Education in Afghanistan Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Afghanistan

Education in Afghanistan includes K–12 and higher education, which is under the nation's Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education.[1] There are nearly 10 million students and 220,000 teachers in Afghanistan.[2] The nation still requires more schools and teachers.[3] Compulsory education in Afghanistan is through the ninth grade.[4] The academic calendar in Afghanistan runs from March through November.[5]

Some of the major universities in Afghanistan are Kabul University, the American University of Afghanistan, Kardan University [1] Balkh University, Herat University, Nangarhar University, Shaikh Zayed University, and Kandahar University, Kateb University [2].


One of the oldest schools in Afghanistan is the Habibia High School in Kabul, which was built by King Habibullah Khan in 1903 to educate students from the nation's elite class. In the 1920s, the German-funded Amani High School opened in Kabul, and about a decade later two French lycées (secondary schools) began, the AEFE and the Lycée Esteqlal. Kabul University was established in 1932.

Afghan female students in 2002
A kindergarten classroom (c. 2004)

Education was improved under the rule of King Zahir Shah between 1933 and 1973,[6] making primary schools available to about half the population who were younger than 12 years of age and expanding the secondary school system and Kabul University. Of the 10.3 billion Afghans. spent on the first "Five Year Plan" (1956-1962), "7.7% was appropriated for education and health as compared to 49.5% for transportation and communication, 26.5% on industrial development, 12.6% for agriculture, and 3.8% for miscellaneous development works."[7] By the end of the program, "the number of students (primary, secondary, and vocational) rising from 96.34 to 169.06 per 10,000 of population. The number of students receiving higher education per 10,000 of population, rose from 0.66 to 1.44, and construction of a new campus for the Kabul University was taken in hand.[8] After the Taliban took over in 2021, the number of students acquiring higher education per 10,000 people decreased substantially.[3]

During the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the government of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) reformed the education system; education was stressed for both sexes, and widespread literacy programs were set up.[9]

After the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001, the Karzai administration received substantial international aid to restore the education system. Around 7,000 schools were operating in 20 of the 32 provinces by the end of 2003, with 27,000 teachers teaching 4.2 million children (including 1.2 million girls).[6] Of that number, about 3.9 million were in primary schools.[6]

An estimated 57 percent of men and 86 percent of women were reported to be illiterate, and the lack of skilled and educated workers was a major economic disadvantage.[6] When Kabul University reopened in 2002, some 24,000 male and female students enrolled for higher education.[6] In the meantime, five other universities were being rehabilitated. Public school curricula have included religious subjects but detailed instruction is left to religious teachers.[6]

Students standing in front of the main campus of Herat University in western Afghanistan.
Typical classroom in rural Afghanistan
U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan Anthony Wayne and Ghazni Provincial Governor Musa Khan Ahmadzai talk to students who use Afghanistan's newest Lincoln Learning Center in Ghazni City.

By 2006, over 4 million male and female students were enrolled in schools throughout Afghanistan. At the same time school facilities or institutions were also being refurbished or improved, with more modern-style schools being built each year. The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul was established in 2006. Other universities were renovated or rebuilt, such as Kandahar University in the south, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the east, Herat University in the west and Balkh University in the north. Despite these achievements, there were still significant obstacles to education in Afghanistan, many of which stem from a lack of funding. Planning curricula and school programs is difficult for the Ministry of Education because a significant amount of the budget for education comes from external donors, making it difficult to predict the annual budget.[10]

The obstacles to education were even more numerous for Afghan girls. Afghanistan's then Education Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, said in 2007 that 60% of students were studying in tents or other unprotected structures, and some parents refused to let their daughters attend schools in such conditions.[10]

In 2009, another concern was the destruction of schools by the Taliban, especially schools for females. Following the destruction of over 150 schools in a year, many parents had doubts about the government's ability to protect them.[11]

The following achievements were made in the first decade of the 2000s:

  • Between 2001 and 2016, primary school enrolment rose from around 1 million to 9.2 million (a ninefold increase in fifteen years) and the proportion of girls from virtually zero to 37%. UNESCO estimates that 129 million females are out of school around the world, with 32 million in primary school and 97 million in secondary school. [4]
  • The number of teachers in general education has risen sevenfold, but their qualifications are low. About 31% are women.
  • Between 2003 and 2011, over 5,000 school buildings were rehabilitated or newly constructed. Just over 50% of schools have usable buildings.

