by Abdullah Qazi (April 10, 2008)
Section Last updated August 29, 2010

As a result of the Soviet war, and the civil war which occurred shortly afterwards, many schools were destroyed and the education process as a whole in Afghanistan was negatively affected.  The destruction of the education infrastructure went to an extreme level when the Taliban conquered and ruled most of Afghanistan.

Except for some religious education, girls and women were forbidden to learn. Even for men, the curriculum was highly dominated by religious studies instead of science, technology, literature, etc. What the Taliban did in terms of education goes against Islam and what the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, preached.  Muhammad told his followers in the early days of Islam to “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”, and that “the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”. Islam requires education for all, both men and women.

Education in Afghanistan has greatly improved since the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001. According to recent estimates from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, more than 5.4 million children are enrolled in schools today, nearly 35% of them girls[1]. Even though many arguments have been made criticizing the status and rate of development of the educational system in Afghanistan; and despite efforts by the Taliban to burn and shut down many schools, especially for girls in the South and East, more Afghans now attend school or receive some sort of education than ever in its modern history. According to Afghanistan’s constitution (adopted in January 2004), education is the right of all citizens (both men and women), and up to a certain level, it is free of charge.

A lot more still needs to be done in order for Afghanistan to have what modern nations have for their citizens today.  An estimated 11 million Afghans are still illiterate [1], many schools lack proper facilities, the number of qualified teachers are still low, and a major obstacle that needs to be overcome is a cultural bias that many Afghans have, especially in the conservative areas towards the necessity of educating women.



Basic Facts

  • 43.1% of males are literate and only 12.6% of females are literate in Afghanistan 12.6% (2000 est.) [2]
  • Number of teachers has grown 7 fold, but only 22% meet the minimum qualifications of Grade 14. Only 28% are female located primarily in urban areas.[1]
  • There is no new curriculum for secondary school. In the last five years curriculum development has concentrated on the first six years of school only.
  • Although more than 3,500 schools have been built only 40% of schools have buildings.[1] Thousands of communities have no easy access to schools.[1]
  • Between 30,000-40,000 students graduate from high school every year; only one third of them are admitted to universities, the rest join the pool of unemployed.[1]
  • Thousands of children are being taught in cross-border madrassas where fundamentalism is rampant.[1]


[1] Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education (MoE) website ( – accessed on April 10, 2008
[2] United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – March 20, 2008

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