Levine and Qanooni Agree on a National Academy of Education in Afghanistan
President Arthur Levine, who traveled to Kabul during the first week of November to meet with the Afghan Minister of Education, Yunis Qanooni, to see whether TC's expertise in curriculum development and teacher training can truly be effective in the war-torn land, came away with an agreement to develop a National Academy of Education in Kabul.
The preamble to the agreement begins: "The overall objective of the National Academy of Education, a collaboration between the Ministry of Education (MOE), Teachers College, Columbia University (TCCU), and UNICEF, is to institutionalize the policy and technical assistance required for the long-term development and continuous improvement of the educational system in Afghanistan."
During the fall semester TC faculty, including professors Nancy Lesko, Michele Genor, A. Lin Goodwin and retired professor Margaret Jo Shepherd, with Barry Rosen, the Executive Director of External Affairs, have been working with the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan to rewrite first grade textbooks for the first time in more than two decades.
President Levine's visit was set up to see whether the program should move ahead and expand in the area of teacher training.
After nearly a week in the country with TC colleagues in a whirlwind tour of schools within Kabul and 60 kilometers north of the capital, talks with representatives of USAID, the World Bank, the ministers of education and higher education, Levine was convinced that there is a place for TC to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF.
As the agreement reads, "In response to the serious shortage of teachers and qualified teacher/educators/trainers, Teachers College will provide technical expertise and support to the MOE by collaborating with Afghan educators to both initiate and provide short-term emergency teacher staffing and develop a long-term plan for systemic reform of teacher education. This plan will work in tandem with the newly created child-centered Afghan curriculum framework, syllabi, and textbooks."
The immediate priority of the TCCU will be to develop a workshop that targets teacher training. The focus of the workshop will be standards for teaching and the implementation of the newly developed textbooks. The workshop will take place in February, during the winter recess in Afghanistan.
In their meeting, Minister Qanooni told President Levine, "Of the 4.2 million children now enrolled in primary school in Afghanistan, I am proud to say that 1.7 million are young girls. I am proud of this astonishing change. We are attempting through our new curriculum framework to shake off any notion of fundamentalism and prevent the politicization of our schools. We want to create a new generation for a modern country. We want to be part of the world family. Our next generation must know about citizenship, peace education, the value of women's rights, and horrors of terrorism and the destructive nature of narcotics. Without the support of our international friends, however, we cannot succeed to build a new Afghanistan. Therefore, we are happy to have your cooperation. This is important for us and, indeed, the world family."
President Levine expressed the honor to be in Afghanistan and to meet the minister. He continued, "I am here because until 1978 Teachers College worked in Afghanistan on the preparation of teachers, building curriculum as part of our partnership with the Afghan Government to build a nation. I see what you have accomplished so quickly, and by building an educational system you are building a nation. I was also invited by UNICEF to be a partner and I found that UNICEF has been working quite hard in improving education in your country. Before I arrived I wondered whether Teachers College could provide the expertise needed and actually be helpful. Now I know we are a good match. Finally, your dreams are our dreams, and we would like to help complete them. We wish to join you making those dreams come true."
Published Monday, Dec. 1, 2003