Enrollment is low: The average is 1,983 students per institution; three institutions have fewer than 200 students. Furthermore, there is a deficiency of qualified faculty members: only 4.7% (166 of total 3,522) of the teaching staff held a Ph.D. In “addition to problems of inadequate resources, and lack of qualified teaching staff are issues of corruption.”[12]

In 2010, the United States began establishing Lincoln Learning Centers in Afghanistan. They serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, Internet connectivity, educational and other counseling services. A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location.[13][14][15]

According to the Human Development Index, in 2011, Afghanistan was the 15th least developed country in the world.

In 2009 and 2010, a 5,000 OLPC – One Laptop Per Child schools deployment took place in Kandahar with funding from an anonymous foundation.[16] The OLPC team seeks local support to undertake a larger deployment.[17][18]

In June 2011, officials from the United States signed a joint statement with Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak to expand opportunities for direct financial support from USAID to the Afghan Ministry of Education.[19] In December 2011, the Baghch-e-Simsim (Afghan version of Sesame Street) children's television series was launched in Afghanistan. It is funded by the U.S. Department of State and is produced in consultation with Afghanistan's Ministry of Education. The project is designed to help educate Afghans from pre-school stage and onward.[20]

It was reported in May 2013 that there were 16,000 schools across Afghanistan, with 10.5 million students. Education Minister Wardak stated that 3 million children remained deprived of education and requested $3 billion to construct 8,000 additional schools over the next two years.[21]

Afghanistan’s story in education is still confronted by major challenges. Three and a half million children – 75% of them girls – are still out of school. Poverty, the lack of qualified female teachers in rural schools (which is especially linked to girls' education), and substandard school facilities all account for low enrollment. Furthermore, nearly half of all schools do not have a building or facilities.

Women's education in Afghanistan[edit]

By 1978, women made up 40 percent of the doctors and 60 percent of the teachers at Kabul University; 440,000 female students were enrolled in educational institutions and 80,000 more in literacy programs.[22] Despite improvements, a large percentage of the population remained illiterate.[6] Not only was the constitution of the government styled after that of the Soviet Union but also changes in academia started to resemble the Soviet approach to education.

In 2015 at Kabul University the first master's degree course in gender and women’s studies in Afghanistan began.[23]

When the Taliban returned to power in 2021 there were concerns that access to education, especially for the female population, would be heavily set back. Though the Taliban claimed that it respected their rights.[24] After March 2021, the Taliban broke their promise of sending girls to school. [5] This move would later be criticized by some clerics affiliated with the Taliban.[25][26]

However, the Taliban have thus far barred girls and female teachers from returning to secondary schools.[27] They are also developing a new curriculum for all students.[28]

A lack of women teachers was another issue that concerned some parents, especially in more conservative areas. Some parents were not allowing their daughters to be taught by men. But this often meant that girls were not allowed to attend school, as the international aid agency Oxfam reported in 2007 that about one quarter of Afghan teachers were women.[10] Taliban, not a lack of female teachers, is what keeps girls from attending school. [6]

Challenges to education development[edit]

A school in Jalrez, in the Wardak province of Afghanistan is in the final stage of construction on September 30, 2009.


