Testing time for new textbooks
Kabul, 22 October 2004 (UNICEF) - As the 2004 academic year draws to a close, Afghanistan's educators already have one eye on the new school term starting next March as brand new textbooks in 11 different subjects begin to be field tested on Sunday (24 October).
The field testing is the penultimate stage of a process that has lasted for over a year, with teams of Afghan and international experts revising, updating and rewriting curriculum content and textbooks for primary school students at all levels. Feedback from this testing stage will facilitate final changes to the texts, before they are introduced to all schools in Afghanistan next year.
The field testing will take place in 54 schools in ten provinces across the country, including both urban and rural communities. Eighteen observers, themselves teacher trainers or educational supervisors, will watch the new textbooks for Grades 1 and 4 being used in real classroom situations, monitor the impact of the new materials, and assess their effectiveness as teaching aids. Feedback will be gathered from both teachers and students, and final recommendations made to the textbook development team based within the Department of Compilation and Translation in the Afghan Ministry of Education.
One of the key constraints to educational development in Afghanistan is the poor quality of teaching and learning materials. Years of under-investment and isolation from educational progress have left the Afghan education system relying upon outdated teaching practices that fail to inspire or motivate most students. The new textbooks are designed to place a greater emphasis on interaction between teacher and pupil, and encourage students to talk and think about the subject matter. New designs, illustrations and modern techniques such as group work and classroom discussions are all built into the new textbooks.
Approximately 5 million students, the majority at primary level, are expected to enroll for classes in 2005. The new textbooks will provide teachers with vital material to enhance the quality of education for those students, and greatly increase the perceived value of education for Afghan families. One reason often cited for children not attending school in Afghanistan, is family concerns about the usefulness of the education being delivered.
The textbook development has been led by the Afghan Ministry of Education, with technical assistance from Teachers College, Columbia University in the form of five Afghan nationals, two international experts and specialist subject consultants. Funding has been made available from the Danish development agency, DANIDA, and UNICEF.