November 6, 2023

Teaching methodologies: a benchmark study detecting gaps and needs in 5 Kurdish Universities


Students enrolled in public elementary schools are educated by elementary school teachers. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq the 90% of the elementary school teachers graduated from colleges of Basic Education of the HEIs in Kurdistan. Therefore, the Basic Education colleges in Kurdistan are the main providers of the primary government school teachers in the region. To raise the standard of the governmental schooling system, the first step is to raise the quality of graduates from the Basic Education Colleges in Kurdish universities.

This is the overarching goal of the project TeachersMOD – Future Elementary School Teachers Modernization in Kurdistan, a Capacity Building project funded by the EU, which aims to support the modernisation and enhancement of the quality of teaching in Kurdish universities, by innovating teaching methodologies, reviewing curricula and reinforcing the competences of university staff. In this context, the project’s partners conducted a Benchmark study aimed at investigating the needs and the gaps about teaching methodologies and curricula of Basic Education colleges in Kurdish universities, collecting data about both the practices in use in Europe as well as in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The process was guided by the University of Halabja and UNIMED. The benchmark was conducted by launching two different surveys, one addressed to the Kurdish institutions and the other one designed for the European partners.

The Benchmark results and the Reports

The results collected from mid-March to mid-April 2023 of more than 160 answers from professors, administrative staff and students of the 5 Kurdish HEIs partners of TeachersMOD showed challenges, gaps and training needs in Basic Education in Kurdish universities. 

First and foremost, respondents pointed out that the role of Basic Education in Kurdish universities shall be empowered. There is a need for a large investment in funds, staff and infrastructures to improve institutional capacity. Along with structural investments, respondents stressed that, among the many challenges, teaching is still based on a traditional approach (with classical theoretical frontal lessons, and old textbooks) which discourages students from attending. Teachers should be able to define learning activities with a more participative approach, to encourage students and transform them into active learners. Respondents also pointed out the need to introduce programs dedicated to special education, and to include a more inclusive perspective (gender, language, diverse cultural background). Basic Education Colleges academics shall work to design relevant curriculum and a wider range of educational resources, making education of high quality and fostering collaborations with schools and communities to offer graduates employment opportunities and professional development. Teachers need to be familiar with the curriculum and instruction strategies that are appropriate for their students’ age, developmental level, and learning needs. This includes learning how to design lessons that are engaging, effective, and aligned with educational standards, as well as ensuring culturally responsive classrooms. Focus shall be also put on technology integration, digital literacy and the development of the students’ soft skills. 

These results have been at the core of the discussion and reflections during the Consultative workshop held at the University of Halabja on April 13, 2023. On that occasion, key staff from the Basic Education colleges in the Kurdish HEIs gathered to discuss and share practices and challenges regarding the needs and priorities in teaching, with the ultimate goal of producing two main results: a Report on the state of the art on teaching methodologies and curricula in the basic education colleges at the HEIs in Kurdistan and a specific Needs Assessment Report

The two reports represented an important milestone to set the basis of the future project activities, as they constitute a detailed knowledge base outlining the context of the action, good practices as well as shortcomings, gaps and needs of each institution, and suggestions for the future. 

The Benchmark study, indeed, served as the basis for the upcoming curricula review and learning outcomes definition to rebuild and modernize the quality of the academic offer in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences. This will lead as well to the enhancement of the capacities of the academic staff and educators on new teaching methodologies. 

The two reports and the main ambitions of the TeachersMOD project were presented during the Mid-Term Project meeting and Stakeholder event hosted at the University of Zakho on 24-26 October 2023. In this last meeting, the project’s partners advanced in the definition of the Action Plan, furthermore the open event with stakeholders was the occasion to widen the discussion on how to improve Basic Education colleges and the relationship between different stakeholders intervening in the matter.

What’s next?

Following the Stakeholders event in Zakho, more than 50 members from academic and administrative team from the 5 KRG universities will participate in three field visits in the European Partner universities – University of Pavia, University of Granada and University of Tras-os-Montes and Alto Douro – where they will learn from their EU peers and colleagues innovative teaching and learning methods: this will be the core of the capacity building action of the project. Focus of the training in Europe will be on approaches and thematics, as emerged from the needs analysis: student-centered teaching approaches and integration of dynamic and modern teaching methods and approaches for engaging students; soft skills; inclusive education; history as methodology for teaching; language and identities: multilingualism as a resource in conflict situations; a gender perspective in teaching; and much more. 

As a follow-up, two training workshops will be held at Salahaddin University – Erbil and at Raparin University, to keep setting the basis for the revision of the syllabi and the introduction of new practices in the Colleges of Basic Education in Kurdish universities. 

Stay tuned about the next steps of TeachersMOD, and follow the project on Facebook.