Indiana University

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Indiana University education experts to help strengthen Afghan schools

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Feb. 1, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A consortium which includes Indiana University's Center for Social Studies and International Education has received a $38 million grant to restore and improve the educational system in Afghanistan.

Over the next five years, IU faculty will focus on teaching future and current Afghan teachers about contemporary teaching methods, and also how to understand and teach English, a key element in the war-torn country's international re-emergence.

"Culturally, economically, socially and politically, speaking English is a valuable means for communicating in the global community," said Terrence C. Mason, who directs the Center for Social Studies and International Education, located on the IU Bloomington campus.

Late last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded the grant to the Academy for Educational Development, a Washington, D.C.-based agency that specializes in international educational programming. IU, which will receive $4 million, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst round out the consortium. Within two weeks, the consortium will send a team to Afghanistan to work on the project, which involves working closely with the country's Ministry of Higher Education, USAID, the U.S. embassy and a variety of non-governmental organizations involved with other projects in the country. Mitzi Lewison, an associate professor in the IU School of Education's Department of Language Education, will be part of this visiting team.

Mason said the overall goal of the Afghanistan Higher Education Project is to help re-establish teacher education programs in Afghan colleges and universities to support the growing demand for secondary schools across the country.

"With the political events over the last couple of decades, there have been huge difficulties for schools," Mason said. "Teachers were dismissed; they fled the country. Now, refugees are returning. Part of the effort at stabilizing the country involves restoring the educational system, which requires qualified and competent teachers."

Cultural fluency will be important and challenging as U.S. educators address democratic themes that include enhancing the role of women in the educational system, and creating greater equity and participation among the many ethnic and linguistic groups.

Much of the project's work will involve improving the information technology infrastructure at 16 teacher education programs in the country to provide a way to deliver courses to education majors without having to navigate the paperwork-laden obstacles of international travel. IU's part of the project, however, does involve exchanges between the countries. At least 24 Afghans will travel to Bloomington to pursue master's degrees in education, with some of the students focusing on teaching English as a second language so they can teach the language to future teachers when they return to Afghanistan.

Staff from IUB also will travel to Afghanistan to work with teachers, Mason said.

Mason's center, which is affiliated with the IU School of Education, until recently was called the Social Studies Development Center. For more than 25 years it has developed social studies curriculum and worked on a variety of international projects involving social studies and civic education.

Its expanded mission allows it to follow the lead of both the School of Education and the university in addressing international issues. Such a move is important, Mason said.

"Politically, economically, in many ways we're linked more closely with other parts of the world," he said. "Events that occur in Central Asia or elsewhere in the world have implications for our own security, and our own economic and political development."

Mason can be reached at 812-855-0172 and

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