Researchers to Study Afghanistan’s Education System Under USAID, Danish International Development

Researchers at the Steinhardt School  will examine Afghanistan’s schools and help its Ministry of Education assess the sustainability of community-based schools in a research initiative backed by grants from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

Currently, many schools in Afghanistan are run by local communities, with the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Education. However, these schools are slowly undergoing a “handover” process in which the country’s Ministry of Education will assume more direct management of these schools. This transition is expected to occur over the next four years after western nations have completed their withdrawal from the country.

“Community-based schools have been effective in educating Afghanistan’s children,” says NYU Steinhardt Asssistant Professor Dana Burde, the study’s principal investigator. “As the country transitions away from NGO-supported schools to a system under the purview of the national government, the Ministry of Education wants to understand how best to manage this undertaking.”

Joel Middleton, a visiting professor at NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Cyrus Samii, an assistant professor in NYU’s Wilf Family Department of Politics, are Burde’s co-principal investigators.

Burde’s previous research, conducted with Leigh Linden, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, showed community-based schools boosted classroom attendance, so much so that they essentially eliminated gender disparities in rural areas.

The new project, supported by a one-year, $258,000 grant from DANIDA and a four-year $2.8 million grant from USAID, will conduct a two-fold examination: (1) an assessment of special interventions designed to increased girls’ access and achievement in school and (2) an assessment of teacher recruitment models and a “handover” process designed to create sustainable access to schooling.

“Our research will help the government of Afghanistan understand what it needs to do to get girls and boys into school—and to boost learning across the country—while clarifying what foreigners can do to assist,” adds Burde, a faculty member in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. “It will also help identify how Afghanistan can maintain continuity in school performance through the transition from NGO to government administration.”

The study will include 220 villages and will examine schools that have already been handed over from NGOs to the national government. It will consider a range of characteristics, including the proportion of such schools still in operation, and look for indicators on the quality of services still being provided.

“By understanding better the evolution of these schools to date, we intend to provide insights into the types of issues that may arise when the Ministry of Education fully operates the country’s education system—and how to best manage these developments,” notes Burde.