3 pillars of Afghanistan’s education plan

12 Février 2018


UNICEF Afghanistan.
A young student writes with chalk.

Afghanistan has made immense strides in education since the fall of the Taliban. More girls are enrolled than ever before and thousands of schools have sprouted up across the country. But, at the same time, instability continues to close schools and 3.5 million children are missing out on their right to a quality education. Can a new education plan accelerate progress?


Afghanistan’s third National Education Strategic Plan – known by its acronym NESP-III – is currently setting the direction for educational policies until 2021.

Developed and endorsed by both Afghanistan’s government and partners, it emphasizes educational quality and relevance, equitable access, and efficient and transparent management.

A two-sided story

The plan, developed with technical support from IIEP, comes amid many ongoing changes in Afghanistan’s education system. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, new educational opportunities have opened for many.

Enrolment has increased nine fold, from below one million in 2001 to 9.2 million in 2016. The number of schools has surged from 3,400 to 16,400 and teacher investment has become a top priority. 39 per cent of those enrolled in school are now girls – up from under one per cent during the Taliban years – and community-based education has given new opportunities to out-of-school children in hard to reach areas.

Major challenges remain

However, framed another way and Afghanistan’s success story in education is still confronted by major challenges.

“In Afghanistan, the out-of-school children are an emergency in itself, separate from any one security issue or disaster,” said Abdul Wassay Arian, the Director General of Planning and Evaluation at the Ministry of Education, during a visit to IIEP in late 2017.

Three and a half million children – 75% of them girls – are still out of school. Poverty, the lack of qualified female teachers in rural schools (which is especially linked to girls' education), and substandard school facilities all account for low enrolment. Furthermore, nearly half of all schools do not have a building or facilities.

For those in school, learning outcomes are often poor and the skills acquired do not match the realities of the job market. This can lead to some families doubting the virtues of education, Arian explained.

Protracted instability also pulls scores of children out of school. In 2016, some 1,000 schools remained inactive or closed.

Bridging the humanitarian-development divide

To help address this, the Ministry of Education and its partners are working to bridge humanitarian and development work in education. The aim is to reach those furthest left behind and enable long-term change while also addressing immediate needs. 

Speaking at the Global Education Cluster Meeting in Brussels in late 2017, Arian said, “The objectives contribute to restoring normalcy in the lives of children and providing children with age-appropriate learning opportunities, such as temporary learning spaces, community-based learning, and catch-up classes.”

Three key areas: quality, access, and effective management

Afghanistan’s new education plan emphasizes three key areas: quality and relevance, equitable access, and efficient and transparent management.

The Ministry is working to develop the capacity of the system to foster a strong and relevant curriculum that is strengthened by monitoring and assessment. At the same time, the plan strives to develop the capacity of schools to be able to deliver a quality and relevant education that ensures that school graduates have the skills matching the needs of the labour market.

In terms of equitable access, the Ministry is working to figure out who exactly is out of school and why. A survey of out-of-school children aims to determine how to get these children in school, and learning.

For some children, security and/or the distance between a child’s home and the closest school may be a problem. To address this, the Ministry wants to expand community-based schools to reach more children. Another major question is how to attract and retain the most qualified female teachers, especially in rural areas. This will also help speed up the country’s efforts to improve girls’ education.

The plan’s attention to efficient and transparent management undergirds both of these efforts around improving quality and access. It calls for a structural reform that will allow the Ministry of Education to be more results-based and competency-based.

Equitable resource allocation will be key to closing huge disparities between urban and rural areas and will help confirm new positions and budgets in Afghanistan’s provinces. Improved management that aims to strengthen the entire education sector – from administration to the classroom – will also address major concerns around corruption.

Want to know more about Afghanistan’s new education plan? Head over to our portal Planipolis and explore all of the country’s official education documents and plans.


IIEP’s cooperation with Afghanistan dates to 2002. IIEP has implemented three large successive technical cooperation programmes with the planning directorate of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education with funding from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. This work will soon be evaluated and a new multi-year technical cooperation project is in the design phase and expected to start mid-2018.