The College of Education’s Center for International Education (CIE) has been awarded a one-year, $9.9-million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue its work to improve access to higher education in Afghanistan.
This project is part of an overall program to rehabilitate and strengthen the education system throughout Afghanistan. Since 2006, CIE has worked as a partner in a consortium with the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) and education faculty who offer four-year teacher education programs in that country. The Higher Education Project (HEP) built on initial successes with education faculty and worked with Kabul Medical University and six other medical institutions to enhance medical education.
For this grant UMass Amherst was asked to assume primary responsibility for overseeing the entire project. Indiana University, another member of the original consortium, will also participate. The collaborators will work with the higher education ministry and 18 Afghan institutions of higher education with a focus on improving their ability to train secondary school teachers.
During the past five years, the CIE has worked in Afghanistan with other institutions in a group led by the Academy for Educational Development. The consortium recently completed a successful project to revitalize teacher training and establish the first functioning master’s degree program in Afghanistan in at least 30 years.
The same UMass team that has been involved in the Higher Education Project over the past five years will continue in this new venture. The initiative is led by David R. Evans, CIE director, and Joseph B. Berger, chair of the department of educational policy, research and administration in the College of Education. Berger and Evans stressed that the HEP has been a team effort that includes CIE faculty, staff and graduate students. Notable for their contributions are Barbara Gravin Wilbur, fiscal administrator, and graduate student Mindy Eichhorn, who serves as the project coordinator.
Christine B. McCormick, dean of the College of Education, praised the ongoing effort. “CIE has a 40-year history of highly effective work with developing nations,” she says. “We are very proud that the center has been selected to work with Afghan institutions to build educational capacity in the essential areas of training teachers and improving access to quality education.”
Evans and Berger also noted that the UMass Amherst administration has been consistently supportive of their efforts to secure this most recent grant. “The university has stepped up to the plate to make this happen,” Evans says. Berger added, “The level of support has been remarkable.”
The current project has several major components. The CIE staff will continue to work on developing and sustaining the very successful master’s degree program in teacher education at Kabul Education University. It has already graduated two cohorts of students, with a third cohort half-way through the program. A fourth cohort will be admitted in the coming months. This program is notable because half of the graduates are women, which is highly unusual in Afghanistan. In addition, a large number of students are from provincial centers outside of Kabul, which allows the program to have a significant impact in underserved areas throughout the country.
CIE will also oversee continued development of 11 Professional Development Centers located in universities throughout Afghanistan. These centers provide access to technology and offer training in teaching, subject areas, and English. Another aspect of the program is the development of degree programs in public policy, including a master’s degree program based at Kabul University and a bachelor’s program that will be offered at four or five provincial universities.