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Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011

IU center selected for $3.5 million U.S. State Department grant to create new master's degree program in Afghanistan

Three-year grant builds on previous Afghan education projects

July 13, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- The U.S. State Department has awarded The Center for Social Studies and International Education (CSSIE) at Indiana University nearly $3.5 million to develop and implement a master's degree in English language teaching at Kabul Education University in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Project

The Center for Social Studies and International Education at IU was selected for a $3.5 million U.S. State Department grant to create a new master's degree program in Afghanistan.

Print-Quality Photo

The $3,487,454 will fund a three-year project directed by two IU School of Education faculty members. Terry Mason, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of CSSIE, and Mitzi Lewison, professor of literacy, culture and language education, have been involved in Afghan higher education for several years. Mason said the new project will build on the previous work, which established the first master's degree offering -- in education -- at Kabul Education University and brought Afghan educators to IU for further study.

"Its intent is to train qualified English faculty members for the numerous institutions of higher education around the country," he said. "It's seen as an important program for not just providing access to the language itself, but also for affecting the way teaching is carried out."

Lewison has already begun work on designing the curriculum. Mason said the staff for the project will be composed of IU faculty and other scholars in language education. Partners in the program include the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the American University of Afghanistan.

Providing more access to English teachers is a vital development in a crucial time for Afghanistan, Mason said. In a country that is re-developing its education system, English fluency can mean a gateway to new teaching methods.

"Often English teachers in a country like Afghanistan tend to be on the leading edge of pedagogy because they have access to contemporary methods of teaching, whereas someone teaching history or the sciences -- for example -- may not have the same kind of access."

Improving English language competence is also increasingly important as Afghanistan prepares to do more on its own. President Obama announced troop withdrawals beginning this month that will culminate with 30,000 troops out of the country by the end of next summer. Mason pointed out that English is very important for international diplomacy and world commerce.

"There are very concrete things that people do with the language that can help the country economically, socially and politically," he said.

Afghanistan Project

The staff for the project will be composed of IU faculty and other scholars in language education.

Print-Quality Photo

CSSIE was a part of The Higher Education Project from 2006 through 2011, a consortium of IU, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Washington, D.C.-based Academy for Educational Development. Its goal was to help re-establish teacher education programs in Afghan colleges and universities. From 2007 to 2009, a dozen teachers from Afghanistan came to Bloomington to earn master's degrees at the IU School of Education. In March 2010, Mason and Lewison attended graduation ceremonies for those teachers and others earning their new credentials in a Kabul ceremony. The successful track record has led to IU's continued involvement in Afghanistan education.

"Afghan educators have come here, earned degrees, and returned to Afghanistan; we've had an ongoing connection to the administration of the universities there and the Ministry of Higher Education," Mason said. "So we're looked upon as a leading institution in Afghanistan in English language education. This project enables us to build on our previous work because our partners there are familiar with the kind of teaching that we emphasize at IU. They've experienced the curriculum here; they know that they'll get excellent instruction and that the program itself will be of the highest quality because they've seen us in action before."

The Center for Social Studies and International Education -- once known as the Social Studies Development Center -- was founded in 1968 as a coordinated effort of the IU College of Arts and Sciences and the IU School of Education. While its primary mission is to improve education in the social studies in elementary and secondary schools, CSSIE seeks to meet the professional development needs of the international community of educators through in-service training, content seminars, and curriculum workshops in all curriculum areas.