Isa Sadiq (1894 - 1978)

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Isa Sadiq also known as Sadiq 'Alam (1894-1978), was one of the most influential educational reformers in the 20th century Iran, formerly known as Persia, best remembered for his lifetime commitment to the improvement of Persian modern Education. He was the minister of education for six terms, chancellor of Tehran University, director of Tehran Teachers College, distinguished professor, senator, and a man of letters.

Born into a family of petty merchant in Tehran in 1894, Sadiq received his early education in his hometown. In 1911, along 29 other students, he was sent to France on a state scholarship to acquire modern education. There, he decided to study teacher education, as he later says in his memoir, to awaken his fellow countrymen through the light of knowledge, as illiteracy had led both clergymen and foreigners control his country from within and without, respectively. His seven-year stay in France led him to a teacher certificate from Teacher Training College of Versailles (1914) and a licence in Science from Sorbonne University (1918). Sadiq was one of the few Persian scholars, whose learning experience was expanded beyond Europe to the US. While attending the World Conference on Adult Education held in Geneva in 1929, he met Paul B. Monroe (1869-1947), the director of the International Institute of School of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Monroe invited Sadiq to join the Institute to purse his doctoral studies in Comparative and International education. In the 1930s, Sadiq accepted Monroe's invitation and traveled to New York, where he studied comparative education under the most influential American educationalists, notably John Dewey, James Russell, Paul Monroe and Isaac Leon Kandel. Under the auspicious of the latter, Sadiq successfully defended his doctoral dissertation entitled Modern Persia and her educational system in 1931. A few months later, his doctoral dissertation was published by the International Institute of Teachers College, Columbia University.

Sadiq's contribution to the field lies in his constant efforts to modernize education system in Iran. He perceived education as an essential means and a necessary process for achieving democracy and development. He worked hard to carry out his reformist agenda while holding such prominent positions as the minister of education for six terms (1941-61), director of Tehran Teachers College (1932-40), dean of the faculty of humanities of Tehran University (1935-1940) and a professor of education and history at Tehran TC and University (1931-71).

Sadiq was one of the principal founders of Tehran University, the first one in the nation (1935). He was also instrumental in establishing Tabriz University in 1947 and restructuring Shiraz University along the lines of American universities in 1964. He is also remembered for his lifetime commitment to the improvement of the field of Teacher Education in Iran. Until the early 1930s, anyone who could read or write was considered qualified to teach and such people were often hired without any criteria. Sadiq believed that literacy alone was not an adequate qualification for teaching and concentrated his efforts to standardize the field of Teacher Education. In 1932 he was appointed the director of Tehran Teachers College. During his 8 years stay at the institute, he carried out his reform agenda in the college programs. Under his leadership, the teacher training program introduces courses such as principles of education, philosophy of education, history of education, educational sociology, and developmental psychology a part of the curriculum. Sadiq contributed also to the improvement of the primary and secondary education in Iran. He was involved in establishing some 2,000 primary schools, two colleges of agriculture and a number of high schools specialized in vocational and fine arts throughout the country. He was instrumental in making physical education a mandatory part of every school curriculum in 1933. Being inspired by American education system, Sadiq organized a number of societies for students and educators, including the Associations of Teachers and Parents, which were made obligatory in every school in 1947. Sadiq initiated the publication of the first Persian journal of education, Principles of teaching (Osul-e Ta'limat) in 1918, which continued as Amuzesh o Parvaresh until the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It was under his influence that in 1960 the Ministry of Education increased teachers' salary to conform to the current standards of living.

In spite of his administrative responsibilities and his teaching positions, Sadiq found time to attend to his literary and intellectual interests. He was a proliferate writer, mostly on education (see below). His research and writings for more than five decades made it possible for Persian teachers and educators to learn about modern educational theories and practices. He, more than any other individual, brought education and educators onto the centre stage in the political, social and economic discourse of Persia in the 20th century. His works were frequently published and used as course books and reference materials by professors and students in the field of teacher education in Persia. Additionally, his four-volume memoirs gained wide readership among his contemporaries.

Sadiq died in 1978 while surrounded by news of the enormous demonstrations that led the revolutionary opposition to a victory in 1979. Ever since, other than scant reviews of his work and contributions, Sadiq and his ideas have fallen into oblivion during the long course of fundamental changes that have occurred in the nation, education included.

Educational Background

Teacher Certificate in Math Education, Versailles Teacher Training College, Paris, France (1914)

Licence ès Sciences , Sorbonne University, France (1918)

PhD in Comparative and International Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA (1931)

Professional Background

Instructor of Persian Language and Literature, Cambridge University, England (1916-1917).

Director of Tehran Teachers College (1932-1940)

Professor of Education, Tehran Teachers College (1931-1940)

Founding Director of the Publication and Propaganda Organization, Tehran (1940)

Dean of the College of Humanities, Tehran University (1935-1940)

Professor of History and Culture, Tehran University (1935-1971)

Minister of Education for six terms for the total period of 2 years (1941-1961)

Senator for a total period of 16 years (1949-1971)

Selected Publications

All in Persian, except noted otherwise

Sadiq, I. (1919). Nine lectures on the art of teaching. Tehran.

Sadiq, I. (1923). Principles of teaching Arithmetic and solving problems. Tehran

Sadiq, I. (1928). Practical principles of education. Tehran.

Sadiq, I. (1931). Modern Persia and her educational system. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University Press. (In English)

Sadiq, I. (1932). One Year in the USA. Tehran: Parvin Publication.

Sadiq, I. (1935). Modern teaching methodologies. Tehran: Sherkat-e Tab-e Ketab.

Sadiq, I. (1937). A short history of education. Tehran: Sherkat-e Tab-e Ketab.

Sadiq, I. (1953). The development of education in Iran and the West: A brief history of education system from its inception to the present. Tehran: Tehran University Press.

Sadiq, I. (1957). History of education in Iran. Tehran: Tehran University Press.

Sadiq, I. (1957). History of education in the West. Tehran: Tehran University Press.

Sadiq, I. (1959-1973) Autobiography (Yadgar-e Omr) 4 vols. Tehran. Sherkat-e Tab-e Ketab


Created: 3/15/2008

Updated: 3/17/2008

Contributed By: Maryam Borjian, Teachers College, Columbia University