Iraqi education specialists say the "Accelerated Learning" schools project is helping to save many Iraqi youths from the traps of illiteracy and ignorance, and is providing them with a chance to finish their education.
"We have seen great progress in this experiment because students were more accepting of it and sought to enrol in the programme voluntarily to catch up with their peers and resume the education they abandoned," said Tariq Ali, director of planning for the Ministry of Education.
Ali said Accelerated Learning covers three levels, each of which includes two stages of normal elementary education. A student can complete the elementary stage of education in three years instead of six.
"We merged the materials of every two stages into one level, and simplified it to accelerate the processing of students completing the elementary period, thus decreasing the gap between them and their peers who are in the secondary education stage so that they would be able to continue their education after that," he told Mawtani.
Accelerated Learning is part of a three-year program sponsored by the United Nations Children Organization (UNICEF) and the European Union in collaboration with the Iraqi government to improve the opportunities for obtaining a proper basic education in Iraq.
The project seeks to eliminate illiteracy among adolescent school drop-outs aged between 12 and 18 years old.
According to UNICEF findings published in March 2011, the rate of enrolment in elementary schools, currently about 87%, is less than the 89% that the Iraqi national development objective aims to attain by 2015. This gap represents about 700,000 children of primary school age who do not enrol in elementary schools every year.
The UNICEF report also found that less than 50% of all children enrolled in elementary schools would continue on to middle and secondary schools during their lifetime as adolescents.
"Some of the reasons that led students to join Accelerated Learning schools are violence, forced displacement, death of a head of family, poverty or deprivation," said Nawal Ali, principal of Asmaei School for Accelerated Learning.
Ali told Mawtani the role of teachers at these schools is different from the role of teachers in traditional elementary schools.
"Our primary objective is to teach students reading and writing, which they lack, in any way possible and provide them with the chance to continue their education," she said.
"The most important reason for the success of this project is the way teachers and administrations treat the students," education supervisor Abbas al-Shuwaily told Mawtani.
"All teachers and administrators at Accelerated Learning schools were enrolled in special courses for training on how to deal with this group, the way to engage them, and how understand their psychology," he said.
Al-Shuwaily and his colleagues "will continue to visit and follow up on these schools to ensure success for this national project," he said.
Tariq Ali, director of planning for the Education Ministry, told Mawtani, "We are in regular contact with Accelerated Learning schools to identify the faults that may result from this project because it is a new programme, and we are still making some additions to the curriculum and the teaching methods."