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Assessment of Afghan Educational Standards to Improve Learning

The Ministry of Education (MoE) initiated its first large-scale assessment of the quality of learning among Afghan children in 2013 in collaboration with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), which provided technical assistance for the exercise. Interesting findings emerged from the assessment results for Grade 6 students in 13 selected provinces of Afghanistan. The assessment was carried out in both Dari and Pashto as they are the official languages of Afghanistan and thus, are the medium of instruction in all schools.


Approximately 6,000 students from 110 government schools were chosen for the assessment through a random sampling process. They represented 261,172 students in Grade 6 across the 13 provinces. Scientific methods were employed in the sampling process, with approximately 42% of the sample consisting of girls and 58% of boys, which closely aligns with the estimated population by gender for Grade 6.


The assessment tested the students’ proficiency levels in reading, writing, and mathematics along with personal and local context and wider world knowledge. To provide further understanding on the enabling factors for students’ learning, different socio-economic status variables were also included as part of a questionnaire administered to both students and school coordinators, so as to ensure that those variables could be considered while taking actions to improve the learning process.


As a result of the assessment, six levels of proficiency were identified in mathematics, seven levels in reading and five levels in writing – all of which were identified while taking into consideration the student’s personal, local and world knowledge.


The findings revealed that almost 31% of Grade 6 students were not yet able to link the meaning of words to written symbols, while 10% of students could not read simple words, and 14% of math students could not name simple geometrical shapes. In addition, the findings showed that, in terms of performance in mathematics, reading and writing, Grade 6 students that participated in the assessment were far behind the students of Grade 3 and 4 in neighboring countries such as Pakistan and India (based on the review of similar studies in these countries). Parents’ education and socio-economic conditions were among the main factors found to be affecting students’ learning achievement in both rural and urban areas.


The findings were shared with representatives of various educational organizations, government and non-governmental organizations, institutions and stakeholders through a three-day workshop in November 2014. The discussion was aired on national television to create better understanding as well as to highlight the main policy implications. The final report of the Grade 6 student assessment results was also shared with national and international organizations.


From March to April 2016, Grades 3 and 4 surveys were carried out under the One Tablet per Student (tablet-based assessment) project using a random sample of 179 schools (135 winter schools and 44 summer schools) in 15 selected provinces of Afghanistan while keeping in mind the location, jurisdiction and urbanity of the target population. The instruments/tools used in the surveys measured the students’ mathematical and reading skills in order to better understand how well prepared Afghan students are in terms of basic literacy at the primary school level. The survey results will be shared with relevant stakeholders after the completion of data analysis and production of the final report.


The Learning Assessment Unit of the MoE, which focuses on the Monitoring Trends in Educational Growth (MTEG) program, is planning to implement a pilot test for Grade 9 at the end of 2016. The MTEG program was designed in collaboration with ACER in order to provide effective, reliable, and continuously updated information to the MoE and relevant stakeholders with regard to the quality of education including the reporting on the variables influencing the learning process of students in Afghanistan. The MTEG has made commendable efforts in a short period of time. However further efforts and a better platform are required to ensure better coordination and communication among stakeholders between relevant departments of the MoE. The establishment of the National Technical Committee for educational improvement by the Deputy Minister for General Education, Dr. M. Ibrahim Shinwari is a promising step forward and will further improve ongoing monitoring and assessment system in Afghanistan’s education system. 


Written by Aminullah Amin [amin_afg[at]] [Ministry of Education, Afghanistan]