Friday, December 17, 2010

Iranian academic achievements

As a result of recent Iranian success in science and engineering there is some discussion about Iranian educational outcomes in the blogosphere.

Two semi-related comments:

1. Iranians in Sweden are currently the only major immigrant group that significantly outperforms native Swedes in higher education. Of course this is partially or entirely due to selection, but most other immigrant groups are also selected, and do not perform as well.

About 45% of native Swedes start college. The figure is a little over 30% for non-european immigrants as a whole. By contrast, 60% of Iranian immigrant kidds in Sweden start college. The figure for Iraqi immigrants is 26% and for Somali immigrants 16%.


Iranians are also overrepresented in selective programs, such as in medical school and in engineering. About 4% of all of Sweden's medical students and 2% of Sweden's PhD students originate from Iran.

Naturally, the success of this single non-European immigrant group (the exception) is used by the Swedish media as an argument to take in more unskilled immigrants from unsuccessful countries such as Iraq and Somalia (the rule). Classical Bait and Switch.

2. For some reason a lot of Americans are under the impression that Azeris constitute some sort of Iranian intellectual elite.

It is certainly true that Azeris are not second class citizens in Iran. It is also true that they are as stanchly nationalistic as most other Iranians and have little separatist tendencies (in both cases unlike Iranian Kurds).

But in my opinion it is misleading to describe Azeris as an elite.


The Mede provinces of Iran - Azeri and Kurdish - both have lower than average per capita income, even excluding the oil producing provinces.

Furthermore, I have never seen any evidence that Azeris are over-represented in Iranian academia, and some evidence that they are under-represented.

According to Iran’s Statistical Yearbook, the Azeri provinces are underrepresented in their national share of college students. This alone doesn’t tell us much since they could move to other cities to study, and because those Azeris who have already migrated to Tehran are not included.

Azeris are a little less than 20% of the population. The American estimate of 25% is often circulated, but self-identified survey data shows a smaller share. Non-Farsi speakers are probably a little less than half the population. Yet, according to this guy, research by Alireza Sarafi shows that only 10% of Iranian PhD students are non-farsi speakers.

Obviously Iranian official statistics is not all that reliable. However we need more than anecdotal evidence to claim that Azeris are over-represented among the Iranian elite.

36 comments:

  1. Tino,

    I'm a frequent reader. I'm very interested in (and very ignorant about) Iran from a cultural and historical perspective.

    I guess all I'm trying to say is that I hope to hear more from you on this topic!

    ReplyDelete
  2. First time reader and quite like your blog. Although it's interesting to see the same pattern in Sweden as in the US (where I live) I'm not at all surprised by it. I know you're probably well aware but ex-US readers may not be - Los Angeles now has a huge Iranian population ("Tehrangeles"), and the result is that California medical, legal, and science and engineering professions all over-represent Iranians relative to the general population. (There have been conspicuous successes in several other sectors as well.) Most of these professionals were born here in the U.S. as the first American-born descendants of the people who seem to have left Iran as a result of the current regime's arrival. The West and California in particular has really benefited from Iran's de facto choice to drive these folks away. Now if only the U.S. would get smart like Canada and Australia and start viewing immigration as recruiting!!

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  3. "It is certainly true that Azeris are not second class citizens in Iran. It is also true that they are as stanchly nationalistic as most other Iranians and have little separatist tendencies (in both cases unlike Iranian Kurds)."

    Interesting. Why do you think Iranian Azeris are more loyal to Iran than are Iranian Kurds?

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  4. Your table is interesting but a major group that is very present in Canada but not in your table is Chinese. In Canada, and in the US, they are the most numerous and the most successful, often outscoring the natives.
    After running a large factory in Canada for 20 years full of sewers of Asian origin, I can tell you their reason for success: drive, culture and making the most of opportunity. By the way, the Chinese take over whatever country they take refuge in Asia.
    Some cultures put a lot of emphasis on education such as the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Jews and possibly Iranians. Parental expectations are high so kids want to meet them, especially in cultures that emphasize respect for parents.
    The last factor that I have observed so much is the immense drive that new immigrants mostly have to succeed in their new countries. They are immigrants for a reason and want just can't believe all the opportunities at their feet. In contrast, the natives have gotten slothful and unambitious as all successful civilizations become. They are often resentful of new immigrants because they don't want to work so hard anymore as their parents did. Its human nature.

    Cheers,
    Bob

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