A Close Look at the Regime's Education System - 1


Authoritative systems don't see the authority that it forces on the people. They attempt to ensure their continued authority by way of a group of closely related and measured methods. In this way they show that the fate of the people is tied to the existence of the authority. They see themselves as the very oxygen the people breathe and make it clear that without them, the people cannot live. Authority uses many methods to settle and continue their existence. They enter the fields of politics, economics, culture, society, etc. They use and destroy every area to their advantage.

Because I live in Syria, I studied for sixteen years as a student in these schools and have worked as a teacher in the field of education for more than twenty years. I will share with you my personal experience as a student and teacher in the education system of Syria which has existed under the umbrella of the Ba'ath party for almost sixty years.

After the Ba'ath party took over in the 1970's, they had a more important role in educational institutions and took over ideologically. Their task was to legitimize the authority of the Ba'ath party. They limited social sciences according to their advantage and for the continuation of their authority. Here we must discuss the two phases of the Ba'ath party's history. The first of these is the era of Hafez Assad, and the second is the era of Bashar Assad (the son of Hafez).

Before we dive into dissecting the work of education, I want to share with you the general way in which the education system was constructed. In the time of Hafez Assad, basic education for the elementary, middle and high school levels was implemented. Elementary school was from first to sixth grade, and at sixth grade they graduated. Their clothes were all the same color, a light brown (dirt) color. Middle school consisted of seventh, eighth and ninth grade. Then there is high school, which is made up of tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade. The last two years are divided into two parts, science and literature. The clothing of both of these levels is an olive drab or military color. In order to distinguish the grades, they wear a colored cloth on their shoulders; every grade is a different color. In addition to the general high school, there are schools for business, industry, agriculture and home economics. Then in university there is every different branch available. In the age of Bashar Assad, some changes which came from outside the country were made. The elementary and middle school levels were made into one level called "basic studies", which was divided into two parts, the first from first to fourth grade and the second from fifth to ninth. All of the uniforms also changed from a military color to blue.

Over the decades, under the umbrella of the father and son's authority, the Ba'ath Party flag and pictures and statues of Assad were seen in every institute, square and special organization. It was actually a major aspect of educational institutions. Schools, universities and student organizations were branded with symbols of the ruling party like flags, portraits and statues. In addition to this, school books, official documents and children's notebooks were labeled with photos of Assad and the Ba'athist flag. In fact, the curriculum was completely filled with ideas from the Ba'ath Party and quotes from Assad. Every student had to read, know and remember them.

According to the 1973 constitution:  "The leading party in the society and the state is the Socialist Arab Ba'ath Party. It leads a patriotic and progressive front seeking to unify the resources of the people's masses and place them at the service of the Arab nation's goals (Article 8 from the 1973 Constitution)." The 21st article clarifies the aim of education: "The educational and cultural system aims at creating a socialist nationalist Arab generation which is scientifically minded and attached to its history and land, proud of its heritage, and filled with the spirit of struggle to achieve its nation's objectives of unity, freedom, and socialism, and to serve humanity and its progress." In this way, no other nation besides the Arab nation is ever discussed. On the contrary, there is no possibility for another people to demand the right to learn their own language; this is forbidden. An important phrase of the National Progressive Front agreement was that "all parties except the Ba'ath party must cease all of their work and activities in the field of education (National Progressive Front agreement – 1972)." In this way, the thinking of the Arabic Ba'ath party became the political exchange of education. The Ba'ath party was administrated by two educational offices. The office of education and Telai[1] were for both of the basic studies levels and high school, and their offices were attached to the military bases. The office of higher studies were attached to the universities.

Children struggle from the first days in school. The first problem is the teacher. The teacher is like a machine that breaks down the children and reforms them according to the concepts and principles of the Ba'ath party. Before this, teachers are trained and prepared to implement their work. They see the school as a military unit in which every person must obey them. Whoever says no will be severely punished. If we look at the spread of teachers in North and Eastern Syria, particularly those in the Kurdish regions, we see that the regime sent an army of teachers from the coast (from the cities on the Mediterranean Sea, particularly Latakia which was one of the most loyal cities to the Ba'ath party). Their duty was clarified; it was not just the erasure of the languages of the peoples by the Arabic language, but the building of a generation without willpower who would not know anything except the Ba'ath Party. Their primary aim was to build a generation without history, without culture and without respect. All values outside of the thinking of this party were lost. Every teacher played a role as a spy – not just on their students, but on their families as well.

Every teacher who was with the Ba'ath party in Kurdish regions worked at the same time as a member of the intelligence services. The teachers were all centrally tied to the intelligence services of the city. In this way they controlled every area, all the way out into the distant villages. When I was in elementary school, I remember well how afraid I was of my teacher following me in the street. Whoever saw their teacher in the street could expect severe punishment the next day. Even at home, when someone would mention the teacher's name, we would tremble. It reached a level in which sometimes the family itself would use the teacher as a threat to get their children to sleep…


[1] In the Syrian Ba'ath system, Telai is a 'scouts'-style organization for elementary school students. Participation was mandatory for all students for first through sixth grade. Activities included summer camps, clubs and competitions. The organization aimed at building individuals dedicated to the Ba'ath Party.


Rûbar Mihemed