Afghanistan Education

Afghanistan Education

In Afghanistan, the education follows a 6-3-3 race. It is nine years of compulsory schooling. The school course has six years of primary school, three years of secondary school and three years of upper secondary school. Free education to undergraduate level is enshrined in the Constitution. The education system is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan.

The education system in Afghanistan has been very adversely affected by more than three decades of prolonged conflict and civil war. Following the international intervention in the fall of 2001 and the fall of the Taliban, building the education system was central to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the peace process in the country. Developments in the education sector after the war are considered one of the country’s biggest success stories. This is particularly pointed out by the huge increase in children enrolled in school since 2001, including girls.

The rate of illiteracy among the adult population is among the highest in the world. 43 percent of the population are literate (UNESCO, 2018). That is 55.48 percent of men and 29.81 percent of women in Afghanistan. In the age group 15-24 years, 65.42 percent can read and write.

Large sections of the population are still without access to education. This is especially true in rural areas and for girls. This is mainly due to poverty and weak infrastructure. In many parts of the country, a lack of schools and inadequate transport are the main barriers to education. Long school roads and geographical barriers, especially in high mountain areas, make it difficult for students to reach classrooms. An estimated 3.7 million children are out of school in Afghanistan, 60 percent of whom are girls (UNICEF). The low proportion of girls in education can be explained, among other things, by the lack of female teachers, especially in rural areas. Only 16 percent of Afghanistan’s schools are girls’ schools and several lack adequate sanitation facilities, which impede access. Another factor is that many girls in Afghanistan get married very early, 17 percent before the age of 15. In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of teachers, including about 31 percent women. It is a challenge that only 48 percent of teachers have a minimum of academic qualifications.

Afghanistan is one of the partner countries for Norwegian aid. Education has been one of the most important areas of focus for Norwegian aid to Afghanistan, and with a particular focus on education for girls.

Afghanistan Schooling

Organization of basic education

Primary school

The primary school runs from 1st to 6th grade. Children start school at the age of 6 and 8 years. The syllabus is national. The primary school is divided into two cycles. From 1st to 3rd level where the syllabus contains religion, language, math and gym, from 4th to 6th level the same subjects as above including natural sciences, history, geography and foreign languages.

Since 2001, the number of children in primary school has increased significantly from 0.9 million to 9.2 million. This includes over 3.5 million girls, with virtually no girls having access to education. Under the Taliban regime, all teaching of girls and women was banned. The number of schools in the country has increased from 3400 to 16,400.

Secondary school upper secondary education

The secondary school lasts for three years from 7th to 9th grade. Students can apply for higher education after this. Then you have the opportunity to choose between general study competence and vocational education. The vocational subjects last from 2 to 5 years. According to UNICEF, 38 percent are enrolled in secondary school.

Secondary education

Secondary education lasts for three years from 10th to 12th grade. According to UNESCO, almost 54 percent attend high school. According to UNICEF, it is 28 percent.

Higher education

The higher education sector includes both universities and other higher education institutions. In 2012, there were 31 public higher education institutions, including 19 universities and 12 colleges in Afghanistan. The private higher education sector has grown significantly in the country since 2001. Exact numbers vary, but according to the World Bank, in 2012 there were between 68 to 100 private institutions. The enrollment in higher education has increased sharply since 2001, especially from 2009 when the first batch of students with primary and secondary education after the end of the war applied for higher education. In 2018, 14 percent of men and 4.9 percent of women were enrolled in higher education (UNESCO, 2018).

The majority of students are enrolled in public universities. Public and private universities have about 300,000 students, including 100,000 women, according to the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education.


Students apply for higher education based on a national entrance exam. Private higher education institutions usually do not have an admission test requirement.

At the bachelor level, students take a year of general education before they specialize. The length of study programs varies.


There are very few master’s programs in Afghanistan. Most are in teacher education and engineering, and most are offered by private institutions. Some public universities have started offering master’s programs in collaboration with international universities.


Doctoral programs are almost non-existent. Nangarhar University, a public institution in Jalalabad, launched the country’s first doctorate program in 2014 and several are under development.

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