A Comparative Study of Traditional and Modern Left Discourse in Iran ̉s Educational System after the Islamic Revolution

Document Type : Original Article


1 PhD Student , Department of Political Sociology, Shoushtar Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shoushtar, Iran

2 Assistant Professor, Department of Political Sociology, Shoushtar Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shoushtar, Iran

3 Assistant Professor, Department of Political Sociology, Shoushtar Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shoushtar, Iran,



The purpose of study was to analyze the discourse-ideology of the State of War (with a traditional left orientation) and State of Reform (with a modern left orientation) in order to represent their discourses through the educational system of Iran. Research method was qualitatively comparative using Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis method for describing, interpreting and explaining the nature and discourse aspects of education in both States. Findings reveal that both States have tried to control, monitor and intervening Iran’s educational system through influencing the law-making process as well as producing and modifying the content of school textbooks to change the cultural-educational discourse and represent the dominant discourse. Research findings indicated that in the value system of both discourses, Islamic ideology has had a high position. Also, religious modernism, school-oriented approach and fostering of democratic citizens in the modern left discourse and traditionalism, centralism and training of committed and revolutionary citizens in the traditional left discourse are the main differences between these two States in the Iran’s education system.




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Main Subjects

Article Title [فارسی]

مطالعه تطبیقی گفتمان چپ سنتی و چپ مدرن در نظام آموزش‌وپرورش ایران پس از انقلاب اسلامی

Authors [فارسی]

  • سید بهروز موسوی بهبید 1
  • احمدعلی حسابی 2
  • نبی اله ایدر 3
1 دانشجوی دکتری، گروه جامعه شناسی سیاسی، واحد شوشتر، دانشگاه آزاد اسلامی، شوشتر، ایران.
2 استادیار گروه جامعه شناسی سیاسی، واحد شوشتر، دانشگاه آزاد اسلامی، شوشتر، ایران
3 استادیار، گروه جامعه شناسی سیاسی، واحد شوشتر، دانشگاه آزاد اسلامی ، شوشتر، ایران.
Abstract [فارسی]

هدف از این پژوهش؛ تحلیل گفتمان- ایدئولوژی دولت جنگ با گرایش چپ سنتی و دولت اصلاحات با گرایش چپ مدرن و بررسی رویکرد آنها در راستای بازنمایی گفتمان خود از طریق نظام آموزش‌وپرورش می‌باشد. روش تحقیق تطبیقی کیفی است که با استفاده از روش تحلیل گفتمان انتقادی فرکلاف به توصیف، تفسیر و تبیین ماهیت و عناصر گفتمانی آموزش‌وپرورش در هر دو دوره تاریخی پرداخته است. یافته های پژوهش نشان داد دولت‌های جنگ و اصلاحات در طی مدیریت اجرایی خود، برای کنترل، نظارت و دخالت‌ در نظام آموزشی تلاش نموده و در موارد بسیاری با تأثیرگذاری بر فرایند تصویب قوانین و همچنین تولید محتوا و اصلاح محتوی کتب درسی در پی تحقق گفتمان فرهنگی- آموزشی مطلوب خود و بازنمایی نشانگان گفتمان مسلط از طریق نظام آموزش‌وپرورش بوده‌اند. هم چنین یافته‌های تحقیق نشان می‌دهد ایدئولوژی اسلامی در نظام ارزشی هر دو گفتمان از اهمیت وافر برخوردار بوده است. نواندیشی دینی، مدرسه محوری و تربیت شهروندان دموکراتیک در گفتمان چپ مدرن در برابر سنت‌گرایی، تمرکزگرایی و تربیت شهروندانی متعهد و انقلابی در گفتمان چپ سنتی از اهم تفاوت‌های رویکردی این گفتمان‌ها در نظام آموزشی ایران در این دو دوره زمانی می‌باشد.

