The condition of higher education in Afganistan

Afghanistan represents a country which has predominantly been defined by wars and internal regional conflicts in recent years. The economy is under pressure, much of the internal infrastructure is in need of repair and in many regions the technology lies decades behind the rest of the world. For these reasons the conditions of higher education remain similarly affected and improvement represents an uphill battle. It is important to examine in brief detail the current educational facilities in comparison with the outside world as well as the prevalence of modern technology and specifically the internet.

What is first fundamental to understand is that as a whole, Afghanistan’s tertiary education system enjoys little to no autonomy. Instead it is centrally governed by the Ministry of Higher Education and has often times been subject to rigid and authoritative regulations. Due to this centralisation, the needs of individual facilities have to a great extent been overlooked. Furthermore, the budgetary funds allocated to higher education have been severely limited as these resources were directed at the civil strife which has gripped the country for decades. There are few quality assurance standards which have been implemented and instead the focus has been on rebuilding a system which has been undermined by nearly thirty years of successive conflicts. This is particularly reflected in the condition of the nation’s educational facilities.

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The overall physical condition of a vast majority of institutions is considered insufficient. Electricity and water supplies are often compromised. In addition, most laboratories and libraries are substandard in comparison to their European counterparts. Any rebuilding actions are ad-hoc due to the centralised decision making of the Ministry of Higher Education. Subsequently, any developmental planning on a facility-wide basis is virtually non-existent.

The use of what would be considered high technology is also an area that has fallen behind most modern university levels. Access is often limited if it exists whatsoever. There also exists a profound lack of computing centres and even when such facilities are accessible there are not sufficient persons qualified in both instruction and administration. If we combine this with an aging infrastructure with which to support internet access, it becomes apparent that the area of high technology and the internet can be viewed as one of the sectors which needs the greatest amount of improvement.

However, there have been recent steps taken to improve both enrollment and the educational conditions themselves; these initiatives having begun under the administration of Mr. Karzai. Such steps include reconstructing the country’s infrastructure and a ten year plan dubbed the Strategic Development Plan. The goals here are to improve the standard of education, to provide more individuals with the opportunity to pursue higher education and to direct more financial resources into the sector itself. Some of the more tangible goals are to provide each capital city in Afghanistan’s thirty four provinces with its own facility and raising the standard of education of Kabul University to meet the levels of comparable foreign institutions.
As the internet has become a prominent feature worldwide, there is also the realisation that current laboratories and IT facilities need to be physically upgraded while competent staff should be trained to support students which have little if any real world experience in dealing with computers.

The current conditions in Afghanistan represent challenging initiatives which will only be achieved with continued efforts and the correct allocation of limited resources. While the higher educational system and the facilities it occupies are considered substandard, considerable improvement can be achieved should the government and Ministry of Higher Education continue their pursuit for a modern educational system.

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