Computer science in Afghanistan: a situational analysis of university lecturers
Hoffmann, Eva Maria
This thesis provides a detailed analysis of the development of computer science as an academic discipline in Afghanistan. Over the last few years, computer science, which has received much attention within the higher education system, has changed as a discipline. