The recognition of skills, prior learning and work experience acquired in informal contexts is of particular importance in a country such as Afghanistan, given that 90 per cent of the workforce is working in the informal sector (MoSAMD and MoE, 2013). In addition, recognition to skills is also beneficial to the large majority of the Afghan people who gain their learning and competences through non-formal skills training in rural and urban areas.
Challenges and opportunities
The economic challenges include addressing industry and commerce requirements for a pool of skilled labor. However, the economy of Afghanistan constitutes mostly micro enterprises in the informal sector and subsistence agriculture. Around 11 million workers have no formal skills and very low or no educational attainments. Only 36 per cent of the population is literate (MoLSAMD and MoE, 2013). This means the unskilled and illiterate individuals enter the labor force unprepared to compete in the labor market and to earn a decent living. 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, most of them exclusively engaged in agriculture. A significant portion of the urban workforce works in unpaid family business whilst others, have created their own informal micro-enterprises.
The Afghan skills development system is highly fragmented. In parallel to public institutions under the education sector, other public and private training providers deliver a range of non-formal training programs which are mostly short-term and delivered in a less systematic way than the formal programs. However, the quality and relevance of these programs remains a problematic issue as there is an absence of an agreed regulatory and registration framework and quality standards for the training providers. Currently, the country is still grappling with developing a system for recognizing, assessing and certifying outcomes from non-formal and informal training. Recently, there have been some initiatives to help build and recognize skills, and improve employment and earnings of unskilled and illiterate people. A World Bank project Non-formal Approach to Training Education and Jobs in Afghanistan (NATEJA), which mainly target provinces with a high incidence of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment/underemployment in rural and semi-urban areas, aims to enhance the quality of training delivery through financial incentives and uses non-formal training providers and employers as trainers of unskilled and illiterate individuals.
The need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the non-formal training systems in meeting industry skilled labour needs and the increasing mobility of workers have been therefore the main driving forces behind the need to develop new system of certification, recognition and assessment. The government believes such a system must act as a quality assurance tool to allow the skills of workers to be valued.
National standards, policy and framework activity
In 2008, the Government of Afghanistan initiated the Committee on Education and Skills Policy (CESP) to lead the development of the Afghanistan National Qualification Authority (ANQA) and the Afghanistan National Qualifications Framework (ANQF) as well as the establishment of a TVET Board in the country.
The ANQF is seen as an important policy instrument in order to embed formal, non-formal and informal training and education without privileging one sector over the other. It is particularly designed to assist citizens who are traditionally excluded from national education, training and skills development. ANQF ensures that education, training and skills development are integrated into qualifications at the time they are registered in the framework. Recognizing different forms of learning, developing a comprehensive policy for prior learning and ensuring that all qualifications in the ANQF are subject to a quality checking process are important elements of ANQF developments in Afghanistan.
As the ANQF builds on the qualifications in the existing education system, it monitors standards, skills and competencies leading to qualification awards in all the subsectors of the current education system: TVET, General Education, Islamic Education, Basic Education and Higher Education, Literacy and Non-formal Education. It promotes and facilitates access, progression and mobility by establishing and maintaining horizontal and vertical progression pathways within the framework. Some sectors of the existing system such as TVET and Islamic Education (that currently go up to just grade 14) will have progression pathways to higher levels, only and when qualifications at these higher levels are approved by respective boards under the ANQA.
The Constitution divides the responsibility for formal and non-formal education and training between the Ministry of Education (MoE) for the former, and the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) for the latter. MoLSAMD, and its General Directorate for TVET (GDTVET), operate as a network of public training centers providing short-term skills training programmes ranging from four to nine months duration. The National Skills Development Programme (NSDP) which is under the MoLSAMD is also responsible for non-formal training that is contracted to NGOs and private training providers through a competitive bidding process. However there is no accreditation and certification system for these NGOs and their training is not officially recognized. NSDP is further responsible for developing the National Occupational Skills Standards (NOSS). However, the integration of this initiative into curriculum change has been a slow process until now.
CINOP. 2010. Inception Report VPO/CES/949/FBS. Kabul, Afghanistan. http://www.cesp.gov.af/anqa/Documents/Inception%20report.pdf
International Labour Organization (ILO). 2012. Afghanistan: Time to move to Sustainable Jobs: Study on the State of Employment in Afghanistan. Kabul, ILO Afghanistan Office.
MoLSAMD and MoE. 2013. Conference on Creating Sustainable Jobs in Afghanistan. 7-8 May 2013. Kabul, Afghanistan. Supported by the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation.
Unicef Afghanistan, Statistics. http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/afghanistan_statistics.html#117
UNESCO Institute for Statistics. http://data.uis.unesco.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=EDULIT_DS&popupcustomise=true&lang=en#
World Bank. 2015. Non-formal Approach to Training Education and Jobs in Afghanistan. Implementation Status Results Report. Washington DC, World Bank.
Source: UNESCO UIL