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The Director-General of UNESCO and the Minister of Education of Afghanistan discuss new five-year strategy for education reform

The Director-General of UNESCO and the Minister of Education of Afghanistan discuss new five-year strategy for education reform
  • © UNESCO/N. Massoum

On 10 February the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, met with the Minister of Education of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mr Mohammad Hanir Atmar, to discuss the country’s new five-year strategy for education.

Referring to UNESCO as Afghanistan’s “most reliable and effective partner in education”, Mr Atmar told the Director-General that the Organization’s support for the implementation of the strategy and the mobilization of funds would be critical to its success.

Mr Atmar informed Mr Matsuura of the major challenges facing the Afghan education system today, drawing particular attention to gender inequality in schools and the related lack of qualified female teachers. The Minister also highlighted the importance of improving access and quality. While the country currently enjoys the highest enrolment rate in its history, an estimated 50 per cent of school age children still do not go to school. In terms of quality, there is an urgent need for curriculum development, especially at the secondary level.

The five-year strategy offers an ambitious vision for addressing these challenges. Developed by the Afghan Ministry of Education in partnership with the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, and recently launched by President Hamid Karzai, it encompasses eight main programmes. As Mr Atmar explained to the Director-General, these focus on: equal access to quality education for all; curriculum development; teacher education; Islamic education; technical and vocational education; literacy and non-formal education; infrastructure development; and administrative reform.

The Minister of Education of Afghanistan urged that this bold now strategy demanded increased cooperation with all international partners, including, and in particular, with UNESCO and its specialized institutes. “In terms of technical expertise, UNESCO’s support will be critical”, Mr Atmar insisted.

Mr Matsuura pledged his full commitment, stating that “UNESCO stands ready to accompany the Government in the implementation of this important and far-reaching strategy”. The Director-General said that UNESCO would scale-up its action in Afghanistan, both directly and through mobilizing the engagement of other stakeholders. He agreed with Mr Atmar that building broad international partnerships behind the initiative would be essential, especially in raising the estimated US$2.6 billion that will be needed over the next five years to finance the strategy.

“With the political weight of UNESCO behind the strategy, mobilizing international support for education in Afghanistan, I am sure that we will succeed”, Mr Atmar asserted.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 022-2007
  • 13-02-2007
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