A Deep Dive into the Taliban’s Controversial Education Policies
By: Jandad Jahani
Not too long ago, an event that did not attract enough attention of media took place in Kandahar, Afghanistan. An unusual examination was organized for 922 members of the Islamic Emirate, or as we commonly know them, the Taliban. The test was for the twelfth grade, and it was conducted under the watchful eye of the Ministry of Education. Fakhruddin Naqshbandi, who heads the education department in Kandahar, revealed that those who performed well on the test would be placed in the twelfth grade by the Department of Education.
This occurrence in the sphere of Afghanistan’s education system is unusual and has led to a flurry of questions among experts in education and policy around the world. The initiative seems to be a new and unconventional approach, given the country’s past and the recent political changes.
Mr. Obaidullah Wardak, a respected former professor at Kabul University, provided his perspective on the situation. He suggested that the current government might be facing a lack of skilled personnel. As such, this could be a shortcut to fill this gap. But, he added, admitting people directly to the twelfth grade and then giving them graduation certificates goes against standard global educational practices, which usually require twelve years of schooling before graduation.
Wark also shared his concerns about the potential impact of this policy. By creating an ‘educated class’ of their members, the Taliban might be trying to gain more acceptance for their rule, and at the same time, cover up the problems in their education system.
This move might also make these members more appealing for government roles, which could lower the quality of government and public institutions.
The story doesn’t end here. There are reports that the Taliban has started master’s and doctoral degree programs without proper academic and scientific standards. They are also reportedly converting religious study degrees (from madrassas) into bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This could lower the value of traditional academic qualifications that students work hard for over several years.
Another issue is the Taliban’s interference in universities and other academic institutions. They have reportedly changed parts of the university curriculum, introducing their own ideological teachings. According to a report by Hasht-e Subh, they have altered textbook content to include elements linked to extremist ideologies.
Despite the potential for these teachings to benefit opposition groups like ISIS Khorasan, the Taliban seems to be pushing ahead with their educational reforms.
Even discussions about establishing an Islamic Caliphate, an idea closer to the ideology of ISIS than that of the Taliban, are now part of the curriculum.
The Taliban’s influence over education also includes the exclusion of girls from schools and universities. Afghan girls have been denied education for more than 600 days, and female students have been barred from universities for nearly a year. The Taliban’s Education Minister Sayeed Habibullah Agha recently defended these actions, stating that conditions for girls’ education in Afghanistan are not suitable.
In addition to the education of girls, the Taliban has also stopped women in Afghanistan from working. The combined impact of these restrictions has left many women feeling mentally distressed.
By favouring their members in the education sector, the Taliban could be causing long-term damage to Afghanistan’s social and institutional development.
This could lower the neutrality and trust in the country’s education system.
A month ago, the Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered the closure of approximately 7500 classes in Kandahar and Helmand that were primarily attended by boys.
On the other hand, they are increasing their efforts to promote religious education through madrassas. Last year, the Taliban’s farmer Minister of Education, Mullah Noorullah Munir, announced plans to build madrassas in every district, and hundreds have already been established.
The Taliban is increasingly combining religious teachings with regular education in these madrassas. The students, under this system, are exposed to the Taliban’s ideological beliefs, which many perceive as narrow-minded.
This could potentially affect their understanding of the world and their cognitive development.
Another worrying part of the Taliban’s educational policy is the fast-tracking of madrassa students’ graduation. It’s reported that students are receiving their twelfth-grade certificates in approximately a year. Some of them easily converting their madrassa certificate directly with high school certificate , bachelor degrees or even Master degrees without attending school or university even one day.
This hurried approach to education threatens to replace the formal, modern educational system with a traditional and informal one. This change is causing many young people in Afghanistan to opt for madrassas over mainstream education.
The long-term consequences of this shift could be more serious than what appears on the surface. The country’s workforce, which plays a crucial role in Afghanistan’s economy and future, might be affected by this new educational paradigm.
Individuals who could have contributed positively to the country’s economy might be swayed by this ideology, leading to instability in the region and possibly even globally.
In short, the Taliban’s controversial educational policies are causing major changes in Afghanistan’s education system. These changes could have far-reaching social, economic, and political consequences. As the world continues to monitor these developments, the future of education in Afghanistan remains uncertain. It’s unclear whether these changes will lead to a more inclusive and progressive education system or further deepen the ideological divide. The international community must remain watchful and committed to ensuring the right to quality education for all Afghans.