June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.271.1 - 15.271.7
Challenges and Opportunities for Strengthening Higher Education in Afghanistan
Abstract This paper summarizes the opportunities and challenges in strengthening higher education in Afghanistan, after a long period of war and destruction in the country. The information and experience detailed in this paper are the result of a three-year partnership between Kansas State University and Kabul University, as the first phase of a potentially 10 year project, funded by the World Bank; as well as the familiarity of a couple of the authors of this paper with the cultural, social and economical facts in the region due to their much longer periods of living in the region. The partnership started by an assessment trip to Kabul by a group of administrators and faculty members from three major engineering departments, colleges of Architecture and Planning and Department of Modern Languages at KSU, on November 2006. Technical issues and the progress in rebuilding Kabul University Engineering Program are addressed in another paper. This paper summarizes observations related to general social, cultural and economical issues, and briefly discusses the challenges and opportunities in strengthening higher education, after a brief history of education in general and higher education in particular in Afghanistan. These challenges and opportunities that have their roots deep in the cultural and social fields in the region will be detailed followed by some recommendations and conclusions.
Key Words: strengthening higher education, Afghanistan, Kabul, social, economical, cultural, Islamic school, challenge, educational system
Introduction Afghanistan, as one of the Central Asian countries has an estimated population of 25 million inhabitants, of which some 2-3 million still live in exile. The main ethnic groups are Pashtuns (45-50 %), Tadjiks (30-35 %), Hazaras (5-10 %) and Uzbeks (5 %). Ninety nine per cent are Muslims, eighty five to ninety per cent are Sunni and ten to fifteen per cent are Shia Muslims. The country has two official languages, Pashtu and Dari, which is an Afghan version of Persian1, 2, 3 . As a so-called developing country, Afghanistan may be the only country that has not experienced any development, let alone the huge destruction of the infrastructures due to decades of occupation and war. In spite of its recent unfortunate conditions, the country has a relatively rich cultural history with outstanding literature, art and science. Afghanistan has a written history that backs thousands of years before Islam, as a dominant religion was spread to the region more than 1200 years ago.
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