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Darakht-e-Danesh: Afghanistan’s first digital educational resource collection

in Afghan Business

Darakht-e-Danesh: Afghanistan’s first digital educational resource collection

In 2008, the distance learning scholars Caswell, Henson, Jensen and Wiley (2008) wrote,

When educational materials can be electronically copied and transferred  around the world at almost no cost, we have a greater ethical obligation than ever before to increase the reach of opportunity. When people can connect with others nearby or in distant lands at almost no cost to ask questions, give answers, and exchange ideas, the moral imperative to meaningfully enable these opportunities weighs profoundly. We cannot in good conscience allow this poverty of educational opportunity to continue when educational provisions are so plentiful, and when their duplication and distribution costs so little.

Yet a major challenge to overcoming the barriers to this incredible potential to expand knowledge, is language. The technological revolution means little if people cannot access high quality educational material in the language they read and understand. It was with this in mind that the Darakht-e Danesh (‘knowledge tree’) Library for Educators in Afghanistan was established as the first Open Educational Resource (OER) effort in Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s first comprehensive digital educational resource collection.

OER, as defined by UNESCO, are “any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.” OER can include lesson plans, courses, textbooks, storybooks, images, maps, activities, teacher guides, and a variety of other materials.

The Darakht-e Danesh (DD Library) was established to enhance teacher subject-area knowledge, access and use of learning materials, and to foster more diverse teaching methodologies in order to improve learning outcomes in Afghan classrooms. It was created by the NGO, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, established in 1996, to increase the human right to education in Afghanistan.

The Darakht-e Danesh (which means ‘knowledge tree’ in the Dari language) Library uses an innovative interactive, multilingual custom-designed web platform, and currently houses approximately 1,500 resources in 14 subject categories, for both primary and secondary teachers in Afghanistan, in the three languages taught in the Afghan public school system: Dari, Pashto and English. Before launching the system was first tested with Afghan users to ensure it is user-friendly, intuitive and contextually appropriate.

After registering, users can search the database by subject, resource type, language and level, or just browse the collection. For instance, a grade 10 biology teacher can search out water evaporation experiments, a teacher working with students with disabilities can find guidebooks with practical classroom strategies, or a geography teacher can download images of maps to print out for her classroom walls. Primary teachers can download full children’s books for and by Afghans, and high school teachers can find full texts on subjects they are trying to better understand, like the Industrial Revolution.

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