June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.158.1 - 13.158.13
ADVANCING A COMPUTER SCIENCE CURRICULUM IN AFGHANISTAN: A MENTOR’S PERSPECTIVE
The National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA) recently requested assistance from the United States Military Academy to build a computer science program capable of producing the technological leaders needed by its nation and its army. We spent several months in Kabul, Afghanistan working alongside the host nation faculty to structure an ABET-style, goal oriented curriculum that can evolve alongside the technical needs of the growing country. We embarked on this mission of developing objectives, outcomes, and a curriculum while the faculty was in the process of teaching the initial courses in the CS major. The challenges we faced and the associated solutions we developed offer insight to other computer science faculty who may be called upon to provide similar assistance in developing programs around the world.
Bringing information and communication technologies (ICT) to underdeveloped countries has been a goal of the international community for several years; the potential benefits derived from closing the “digital divide” have been well researched and documented. The role of education in the process cannot be understated, but a large part of the problem is that the institutional foundation for providing education is absent in many developing countries. Universities lack resources and management to prime the pump of domestic engineering specialists. As a result, undergraduate university programs in developing nations may need external advisors to provide experience-based recommendations for curriculum development. Until the “digital divide” is significantly reduced, computer science programs around the world must rely on the international community of technical faculty to provide mentorship and guidance. Mentors face the significant challenges associated with impacting the ability to start teaching immediately while simultaneously structuring the program for continual evolution that will eventually be unassisted.
Afghan university programs have recognized the need for outside assistance and have turned to counterparts in other nations to assist them in building appropriate curricula. After decades of war and destruction, Afghanistan is struggling to rebuild itself for the future with a large focus on the expansion of ICT8. Just as in other nations, many factors are rapidly expanding the use of computers, including the availability of satellite and wireless technologies, the decreasing cost of hardware, and increased exposure to international advisement. This rapid expansion has resulted in a relatively new dependency on computer technology that is forcing Afghanistan to develop its own technically competent workforce. However, the decades of instability and war that devastated the technological infrastructure have also created a void of skilled technicians and educators. To overcome this significant shortage, the Afghan government has recognized the need for computer science education at the college level to develop its own workforce2, realizing that “improving welfare depends on the domestic capacity to apply and gain knowledge.”10
The administration at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA) requested advisors from the United States Military Academy (USMA) to help them build a computer
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