UMass starts new Master's degree in Afghanistan

One of the key goals of the USWDP project in Afghanistan is the establishment of Master's degree programs in Afghanistan Universities by creating partnerships with U.S. universities. The University of Massachusetts (UMass) is partnering with the Shaheed Rabani Education University (SREU) in Kabul in a joint effort to develop a new Master’s degree in Education Leadership and Management (MELM). MELM is the first program of its kind in Afghanistan, designed to prepare education leaders and managers.


Planning for MELM began in Fall 2015 and the first cohort of 22 mid-career students (11 males and 11 females) was admitted in Spring 2016. As the program prepares to graduate its first cohort in March 2018 and admits a second cohort in March 2018, it is important to mention some progress made to this date.


Capacity building has been a major component since the establishment of MELM at SREU. To build capacity and empower faculty at SREU, three experienced faculty members from UMass Amherst - Joseph Berger, Benita Barns (pictured below) and Shane Hammond - have been providing technical support since the start of the program.


To emphasize local ownership and sustainability of the program, UMass has provided hands-on training and workshops. Since the majority of the faculty members at the College of Professional Education (CoPE) were not ready to teach graduate level courses, UMass developed an alternative model: recruiting lead instructors from outside CoPE and assigning CoPE faculty to serve as co-instructors in order to improve their content knowledge and pedagogical skills so they could teach these courses in the future.


First, in terms of policy to support the MELM degree, UMass faculty helped SREU establish an organizational structure and a policy document. Although the former is concerned with MELM management to oversee program design and implementation, the professional development component focuses on the details of MELM including its goals, curricula and outcomes. In addition, the professional development document includes materials such as course syllabi, learning materials and pedagogical recommendations.


Second, the professional development component focuses on modern pedagogy, graduate advising, faculty mentoring, and leadership skills. To help CoPE faculty gain the required knowledge and skills, UMass faculty not only visits Kabul regularly to train individual faculty and groups, they also coordinate with the local expert who works closely with CoPE faculty on daily basis. In addition, as part of the degree development process, UMass facilitated a best-practices regional study tour to Baku, Azerbaijan, to help SREU administrators and faculty develop the plan for MELM.


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