An Afghan Dilemma: Education, Gender and Globalisation in an Islamic Context

University dissertation from Stockholm : Pedagogiska institutionen

Abstract: Afghanistan has a long history of Islamic education while Western type of education (maktab) is of more recent date. The latter type of education has expanded rapidly recently. However, girls’ enrolment remains low, around 35 per cent.The present study examines children’s, particularly girls’, participation in the two educational systems. Throughout history three conflicting issues are apparent in Afghan education: state control over Islamic education, the role of Islam in education, and girls’ participation. A case study approach has been adopted providing an analysis of how history and the present globalisation processes affect current education, and how students, parents and teachers in two villages perceive the changes. The focus has been on capturing the meaning attached to education.The findings indicate high expectations on education as a vehicle to peace, enhanced morals and living standards. The traditional madrasas have declined, other forms of Islamic education have emerged. The Mosque schools are neglected by education authorities but highly esteemed by villagers. Concerns are expressed with the amount of time in maktab and with the quality of learning. The Islamic concept of farz (obligation, responsibility) puts both types of education in high demand.Dilemmas are associated with choosing between Islamic and Western type of education, applying farz to girls’ education and the encounter between Islam and globalisation. Two folk theories, one on globalisation and another on farz in education, were formulated as a basis for the further analysis. Worries are articulated about preserving Islamic values and ethics. Although ‘globalisation’ is a never heard of concept, villagers know some of its features, e.g. secularisation, individualism and consumerism, and fear these may lead to a weakened Islamic identity.Girls’ education is generally accepted. Albeit some consider a few years enough, most consider girls’ right to education to be identical to boys’, on certain conditions. Besides security, a female teacher is the most important. However, findings from the village with a long established girl school with female teachers indicate that this is not the crucial factor. In Islamic education, girls will continuously be excluded from advanced Islamic studies since female mullahs do not exist.Apparently, the real obstacles for girls’ education are the strictly segregated gender roles in Afghan society. Therefore, a new interpretation of farz is emerging, a ‘glocalised’ version. This is likely to be a decisive factor for giving girls equal access to education in both educational systems.