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Transforming Education in Uncertain Times: Insights on Afghanistan

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The Transforming Education Summit (TES) is an excellent starting point for rethinking how our education system meets local needs in a shared global context. The recent State of Education in Afghanistan conference discussed challenges for domestic consultation in conflict, fragility and emergencies, and brought together Afghan education officials and international policy makers to develop a national consensus on education transformation. proposed ways to engage, mobilize and facilitate meaningful dialogue. , along with accompanying strategies and delivery mechanisms.

We held our meeting on August 15, 2022, exactly one year after the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. After an overview of the history of education in Afghanistan, with a focus on the relationship between education and conflict, two panels followed. An initial panel discussion involving former Afghan government officials, education NGO representatives and technology experts discussed the challenges and opportunities of providing education services from a local perspective. A second panel, including representatives from the United Nations, the Global Partnership for Education, Education International, and the Brookings Institution, discussed how to plan and implement education in a conflict-ridden context that lacks clear engagement mechanisms. We discussed donor coordination issues.

We can use this opportunity to mobilize greater political ambition, commitment and action to support local dialogue and initiatives to transform the educational environment into inclusive, community-led solutions.

Discussions between panelists and audience covered many important topics, from education funding to school access and safety. However, three of his topics stood out as being more urgent and directly related to the themes of his future TES discussions.

  1. Coordination and dialogue involving all national and international stakeholders is essential for education planning in conflict-affected settings, but is usually missing or inadequate.
  2. Community-based education (CBE) and digital solutions are often presented as go-to interventions, but the potential impact of scaling up these interventions should be carefully considered to do more harm than good. should not cause it.
  3. Issues of inclusivity, especially those related to girls’ education, must be addressed holistically and elicit local solutions.

Coordination and dialogue among key stakeholders

The TES Concept Note proposes a country-led national consultative process as the primary mechanism for participation and mobilization, providing an inclusive and secure framework for dialogue among all stakeholders to discuss education system transformation. provide ample space. But in fragile and conflict situations like Afghanistan, where government legitimacy is questioned, the aims, formats and delivery mechanisms of education can fuel conflict. In such situations, a country-led national consultation process should be approached differently.

In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban government has not taken steps to provide a forum for mobilizing and participating in discussions on the objectives and delivery mechanisms of education. and international demands from governments. The Taliban leadership does not even consult ministry officials on larger policy issues. Similarly, there are serious limitations to dialogue within the global response to educational interventions. Discussions at our conference underscored that most international aid to education, estimated at nearly $500 million, goes through one of her organizations, UNICEF. However, it is unclear under what terms UNICEF, among other UN programs, provides educational assistance to the Taliban government. UNICEF members hold regular behind-closed-doors meetings with several Ministry of Education officials, but both local and international stakeholders are interested in what is being discussed and decided in those meetings. I don’t know

A government-led national consultation process may be ideal for a more stable society, but places like Afghanistan need a more inclusive and transparent process to foster a national dialogue on education transformation. I need an approach. There is no easy or single answer as to how to foster such dialogue. However, he suggests three considerations for achieving that goal. First, the United Nations is an independent multi-stakeholder coordination body composed of current government members and national and international educational stakeholders with the mandate to promote an inclusive and transparent dialogue. It is necessary to form an institution. Second, this coordinating body will transform the many voices needed to reverse learning losses, get SDG 4 back on track, and reimagine education for the future into policy, planning, and budgetary recommendations. national and international perspectives should be supported and leveraged to And third, as TES’s concept notes suggest, conversations about national transformation should not be timed. It must continue after TES, especially in conflict and fragile countries.

Scale the solution without scaling the problem

When the heavy lifting of negotiating education policy becomes too daunting, national and international actors tend to fall back on familiar solutions without considering the ramifications and ramifications. In the case of Afghanistan, his two go-to interventions, used to sidestep the daunting task of negotiating an education model with the Taliban government, focused on expanding CBE programs and online course offerings. There seems to be However, scaling up these two efforts without understanding the ripple effects and having a clear vision of the end goal can do more harm than good. CBE has a long history and great success in Afghanistan. However, when it was run as part of the overall framework of local education ministries for out-of-school children and connected to hub schools, the program served only a minority of students (only about 5%). In the current environment, CBE is not a solution for most urban areas in the country. The deployment of large-scale CBEs can create competing parallel educational structures that can exacerbate conflicts. Furthermore, without formal accreditation of the program by the current Ministry of Education, there is no mechanism to qualify students.

Unlike CBE, Afghanistan does not have a long history of education technology (ed tech), but with a rapidly growing reliance on digital technology, many people are turning to ed technology as a solution to their educational problems. I’m pointing However, even in stable high-income countries, education technology requires robust ecosystems. In Afghanistan and other similar contexts, the challenges of logistics, technological infrastructure, content development, teacher and institution readiness, and regulatory frameworks are daunting. Even as infrastructure and other programmatic issues are resolved, issues related to access, equity, and curricula content management remain concerns.

Both CBE and ed tech should be embedded as integral supplemental parts of the larger educational ecosystem, but they are not stand-alone solutions that can be scaled to solve national concerns related to Afghanistan’s educational challenges.

Finding local solutions to promote inclusive, safe and healthy schools

Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools are essential to the holistic educational experience, as outlined in the TES concept notes. In fragile and conflict-affected environments, all segments of society need access to quality education to foster a unified national identity and foster social cohesion. Inclusion issues must be based on local solutions and dialogue. Externally imposing or scaling solutions by outsiders who may not understand the complexity of the situation can do more harm than good.

But the issue of inclusion is complex, as the case of secondary access for girls in Afghanistan shows, and because of its symbolic power, it is used as a political force both locally and internationally. Discussions at our conference highlighted that the closure of girls’ schools has opened an unprecedented focus on public education, especially girls’ education. Afghans, including those in the diaspora, have publicly debated girls’ education, with the majority expressing support for girls’ education, including 27 of her 30 Taliban ministers. We are discussing the mechanism. This level of public support for girls’ education in Afghanistan is historic. Educators, including representatives of international organizations, should take this opportunity to endorse and formalize this national dialogue. We can use this opportunity to mobilize greater political ambition, commitment and action to support local dialogue and initiatives to transform the educational environment into inclusive, community-led solutions.