It is the very first time I hear of an international digital school in Afghanistan, inspired from the ones existing in other developing countries, I look forward to exploring this advanced school.
The school was built as part of a series of initiatives by an Afghan entrepreneur, Roeen Rahmani, who has grown up in the new socio-political system that has come to shape the country in the last two decades.
This school comes as a breath of fresh air in the war ridden environment of the country, in which a great sufferer of the war has been ‘Education’. It will be energizing to see how a digital pedagogy in education and initiatives like the Kardan International School, will change Afghanistan’s coming future and pave a way towards development.
As an outsider, when we enter the front yard of Kardan International School, we don’t see anything different than other schools. But upon entering the main courtyard of the school, one can spot a burrow of sand that the school managers call it a pool. This pool is built from sand and mud and not water and fish. Its philosophy is simple yet vital at the same time.
Trees and small shrubs are planted around the pool, making the compound look green and fresh. Right across the pool, is the main building wall which has the phrase “Smile Everyday” written over it in English, and along with it has various emoticons with smiles, which certainly makes your heart happy.
Although this International School might look like a simple and normal school to some people, in reality, there is a world of difference in it.
Inside the building of the school, things are really innovative. The programs, ideas, motivation, decorated classrooms, facilities, and human resource all look like perfect ingredients for the start of a revolution in the field of education in Afghanistan.
Avant-Garde Digital Pedagogy
The 5-storey building of Kardan International School makes it high on infrastructural quality and the visitors are left amazed to see emergence of this initiative in Afghanistan.
The purity in the atmosphere of the school, the excellent design and the high standard of education, along with facilities like heating and cooling systems, subconsciously engages the mind in the conflicting social realities of Afghanistan.
Realities such as devastation and lack of attention in education and the creation of spaces similar to the Kardan International School where the students experience diverse methods of learning that equip and inspire them with new sets of skills and experiences beside the textbook.
These two facts at the same time portray the two sides of the coin, representing life in Afghanistan – one that depicts war, murder, and devastation and the other side which is aspirational for Afghan people manifesting hope, peace and progress along with social and cultural changes.
Amidst these times of despair, many Afghan entrepreneurs, like the founders of the Kardan International School, are investing in Afghanistan’s intellectual-educational infrastructure. One can experience a pattern of different educational journeys and methodology in Kardan School.
Although only nine months have passed since the inception of the school and just 90 students are currently studying there, but the school executives expect more students will join as the years roll on.
The skills the students learn hold the hope of practical application in their lives because the teaching methods are inspired by the educational materials of the international schools. The lessons are taught in English and at the same time, a new generation is being raised with modern cultural patterns.
These methods can be found in the classrooms of the Kardan School; from the usual curriculum teaching methodology to music, art, calligraphy and painting classes and also robotic and technical trainings.
The lessons are taught in English and are designed and implemented in a variety of ways with a focus on meeting the international teaching norms.
Firm Commitment for a New Afghanistan
The establishment of such a school is the result of 2 years of study and planning by an expert team and also the vision of a successful entrepreneur in the field of Education in Afghanistan.
Maryam Saadat, the principle of Kardan International School, who has over a decade of teaching and management experience, recalls that at first, it seemed impossible to start such a school. But she spoke about the firm determination of the founder and president of Kardan University and schools; the commitment which changed the dream to a brilliant reality.
“When Roeen Rahmani, the president of Kardan University and Schools talked about the establishment of such a school, I was amazed to think that creating a digital school in Afghanistan is very interesting yet challenging,” speaking to Reporterly Ms. Saadat said.
“It seemed strange to me to have a digital school in a country where we don’t have the round-the-clock power supply,” Ms. Saadat added.
“I looked at Mr. Rahmani’s face and told him how we can have a digital school in a country where we don’t have regular electricity. But he convinced me its not impossible and did not deter in his commitment, and after the two years of rigorous planning, the school started its journey”, she recalled.
Roeen Rahmani is the founder and president of Kardan University and Kardan schools. Mr. Rahmani is considered as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the field of education. Through his visionary leadership he has had a prominent role in educating young managers and leaders in the public and private sectors.
By focusing on specialized areas of management, economics, and humanities at his university, he has trained a dynamic generation for Afghanistan.
The Kardan School is progressively digital. Students attend the school from 8 to 3 and study their lessons on special tablets. Besides using a whiteboard, the teachers also take help from big TVs which are set in each class and are connected to internet for teaching purposes.
The most important feature of this kind of learning is that every student is unconsciously introduced to cloud computing from an early age, using a Google Drive and cloud memory to do their homework and exercises.
According to school officials, there is currently about one hundred MB of Internet access for 90 students, who can search and solve their study needs through the Internet.
Kardan School also has foreign teachers as well as Afghan teachers who have been hired from the 7000 applicants who had applied for the job. All the instructors are fluent in English.
Since this is a new teaching model, officials at Kardan International School say that they also face challenges in helping families understand teaching methods and how it affects students.
“It is sometimes challenging to convince families regarding the practical application this method of learning holds for the students not only in student stage but beyond”, Ms Sadaat said.
Ms. Sadaat added that, “Some families thought that if they send their sons and daughters to this school, they would end up using mobile phones and tablets, but the reality is that the students utilize tablets as a book in Kardan School. These students have a timely schedule for using tablets as well as books”.
The teaching books in this school are all digital and each student has their own user account through which they can receive and prepare their textbooks.
Future Prospects Of Digital Innovation
The school’s aim is that it should be accessible to all social classes of people in Afghanistan. Therefore, its management said that they started the school with just 30 students and now that number has tripled.
They are not only optimistic and hopeful for the expansion and success of the school but also aspire to open up branches of it in other cities of Afghanistan, when security conditions get better.
Kardan International School grants 18 scholarships annually to talented students who are at the secondary level or higher.
As Afghans inside the country need different yet modern education, and as hoped by school officials, there seems to be a bright future for this new and diverse initiative in Afghanistan, a future in which Afghan students can experience a fundamental change in education.
But when I got out of the school building, I asked Ms. Saadat about the sand pool. With a smile on her face, she mentioned the amount of vitamin D students of elementary school and kindergarten need and that how they are not adequately exposed to solar energy.
Considering that sand absorbs the most vitamin D, officials at the Kardan International School have prepared the pool so that while playing in it the students can absorb the necessary vitamin D. This initiative seems to be as enjoyable as it is questionable for anyone at first.
Ahmad Shah Karimi contributed reporting.