Keywords [فارسی]

  • ایدئولوژی
  • دولت
  • گفتمان
  • چپ سنتی
  • چپ مدرن


  1. Introduction

          The survival of a society requires that a set of beliefs, values, behaviors, attitudes, knowledge and skills be passed on to the new generation. The mechanism or means of this transfer is education (Alaqehband, 2015). Students are exposed to a variety of explicit and hidden curriculum of education system during a relatively long period of time in school. At first glance, what is expected of the education system is to be one of the agents of socialization. But Althusser has also assigned the role of reproduction for it (Althusser, 2008, ascited in Hazari & Rezapour, 2013). According to Althusser “The ideological apparatus of the State - which has prevailed in the light of the class, political and ideological struggle; indeed is the educational ideological mechanism” (Hazari & Rezapour, 2013, 46). The fact is that all governments, whether authoritarian or democratic, inevitably legitimize their political system existence and authority. The realization of this demand depends on the creation of a desirable ideology and its promotion in the minds of the people and citizens. In modern's societies, the educational system with its complex organization is the most effective mean for institutionalizing ideology in people's minds (Hamedi, 2009).


      Iran’s Islamic Revolution was one of the revolutions of the twentieth century in which religion was predominant. Indeed, the revolution’s roots go back to the ancient tradition and culture of this country (Soltani, 2017). Relying on Islamic ideology, it brought about important changes in various aspects of social life, including education. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, one of the most important goals of the educational system has been the creation and expansion of religious and ideological discourse in society. Accordingly, the Islamization of schools and universities can be considered the most important feature of the Iran educational system after the revolution (Nick Neshan, 2012). This feature, despite all the changes in the education system after the Islamic Revolution, has always been at the center of its discourse. In fact, the Iran’s education system is explicitly an ideological system (Rezaei, 2008).


         Various states have been formed in Iran since the Islamic Revolution, which have pursued their discourse within the framework of the main discourse of the revolution, based on different social, economic, cultural and political conditions. By maintaining their connection with the super-discourse of the Islamic Revolution, each of these states has put different goals and approaches in order to hegemonicize and represent their discourse in the institutions of society. The State that ruled the country during the period 1981-1989 and at the height of the Iran-Iraq war was known in the Iran’s media as the “State of War” (Khajeh Sarvi, 2007). This period, which was accompanied by the Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, is a period of hegemony of discourse that can be referred to as the traditional left discourse (Rezaei Panah, 2010). The traditional left in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries referred to a movement that sought to improve the situation of the poor sections of the population and to establish justice and freedom.   


         In Iran, the term “left” was used to refer to two groups of communist and religious orientations (Yousefi & Yaseri, 2017). In the early years of the revolution, the communist groups were suppressed by Islamic revolutionaries. Therefore, in this article, the terms "left state" and "traditional left" refer to the Islamic state of Mousavi, which represented a leftist discourse that had taken on the color and glaze of religion (Hesabi & Ider, 2018). The traditional left advocated a form of Islamic socialism in which the State had full control of the economic system (Keddie, 2006). Seifzadeh (2003) believes that after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, political leaders, influenced by leftist ideas and in order to counter Western cultural liberalism, inadvertently turned to the mechanisms of Eastern and communist governments. Due to this tendency, the State interfered in all aspects of people's lives. Thus, the emphasis on economic justice, protection of the deprived, promotion of Islamic ethics and centralized economy are considered as discourse elements of the State of War (Hesabi & Ider, 2018).


       In contrast to the "State of War” that was in the hands of the traditional leftists, the "Modern Left" state began with an interval of eight years and headed by Seyyed Mohammad Khatami as the "State of Reform " (1997-2005). The modern left - rooted in traditional left thoughts-, with emphasis on modern part of the political culture, sought democracy, freedom, and political participation of the people (Radfar, 2016). Politically, the dominant discourse of this state was to emphasize the implementation of the constitution, increasing role of people and their participation, and expand civil society. Economically, the formation of a minimal government and the emphasis on private property rights were considered (Amini, 2015). The most important element of this discourse, which distinguishes it from other discourses after the Islamic Revolution, was the emphasis on political development and reform within the framework of the constitution (Radfar, 2016). Each of these two states has somehow combined leftist tendencies with Islamic ideology and tried to create their desired discourse reforms within the framework of the goals and characteristics of the super-discourse of the Islamic Revolution. To study and analyze the discourse of these two states, it is necessary to briefly mention the theory of Laclau and Mouffe discourse (Walton and Boon, 2014).


