Improving school education through new standards for teaching staff and new curricula
Title: Basic and secondary education programme for Afghanistan (BEPA)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development(BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Afghan Ministry of Education (Teacher Education Directorate)
Overall term: 2005 to 2019
Overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated school buildings and poorly trained teachers are common in many parts of Afghanistan. The resulting lack of education continues to hamper the country’s development. 70 per cent of women and around half of all men can neither read nor write. Although three decades of conflict and the anti-education policies of the Taliban regime have left deep scars, the country’s education system has made considerable progress since 2001. According to official statistics, the number of children attending school has reached over nine million, including 74 per cent of girls and 98 per cent of boys of school age. Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s education system cannot meet the huge and persistent demand for qualified teachers. Pupil achievement is generally low, especially in the early years of primary school. Lessons are inadequately prepared, too theoretical and mainly involve rote learning. Teaching staff lack the skills needed to put across their subject effectively and in many cases are simply not equipped to deliver interesting, high-quality lessons to different target groups and ages based on a modern curriculum.
Thanks to improvements in pre- and in-service training for teachers, the quality of education and pupil achievement are improving over the medium term. The Afghan Ministry of Education is creating the conditions needed to improve teaching quality in the four provinces of Samangan, Badakhshan, Balkh and Herat.
The project is designed to strengthen capacity at the Afghan Ministry of Education and therefore facilitate the introduction of a specialised diploma course for new primary school teachers. It advises the Teacher Education Directorate, which is specifically responsible for pre- and in-service teacher training. In concrete terms, this involves working with the Directorate to produce subject guides and detailed teaching modules through to manuals and workbooks.
Skills development courses are also being provided for lecturers with a view to modernising the way subjects are taught across all age groups. The goal here is to promote specialist teaching methods and a learner-centred approach.
The project also advises on measures to strengthen the entire system of quality assurance in the teaching profession. In this area, support is directed at teacher training centres, education authorities and both primary and secondary schools so that all these groups are involved in embedding the reform measures within their respective institutions and in their lessons. By way of example, this approach involves defining uniform criteria for teaching quality and lesson observations and training in how to effectively conduct and evaluate those observations.
Furthermore, in response to persistent gender-based discrimination in the country, the issues of gender and human rights are integrated into teacher training.
The project is cofinanced by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
A specialised curriculum for new primary school teachers has been developed together with the Teacher Education Directorate and has now been officially adopted.
With project support, the Ministry of Education has introduced mandatory in-school placements lasting several weeks for trainee teachers in the final term of their course, and twinning arrangements have been established to extend this scheme into other provinces outside the four priority regions. The result has been a much greater focus on the practical side of teacher training.
Materials and a training strategy for the subject of peace education are now a compulsory part of teacher training at national level. To date, 120 lecturers have completed this wide-ranging programme, and half of them now teach the subject at their respective teacher training centres. The Teacher Education Directorate has adopted a gender strategy and set up gender teams.
Between 2014 and 2017, training courses were run for a total of 253 lecturers, while a further 161 received coaching support. Based on subsequent evaluations and lesson observations, 80 per cent of the participants are now using pupil-centred, participatory methods in their teaching.
Alongside careers guidance training for teaching staff, the project, in cooperation with the local private sector, has organised ten visits to local business and vocational schools for children between the ages of 13 and 15 and three job fairs. Overall, more than 7,000 pupils at 12 schools benefited from the improved careers guidance offered by teachers who had received appropriate training.