CAPA, Faculty News

Advancing Afghan Higher Education

Faculty member Noah Coburn, along with Abdul Khabir Saber and Malvika Dang '24, shared what they learned about teaching students from and about Afghanistan despite Taliban restrictions that have stifled education in the country.

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For Inside Higher Ed, Coburn, Dang, and Saber discuss the challenges and triumphs of offering an experimental course with the American University of Afghanistan to 40 students, who could participate synchronously or asynchronously, called Approaches to Afghanistan. This course explored the ways to support Afghan students despite Taliban restrictions that have stifled higher education in the country.

During the Spring 2022 term, the College welcomed Afghan students to participate in online courses, with the flexibility to transfer the credits received from Bennington to other universities.

From the feature: “Many students told us that the real strength of the course was the interdisciplinary approach of bringing in scholars, mostly Afghans or of Afghan descent or with long ties with the country from different fields, who represented a range of disciplines—including political science, anthropology, history, media studies and others. That, in many ways, was very typical for a Bennington classroom, where we don’t have departments or majors, and such interdisciplinary approaches were particularly valuable in this context where so much of the discussion of Afghanistan has been reductionist and overly simplified.”

Bennington is continuing to work to support Afghan students, both in Afghanistan and those that are now refugees, and looking to develop courses that help some of their specific needs. In addition, Coburn is co-organizing a conference in Istanbul on the future of higher education in Afghanistan along with the Hollings Center for International Dialogue and the American University of Afghanistan.