        Much research has been done in the world and in Iran on the political and religious ideologies of governments and its relationship with the educational system. For example Moschetti, Martinez Pons, Bordoli & Martinis (2020) described the discourses and strategies used by various actors to promote ideas that lead to privatization policies. Their findings show how these actors use different strategies, networking and knowledge mobilization to regulate school independence and responsibility as political solutions. Dobbins and Christ (2019) in examining the impact of political parties on the way schools are run found that party’s preferences have decisively shaped the path of reform. They also showed that left- and right-wing governments promoted different versions of school autonomy, in accordance with their ideological model. Therefore, with each change in government, the configuration of the school administration model is modified. McCormack and Gleeson (2012) found that curricula carry several ideological elements, one of which is gender ideology. Regarding the impact of ideology on education, Mei (2012) believes that in recent years, the development of information technology has led to a more prominent ideology of globalization in education. He concluded that the effects of the ideology of globalization on education were positive. Durand (2011) illustrated the role of discourse in shaping and reforming education policy. Skelton (2010) examined political strategies and ideological and epistemological beliefs. Findings showed that power relations, political tensions, autonomy, ideological conflict and trust affect discourse and interaction at school level.


         Levin (2010) argues that governments are interested in policy-making at various levels of education to prove their influence. However, most of the policies adopted seem to be wrong. In part, this is because governments have limitations on what they can do. If governments pay attention to credible research evidence, efforts to reform the education system will yield better results. Godazgar (2001) in a study entitled “Islamic Ideology and Its Formative Influence on Education in Contemporary Iran ", found that effect of Islamization on the curriculum and content of schoolbooks in post-revolutionary Iran is very strong. He believes that Iran's school curricula are ideological programs for fostering the "ideal man of Islam".  Furlong et al (2000) in a study entitled "Ideology and reform of teacher education" showed that ideology inevitably affects and dominates teachers' teaching. Nevertheless, they believe that among ideologies, the ideology of globalization can be considered as the only ideology that improves teaching that reduces hegemony and domination. In Iran, Sepidnameh, Faraskhah & Rahmani (2015) examining the discourse of science and religion in the “Fundemental Reform Document of Education” found that this document has used religious words and metaphors in introducing ideals, goals, programs and strategies to promote science. This has led to the transformation of scientific discourse into religious discourse. Kazemi & Basirnia (2018) in a study entitled "Internal conflicts of political structure and the challenge of cultural reproduction in the Islamic Republic of Iran" found that despite the relatively clear cultural pattern in the world, Iran cultural policy has always suffered from incoherence, continuous disruptions and internal conflict. In addition, findings show the failure of the Islamic Republic in achieving its cultural goals and reproducing it.


         Pak mehr, Amin Khandaghi, Qandili & Saeedi (2017) by examining "the nature of discourse building of the teachings of the Islamic Revolution and its features in the curriculum" found that shaping the knowledge, attitude and practice of learners to increase the soft power of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the result of this discourse. Nick Neshan, Pak Sresht, & Leyakatdar (2016) in a study entitled "Pathology of religious education discourse in the education system of the Islamic Republic of Iran" found that the extreme emphasis on social engineering, trying to form a completely uniform identity and quarantine training is among the plagues of this discourse. Pour Ali & Farihi (2015) through analyzing the cultural policy discourse of the Ninth and Tenth States of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of higher education, came to the conclusion that cultural policies should not be incompatible with the discourse order in the field of science and higher education. Nick Neshan (2012) has studied the impact of political and religious ideologies on educational system of Iran. The findings showed that education has always had an ideological burden and it is impossible to speak of a neutral education.


