Emergence of a new generation of educational planners: national training programme in Afghanistan

Since 2002, the Afghanistan Ministry of Education (MoE) has facilitated access to education for more than nine million students and millions of illiterate adults. Yet, 3.7 million students remain out of school and more than 10 million adults are illiterate, with significant enduring gender and geographical disparities in access to education. One of the formidable barriers to children and adults access to quality and equitable education has been limited planning and management capacities and competent human resources especially at the sub-national level.

To address this challenge, the MoE with support from the UNESCO Kabul Office and the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) launched a National Training Programme (NTP) in educational planning and management (EPM) in 2012. The programme aimed to enhance the MoE’s planning and management capacities at central, provincial, and district levels and to ensure there are competent human resources.

To ensure sustainability and ownership of the programme, the MoE established a national team of education and planning experts, led by the then General Directorate of Planning and Evaluation, to develop the programme’s curriculum framework. The team consisted of the education and planning experts from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Teacher Education, and Curriculum Development, and the University of Education. The NTP was initially set up as a department at the Accounting and Administration Institute (IAA) under the TVET department. Later in 2015, the National Institute for Educational Planning (NIEP) within the structure of the TVET department hosted the NTP. It is worth noting that the NIEP is currently under the purview of the TVET Authority following the establishment of the Authority in 2018 as a separate entity apart from the MoE.


The NTP is a two-year in-depth, practice-oriented training programme, which was designed following the MoE capacity development priorities to address the needs and capacity gaps in educational planning and management at the national level. It provides learning opportunities to the planning officers to acquire the key concepts and the necessary skills in EPM. The primary target group of the NTP is the MoE professional staff whose jobs relate to planning, monitoring, reporting, as well as the heads of education priority prorammes including general education, Islamic education, literacy programmes, teacher education, the heads of education offices and the managers of units. It was planned to expand the programme up to the school level. 

Since its launch in 2012, the NTP has succeeded in capacity building of a considerable number of educational planning officers in EPM. To date, 614 planning officers received the two-year in-depth training in EPM from all 35 Provincial Education Departments (PED) and some District Education Offices (DEO). However, according to initial estimates, around 3,000 more education officers from 35 PEDs and 450 DEDs still need training in EPM that requires strong commitment and technical and financial support from the national government and education development partners.

Gender disparity at managerial and professional levels, especially at the sub-national level, has always been a challenge in the education system in Afghanistan. To this end, the programme paid special attention to the participation of the MoE female staff. The MoE provided essential financial support to the provincial female candidates of the programme. However, the number of provincial female staff who attended the programme is considerably below expectations. As of 2019, out of 614 NTP participants, only 39 (6%) of the NTP trainees at central and provincial levels, were female.

Multiple obstacles hinder women's access to capacity development opportunities in and out of the country. Socio-cultural norms, mobility issues due to pervasive insecurity, and lack of accommodation facilities are the major challenges for the female staff participation in the training programmes. To tackle this issue, the MoE requested UNESCO to support development of a specific training programme compatible with the female education officers’ conditions. To this end, a Blended Training Programme (BTP) for the MoE female staff, with a flexible training modality combined with distance/online modules and limited residential-based training is being developed within the framework of the Better Education Systems for Afghanistan’s Future programme (BESAF) (2018-2022). 

The MoE also established a female-specific NTP (FNTP) for the young high school graduates, as a regular training programme, to fill the gender gaps in professional and managerial positions in the education sector. The graduates of the FNTP are eligible to apply for planning positions in government and non-government organizations. The TVET Authority supports the FNTP within the framework of the NIEP regular training programmes. 

Implementation of the NTP has significantly improved the education offices' capacities in EPM at the national level. However, the PEDs, and DEOs would need to benefit further from the programme. “The PEDs and DEOs are now more autonomous to prepare and implement the annual provincial operational plans, prepare quality progress and statistical reports based on the reporting templates and standards’’ Mr. Abul Wafa, the head of Educational Management Information System (EMIS) Unit at Herat PED and an alumnus of the NTP, says.

The NTP training has improved coordination of the planning and reporting processes between the central MoE, the PEDs, and the DEOs. It has been achieved through the trained planning officers who have bridged the coordination gaps between the central MoE and provincial offices. Abul Wafa emphasizes: “It is worth noting that one of the most important outcome of the training is the PED units’ awareness and knowledge on the education structure, policies, planning, implementation of annual operational plans, and reporting processes that have created a common understanding among the education offices at the central and provincial levels. This has improved coordination between the central MoE and PEDs.”

A major objective of the development of the NTP is to expand the training opportunities to the provincial staff of the ministry. The NTP has paved the way for the extension of capacity development opportunities at the provincial level through the graduates of the NTP. They transfer their acquired knowledge and skills to their colleagues in the workplace through coaching and peer group-work. Mr. Mahdi Addullahi, the head of the Planning Unit of Sare Pol PED, stressed: “The planning officers who participated in the training programmes are in a better capacity to help other staff in their respective units to fulfill their objectives and to learn the jobs’ required skills. They transfer the acquired knowledge and skills to their colleagues in the units.” 

To date, several development partners have supported the implementation of the NTP. The first phase of the NTP from 2012 to 2014 was supported by the MoE-IIEP Sustainable Capacity Development in Education Sector Planning Project (2010-2014), funded by Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). The second phase of the NTP, from 2015 to 2018, was supported by the MoE-IIEP Capacity Development for Educational Planning and Management Project III (2015-2018), funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). UNESCO Kabul Office and IIEP are currently supporting the improvement of the quality and implementation of the NTP through the BESAF programme (2018-2022), funded by Sida.

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