Afghanistan is one of the countries worst affected by violence against schools, with 770 incidents of attacks on education in 2008. Violence against students prevented nearly 5 million Afghan children from attending school in 2010. Afghanistan saw 439 teachers, education employees, and students killed in 2006-9, one of the highest death rates in the world.[29] Following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, there has been a rise in educational violence. More school shootings and violence are occurring, preventing families from sending their children to school. [7]

Violence against women has existed been exacerbated after August of 2021, when the American government withdrew its forces from the country and ultimately allowing the Taliban to exploit the power vaccuum created as a result to gain power. Even prior to the Taliban regime, women were fearful of attending institutions of primary, secondary, or tertiary education as a result of increased rates of sexual harassment and violence. According to the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan, these occurences have resulted in signifacntly higher rates of suicide, as the number of causualties exceed the number of war deaths.[30] Evidently, not only is the physical health of women threatened by instances of sexual assault, but also their mental well-being, as many become depressed and suffer from low self-esteem.

Teacher credentials[edit]

Since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001, up to 6 million girls and boys started attending school. In 2012, the supply of students far exceeded the pool of qualified teachers.[31] According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Education, 80 percent of the country’s 165,000 teachers had achieved the equivalent of a high school education or did not complete their post-secondary studies.[31]

In addition to these aforementioned limitations in the adequacy of educators who are available to provide an effective education for the Afghan population, the Taliban continue to place bans on female teachers that would inhibit them from participating. This regulation is founded upon the Islamic interpretation of Sharia law that requires women to be accompanied by a Mehram, or male relative such as their father, husband, or son, when present in public. Firing thousands of female teachers not only makes it more difficult for women to feel comfortable attending educational institutions, but also strengthens gendered stereotypes that characterize women as being sensitive and weak, and therefore, unable to be active members of society.[32]


Since the toppling of the Taliban regime, under the combined efforts of Afghan and international experts, the curriculum has been changed from Islamic teachings; there are new books and better training. Yet, there remains no standard curriculum for secondary school textbooks, and high school textbooks remain woefully inadequate in number and content.[33] Taliban has stated repeatedly that students must be taught according to Islamic law, without elaborating on what that entails.[8]

After regaining political control in August of 2021, the Taliban reassured the Afghan population, as well as the international community, that it will reopen schools in rural and urban areas to both male and female students. Nonetheless, there has been a suspension of such efforts as Taliban leaders claim to be waiting for the development of new curriculum that will focus less on secular subjects, such as mathematics or science, and rather on Islamic studies. Furthermore, the educators responsible for operating educational institutions lack the formal training to teach advanced curriculum in schools, discouraging families from ensuring their children ultimately earn degrees with which they may enter the labor force.[34]


In 2012, there were insufficient schools. Around 4,500 schools are being built according to a recent government report. 40 percent of schools were housed in permanent buildings. The rest held classes in UNICEF shelters or were "desert schools" with students and teachers gathering in the desert near a village.[31]

Child labor[edit]

