Review of Iran’s Achievements in International Scientific Olympiads
If the name of Mount Olympus has given rise to Olympics Games as an international sports event, the word “Olympiad” is also reminiscent of scientific competitions among young people from different nationalities. About 44 years ago mathematics teachers from Romania founded a series of mathematical competitions at their high schools and the first competition was held the next year, thus giving birth to the first mathematics Olympiad in the world. After the positive results of such competitions were observed, other Olympiads came into being and, at present, chemistry Olympiad is 34 years old, physics Olympiad is 33 years old, and informatics Olympiad is 14 years old. This development has been a major positive event in the world and has continued as a venue for talented youth of different countries despite various political upheavals and regardless of economic, ethnic and racial differences among the participants. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution (1979), the Islamic Republic of Iran first took part in those Olympiads in 1987 despite many problems resulting from the war with Iraq and, during the same year, it overtook many countries in mathematics Olympiad. In 1987, a group of experts from mathematics group of Textbooks Planning and Writing Office took part in an international conference on mathematics and this paved the way for the participation of Iran in the 28th mathematics Olympiad in Cuba. The six highest ranking participants in 4th edition of domestic mathematics competitions teamed up for that Olympiad and the team was led by Dr. Mohammad Ali Najafi. Participation of the Iranian mathematics team under conditions of the ongoing war with Iraq surprised heads of other participating teams, but they were even more amazed when the results were made known. For the first time, Iran ranked 26th among 42 countries and one of the Iranian students won a bronze medal. The achievement increased hope in future achievements by Iranian students. Afterwards, a National Mathematics Olympiad Committee was established comprising mathematics professors of universities as well as experienced high school teachers and experts from mathematics group of Textbooks Planning and Writing Office. From that time, all basic decisions and general policies on the mathematics Olympiad were made by the committee whose members were enthusiastic to play a role in scientific advancement of their country. The 29th mathematics Olympiad was held in Australia and the Iranian team won one silver medal and three bronze medals to rank 20th among 49 countries. In Germany in 1989, Iran won two silver and three bronze medals as well as a diploma of honor to rank 14th among 50 countries. In 1990, Iranian students won four medals in Chinese mathematics Olympiad to once more rank 14th among 50 participating countries. The next year in Sweden, Iran won its first gold medal and the Iranian team ranked 8th among 54 countries after winning two gold medals, one silver medal, and two bronze medals. In 1992, Iran took part in the 33rd mathematics Olympiad in Moscow and won three silver medals, two bronze medals and one diploma of honor to rank 13th among 69 countries. Credits gained by Iranian students in geometry were higher than all other countries and Iran ranked first in geometry. The best results were obtained in Turkey during the 34th mathematics Olympiad, where the Iranian team won two gold medals, three silver medals, and one bronze medal to rank 6th among 73 countries. The Iranian team also stood on top of other teams in algebra. Five teams which preceded Iran came from China, Germany, Bulgaria, Russia and Taiwan while the United States, Romania, Afghanistan, France, Canada, Italy, and Austria stood below Iran on the list. Since the beginning of mathematics Olympiads, the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been among high-ranking participants and at present, it stands only below China in Asia. After achievements of Iranian students in mathematics Olympiads, the willingness increased for participation in other Olympiads. After sending two physicists as observers to the 19th physics Olympiad, Iran took part in the 20th physics Olympiad in Poland, and four members of the team won two bronze medals and a diploma of honor, ranking 20th among 30 countries. Iran then took part in the 21st physics Olympiad winning a bronze medal to rank 14th among 32 countries and in the 22nd Olympiad, Iranian students won three bronze medals and a diploma of honor, ranking 12th. In the 23rd Olympiad in Finland, the Iranian team won a diploma of honor and ranked 24th among 37 countries. Later, in the 24th mathematics Olympiad, Iranian students won a gold medal, a bronze medal and three diplomas of honor among 37 countries. Iran took part in a computer Olympiad in 1991 as observer. Iranian teams were then dispatched to the 4th and 5th computer Olympiads in Germany and Argentina in 1992 and 1993, respectively. For the first time, the Iranian team won two silver medals and two bronze medals in the 4th Olympiad to rank 14th among 46 countries. In 1993 and in the 5th Olympiad, Iranian students won a gold medal, two silver medals, and one bronze medals to rank 4th among 47 countries. Three countries which topped Iran included Slovakia, Romania, and Russia while countries like China, South Korea, the United States, and Germany ranked below Iran from 5th to 8th. In chemistry Olympiad, Iran sent observers to two Olympiads before taking part in the 25th chemistry Olympiad in Italy in 1993. In that Olympiad, all Iranian students won medals and Iran ranked 16th among 38 countries, winning one silver medal and three bronze medals. Although holding scientific competitions has become vogue after the victory of the Islamic Revolution and through maximum cost saving, they have had positive results for the country some of which are as follows: Winning international honors in international competitions for the Islamic Republic of Iran followed by enhanced self-reliance in the country and thwarting negative propaganda by enemies; Encouraging Iranian students to learn more and compete for success in international competitions which will increase scientific level of Iranian schools and universities; Contacts with the world and awareness of international issues in various scientific courses and positive effect of that awareness in planning textbooks and assessment of country’s scientific capacities; Increased enthusiasm among educational officials in different provinces to be successful in different competitions by organizing special educational courses in their provinces; Increasing enthusiasm of talented students to study in basic sciences like mathematics, chemistry, and physics and positive impact of that enthusiasm in elevating scientific level of the Iranian universities; Considerable activities for writing and translating scientific books and magazines on various subjects of different Olympiads in order to increase knowledge and awareness of teachers across the nation by encouraging them to take part in activities related to Olympiads and teach major subjects of those Olympiads; Identifying talented youth of the country in basic sciences and supporting them in order to raise future scientists. At present, activities of national committees of various Olympiads and management of domestic scientific competitions as well as dispatch of students to international Olympiads has become more regular in different educational courses. Ministry of Education has established a club called “Young Students Club” since several years ago in order to achieve the above goals.