National Institute of Management and Administration (NIMA) in Kabul, Afghanistan Enters Candidacy
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan - More than 1,800 young men and women from across Afghanistan came recently to Kabul to compete in an entrance examination for fewer than 300 places at the National Institute of Management and Administration (NIMA). Classrooms in two nearby institutes had to be used to accommodate the overflow.
“This year, with support from the implementing partner, NIMA conducted an entrance examination to admit students for its 5th batch,” says Totakhil Halimi NIMA Principal adding that, “I should mention that previously NIMA has also conducted entrance examinations but such standards and measure which were followed in this examination were not implemented in the past entrance exams.” He continues to elaborate that previous exams were marred by nepotism, admission criteria was mainly to achieve female and provincial student quotas without consideration to talent and qualification. “In our 5th Batch entrance examination the main criteria for admission was student competence in a very transparent manner,” says Halimi. “This will have significant impact on quality of education at NIMA. However, in this entrance student admission quota was low which we hope should be increased in the future,” he concludes.
This success is a result of the Afghanistan Skills Development Project (ASDP) of the Ministry of Education, supported by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust (ARTF). The Ministry of Education established NIMA in 2008, an institute with a two-year Management, Accounting and ICT courses, to train young people to contribute to the economic development of Afghanistan.
In 2013, the Ministry of Education awarded a contract under the ASDP to an American institution of higher education, Ball State University (BSU), located in Muncie, Indiana, as an implementing partner to provide consultancy services to assist NIMA in certifying its graduates as meeting international standards and in obtaining accreditation from an internationally recognized body.
NIMA has received notification from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), an international accrediting body, that its application for candidacy status had been approved. “Candidacy status is the first stage of the accreditation process,” says Kenneth M. Holland, Director for Center for International Development at Ball State University, “NIMA will be the first public TVET [Technical and Vocational Education Training] institute to have accreditation from an international body.”
Rigorous examination process
One of the responsibilities is to improve the process by which students are admitted to NIMA. “At the beginning admissions were marred by lack of transparency, political interference, nepotism, and allegations of corruption,” says Sajidullah Shirzai, NIMA Manager. As many unprepared high school graduates were admitted, more than half the entering class dropped out before completing their diploma and teachers were put under pressure to pass students who received failing marks, he adds.
Working closely with the institute’s Afghan administrators, BSU’s team of international experts and local office staff designed an examination process of which the government could be proud. One of BSU’s Accounting Department professors designed the entrance examination, a 20-question test modeled after entry level math exams given by technical institutes in the United States and other developed countries. However, the questions were written using terms and monetary values familiar to Afghan students, and consisted of mathematical word problems that tested the applicant’s knowledge of both English and math, skills needed to complete NIMA’s English language curriculum.
A group of designated local administrators and BSU officials orchestrated every aspect of the testing. With the help of the Deputy Minister for Technical and Vocational Education Training, more than 50 invigilators were selected, mostly teachers at NIMA and other technical institutes in Kabul, to proctor the exam. Each was given a copy of the student and invigilator codes of conduct.
After the examination, BSU officials spent the next eight days verifying each test against the attendance sheet, Afghan national identification number and exam registration slip. They found four abnormalities, three of which led to disqualifications while one was allowed to retake the exam. All test papers were then mailed back to the United States, where they were graded by a team of experts.
As NIMA’s mandate requires it to enroll students from all 34 provinces and that at least 30% of the student body should be women, 10-point weights were added to the scores of women and those who graduated from a high school outside Kabul. The result was 227 young women and men achieving the minimum passing score of 60% and admitted to NIMA.
This new system will be transferred to the local administrators and faculty for continuing excellence in NIMA. BSU is assisting Afghan educators to institutionalize these standardized academic practices so that when their assignment ends the institutes are able to remain accredited by the ACBSP.
While the Afghan government is trying to build the capacity of its civil servants to manage technical and vocational schools like NIMA, says Leopold Remi Sarr, World Bank Project Team Leader, this project seeks to enhance the efficiency and relevance of the institute by hiring qualified staff who concomitantly oversee its management.
BSU, with the support of ASDP, has succeeded in recruiting almost 20 new international and local faculty from the United States, Canada, India, and Afghanistan to raise the level of instruction, reduce the student:teacher ratio to 20:1, as mandated by national policy, and provide mentoring to up to 60 Afghan teacher trainees, who will be qualified to take full responsibility for instruction at NIMA by 2018.
Many of these highly qualified international and local faculty members will be assigned to the new Refresher Course, which, over a one-year period, will significantly raise the level of English proficiency among the students to the point where they can succeed in passing Grade 13 and 14 classes taught in English that meet international standards. “The net effect of these interventions is that NIMA is on its way to becoming a sustainable TVET institute that can make a major contribution to the economic and social development of Afghanistan,” says Asif Nang, Deputy Minister for TVET, Ministry of Education.