AFGHANISTAN: Training Female Teachers to Increase Girls’ Enrollment in Afghanistan. BESST Program ( USAID and Creative Associates International)


In a small room, just off the main hallway of classrooms, five young girls whisper to one another. Dressed in black and enveloped in white head scarves, these students represent the first position-holders in grades 4 through 12 of Aqcha Girls School in Afghanistan, which serves more than 2,300 girls. As they recollected their experiences from a year earlier, before the Building Education Support Systems for Teachers (BESST) project got underway, all the students pointed out how vastly different their learning experience is now that BESST has trained their teachers.

Although in some parts of Afghan society educating girls is condemned, BESST is helping these teachers to support and encourage the girls to follow their ambitions and goals. Mawlooda, a seventh grader, said that last year, “many times when I would tell my teacher that I wanted to be a doctor, she would tell me, ‘That is not possible.’ But teachers need to be more supportive of our goals or we will stop believing in them too.”

Last winter, the teachers and principal at Aqcha Girls School participated in a training carried out under BESST which introduced them to alternative ways of instruction and interacting with students. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Creative Associates International, Inc., BESST trainings emphasizes pedagogy and methods that encourage teachers to foster child-centered and flexible educational environments. Since one of the project’s primary long-term goals is to increase the number of Afghan girls in schools, BESST’s teacher training package was designed to promote gender equity in the classroom – in part by increasing the number of qualified female teachers and raising girls’ school attendance.

The innovations in BESST training methodology are meant to improve the quality of education of every student. Given the experiences articulated by students like Mawlooda — and the limited prospects often faced by females in Afghanistan — these Afghan girls stand to gain a great deal from teachers employing these teaching methods. Working with the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of education throughout the country, the BESST project is taking steps to ensure that Afghan girls benefit from its current interventions and that the educational environment being created fosters the confidence and supports the ambitions of future generations of Afghan women as well.

BESST was designed so that the proportion of trainers hired within a district is roughly equal to the proportion of female teachers in that district. Dwight Lloyd, Teacher Education advisor to BESST, explained: “We want more Afghan girls receiving a quality education. That means, among other things, there needs to be more female teachers—to make both girls and their families more comfortable sending them to school,” he said. “And to make sure there are more female teachers, we need to hire more female trainers.”

The BESST project, designed to train and support more than 50,000 teachers by 2010, works in three main areas: teacher education through district-level trainings in methodology, development of national credentialing systems for both teacher and school managers, and distance

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