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Lessons From Efforts To Develop And Implement A Modern Educational Program In Afghanistan

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering Education in Africa, Asia and the Mid-East Region

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.842.1 - 14.842.11



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Paper Authors

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Scott Hamilton United States Military Academy

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Eric Crispino United States Military Academy

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Andrew Bellocchio United States Military Academy

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Aaron Hill United States Military Academy

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Stephen Ressler United States Military Academy

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Lessons from Efforts to Develop and Implement a Modern Educational Program in Afghanistan Abstract

Working to improve engineering education in the developing world is rewarding, frustrating, challenging, maddening, surprising, and vitally important. It provides an unpredictable mix of successes and struggles. The authors have been engaged in an ongoing effort to start up, build and implement a civil engineering program at the new National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA) in Kabul, Afghanistan. NMAA, modeled on the US Military Academy at West Point, aspires to have a modern four-year western-style academic program that has a large math, science, and engineering component. The academy has gone from a vague idea in 2003 to graduating its first class in January 2009. Along the way there have been many successes, challenges, and struggles encountered by the U.S. advisors working in Afghanistan. There have also been many lessons learned that the authors believe will have a wider applicability to all efforts to improve the higher level educational systems in the developing world. This paper will discuss in detail the efforts that have been expended to bring NMAA to the point where it is and address the challenges that remain, with special emphasis on the engineering program. The authors will also address the implications of these lessons for the broader endeavor of educational capacity-building in the developing world. While each country and culture offers its own unique challenges and opportunities, we feel several lessons we learned have universal applicability. Among the topics discussed will be the use of face-to-face and distance mentoring, cultural and ethical challenges, faculty development, providing resources and equipment, and ensuring the continuity and sustainability of programs.


As noted by the World Bank “Higher education is the modern world’s basic education, but many countries are falling further and further behind” and they go on to emphatically state that “Higher Education is no longer a luxury, it is essential for survival” 1 In the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century: Vision and Action the report says that “without adequate higher education and research institutions providing a critical mass of skilled and educated people, no country can ensure genuine endogenous and sustainable development and, in particular developing countries and the least developed countries cannot reduce the gap separating them from industrially developed ones.”2 With this declaration, the role of higher education cannot be doubted as a necessity for developing nations. As one way to advance this cause the report goes on to say that “the principle of solidarity and true partnership amongst higher education institutions worldwide is crucial for education and training in all fields…”2 That “partnerships, based on common interest, mutual respect, and credibility, should be a prime matrix for renewal in higher education.” 2 In their document aimed at making these goals a reality, the World Conference on Higher Education stated that “Institutions of higher education in industrialized countries should strive to make arrangements for international co-operation with sister institutions in developing countries and in particular

Hamilton, S., & Crispino, E., & Bellocchio, A., & Hill, A., & Ressler, S. (2009, June), Lessons From Efforts To Develop And Implement A Modern Educational Program In Afghanistan Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5616

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