General Education of Girls during Qajar and Pahlavi

General Education of Girls during Qajar and Pahlavi

Due to different political, social reasons and limiting factors, education of women during Qajar and at the beginning of Pahlavi was not very common. The only place for education was the old-fashioned primary schools where the girls had no share in. these schools ...

Homeyra Ranjbar Omrani

 

Due to different political, social reasons and limiting factors, education of women during Qajar and at the beginning of Pahlavi was not very common. The only place for education was the old-fashioned primary schools where the girls had no share in. these schools were either mixed or separate. Therefore, most girls did not move on to higher levels and remained with an average level of literacy (very limited) at home. only the girls from some wealthy families, and with the permission of their fathers (of course those fathers who had notable education themselves), they could continue their education to some extent with the help of  a governess.

The matter of education during Qajar became more serious with Amir Kabir’s steps and establishment of Dar-al-Fonoon and overseas education. Although education at this period was still specific to boys, but it became more general and changed the society’s intellectual atmosphere to some extent.

Schools, in the European style, were another aspect in transformation of Iran traditional atmosphere which was founded by foreign agents and with the aim of cultural influence. During Naser-al-Din Shah’s reign which was the peak of Russia and England’s rivalry in Iran, new powers tried for autocracy too. After that, the French, US committees started activity in political, commercial, cultural and religious fields in Iran. In the field of culture and religion, European religious committees were very active.

The first step of these committees was founding of new schools and because they had enough budgets, they tried in attracting people by donating gifts like clothes and food or gave scholarships to low classes of society. It is necessary to say that mostof these steps occurred among religious minority groups and Muslim girls had no way to these schools. The most important factor for this lack of attendance was limitations of the families for girls’ education. On the other hand, these schools did not accept veiled girls but later this problem was elevated for the first time through mediation of Benjamin –the US minister – and Naser-al-Din Shah’s agreement and the first group of Muslim girls entered the Ecole Franco-Persanne School in Tehran.

Saint Joseph school was among the other which was founded by the French and foreign children were educated there.the school of Saint Vincent de Paul was another school where sewing, housekeeping, ironing, French language, history, Geography and … were taught.a according to statistical information from 1926, 45 foreign schools existed in Iran and 2619 girl students studied there. Investigating the spread of these schools is a hallmark for presence of more agreeable conditions for establishment of such schools in specific places. For example from the 69 schools in 1931, 37 were in Azerbaijan, 13 in Tehran, One in Khorasan and …with the foundation of these schools and with regard to its management which was mostly the responsibility of foreigners, Iranian girls (limited numbers) were under the direct influence of western culture.

Another group of founders of new schools were Iranian graduates especially the wives of political figures and the affluent. In the first stages of work, they were opposed in some regions. These oppositions were sometimes accompanied with violent encounters like destroying the schools. These interferences, excluding the biased stubbornness of some people was because the families clearly realized that the girls must leave their hijab to be able to enter these schools. Inbetween, the number of schools which accepted veiled girls was rare. And of course after a while of education in these schools, the girls were inclined to changing their clothes and this was the first step in educating the new generation of women. Despite genera; disagreements, the school principals continued activities in different ways and by using their facilities and equipment engaged in educating girls in western style. As their next step the founders of schools encouraged the women principals and teachers to be present at work without hijab. The second group of educated women from these schools which were managed in the European style graduated and they were also influenced by the western culture.

Following the constitutional revolution and the women’s presence in battle against autocracy, their activity in society increased such that in the third parliament they wrote a request for the representatives and asked for general education. With the positive response of the representatives to this request, the general education plan was approved in the amendment to the constitution with the government’s supervision and this organization was legalized. With the spread of girl schools and founding of public schools, education was announced compulsory. the domain of the activities and the number of girl schools increased and the official organization of education was formed. The basis of education in public schools was taken from western methods and brought a new generation of intellectual women in to the society who became who were wise and became authors and engaged in cultural activities. Of course some women wished for better conditions irrespective of western thought. One of the women was Bibi Khanom – the wife of Musa Khan Mirpanj – who wrote the book “Ma¢ayeb-al-Rejal” (Deficiencies of Men) in 1934. This book was in fact a response to another named “Tadib-al-Nesvan” meaning chastising women which had compared the principles of private and social life with the rigid patriarchal culture of the time and the book Ma¢ayeb-al-Rejal taught a new culture and life to women according to civil rights.

The education organization, although promoted women’s awareness and knowledge, but since the autocracy’s pre-determined goals were concealed in it, it had deep cultural effects on the students from western thought. After Reza Khan’s empowerment, this subject penetrated the educational levels in a deeper form especially when the university was founded with direct utilization of western models and the girls entered them or travelled abroad for higher education like the men; they completely accepted the western life style and thought and later acted on enforcing and advertising these beliefs.

In addition to direct education in schools, most of the women and men with the mentioned way of thought in the form of authors and researchers engaged in inducing their thoughts in books and poems with the support of the Pahlavi regime. among the books was the book “Etiquette for Women” written by Masoumeh Dolat Abadi which was published in 1938 and it presented models for life and social etiquettes for women in western style.

In addition to that, expressions like today’s woman, modern woman, liberated woman and … were used in books and articles and widely circulated magazines and they taught the western way of life.

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