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Educational System—overview

Unfortunately, Afghanistan's system of formal education, like that of its central government, was in complete disarray by the year 2000. Without a national authority overseeing the distribution of educational funds and program implementation, the level of schooling varied greatly across the country. Any sort of national philosophy ensuring pupil participation, in even the most basic schooling, was virtually nonexistent by the end of the twentieth century. For example, even though Afghanistan's policy of free education was compulsory for children aged 7 to 13, only 22 percent of the country's "school-aged" children were actually attending schools in 1996.

While it is certainly true that the long term effects of Afghanistan's civil war depleted nearly all community resources that might have been available for the critically important function of education, Afghanistan had one of the lowest standards of education in the modern world—even prior to the Russian invasion. Indeed, according to research conducted by the World Education Forum (WEF), by 1980 only 11 percent of the country's population over the age of 25 had any formal schooling and less than one percent had completed primary school.

Even though, as the result of two war decades, Afghanistan's centralized educational infrastructure was nonexistent in 2000, sporadic educational services were provided at local levels whenever and wherever war conditions permitted. Due to the sporadic nature of Afghanistan's provincial education services, consistent and reliable enrollment data was difficult to obtain. The reliability of enrollment data was complicated by the fact that the last official census was conducted in the pre-war years so that all population numbers were estimated. Furthermore, enrollment figures were based on percentage estimates provided by local groups, not upon actual counts. UNESCO collected the most reliable sets of data as part of the WEF program. UNESCO data was collected using "International Standard Classifications of Education" (ISCED). The ISCED terminology replaced older educational terms such as "first," "second," and "third" levels with primary, secondary, and tertiary, respectively.

UNESCO reported there were two types of education providers in Afghanistan in 1999: provincial directorates and nongovernmental organizations, particularly international humanitarian relief agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Talibaninduced law and order did return some degree of stability to the country in the late 1990s, and the number of schools increased dramatically from 2,633 in 1990 to 3,084 in 1999. In 1990 agencies operated 2,044 (77.6 percent) of Afghanistan's schools and provincial directorates operated 589 (22.4 percent). In 1999 provincial directorates operated 2,015 schools (65.3 percent) and agencies operated 1,069 (34.7 percent).

The main reason agencies operated far fewer schools in Afghanistan in 1999 than they did in 1990 was because UNICEF suspended its assistance to formal education programs in areas under Taliban control after the Taliban issued its 1995 edict prohibiting the education of females. UNICEF did continue supporting schools where equal access was available and in the informal network of home-based schools. In fact, in 1999 agencies were the main provider of education for girls operating 407 (91 percent) of the 446 girls schools. Provincial directorates operated 1,959 (74.7 percent) of the 2,621 boys schools operating in 1999. The ratio of boys' to girls' schools operated by the government's provincial directorates was 50:1 in 1999. The ratio of boys' to girls' schools operated by agencies in 1999 was 1.6:1.

Access to education was severely limited by the availability of schools and the distribution of Afghanistan's population. UNICEF recorded the number of schools operating in five Afghanistan regions: northern, eastern, southern, western, and central in 1990 and in 1999. During the 1990 to 1999 period, the distribution of schools in Afghanistan changed considerably with the number of schools increasing in every region but the northern region. In 1990 there were 739 schools operating in the northern region, 445 operating in the eastern region, 234 in the southern region, 198 in the western region, and 586 in the central region. In 1999 the number of schools operating in the northern region declined to 547, but the number of schools operating in the eastern region increased to 828, to 652 in the southern region, to 449 in the western region, and to 608 in the central region. In 1999 UNICEF estimated that 53 percent of the population lived in central and northern regions, which only had 38 percent of the total number of schools.

Student/teacher ratios were also based on estimates. In schools operated by the provincial directorates, estimates were that class sizes ranged from 13 to 104 students, with an average of 50 students per teacher. In schools operated by humanitarian relief agencies, class sizes ranged from 12 to 51 students, with an average of 30 students per teacher.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceAfghanistan - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Administration, Finance, Educational Research - SECONDARY EDUCATION, HIGHER EDUCATION