Sociological-institutional Explanation of Nomadic Education in Iran: Case Study Of Qashqai Tribe

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran

2 A PhD Candidate in Political Science, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran


Every society needs an appropriate educational system which is attuned to its existing and emergent political, socio-economic, and cultural structures. The nomadic life has remained one of the important ways of life in Iran, and therefore the authors explore the education of nomadic peoples in contemporary Iran from the first Pahlavi period to the Islamic Republic by focusing on a case study of Qashqa'i  tribe and using a sociological-institutional approach. Based on various needs and specific functions, the institutions are established and evolved as time goes on; and their sustainability in reality depends on their functions and the competence or effectiveness of carrying out their assigned tasks. Similar to other social and political institutions, the formation and expansion of institutions involved in the policy planning, formulation and implementation of education programs in a nomadic society have undergone numerous developments throughout the course of history.
According to the Statistics Center of Iran, there are diverse tribes who are divided into clans with different history, dialects, ethnicity, and cultural customs. The ‘wandering’ nomads in 2008 made up 1.4 percent of the population, and owned about 29 percent of  Iran’s livestock species of sheep and goats. However, no precise data is available in regards to their access to education. The nomadic families who have settled down in villages, towns and cities have presumably  access to schools for their children, but those who live in remote areas of the country have to be provided with "mobile" tent schools and instructional materials such as books. As more nomads have gradually changed their traditional lifestyle, their  access to schooling has been through the official educational institutions, particularly during the Islamic Republic era.
In this qualitative case study, the authors use the existing historical records and data collected in previous studies based on a variety of research methods ranging from participant direct observation, interview, to events data analysis and discourse analysis by prominent researchers in order to answer the following questions: 1. What has been the characteristics and functions of the nomad education program in Iran since 1925? 2. Why and how is the nomadic education system in Iran influenced by the government power structure? In the research hypothesis, it is claimed that the mentality of the Iranian intellectuals and politicians towards the tribal issue has influenced the development and implementation of education programs for nomads in Iran which has  led to social and cultural changes, and has had important implications such as the concentration of power in favor of the central government, decline of power of tribal hierarchy, assimilation and identity solidarity of the nomads. In Iran, formal education and training programs were adopted to create educational opportunities for the nomads who had held on to their traditional ways of life, and often had to cope with many social and economic problems as compared to sedentary and less mobile populations. In the past, the central government had tried to transform the nomadic and seminomadic tribes into town dwellers, farmers and livestock producers with the goal of helping them to gain economic self-reliance under the watchful eyes of the authorities who were concerned with national security threats. One of the aims of such policies had been the gradual elimination of the tribal powers.
After the fall of Qajar dynasty (1789-1925) and the failure of the constitutional movement to implement reforms and tribal plans, the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979) inherited the idea that the population of tribes and nomads should be settled and tribal way of life should be abolished. Nomadic education was one of the tools of assimilating the tribal communities, and transferring tribal loyalty to the central government away from the subnational tribal leadership structure. The tribal policies pursued from the Qajar period to the First Pahlavi era (1925-1941) were aimed at establishing a modern state, and increasing socio-economic development of the country. Due to the weaknesses of government infrastructure, transformation efforts were based more on the use of military means than the cultural ones. The  plans failed to bring about the desired changes, and in the aftermath of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran and the subsequent political crises which led to the abdication of the ruler in August 1941, Iranian nomads once again became influential in the country's politics. The Qashqa'i  leaders were among the main players in southern Iran until 19 August 1943. However, the central government during the second Pahlavi Era (1941-1979) gradually became powerful with the help of Truman’s Point Four Program and planned to  counter the growth of communism among the nomadic and rural communities by a cultural policy which included nomadic education program. This new policy was more successful compared to the past attempts to address the tribal issue. The nomadic education was able to act as an ideological instrument to promote nationalism, patriotism, loyalty to the country, flag-waving, and admiration for the ancient Iranian culture. Therefore, the education of ethnic and tribal mobile communities such as nomadic herders and pastoralists should be seen as an institutionalized arrangement made by the central government to perform functions such as tribal communities' displacement and their settlement in population centers, legitimation and concentration of state power, and the destruction of the power base of the tribal leadership, and cultural assimilation in the name of development.


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Volume 51, Issue 2
September 2021
Pages 460-435
  • Receive Date: 15 February 2021
  • Revise Date: 13 July 2021
  • Accept Date: 12 September 2021
  • First Publish Date: 12 September 2021