USAID Promotes Community College Degree Efforts in Afghanistan

Post-conflict peacebuilding efforts frequently include an educational component. Often, these efforts are designed to train individuals for careers in paraprofessional areas and the trades. The connection between building markets and sustainable peace is clear. And an essential component is a population that can work in areas that are needed to support markets and provide basic incomes for families. Providing vocational education with these objectives is central to community college missions and their expertise.

Afghanistan has lacked an educational strategy to develop careers and in turn an economy in the way that community colleges have done so in the U.S. As such, USAID is in the early stages of establishing community college degrees in Afghanistan as part of its Strengthening Tertiary Education Project – University Partnerships, known as STEP-UP. This project continues the expectations laid out the National Higher Education Strategic Plan developed to support the efforts of the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE).

On March 18, 2013 USAID announced its intention to solicit Requests for Applications in the near future for this effort. In the concept paper it is noted:

“The demand for higher education will continue to grow as the number of secondary school graduates increases each year. The MoHE states that even with increased enrollment at public universities, many secondary school graduates will not have opportunities to pursue higher education. Much more progress is needed in higher education to provide additional opportunities for youth to gain the qualifications, practical knowledge and relevant employment skills to support economic growth and to develop the professional expertise demanded by the modern labor market.”

As part of the program description, it is commented that:

“In its final year (2012 – 2013), HEP will be developing a model two-year associate degree program, and the policy framework needed to implement the program, at Kabul Polytechnic University. STEP-UP will build on the lessons learned from the HEP activities to develop additional associate degree programs for selected public universities. STEP-UP aims to complement the activities of other higher education programs, such as the World Bank Support to Higher Education Program (SHEP), and work in coordination with other donors to improve the Afghan higher education system.”

The project anticipates:

“Within selected universities, and in partnership with private and public sector organizations, STEP-UP will develop and pilot two-year associate, technical and professional education programs to prepare graduates to go directly into business, industry and government jobs. The associate degree programs will also provide increased opportunities for female graduates to gain market-driven expertise and employment within professions that are more attractive to women, such as finance, administration and the social services. Based on the success of initial models, the associate degree program will be expanded to additional universities and technical fields. “

If you are interested in commenting on this proposal, you can obtain copies from KabulAidOAAmailbox@usaid.gov or Cynthia Taha at ctaha@state.gov or Melissa Chipili at mchipili@state.gov. Please include “STEP-UP Pre-solicitation” in the subject line of your email. Comments must be received by April 18, 2013 COB Kabul time.

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