Two parallel educational systems function in Afghanistan. Traditional
Islamic madrassa found in towns and villages teach children basic
moral values and ritual knowledge through the study of the Holy
Koran, the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad),
and popular edited religious texts. Higher level madrassa located
in Herat, Kunduz, Ghazni, Kandahar and Kabul were known as important
learning centers. Leading religious leaders also attended famous
madrassa in India such as the renowned establishment located at
The older generation was educated in madrassa or privately at
home. The modern educational system was introduced at the end
of the nineteenth century by the government which used it as a
means to convince traditionalists of the compatibility of Islam
with modernization. This system was subsequently expanded with
the continued assistance of France, Germany, Turkey, India, Britain,
the United States and the Soviet Union.
In 1935, education was declared universal, compulsory and free.
With its expansion, the secular system came to be regarded as
the principle medium for creating a national ideology and emphasized
productive skills while effectively limiting Islamic studies to
ritual knowledge. By the 1960s, technical education assumed critical
importance because of the surge in development.
Beginning as early as the reign of Amir Abdur Rahman (1880-1901),
considerable attention was paid to extending secular elementary
schools, lycees and vocational schools to the rural areas. Nevertheless,
education remained primarily the prerogative of upper urban groups.
By the 1960s as the expanding government apparatus required more
bureaucrats, ninety percent of all school graduates were employed
by government with the result that the educated tended to be seen
by villagers as government officials. Graduates of madrassa sought
careers as religious functionaries or judges.
Since 1978, however, a steady decline has all but demolished
the educational infrastructure. Afghanistan in 1996 had the highest
illiteracy rate in Asia, for both men and women.
name Afghanistan conventional long form Islamic State of
Afghanistan conventional short form Afghanistan local long
form Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan local short form Afghanestan former Republic of Afghanistan
- total: 647,500 sq km land: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km
- mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
- arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
- landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide
the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in
the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
- 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes
occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
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