          However, by increasing the independence of the education system, the negative effects of ideology can be reduced to some extent. Akbarzadeh (2012) in a critical analysis has studied the development of education in Iran. Findings show that centralism in the Iranian educational system has had negative consequences. He proposes gradual and deliberate decentralization as the most appropriate method to eliminate the negative consequences of centralism. Saei, Qarakhani & Momeni (2011) in examining the relationship between state and educational policies in Iran found that although education policy - as a dimension of social policy - can be influenced by the orientations and approaches of different states, but in Iran, except for a few differences in some legal framework, states' policies have been continued and repeated. Nazemi (2009) examined the policies and strategies of reform in Iran education system. He evaluates these policies and strategies as unsuccessful and concludes that management actions cannot improve the performance of education system and requires transformation and re-engineering - with the approach of Islamic culture and values. Rezaei & Gholamreza Kashi (2005) in their research "Challenges of Reproducing Government Hegemony through School Discourse" have shown that the ideological nature of the school structure is not enough for its success. They found that schools were able to reproduce their values if the family shaped the students' minds in a similar way.


         In general, the findings of these researches indicate the existence of a dynamic relationship between the discourse-ideology of states and education system. Considering above findings, the present study seeks to explain the characteristics of the discourse-ideology governing the education system - as one of the important institutions in Iran - in the "traditional left" and "modern left" states with a comparative approach. Therefore, the research questions are as follows:


  • What discourse approach did the State of War consider in education?
  • What ideological discourse dominated education in the State of Reforms?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the traditional left and modern left discourses in order to represent the dominant discourse?
  • What are the similarities and differences in approach between the traditional left and modern left discourses in educational and training dimensions of Iran educational system?


  1. Research Method


         The present study is a qualitative study with a comparative approach. The method of data collection is documentary and the method of data analysis is Fairclough critical discourse analysis. This is a non-intervening and non-reactive method. Research population includes all upstream documents, laws and approvals of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the Supreme Council of Education, textbooks and published articles related to the subject of research. The sampling method in the present study is Judgment or Purposive sampling. In this sampling method, the researcher based on personal knowledge and judgment and adopting an appropriate strategy can select items that represent the total population (Sarai, 2012). For this purpose, in the present study, until reaching the stage of data saturation, written texts related to the two states of war and reform were selected, reviewed and analysed.


  1. Findings


In discourse analysis, the relationship between discourse-oriented structures and social perspectives that govern its production is examined, described, and interpreted. Discourse-oriented structures are linguistic or sociological characteristics that reflect a particular social (or ideological) perspective (Yarmohammadi, 2014). In this section, according to the subject of research in each of the War and Reforms states, the extracted texts are presented by Fairclough discourse analysis method and in three levels of description, interpretation and explanation. The first level describes a particular discourse. The second level (interpretation) deals with the meaning of the text in certain contexts and the third level (explanation) is concerned with the cause of discourse within a specific social context (Mohseni Tabrizi, 2016). Also, the commonalities and differences between the two discourses of the traditional left and the modern left are expressed in order to represent the discourse of each state and the similarities and differences in their approach in the two educational and training dimensions of Iran education system.


3.1. Traditional left discourse approach in Iran’s education system (1981-1989):


A- Description


In the first decade of the establishment of the Islamic Republic (1979-1989), revolutionaries, due to the dominance of the justice-seeking discourse, interpreted the realization of educational justice as the governmentalization of all schools and the closure of private educational institutions. The traditional left emphasized the nationalization of the economy in general and the education sector in particular. This movement, which with the support of Imam Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, had the most influence in the government, succeeded in interpreting Article 30 of the Constitution - according to which the government is obliged to provide free education for all until the end of high school. This group considered the existence of private schools - which had the best facilities and teachers - discriminatory and declared revolutionary justice to mean free education for all (Hazari & Arian Rad, 2017).


