Sexual segregation of higher education in Iran

by bparhami

Plans for segregating the sexes in Iranian universities seem to be going full-speed ahead (primary and secondary schools are already segregated). Preference for segregation by sex isn't unique to Islam and exists in both Judaism and Christianity, for instance.

While there is some evidence for more effective learning in unisex classrooms/schools, living in our modern world does not entail only technical knowledge and professional skills. Today, social skills and the ability to navigate in an increasingly complex and diverse world overshadow the importance of academic performance. The development of such social skills will be one of the casualties of segregated higher education.

This general observation aside, a larger danger looms if classrooms or university campuses are segregated by sex. Given that, due to systematic discrimination in both private and public sectors, employment opportunities for women are very limited, it is quite likely that resources will not be made available to women's classes or universities on par with men's programs or institutions. There is already talk of certain majors being inaccessible to women, depriving Iran of many future scientists, engineers, and judges, to cite a few examples.

Furthermore, it is not difficult to envision a next step in which professors are also segregated. There are already some very capable female faculty members in Iran, but their numbers, particularly at higher academic ranks, is relatively small. This latter segregation, if implemented, will compound the ill effects of decades of discrimination against Iranian women in education and employment.

The entire exercise presents a no-win situation that is appealing only to the sensibilities of certain stone-age religious authorities. Iranian women, and men, will certainly not take restrictions of this kind lightly, given that they will be even more damaging to the society than forced dress codes.


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