TEHRAN, Iran — The Iranian education system is struggling with a high unemployment rate, a sharp rise in student loan debt and an increasing number of teachers and administrators who are facing financial challenges.
Teachers have been forced to take on unpaid leave for years, the government says, because they can’t find enough work.
Some teachers have been fired for taking too long to pay their student loans, or for not fulfilling their teaching responsibilities.
The government also blames the country’s financial crisis on a lack of funds for its education system.
“It is very difficult to pay back the loans we took out, especially in times like this,” said one education administrator in Tehran.
A survey by the Iranian Central Bank found that 63 percent of students are in default on their student loan payments, and many of them have to repay the loans through a combination of the government’s economic sanctions and a program that allows families to borrow money from the Iranian government for education.
While the government has said it is looking into ways to reduce the number of defaulting students, the survey found that the country has about 20,000 defaulting families, many of whom have been unable to make their payments for years.
Most students in the education system are unable to find jobs.
More than 20 percent of Iranian students are unemployed, according to the World Bank.
Teachers, administrators and other employees who take on the unpaid leave have been able to make ends meet through a cooperative educational service that provides free education to about 2 million students.
But they say it is hard to find work.
“It is impossible for me to find a job in the private sector,” said a teacher in Tehran who did not want to be identified for fear of losing his job.
One school principal said that even though students are receiving free education, the school’s administration is struggling to provide teachers with adequate salaries and pay.
Schools that provide free education are in a difficult situation because the government does not have the resources to hire the teachers needed to fulfill the program, said the principal.
Teacher salaries vary widely in Iran, and teachers are paid based on the amount of work they do, said Mohammad Javad Zarif, the education minister.
He said that schools have set up special districts for teachers that pay the highest salaries.
Teaching jobs in Iran are limited.
The Iranian government has been restricting the number and types of teachers, who must also pass a test.
The government says the education level of the student population is very low.
But some educators say the shortage of teachers is not a major problem.
Iran’s education system has been struggling for years with high unemployment rates, which have been rising.
In the fall of 2011, the unemployment rate reached 35 percent.
It has since dropped to about 16 percent.
Many teachers have had to take unpaid leave due to student loan repayment.
In Tehran, a teacher said that he had taken five weeks of unpaid leave last year because of student loan debts.
“There are so many teachers that I have to leave because of their loans, because of the amount they have to pay, and also because of my health,” said the teacher, who was not authorized to speak to the media.
Teresa Cavanaugh, the director of the Center for Education Equity and Student Rights in Washington, D.C., said the problem has worsened in recent years, and has been exacerbated by a lack in funds.
Students are not getting the education they need, Cavanaugh said.
They’re not getting their basic education.
They are not doing their homework.
They don’t understand the curriculum, and they don’t have the skills needed to become successful in the job market.
Tehran’s education department, which oversees schools, has said that more than a third of the students enrolled in the city’s public schools are underperforming.
The education department estimates that only 15 percent of the city population is literate.
With the recession hitting hard in the past few years, Iran’s education authorities have been trying to create a work force that is able to keep up with the demand for teachers and other school employees.
Courses in English and Arabic were introduced in the schools last year.
The first courses are for kindergarten through eighth grade, while secondary and high school courses are also being taught.
Since the beginning of this year, a new curriculum has been introduced, and the first class of kindergarten has been taught in English.
In addition to a new set of courses in English, teachers are teaching classes in Arabic and other languages.