Naturally, this state was also in favor of government sovereignty in the field of education (Hazari & Arian Rad, 2017). Therefore, in this period, the first five-year plan for the development of education in the Islamic Republic of Iran was prepared and submitted to the Islamic Parliament as a bill, although it was not approved (Abdollahi, 2010). The traditional left-wing approach to education included funding for the education system (including budget for exceptional children's programs, literacy movement, and construction of schools in villages), employment of new teachers, and high school students' vocational training plans (Saei, Qarakhani, & Mo'meni, 2011). In this study, to analyze the discourse-ideology of education in the State of War, three texts were analyzed: Two texts related to the general plan of the education system of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Ministry of Education, 1988) were extracted based on research objectives and Fairclough method. Then, a text from the sociology school textbook of Second Grade of high secondary school (Naghavi, 1989) entitled “the institution of politics: power and authority” was examined and analyzed. The results of the analysis of these texts are as follows:


These texts are formed on the axis of two conflicting poles: The first pole is represented by words and phrases such as “Transcendent School of Islam", "Committed Forces", "Revolutionary Society", "Muslim Nation of Iran", "Velayat-e Faqih", "Divine Ideology" and "Islamic Republic System". The second pole are represented with words and phrases such as "imperial and non-divine insight", "induction programs", "dominating countries", "foreign culture", "imported imitation culture", "destructive institutions", "ancient and contemporary colonialism", "cultural self-destruction" and "foreign powers". The two poles are completely divergent, with no resemblance to each other, and each is articulated according to its own ideology. Thus, two types of approaches have been discussed: The revolutionary, religious and independence-seeking approaches, which are attributed to the text-producing view namely the traditional left, and the second approach, the anti-revolutionary culture, with imperial and non-divine insights and a philosophy influenced by foreign culture.


B- Interpretation


The core of the traditional leftist discourse in the Iranian education system after the Islamic Revolution was the dissemination of cultural and moral values ​​through educational programs derived from the school of Islam. In this discourse, the Islamic state has a purely religious ideology. The prevailing discourse with the critique of education in developing countries introduces the induction and dependence of their views and programs as the main challenge. This discourse also claims that the imitative and imported nature of the education system in these countries and Iran, in most fields and at all levels has caused the structure of the education system to be designed and implemented far from the real needs of society.


To combat the imported culture, the traditional left-wing state established a new deputy in the Ministry of Education namely “Deputy of Educational Affairs". The purpose of this deputy was to bring in committed revolutionary forces (teachers of educational affairs) by organizing and planning specially for the dissemination of cultural and religious values ​​in schools via making changes in the daily methods and programs of teachers and students. These programs include such things as religious education for teachers and students through various classes, holding congregational prayers at school and attending Friday prayers, monitoring the personal behaviors of teachers and students - such as the type of clothing and makeup -, holding military training classes, religious camps, visit religious sites and taking action against offending teachers and students, such as expulsion, verbal and written warnings, and grade deductions.


Also in this period, the education system was obliged to coordinate with the authorities and policy-makers to achieve the goals and ideals of the Islamic Revolution. Thus, one of the main axes of this discourse was the formulation of rules and regulations to allocate funds and distribute facilities to ensure educational justice - with priority given to students from poor social classes, especially in deprived areas. In addition, the emphasis on independence has been one of the goals of education in this course. This goal had two basic dimensions: First, education must be in line with the culture and needs of society and free from the imposed and induced dependence of foreigners. Second, graduates of the education system must have a spirit of respect for the independence of the country. With regard to these two points, the traditional left-wing state emphasized the need to develop detailed curricula for issues such as a complete review of the content and methods of education, familiarity with colonial history and the struggle for independence of different nations, and educating students about cultural dependence and self-destruction.


C- Explanation


At this level relationship between the texts, with the dominant discourse, namely discourse of the traditional left is strong. This discourse tried to teach the young generation the differences between divine and non-divine systems. Accordingly, the traditional left discourse basically considered the education system of the previous regime to have an imperial and non-divine vision, and instead proposed its own system based on the Islamic vision. This discourse also tried to harmonize the coherence and coordination dimensions, elements and components of the educational system with the Islamic ideology. Also, in criticizing the education system of the privious regime, this discourse considered former programs to be derived from a foreign culture and claimed that in that space, instead of understanding and reasoning social and regional facts and experiences, theoretical and indoctrinated presuppositions were emphasized. There was no opportunity for the learner's personality to flourish. In addition, in the monarchy regime, educational activities were coordinated with other cultural programs in destructive institutions such as cinemas, magazines, radio and television. According to the traditional left, these institutions provided grounds for undermining social and educational values ​​and the prevalence of intoxication of the young generation. The basic signs of this discourse-ideology in education can be depicted as follows (Figure 1):



