Afghanistan has a long history of organized education. Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and Hindu temples, as well as mosques and madrasas, feature in the past and present traditional educational institutions. However, the modern concepts and structures of early childhood, primary, secondary, and higher education, which are discussed in this digital resource, began from the early twentieth century onwards.
The Habibia (1903–04) and Masturat (1921) schools mark the beginning of modern education for boys and girls respectively. Since then, boys’ and girls’ education have experienced many challenges and developments. During 1955 to 1978, reform and modernization programs transformed education across all levels. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), European (Germany, France, and the Soviet Union), and US educational institutions were active in the modernization and internationalization of the education system. However, the rivalry between the former Soviet Union, supporting the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (1978–92), and the United States and its Western and Arab allies, backing a global jihad network to challenge the Soviet Union in the 1980s, changed the fate of education. While the former manipulated the education system, the latter developed a new “jihad education” curriculum, which trained refugee children in Pakistan as jihadi fighters, most of whom joined the Taliban (1996–2001), whose rule virtually eroded the education system.
In 2002, the international community and the Afghan government revived modern education. In the first post-Taliban year alone, an estimated 2,976,002 pupils registered in around 3,000 schools across the country. A new National Constitution (2004) and Education Law (2008), followed by a series of five-year National Education Strategic Plans, provided a new direction for education and a platform for aligning educational programs with donors’ policies. Currently, there are an estimated 8,938,227 primary and secondary school pupils and 341,273 higher education students. Despite serious security challenges and economic hardships, there is much support for the present education system and a desire to build upon it.
Dr. Yahia Baiza is a research associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. He specializes in education, Islamic, Central Asia, and Afghanistan studies. He is an alumnus of the Department of Education of Oxford University, where he obtained his master’s (2002) and doctoral (2009) degrees. In 2006 and 2007, he served as UNESCO-IIEP’s national representative at the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan. Dr. Baiza is also an international consultant on education in Afghanistan. He is the author of Education in Afghanistan: Developments, Influences, and Legacies since 1901 (2013 and 2017), a forthcoming book on The Hazara Ismailis of Afghanistan, and more than fifty academic articles.
 Ministry of Education (1920), “Tasis-e Maktab-e Masturat,” Muʿarif-e Maʿarif 2 (4): 48–54 .
 , Education in Afghanistan: Developments, Influences and Legacies since 1901 (London: Routledge, 2013).
 Central Statistical Organization (CSO), Afghanistan Statistical Yearbook 2016–2017 (Kabul: CSO, 2018).