In 2007, more than half of the population of Afghanistan was under the age of 18.[35] UNICEF estimates that close to a quarter of Afghan children between the ages of seven and fourteen were working.[36] In rural areas, the problem is worse, and there are more girls working than boys.[36] This disrupts children's education and possibly prevents them from attending school completely.[37] Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the number of working children has increased following Mach 2021. According to a Save the Children report, an estimated one million children are currently involved in child labor in Afghanistan as family finances have collapsed in the last six months.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Afghanistan's Ministry of Higher Education". Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  2. ^ "Ghani sees threat to Afghanistan's education system". Pajhwok Afghan News. May 5, 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  3. ^ "Not a single school in 6 districts of Kandahar". Pajhwok Afghan News. April 25, 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  4. ^ "Education System Afghanistan" (PDF). Nuffic. January 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-08-28.
  5. ^ "Education System Afghanistan" (PDF). Nuffic. January 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-08-28.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Afghanistan country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (May 2006). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ http://hafizsahar.com/Images/thesis.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  8. ^ Sahar, Hafiz (7 April 2021). Television in Afghanistan: A Comparative Study of Educational Television in Selected Developing Countries and Its Relevance to the Similar Use Television in Afghanistan. ISBN 978-1737020707.
  9. ^ WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN: Pawns in men's power struggles
  10. ^ a b c "BBC NEWS – South Asia – Afghan schools' money problems". 9 April 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Fresh attacks on Pakistan schools". BBC News. BBC. 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
  12. ^ Anthony Welch and Attaullah Wahidyar. Evolution, Revolution, Reconstruction: The interrupted Development of Higher Education in Afghanistan. In M. F. Buck and M. Kabaum (eds.), 2013, Ideen und Realitaeten von Universitaeten, pp. 83-105, here pp. 94 and 96. New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3-631-62381-7
  13. ^ https://photos.state.gov/libraries/afghanistan/231771/PDFs/RFP-Lincoln-Learning-Centers.pdf[dead link]
  14. ^ "Ghazni governor signs memorandum for Lincoln Learning Center".
  15. ^ "About Lincoln Learning Centers – Embassy of the United States Kabul, Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  16. ^ "Interview with Carol Ruth Silver". 2011.
  17. ^ "OLPC Afghanistan". laptop.org.
  18. ^ Lima Ahmad; Kenneth Adams; Mike Dawson; Carol Ruth Silver. "Briefing Note – One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in Afghanistan" (PDF). Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  19. ^ "USAID To Provide Direct Assistance to Afghan Ministries for the People of Afghanistan". June 11, 2011. Archived from the original on August 9, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
  20. ^ DeMott, Rick (December 1, 2011). "Sesame Street To Debut In Afghanistan". AWN News. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  21. ^ Adina, Mohammad Sabir (May 18, 2013). "Wardak seeks $3b in aid for school buildings". Pajhwok Afghan News. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  22. ^ Racist Scapegoating of Muslim Women – Down with Quebec's Niqab Ban!, Spartacist Canada, Summer 2010, No. 165
  23. ^ FaithWorld (2015-10-26). "Kabul University unlikely host for first Afghan women's studies programme". Blogs.reuters.com. Archived from the original on 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  24. ^ "These women fled Afghanistan. What's at stake for those left behind?". National geographic. 2021-08-27. Archived from the original on 2021-08-27. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  25. ^ "Clerics advocate end to Afghanistan ban on girls' secondary education". Dawn. 30 March 2022. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  26. ^ "Afghans who want teen girls back in school have new allies: Taliban-affiliated clerics". NPR. 5 May 2022. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  27. ^ "Taliban begin to reopen Afghan schools with older girls so far excluded from study". www.msn.com. 18 September 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-09-21. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  28. ^ Blue, Victor J.; Zucchino, David (2021-09-20). "A Harsh New Reality for Afghan Women and Girls in Taliban-Run Schools". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  29. ^ Reuters. “Violence, tradition keep millions of Afghans from school” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-education-idUSTRE7000P220110101 Retrieved 10 February 2012
  30. ^ Hayward, Fred M.; Karim, Razia (2019-11-04). "The struggle for higher education gender equity policy in Afghanistan: Obstacles, challenges and achievements". Education Policy Analysis Archives. 27: 139. doi:10.14507/epaa.27.3036. ISSN 1068-2341. S2CID 210535442.
  31. ^ a b c Transitions Online (TOL) Chalkboard. http://chalkboard.tol.org/afghanistan. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  32. ^ Foundation, Thomson Reuters. "How will Taliban rule impact girls' education in Afghanistan?". news.trust.org. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  33. ^ http://www.writearticles.org/Articles/Education-in-Afghanistan-Issues-and-Concerns-738.html Archived 2012-02-08 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  34. ^ Foundation, Thomson Reuters. "How will Taliban rule impact girls' education in Afghanistan?". news.trust.org. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  35. ^ United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/files/Updated_2007_QandA_Afghanistan.pdf. Retrieved 10 February
  36. ^ a b United Nations (UN). http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=22952&Cr=afghan&Cr1= Retrieved 10 February 2012
  37. ^ Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith, Economic Development (Pearson, 10th edition, 2009)

External links[edit]