Posted by James F. Smith March 10, 2010 06:30 PM
From South Asia
In Kabul, graduates received their master's degrees today through a new program created with the support of education specialists from UMass Amhert. Photo courtesy of Professor David R. Evans.
In war-torn Afghanistan, university master's degrees are so rare that graduation caps, gowns, and diploma covers are hard to come by.
But with help from educators from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a ceremony in Kabul today celebrated 41 students who earned their master's in education, nearly doubling the number of master's-level faculty at education colleges in the country.
Professor David R. Evans, who leads the UMass team that designed the post-graduate Afghan program, said staffers from UMass staffers helped fashion the graduation garb and diplomas.
"Certainly for the last 20 years there's been nothing like this," Evans said by telephone from the Afghan capital.
Twenty-two of the graduates recently completed the new two-year program at Kabul Education University -- the first master's degrees in education within the country at least since the Taliban takeover in the 1990s. The other 19 completed their degree work recently at UMass Amherst and Indiana University, and joined their counterparts from Kabul university for the event.
The Kabul master's program is one element in a wide-ranging Afghan initiative by education specialists from UMass Amherst, who have been bolstering teacher education in the country since 2003.
Evans, who has spent more than 40 years at the Center for International Education at UMass Amherst, said 10 of the 22 graduates from the first class of the Kabul Education University are women, and the graduates range in age from their 20s to over 40. They completed their coursework in Dari, an Afghan language, in December, and all are currently teaching at 16 schools of education around the country, along with the recent graduates from the US universities.
In this way, the American-backed master's in education program will help seed schools of education around the country with trained faculty who in turn will share their expertise with hundreds if not thousands of teachers. Education has always been seen as a pillar of rebuilding Afghanistan, and Taliban rebels have frequently targeted teachers and schools, especially those for girls.
The UMass team has worked with colleagues from Indiana University over the past five years to design and implement the master's program at the country's flagship school of education, thanks to a five-year, $7.4 million grant from the US Agency for International Development/ to develop teacher-training staff and institutions. The Kabul master's program employs three Americans and six Afghans, including Wahid Omar, an Afghan-American, who has coordinated the master's degree program.
Evans and his UMass colleagues, including Associate Professor Joseph Berger, who is chairman of the department of education policy, research and administration, have also been involved in several other education initiatives in Afghanistan, including a new project to improve medical education.
The event drew much attention in Kabul, Evans said. The US ambassador and the Afghan minister for higher education attended.
Evans said he and Berger have traveled to Afghanistan about a dozen times since 2003. He said the five-year contract with USAID ends in January 2011, but he hopes to continue to contribute to improving teacher education in Afghanistan in the future.
The initiative reaches beyond Kabul, with professional development centers running in eight other cities including Kandahar, Herat, and Kunduz. Hundreds of faculty have taken courses in subjects including pedagogy training, leadership in education, and computer literacy.
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Worldly Boston is James F. Smith's report on people from our community who are making an impact in the world, and on people from abroad doing noteworthy things in Greater Boston. We live in the most global of communities. Worldly Boston helps share those stories.
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About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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