English is being banned in primary schools in Iran, according to a top official, after the regime’s Islamic leaders warned that learning the language of America too early would trigger a “cultural invasion” of Western civilization.
“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run high education council, told state television, according to The Guardian. “The assumption is that in primary education the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid.”
The teaching of English usually starts in Iran in middle school, at the ages of 12 to 14, but some primary schools below that age also have English classes, according to The Guardian. Some children also attend private language institutes after their school day, while children from more privileged families attending non-government schools receive English teaching.
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, previously voiced his outrage and said in a speech to teachers, according to The Guardian: “That does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but [this is the] promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.”
A wave of anti-government protest demonstrations began on December 28 in Iran, exploding tensions between the Islamic republic’s hardline government and its fed-up populace.
Tehran has moved swiftly to quell the most serious protests since 2009’s “Green Movement,” cutting off social media and mobilizing police and military forces to deal with the spreading demonstrations.
Iranian officials said 22 people were killed and more than 1,000 arrested during the protests that spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, according to The Guardian.
The current protests could have enormous significance for the future of Iran and are focused on a number of issues. One motivation for the protests is the institutionalized discrimination against Iran’s ethnic minorities and the greater economic hardship in Iran’s periphery.
President Donald Trump has voiced encouragement for the anti-government demonstrations. The U.S. called a U.N. meeting on Friday, portraying the protests as a human rights issue that could spill over into an international problem.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.