Figure 1. Discourse - Ideology of education system in the traditional left state


3.2. Modern left discourse approach in educational system of Iran (1997-2005)


A- Description


         The reforms state - as it became popular among politicians and the media in Iran - came to power under the presidency of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami for two four-year terms (1997-2001) and (2001-2005). Reforms discourse was in fact anti-discourse, a confrontation with the power that emerged from totalitarian and monolithic political, cultural and social discourses (Tajik, 2000). According to the proponents of this discourse, one of the most important goals of its formation was to provide an atmosphere of free thought and criticism within the system of the Islamic Republic - relying on the principles governing it - and to expand people's participation in determining their own destiny (Hazeri, Irannejad & Mehraein, 2011). The modern left discourse has added new concepts to the Iranian political vocabulary to popularize a new reading of religion - in line with world developments- , which has also affected the education system. One of the most important of these concepts was the dialogue of civilizations and religious democracy. According to this discourse, one of the tools and preconditions for the realization of the dialogue of civilizations is the institutionalization of the culture of interaction and tolerance in society. This institutionalization required a step-by-step social engineering that had to be accomplished through the education system. Accordingly, the concepts of tolerance, academic freedom and critical thought were added to the country's cultural vocabulary during this period.


        Also, in this period, for the realization of religious democracy, it was necessary to draw a society based on the restoration of rights and participation of the people. The actions of the modern left state to eliminate discrimination against women by increasing the quota for girls to enter university and the formation of student councils were a few steps in this direction (Nick Neshan, 2012). In addition, the decisions of the modern left-wing state in the field of education included the adoption of the "Executive Regulations of the Law on the Establishment of Education Councils", establishment of a working group to achieve the goal of "Education for All", an international literacy conference and the establishment of the ICESCO office in Tehran (Saei, Qarakhani & Momeni, 2011). In this study, to analyze the discourse-ideology of education in the State of Reforms, three texts namely "General Goals of Education of the Islamic Republic of Iran" (Ministry of Education, 1998), "Regulations for the formation of the Student Council" (Ministry of Education, 2001) and optional lesson of "Dialogue of Civilizations" from secondary school textbook (Ministry of Education, 2003) were examined and analyzed. The results of the analysis of these texts are as follows:


          In these texts, the favorable orientation of the dominant discourse is highlighted and central ideas of the modern left discourse are directly stated. Subjects such as: promoting political vision, peaceful coexistence, domination of law, accountability, professional skills, social ethics, participation and dialogue culture. These texts are formed on the axis of two conflicting poles. The first pole represents words and phrases such as: "rationality", "dialogue", "democracy", "peace", "political development", "rationality", "tolerance", "independence and non-dependence", "unity and interaction with Muslim countries" and "rational action". The second pole is represented by words and phrases such as "violence", "terrorist tendencies" and "expansionist and aggressive powers".


B- Interpretation


         The core of this discourse-ideology in education is the education of democratic citizens in the shadow of Islamic vision. Attention to issues such as tolerance, interaction and social cohesion as the main priorities of the institutionalization of social and cultural ideas in education was brought to the attention of policymakers of the modern left state. The main criticism of this discourse on the education system in previous states was the lack of attention to attracting participation of people and educating citizens. The main approaches of this discourse in education are promoting and institutionalizing the spirit of religious democracy in society, educating a democratic and free-thinking generation, getting rid of self-centeredness, cultivating critical thinking and strengthening the spirit of truth-seeking.


