Center for Strategic Communication

School children in Afghanistan share supplies received from ISAF. ISAF Photo.

Today, RFE/RL posted an article covering the state of the school system in Afghanistan. To put it mildly, the outlook painted by the authors is bleak, and the problem doesn’t appear to be violence or lack of buildings. The schools aren’t properly staffed, and students aren’t learning.

In a 2011 report on measuring success in Afghanistan, ASP’s Joshua Foust highlighted literacy rates as an essential metric.

There seems to be a disconnect in the need for basic education in Afghanistan’s schools. According to the article, Afghanistan’s Deputy Education Minister, Mohammad Sediq Patman, states:

What we really need are people who are familiar with technology and practical theory. In the West, computers or other technology do the work of 100 people. That’s what we need here.

Arguably, that’s not what Afghanistan needs. The problems with this statement gets down to the fundamental need for basic education, skills, and literacy. None of this technology is useful without a basic education, and it’s unclear if Afghan students are getting this. It is incredibly difficult to reach 21st century levels of connectivity without first meeting 20th century standards for education and literacy.

Additionally, labor intensiveness in Afghanistan is more likely to be a good thing than not. The work of “100 people” is probably more beneficial to Afghanistan than a computer, as that work keeps people out of the insurgency and out of the poppy (opium) fields.

If Afghanistan is to have a future, then its future certainly lies in the potential of its youth. From the basis of RFE/RL’s reporting, it would seem that opportunity is being lost. Why aren’t the NATO allies making sure the money we spend on education in Afghanistan is actually educating?