Interview: "Literacy rate in Afghanistan increased to 43 per cent"


17 March 2020

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) has provided technical support to the Government of Afghanistan since 2012 with the aim of improving the literacy skills of an estimated 1.2 million people. The Afghan Ministry of Education, with the technical support of the UNESCO Office in Kabul and the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning (UIL), currently focuses on strengthening capacities and improving the quality of basic education and literacy for youth and adults. UIL provides advice on policy and planning, curriculum design and development, the training of adult educators and literacy facilitators, monitoring and information management, and quality assurance.

Mohammad Yasin Samim, Senior Technical Advisor to the Minister at the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, explains the current situation regarding youth and adult literacy in his country and discusses challenges, possible solutions and future actions

What is the current state of youth and adult literacy and basic education in Afghanistan?

Currently, over 10 million youth and adults in Afghanistan are illiterate. However, since 2016, the country has made significant progress. While in 2016/17 the literacy rate was at 34.8 per cent, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics recently confirmed that is has now increased to 43 per cent. That is a remarkable 8 per cent increase. In addition, the literacy rate for youths aged 15–24 has substantially increased and now stands at 65 per cent.

Despite these achievements, however, there are still massive challenges and a great number of people who lack literacy and opportunities for continuing education in our country. We also still face a substantial gender gap. The literacy rate for men stands at 55 per cent; for women, it's only 29.8 per cent.



What are the major challenges to Afghanistan achieving universal literacy?

Based on the analyses we have done for strategy planning within our ministry, the major challenges include lack of funding; low organizational capacity both at central and provincial and district levels; insecurity and socio-economic factors such as parity; and social cultural barriers that hinder older adults from getting an education, particularly older women.

In 2018, UIL signed a cooperation agreement with the UNESCO Kabul Office for a large-scale project to improve Afghanistan’s education system, called Better Education Systems for Afghanistan’s Future (BESAF). How is this being achieved?

UNESCO has been a strategic partner for the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan since 2001. It supports policy coordination and fund management, and builds technical capacities in areas such as curriculum and teacher training. The three-year BESAF project, funded by Sweden, enables UIL and UNESCO to work with the Deputy Ministry of Education to develop the national youth and adult basic education strategy, conduct a national assessment survey, develop curriculum for youth and adult basic education, and professionalize teacher training.

How do you benefit from UIL support?

UIL collects and disseminates best practice case studies and experiences from around the globe and also the region, which is a very big asset for the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan as we proceed ahead with strategy development, national assessment, and teacher-education and curriculum packages. We will continue to need the expertise of UIL, which contributes in terms of providing advice, giving feedback and also sharing the resources that we need for these areas.

The partnership that we have with organizations such as UNESCO, UIL and others is a big asset for us, because it provides an opportunity to learn from global and regional experiences and to stay up-to-date with recent developments that are happening in the sector.

What is your vision for literacy in Afghanistan in 2030?

Our vision is that, by 2030, all youth and a substantial proportion of adult men and women have access to equitable literacy and adult basic education opportunities that will enable them to actively participate in the society and the market and the overall development goals of the country.

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