C- Explanation


         The discourse of the modern left-wing state sought to promote and institutionalize religious democracy in society and to educate a democratic and free-thinking generation. The strengthening of the "Islamic-Iranian identity and culture", the emphasis on the "institutionalization of the culture of dialogue" and the "realization of political, cultural and economic goals within the framework of the law" reveal the cultural principles of this discourse. During this period, recognizing increasing national income, eliminate unemployment and reduce economic dependence became the priority of economic programs and goals of this discourse. In this regard, the education system was obliged to follow up and implement the skills training and creating students' readiness and interest in productive jobs. Facilitating students' intellectual and practical participation in various fields of education, familiarizing students with social, political and economic categories at home and abroad, strength of pupils’ spirit of self-confidence and self-reliance, revising textbooks from gender discrimination, institutionalizing a culture of dialogue and rational action were modern left state policies reflected in the selected texts. This discourse criticizes the education system of previous states, claiming that the participation of students in educational affairs has not been paid much attention. In the proposed system of this discourse, reforming educational laws and regulations, consolidating and promoting the values ​​of the Islamic Revolution, attracting maximum people participation, cultivating the spirit of collectivism and attention to the mutual rights and responsibilities of school and society, school-centeredness and decentralization were prioritized. Modern left with explicit critique of centralist and monolithic educational systems on the need to change the pattern of education – through proceeding such as removal of official post of “Educational Affairs’ Teacher " (that was a teacher in each school whose task was to supervise the extracurricular activities of teachers and students from ideological perspectives), establishment of the Student Organization (to coordinate and implement the students' extra-curricular activities) and the Student Council - insisted on implementing its reformist approach. The signs of this discourse-ideology in education can be described as follows:






Figure 2 - Discourse - Ideology of education system in the modern left state


3.3. Similarities and differences between traditional left and modern left discourses:


          After analysing the previous steps, the information related to the research topic was classified. The results of this step provided a framework for comparing the similarities and differences of the selected discourses. This study also examined the approach of both discourses in political, social and economic dimensions in order to represent the dimensions and symptoms of their discourse. The results of this comparison are summarized in Table 1:







Table 1 - Comparison of the traditional left and modern left approaches in order to represent dimensions and symptoms of discourse

Modern left

Traditional left

Similarities and differences


Acceptance of the two principles of "Islam-oriented" and "Republic-oriented" and the goals and characteristics of the discourse of the Islamic Revolution



·  Emphasis on Republic Aspect of Political System

·  Emphasis on religious democracy

·  Emphasis on freedom to critique tradition and government

·   Emphasis on "Islamism" of political system

·   Centralized and monolithic political structure

·   Traditionalism

·   Redistribution of wealth and assets

·   Fight against arrogant powers and support the oppressed


·                  Educating citizens in shadow of Islamic teachings with focus on principle of Velayat-e-Faqih



·    Educate democratic, knowledgeable and responsible citizens.

·    Reforming educational system for political, cultural and economic development

·   Emphasis on educating committed

citizens with an emphasis on revolutionary and Islamic values

·   Emphasis on changing the educational

system through major changes in methods

 and programs



State-centered economy



·   Emphasis on the participation of the private sector in education

·   Efforts to attract non-governmental support

·Opposition to private sector participation in education

·Emphasis on growth through non-capitalist system



According to the data in Table 1, the first remarkable and common point between the two traditional and modern left states is that in the political structure of Iran after the revolution, the idea of Islamization of society - as the axis of all activities - was raised. This ideological and political structure has been so strong that political reforms such as changes in states have not been able to disrupt it (Nick Neshan, 2012). Of course, it is clear that no ideology will forever remain an immutable and immovable socio-political position. In fact, each ideology is part of a dynamic process that is influenced by other movements and ideologies rooted in the beliefs of other sections of society representing different demands (Azdanloo, 2015). Differences in political, economic, and social approaches, as well as the different dimensions, goals, and characteristics of traditional left and modern left discourses, indicate a shift in discourse on the left. Moving from centralism to decentralization, trying to attract the support of the non-governmental and private development sectors, attention to political development, promoting and institutionalizing the spirit of religious democracy in society and educating a democratic and free-thinking generation against traditionalism, cultural introversion and centralized political structure show a discourse transformation.


