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TC Returns to Afghanistan at International Workshop on Curriculum and Textbook Development


A team of Teachers College faculty and senior staff spent nearly three weeks (July 5th through 17th) working with an international team of education experts from seven different countries developing the capacity to write elementary curriculum and textbooks for the Afghan Ministry of Education (MOE).

The team was made up of professors Jane Monroe, Nancy Lesko, Gregory Hamilton, Michele Genor, and Clifford Hill, and Barry Rosen of the Office of External Affairs.

Using education to change the world is not new at TC. In its largest international education project to date, Teachers College spent 25 years in Afghanistan with funding from the United States Foreign Aid Program, to help the Afghan Ministry of Education create a modern educational system capable of preparing the human resources necessary to participate in the community of nations. The project accomplished a great deal. However, the Soviet invasion of December 1979, the civil wars that followed and the establishment of an authoritarian and fundamentalist Taliban regime wiped out much of the benefits.

With the support of UNESCO and UNICEF, the Teachers College, Columbia University (TCCU) team collaborated with more than 100 Afghans from the MOE and various NGOs. Prior to the team's arrival, the MOE had developed a Curriculum Framework (CF). The overriding aim of the workshop was to facilitate the translation of the CF into course syllabi and textbooks. Before the team's arrival, there was a preliminary plan for the workshop format developed by UNESCO. An essential part of the TCCU contribution was in redirecting the workshop format in the pre-planning days. With the team's suggestions the dynamics, processes, and participation took a different shape.

During the course of the workshop, each member of the TCCU team made presentations on topics such as thinking through curriculum development, teacher leaders, student-centered math teaching, the development of content-specific learning activities, integrating adult literacy and early childhood education, among others. The TCCU members were instrumental in facilitating two kinds of working groups. First, in interdisciplinary groups team members worked to develop conceptual frameworks for curriculum, different curricular models, meaningful learning, and child-centered teaching. Secondly, in subject matter groups (art, language arts for three languages-Dari, Pashto and English, math, science, social studies, life-skills, Islamic studies, and technology) the team first decided on the components of a good curriculum outline and participants decided what would be the most useful model to be adopted for all subject matter areas.

Team members spent four 10-hour days in subject matter groups deliberating, debating, and drafting and redrafting the curricula for grades 1 through 6. During this time there were quality exchanges between the participants and the TCCU experts. The last four days of the workshop were devoted to principles of textbook writing, editing, and publishing. Models of textbooks were presented, the criteria of content and format were explained, and sample chapters were designed and written as a template to guide their future work.

In addition to the debriefing session at the end of the workshop, the TCCU met at the end of each day to review and revise the next day's agenda to make it meaningful and relevant. Most importantly, team members met with Mr. Hyatt, the new Director General of Teacher Preparation for Afghanistan. This meeting was held to establish relationships with key stakeholders that could facilitate future possibilities. Meetings with these stakeholders worked toward the possibility of reestablishing the TCCU presence in Afghanistan through the development of the National Academy of Education, with the TCCU as the anchor partner along with the MOE and UNICEF.

If agreed on, the goal of the National Academy of Education is to institutionalize technical and policy assistance required for sustained, long-term systems development, gender equality, and continuous improvement in the quality of education in Afghanistan.

There are four short-term objectives for the National Academy:

(1) to coordinate and facilitate the role of technical experts to maximize the value of their contributions to the development of the educational system;

(2) to develop the necessary policies and modern programs in such critical areas as curriculum development, teacher education, capacity building for administration, and policy and planning at all levels of the educational system;

(3) to develop a gender-balanced educational system that focuses on the education of girls and the preparation of women teachers to foster opportunities for and contributions by Afghan women to a new civil society;

(4) to serve as a "greenhouse" of innovative models and the identification of best practices that might be disseminated nationwide to more quickly achieve the goal of creating a more modern and higher quality educational system in Afghanistan. TC Returns to Afghanistan for an International Workshop on Curriculum and Textbook Development.

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