'Darakht-e danesh' means "knowledge tree" in Dari, one of the official languages of Afghanistan. The Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Afghan Educators is a repository of open educational resources (OERs) for teachers, teacher trainers, school administrators, literacy workers, and others involved in furthering education in Afghanistan. The library houses high quality learning materials such as lesson plans, pedagogical tools, exercises, experiments, reading texts, work books, curricula and other resources for use in Afghan classrooms. Darakht-e Danesh responds to a pressing need to address the extreme lack of learning materials available to teachers in Afghanistan, who face unprecedented enrollment rates, poor infrastructure, large class size, and isolation from the Ministry of Education in Kabul. It is also a response to needs articulated in Afghanistan’s current National Education Strategic Plan, which stress teacher training and learning materials. There are few Dari or Pashto materials available online through other OER databases. In Afghanistan, most books are imported from Iran or Pakistan and few can be used by teachers in primary and secondary classrooms.
Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which implements a teacher training program that has trained over 8,000 educators, developed the Darakht-e Danesh Library because its experience in teacher training shows that access to educational resources enhances a teacher’s subject area knowledge while encouraging them to move away from outdated methods like rote memorization and drill exercises. All resources have been carefully vetted to ensure they are linked to the Afghan public school curriculum and are relevant to Afghan learners. The resources are openly licensed and translated by volunteers while undergoing a quality review by the Library’s in-house Dari and Pashto Content Editors. Users can also submit their own resources to be added to the Library’s collection.
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CEI approaches in action
Since so few Afghan teachers have internet access, the DD library’s contents can be downloaded by teacher trainers and disseminated to the educators in the field who need them the most, thus teacher educators are one of our primary target audiences, in addition to NGOs with education programs. At this stage, we are exploring two new options to expand access to the database of materials: (1) a teachers' e-learning lab at a rural teacher college; and (2) mobile phone based applications that will allow teachers to view the material using a mobile phone (the model of phone costs about $60 per unit).
When the resource library was first conceived, several hundred learning materials were added to the library. As demand and interest grew, the uploaded resources diversified and expanded.
CW4WAfghan is in the process of securing funding to build a physical e-Learning Center for Teachers to train educators how to use the library, impart effective teaching methodologies to site users, and increase access to the library's resources for those lacking access at home or at their schools. The center will be fully equipped with 24 connected computer stations to access the library online, as well as peripheral technology including printers, scanners, and a projector. Half-day workshops on computer skills, accessing OERs, and using the Darakht-e Danesh library will be held weekly for both visiting teacher educators as well as for drop-in teachers. A center coordinator will be on-site during all opening hours in order to mentor and assist visitors in navigating the library.
Monitoring & Evaluation
All of CW4WAfghan programs are rigorously assessed to ensure performance and meeting of goals, and donors/project sponsors are invited to conduct site visits and monitoring activities to address challenges and opportunities in a collaborative manner. CW4WAfghan is in the process of shaping their performance measurement framework for the online library and center.