study abroad

Higher education in Afghanistan

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Another foray into the fringes of my blog’s remit, but this is the first time I have read anything about contemporary Afghan higher education (anything else to do with education focusses on school level) and I thought it was worth re-posting from the original on Deutsche Welle.

My paper on Tajik nationals who have studied abroad is now just about finalised ahead of the conference “Micro-Level Analysis of Well-Being in Central Asia” on 10/11 May and this week I will post some of my key findings. I’ll also put up the paper and would welcome feedback and comments on it. I’ll also plan to post from the conference, which is being held at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin (DIW Berlin).

Higher education in Afghanistan pinched by war

Fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan consumes most of the country’s resources. Rebuilding the educational system is not a political priority.

Professor Abdul Iqrar Wasel is pacing back and forth in front of the first row of students in his seminar. He is lecturing about the rights of government to impose punishments and the rights of the accused. About 50 students are writing down as much as they can. None of them have a laptop or books. The 15 young women in the course are all sitting on the left at the front of the class.

“You have to understand the individual in the social system,” explains Professor Wasel. He is the dean of the law and political sciences faculty at the University of Kabul – with more than 10,000 students, the largest university in Afghanistan. Toward the end of the previous Taliban regime, there were fewer than 8,000 students in the entire country.

“It is incredibly important that so many young Afghans are studying in this faculty because they will be the ones, after graduation, working in the justice, foreign and interior ministries,” stresses Wasel. “I hope that these young people will rebuild our country and change it, if we can successfully prepare the ground for them.”

Wasel’s faculty currently has 1,400 students learning in two groups. There is no other way – for space reasons. Those who study during the day do not have to pay anything. The evening courses for those who work cost about 80 euros ($104) a semester. For most Afghans, this is an enormous sum.

Past versus future

Dunia is one of the lucky ones to have been accepted for one of the highly coveted spots in law school – in the day group.

“This is the only faculty with which we can understand our society and how it works. We learn how other countries function and what rights and obligations they have toward each other. Afghanistan has changed a lot in recent years, but compared to other countries, there has been no breakthrough yet. We are still a backward and underdeveloped nation. I would like to help change that,” says Dunia.

Dunia wears tight jeans and a long, black blouse underneath a fashionable blazer. She wears make-up and her eyebrows have been carefully plucked. When she graduates, the 18-year-old wants to work in the foreign ministry – preferably as a diplomat.

“I would like Afghanistan to be just like any other country in which all the people are educated. More than half of the population here cannot read or write. But if my generation works hard enough, we can change that,” she says.

Lack of funding – lots of corruption

The thirst for education is huge in Afghanistan. Some 150,000 high school graduates took part in the most recent university entrance exams, but only 40,000 were accepted; a circumstance that generated a lot of anger and disappointment.

However, most of Afghanistan’s 20 state-run and private universities lack qualified lecturers, modern curricula, books, networked computers, seminar rooms and dormitories.

Nearly all students in Afghanistan who wish to study beyond a Bachelor’s degree need to go abroad because there are no suitable programs available at home – and that means going to Pakistan, India or Iran.

More than 30 years of war have left their mark. 19-year-old Farid would like to see more money invested directly in higher education.

“The international community needs to ensure more transparency with its financial aid. Foreign countries send so many millions of dollars to Afghanistan, but only a small portion of that reaches the people who need it. Our government is profoundly corrupt. The politicians can misuse the money because it does not flow directly into specific projects. That makes donor transparency all that more important,” he says.

Low priority investment

The first 10 years of the international Afghan mission cost Germany roughly 17 billion euros, according to finance experts. During this period, the German government says it spent just 110 million euros on education and cultural projects in Afghanistan. The figures are not much better for other donors.

The academic reconstruction of Afghanistan does not have a high political priority and military expenditures swallow up most of the money. Farid, meanwhile, dreams of a career in Afghanistan in the faculty for law and political science at the University of Kabul:

“Our future has not been decided, but if we are able to strengthen the rule of law, battle corruption and govern our nation better, then we have a chance.”

Author: Sandra Petersmann / gb
Editor: Sarah Berning

© Deutsche Welle

Global, but not local: Tajikistan’s new Education Minister overlooks basic reform needs

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Nuriddin Saidov, the new Tajik Education Minister

Earlier this month, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon installed a new Minister of Education: the former Rector of Tajik National University Nuriddin Saidov.

(The outgoing Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov has been appointed Rector of Aini Pedagogical University. I don’t know if there was a particular reason for the move – the only information I can find is from state agencies who offer information but not analysis).

This week, Saidov presented some of his early plans to the Majlisi Namoyandagon, Tajikistan’s lower chamber of parliament. I found it interesting that he chose to focus on what I would consider the “garnishes” rather than the “bread and butter” issues. That is to say, he did not use this as an opportunity to address some of the fundamental issues in the education sector like low teachers’ wages and poor school conditions (lack of materials, heating etc).

Instead, he spoke about getting more young Tajiks studying abroad and improving the study of foreign languages in schools and universities. He also asked parliament to ratify the Lisbon Recognition Convention, signed by Rahmon in June 2011. This is a European initiative to recognise countries’ higher education qualifications in the European region.

Whilst this is great news for students who want a more international perspective (and would give me more respondents for my study abroad survey!), these initiatives are certainly not going to fix the underlying problems facing the sector.