3.4. Similarities and differences in approach between traditional left and modern left discourses in educational and training dimensions:


According to the discourse approach of the selected states, various dimensions in the education system were the focus of policy makers and decision makers. Following comparative approach of the present study, the educational and training dimensions have been selected as the axes of comparison between these two discourses and have been examined as follows (Table 2). The ideological and political goals of the elected governments have shaped the transformation of the education discourse in both periods. Nevertheless, the differences in approach between the two discourses are quite obvious. The main similarity of these discourses is in the value system with the focus on Islamic culture and knowledge.

Table 2: Similarities and differences in the approach of traditional and modern left discourses in Iran education system

Modern left

Traditional left

Similarities and differences


Emphasis on Islamic culture


Value system

·         Emphasis on religious modernity

·         Emphasis on human sovereignty

·     Traditional understanding of religion

·     Spread and influence of Islamic culture in all aspects of life


·         Emphasis on promoting the values of the Islamic Revolution and expanding public education


Principles of education

·   Emphasis on attention to world culture

·      Emphasis on avoiding borrowing from Western educational systems


Acceptance of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution and the Supreme Council of Education role


Structural approach

·         Decentralism with emphasis on role of schools

·   Centralism with emphasis on vital role of Ministry of Education




Teacher-student relationship

·         Student- oriented

·         Teacher - oriented





·         Establishment of Student Assembly and Council

·   Establishment of student military training centers


· Emphasis on vocational and technical training and professional skills


Curriculum approach

·   Emphasis on scientific, professional and moral role of schools

·   Emphasis on religious and  ethical role of schools


·      Creating the perfect man


Educational and cultural aspirations

·   Emphasis on interaction and intercultural communication

·      Emphasis on introversion and cultural independence


·         Emphasis on the superiority of Islamic education


Behavioral approach

·         Democratic system in education and culture

·   Authoritarian system in education and culture


·         Emphasis on gender segregation and hijab


Gender approach

·   Review and revise textbooks with emphasis on gender equality

·         Textbook modification without serious attention to gender equality




  1. Conclusion


        The idea that the ideology of a system leads to the formation of mentality and identity of the audience is rooted in theories of reproduction of the intellectual tradition of left-wing intellectuals in the West. According to reproduction theories, ideologies are easily produced in ideological institutions. Hence, governments try to establish the necessary hegemony through these institutions. The findings of the present study reveal that both the War and Reform States, based on their interpretation of the upstream documents, have placed the education system under the control, supervision and enforcement of their interventions. These states have sought to change the existing cultural-educational discourse and represent the dominant discourse by directly influencing the law-making process, as well as producing content and modifying textbooks and adapting it to their discourse goals and approaches.


The findings of this study reveal that both discourses have fundamental differences in other educational dimensions despite the commonality in the value system (Islamic ideology) and similarity of approach in some of the main elements of the curriculum. Religious modernity, school-oriented and the education of democratic citizens in the modern left discourse versus traditionalism, centralism and the emphasis on educating committed and revolutionary citizens in the traditional left discourse are the main differences between these two discourses in the field of education. Based on these findings, the Iran education system has not only been politically neutral, but fully aligned with it. The findings are consistent with the results of Nick Neshan (2012); Pak Mehr, Amin Khandaghi, Qandili & Saeedi Rezvani (2017) and Godazgar (2001) who concluded that the Iran education system has always had an ideological burden and states with the help of educational system have promoted the dominant political ideology.


In the end, we can point to two important points: First, during the last forty years with the end of each state in Iran, the next state has tried to change the goals and programs of previous state as much as possible, which has severely damaged the independence of the education system. Second, there is no research to indicate how much their discourse has affected the intellectual structure of the people since the end of each state. Considering the instability of political decisions in Iran, it is suggested that current and future governments, instead of preferring their discourse to educational interests, move according to the goals and principles of upstream documents - such as the "Fundamental Transformation Document of Education". In this way, the politicization of the education system can be prevented.


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