected and out of keeping with the deposed Shah's attempts at secular modernisation. This thesis attempts to make sociological sense of the implications of the Revolution for education in Iran in terms of ideological influences. The research reported in this thesis attempts to discover the nature of the social and cultural changes that occurred following the 1979 Revolution. Adapting Max Weber's interpretative approach, it focuses on the changing patterns of shared meanings and social relations in schools in one area of North West Iran. Taking a deliberately one-sided approach to educational change, this thesis isolates the impact of Islamic ideology on schools in the area where ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in 1995-96. Interviews, participant observation in schools, questionnaires and analysis of official documents were the chosen methods of research. The aim was to discover how Islamic ideology has been promulgated and how it has affected the day-to-day social relations of school teachers, pupils and administrators as well as their relations with parents and local authority officials. The main findings not only confirm the pervasiveness of Islamic ideology in Iranian schools but also document its influence over matters such as curriculum design and delivery, the segregation of the sexes in schools, and the teachers' conditions of work and professional development. Nevertheless, there is also evidence that the stated aims of educational reform were not always achieved and that some changes were ironic. The findings also showed that the recent history of change in Iranian schools calls for a flexible understanding of such notions as modernity, tradition, patrimonialism, and bureaucracy. Iran has certainly tried to modernise its educational system since 1979 but it has done so in ways which challenge much of the received wisdom about modernisation processes.