The Government of the United States and the Government of Iraq strongly support the preservation and expression of Iraq’s rich heritage, the establishment of a strong Iraqi education system at all levels, and the continuation of robust educational, cultural, and professional exchanges between our nations. The U.S.-Iraq Joint Coordinating Committee on Cultural and Educational Cooperation met in March 2011 in Baghdad, and in February 2012 in Washington, D.C.
The United States and Iraq are working together to build a strong Iraqi higher education system with long-term links with U.S. academic institutions. U.S. and Iraqi efforts helped increase the number of Iraqi students studying in the United States by more than 45 percent to 616 students in the 2010-2011 academic year over the previous year. An Education USA education advising event featuring up to 10 universities will be held in April 2012, building on the success of the first-ever fair in Erbil in October 2011. Through educational advising, we will continue to provide accurate information about U.S. higher education to Iraqi students who aspire to study at U.S. institutions. Hundreds of Iraqi students and scholars have studied or conducted research in the U.S. through the Fulbright Program, with 35 students and 35 faculty expected to participate in the 2012-13 academic year. Seven U.S. and seven Iraqi universities participate in the Iraq University Linkages Program, which pairs U.S. and Iraqi faculty and administrators to strengthen university curricula, enhance and update teaching methods and technology, and improve career services for students. The current linkages match Basrah University with Oklahoma State University; Salahaddin University with the University of Cincinnati; Tikrit University with Ball State University; Kufa University with the University of Kentucky; Baghdad University with Georgia State University; the University of Dohuk with Michigan State University; and the University of Technology with the University of Missouri at Columbia. To promote English language teaching and learning, the United States supported the establishment of an Iraq chapter of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) in November 2011, creating a professional association for English teachers within Iraq and connecting them to the international community. The U.S. government will expand the English Access Microscholarship Program to provide 1,500 scholarships to disadvantaged secondary school students in all provinces in Iraq, a 50 percent increase from last year. The English Language Institute, established through a $1 million grant to Ball State University and in partnership with the Government of Iraq, will provide English language instruction to hundreds of Iraqi scholarship students each year.
Primary and Secondary Education: The U.S. and Iraq are working to strengthen primary school management, improve primary and secondary teacher’s pedagogical skills, and enhance access to quality education for girls and vulnerable groups. A new partnership between USAID and the Iraqi Ministry of Education aims to improve teaching skills, develop the management and monitoring abilities of ministry inspectors and primary school supervisors, and enhance education policy-making processes.
Cultural Heritage: The United States, Iraq, and premier American academic institutions, museums, and NGOs are collaborating to ensure sustainable preservation of Iraqi national sites, monuments, and collections of world importance. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has committed $550,000 to continue support for the educational programs of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil through 2013. The Institute has also recently secured $650,000 in funding from private American foundations to continue its education and training programs. U.S.-supported infrastructure upgrades to the National Museum of Iraq are complete, and the U.S. is now assisting site management and preservation of the ancient site of Babylon through a $3.7 million grant to the World Monuments Fund. The United States supported a month-long residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Iraqi museum professionals in fall 2011 and will host Iraqi graduate students in the summer of 2012 as part of the Iraqi Museum Residencies Program.
Youth, Sports and Professional Exchanges: The United States and Iraq are committed to robust people-to-people exchanges, especially focused on youth. Since its creation in 2007, the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program has brought more than 840 young Iraqis ages 15-22 to the United States for summer exchange programs focused on leadership and civic participation. In 2012, another 230 young men and women from all parts of Iraq will participate. Over 250 Iraqis took part in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2010 and 2011, and approximately 150 will participate in 2012 in exchanges focusing on a variety of themes, including human and civil rights, women’s issues, energy reform, transparency in government, rule of law and judicial reform, water management, and preventing domestic abuse and violence.
Since 2009 close to sixty Iraqi athletes or coaches have participated in four sports exchanges, bringing young Iraqi basketball players and coaches and Iraqi female volleyball coaches to the U.S. for programs with their American counterparts, that included sessions on team building, conflict resolution and gender equity.