Teachers helping to build Afghanistan’s future

04.02.2016 – Modern teaching methods communicate not only knowledge but also the ability to solve problems and engage in critical thinking. GIZ and the Afghan Ministry of Education have together embarked on a fundamental overhaul of the country's education system.

The number of Afghan children now attending school is growing. Over the past ten years, it has risen from just under four million to more than eight-and-a-half million. And some 39 per cent of them are girls. This increase is also driving a demand for qualified teachers. Whereas in Germany a primary school teacher instructs an average of 16 children, in Afghanistan the average number is 45. And that's not the only difference.

‘In Afghanistan learning still means teacher-centred instruction and learning by rote,’ says GIZ's Elke Krause-Hannak, who has been advising the Afghan Ministry of Education on its teacher training policy since 2014 on behalf of Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). ‘And today’s prospective teachers are also the product of this tradition. But now they see that teaching and learning processes can be designed much differently.’

‘Teachers are always role models’

At present, GIZ is training lecturers and trainers at five education colleges in the north of Afghanistan with the specific aim of advancing women’s career opportunities. The first step involves teaching the theoretical basics of modern pedagogy and education, for example, how learning works or how teachers can enable children to engage in critical thinking. In the next phase, the trainers practice lesson preparation and actual lesson delivery. They immediately share their new know-how with their students who benefit twofold: from the new teaching methods and from their instructors who, as role models, demonstrate a new way of teaching.

‘Teachers are always role models, and we make use of that fact,’ says Krause-Hannak. Consequently, the courses not only include modern ways of teaching and methodology but peace education as well. ‘Up till now, discipline in Afghan classrooms was often enforced by shouting or even by means of corporal punishment.’ However, in peace education, the trainee teachers explore what cooperative learning means and how they can promote respectful interaction among their pupils and foster a peaceful atmosphere in the classroom.

Exchange of experience at national level

How to go about implementing this theory in practice is something the trainee teachers learn in their final year of training during a nine-week internship in an actual school – a first for Afghan teacher training. GIZ devised this period of practical training jointly with its partner universities. In the meantime, teacher training institutions in other parts of the country are now asking how they can give their students a similar practical training experience. ‘Now our partner universities have the capacity to provide the kind of support needed,’ says Elke Krause-Hannak.

Since first embarking on this BMZ commission in 2005, GIZ has organised basic and further training courses for around 100,000 trainee teachers from primary and secondary schools. More than half of the 45,000 students who have completed their teacher training during this period are women.