Kankor and the Situation of Afghan Higher Education


The results of 2018 Kankor Exam (university admission exam) were announced on 1st August 2018, Almost 160 thousand students participated in the exam out of which 60,051 students were granted admission in higher education institutions while 12,498 students entered the semi-higher education institutions.

According to the standards of the Ministry of Higher Education, 150 is the minimum score for entering the higher education institutions and 140 is the minimum score for entering the semi-higher education institutions, thus, 19,000 students have failed in the Kankor exam. Around 66,000 students were able to receive the minimum score for entering the higher education institutions, but have not gotten the chance to enter their preferred field of study or universities. Nevertheless, these students are eligible for admission into private and public semi-higher education institutions.

Previously some reports had emerged highlighting the occurrence of some fraudulent activity in Kankor exams in previous years, however, after the National Unity Government (NUG) came to power, it took some measures in order to ensure transparency of the exam leading to improvement in the credibility of the exam. Nonetheless, the higher education institutions face numerous complications in general.   

The situation of Afghan higher education institutions and their challenges and opportunities are discussed here. 


Kankor: Towards Transparency

Kankor Exam has remained the only admission exam to public universities in Afghanistan for many years. Students in the 12th grade graduate and via Kankor exams attain admission in public universities in order to pursue their higher education.

Similar to other public sector bodies, Kankor was also tainted by corruption in the last 17 years. Corruption in the Kankor Examination Committee, lack of compliance of exam questions with academic standards, intervention of strongmen and some government officials in the process, entering exam as a substitute, and other fraudulent cases are what drove people’s concerns over the transparency of the Kankor Process. 

Transparency in the Kankor exam and prevention of corruption in the process are considered an important achievement of the National Unity Government (NUG) after it took power. NUG made use of high-tech machines in exams in order to prevent corruption in the Kankor of the Ministry of Higher Education. The system, unlike the previous one that provided every student with similar questions, contains unique questions for every student as it prints their paper out, prepares it and writes the name of the student down on it.

We cannot say the corruption hits zero in the process either, however, through the use of new technology, the exam is now transparent in comparison to the past as copying, substituting and leaking of questions before exam were very rife. This has made the people trust its transparency more than ever. 


Situation of Universities in Afghanistan

86 years ago, the very first higher education institution (Kabul Medical University) was founded in 1932. Development in the field of higher education was stagnant until 2001. Before that, war and instability had created a standstill in development; however, after the new system was established in 2001, remarkable progress has been made in this field. 

The Afghan higher education system improved in quantity due to the billion-dollar assistance of the international community and foreign countries. Besides public universities, tens of private higher education institutions started to operate in the country. For now, there are 32 public and 130 private higher education institutions in the country; however, considering the billions of dollars that have been spent by the international community in the last 17 years, the quality of Afghan higher education still lacks profusely.  

Looking at the bigger picture, war and insecurity have impacted the higher education system as well, but on the other hand, lack of a well-thought strategy of the Afghan government with regards to higher education, mismanagement of the Ministry of Higher Education, out datedness of the curriculum, lack of its compliance with modern needs, corruption, weak monitoring in the higher education institutions, lack of professional academic cadres, lack of attention to research in universities etc. are problems that have lowered the quality of higher education to a large extent. 

The reasons mentioned before and other similar problems have made university-graduated students a burden to the society. With scarce employment opportunities and a growing educated work-force, frustrated youth become an additional challenge to the many challenges already facing Afghanistan.


What the higher education system needs in Afghanistan?

Students pursue Higher education for the purpose of better opportunities and a successful future. In terms of progress, higher education is generally believed to be a key to achievement in life. The more standardized the higher education system is, the more positive outcomes for students in the system. Afghanistan’s higher education system lacks and is in dire need of such a standardized system.

The following points are noticeable in this regard:

  • First and foremost, the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education should bring needed reforms in its management system and make an orderly, comprehensive and applicable policy for the sake of solving the problems in the ministry, and based on that, bring gradual reforms in all fields.
  • The basis for higher education is high school studies. And, in order to have eligible and capable students absorbed in universities, it is necessary to take care of the quality of school education and to seriously work on the capacity-building of the students there.
  • Researches in higher education institutions have a very crucial role in the quality of education. Unfortunately, the Afghan higher education institutions have neglected this important field. It is necessary to work on this field in universities, to provide facilities for academic and research discussion, to conduct necessary and honest research, to reward professors with promotions in order to create incentives for research, and to benefit from the valuable source of knowledge for the development of Afghanistan.
  • The existence of modern educational tools is an important and impactful aspect that directly influences the knowledge accumalation. The Ministry of Higher Education is required to equip universities and higher education institutions with digital libraries and also provide the students with the access to other important digital libraries through the internet.
  • Adequate budget is also required to have the above-mentioned issues resolved and to empower the higher education sector as a whole. Thus, it is incumbent on the Afghan government to give utmost consideration to the research sector when it comes to budget allocation.





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