Potentially positive news for the Ministry known to be the most corrupt of all government agencies in Tajikistan (quite some achievement) was Saidov’s mention of a restructure of the Ministry. However, it remains to be seen whether this mean appointing his friends to posts or driving more fundamental reforms.

Say no to corruption in education... not just applicable to students? Image (c) amandaonmonday.wordpress.com

Parliament’s  speaker Shukurjon Zukhurov was on hand to give Saidov some real-world advice. He noted that ratifying the Lisbon Recognition Convention did not mean that Tajik students’ levels of knowledge would improve. For this, he said, the Ministry and students themselves must work harder and do more.

Saidov responded by saying he understands the responsibility he’s taken on. Let’s just hope this is truly the case.

Wanted: Tajik nationals who have studied abroad!

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Greetings from grey and rainy Oxford…

Last month, I wrote a post about a conference paper I had accepted and am now preparing. You can read the post again at the bottom of this story.

Since then, I have been doing my literature review and developing a survey to collect data for my paper. The literature review has been fun but at the same time challenging. To my knowledge, this is the first research into study abroad by Tajik nationals, so there is nothing written about this area. I’ve been looking at broader Central Asian educational literature (very little available) as well as comparative studies. This found me investigating research that has been done about study abroad tendencies in countries from Norway to Hong Kong!

Study abroad... where in the world would you go?

Today I’ve launched the survey, a short questionnaire that is aimed at Tajik nationals who have studied or are studying abroad. Please help me raise awareness of the survey by sending the link to anyone you know who might be eligible, posting it on your Facebook/V kontakte/Linked In/Twitter etc etc profile — and completing it yourself if you are eligible!

The survey is at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDRsd2V1UkdJRW1qX3JRcTRvT0EyTmc6MQ and is open until 20 January 2012.

I would love to get 50 or more responses to the survey. That may not sound like much, but firstly, this is a small-scale study that has to be written up by March 2012, so I don’t have much time. Secondly, the number of Tajik nationals studying abroad in the medium of English each year is probably around 500 (based on UNESCO statistics for 2009) so if 50 people complete the survey that would be around 10% of the annual total, a sizeable proportion for such a small study.

Thank you in advance for your help!

And may I take the opportunity of today’s post to wish you all a very merry Christmas and all best wishes for the New Year:

Season's greetings from Emma!

Why study abroad?

(Post from 8 November 2011; for the original version click here)

I’ve just had a conference paper proposal accepted and so have been thinking in some detail about study abroad, the subject of my paper. The conference is called ‘Micro-level analysis of well-being in Central Asia’ and will be held at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin next May.

My paper will be looking at the impact of studying abroad on the well-being of Tajik nationals. ‘Well-being’ can be defined both as an ambition to make one’s life better, as well as the steps a person takes to help them achieve their ambition.

My interest in study abroad tendencies has two roots:

  1. In particular, from observing study abroad motivations and trends, as well as the impact studying abroad has on colleagues and friends from Central Asia;
  2. More generally, from working with international students at universities in London and Oxford.

So when I found out about the conference it seemed like a great opportunity to explore study abroad in more detail. I will shortly start doing interviews to examine the lifecycle of the educational experience:

  • Motivations for study abroad
  • Prior to departure, perceptions of the impact of study abroad on well-being
  • Experiences gained whilst studying abroad (e.g. process of studying, living in and adapting to a new country)
  • Post-study abroad decisions: do students return to Tajikistan? Why/why not? What qualities/experience/skills/values do they take from their experience of studying abroad and how does this impact on and change their level of well-being?
  • The impact and perceptions of the educational experience of individuals for their families and communities

If you are from Tajikistan and you are studying abroad now, or have studied abroad, and would like to be interviewed for this study, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment here, or contact me via Facebook or LinkedIn.

I’ll be posting occasional updates on my study as it progresses. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of it in more detail, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Why study abroad?

Posted on Updated on

I’ve just had a conference paper proposal accepted and so have been thinking in some detail about study abroad, the subject of my paper. The conference is called ‘Micro-level analysis of well-being in Central Asia’ and will be held at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin next May.

My paper will be looking at the impact of studying abroad on the well-being of Tajik nationals. ‘Well-being’ can be defined both as an ambition to make one’s life better, as well as the steps a person takes to help them achieve their ambition.

My interest in study abroad tendencies has two roots:

  1. In particular, from observing study abroad motivations and trends, as well as the impact studying abroad has on colleagues and friends from Central Asia;
  2. More generally, from working with international students at universities in London and Oxford.

So when I found out about the conference it seemed like a great opportunity to explore study abroad in more detail. I will shortly start doing interviews to examine the lifecycle of the educational experience:

  • Motivations for study abroad
  • Prior to departure, perceptions of the impact of study abroad on well-being
  • Experiences gained whilst studying abroad (e.g. process of studying, living in and adapting to a new country)
  • Post-study abroad decisions: do students return to Tajikistan? Why/why not? What qualities/experience/skills/values do they take from their experience of studying abroad and how does this impact on and change their level of well-being?
  • The impact and perceptions of the educational experience of individuals for their families and communities

If you are from Tajikistan and you are studying abroad now, or have studied abroad, and would like to be interviewed for this study, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment here, or contact me via Facebook or LinkedIn.

I’ll be posting occasional updates on my study as it progresses. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of it in more detail, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.