The learning crisis in Afghanistan: results of the Afghanistan SABER service delivery survey, 2017

Author(s): Molina, Ezequiel; Trako, Iva; Hosseini Matin, Anahita; Masood, Eema; Viollaz, Mariana

Organisation(s): World Bank

Date: 2018

Pages: 226 p.


Schooling is not the same as learning. Although access to schooling in Afghanistan has improved significantly in the last decade, 4th grade Afghan students are not learning. Using the 2017 Afghanistan SABER Service Delivery survey, the authors find that after spending 4 years in primary school, two-thirds of Afghan students (65 percent) have only fully mastered the Language curriculum for Grade 1. In particular, one-third could identify a picture from a given word, and less than 15 percent could comprehend a simple paragraph. Their performance in Mathematics is even more worrisome as less than half of them (46 percent) have mastered the Mathematics curriculum for Grade 1. Most 4th grade Afghan students lack both multiplication and division skills, and almost none could solve word problems, compute fractions, identify shapes, or calculate an area. The authors also find that students in Community Based Education (CBE) schools tend to significantly outperform those in public schools. However, even though these 4th grade students have been in the system for 4 years, they only display the knowledge of a 1st grade student. Following the World Development Report (2018) framework, they find that the learning crisis in Afghanistan is driven by a combination of the following four key determinants: unskilled teachers, weak school management practices, lack of school inputs and infrastructure, and unprepared learners. In particular, while 4th grade teachers in Afghanistan have low absence rates (15 percent) and high time on task (80 percent), they struggle to help students learn as most have very low content and pedagogical knowledge, as well as poor teaching skills. Based on these findings, the report also provides a series of technical policy suggestions.

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