Education in Aleppo has been as divided as the city. Children have been subjected to at least five different curricula resulting in an increasing divergence in what they have learned and how they have been taught over the past five years. These divisions in education are likely to exacerbate tensions if the conflict comes to an end as children have spent some time growing up under different systems. Consideration needs to be given to how to bring the educational systems together and how to avoid some of the post-conflict tensions experienced in other war-torn countries over education.
In eastern Aleppo, school buildings were targeted by the regime at an early stage of the conflict and were eventually abandoned. They were bombed because they served as public spaces for displaced families and activists. Most have been badly damaged or destroyed. On the other side of the city, schools in western Aleppo still host displaced families along with students. The quality of education has deteriorated and the number of students has declined due to the lack of security and qualified teachers. The third part of the city is the north-western part or the Kurdish part. It started out in a similar way to eastern Aleppo but then started to slowly change after Kurdish militias gained control.
The western part of the city has always remained under the control of the Assad regime. It mainly uses the same curricula which was revised in 2011. In 2015, the Ministry of Education has tried to improve the curriculum by introducing more advanced math, science and English courses. This created problems as there were no experienced teachers to cope with the new textbooks.
The eastern part of the city, held by rebels until December 2016, saw the largest variety of curricula. It started by using the Libyan curriculum and then the Saudi curriculum. After that, the Syrian coalition, one of the main opposition groups, stepped in with the ‘revised Syrian curriculum’ which is used by the ‘Free Ministry of Education’ and the majority of NGOs working on education. However, there were some places where parents sent their children to mosques where they were taught only Arabic and the Quran.
As for the Kurdish part, the area switched control between the regime and opposition before coming fully under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). YPG’s first curriculum was the ‘revised Syrian curriculum’. At a later stage, the Kurdish language was added to the curriculum. At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, the largest Kurdish neighborhood started using a new curriculum supervised by the YPG. Primary schools now use a Kurdish curriculum and secondary and high schools use the Syrian regime curriculum while also teaching the Kurdish language.
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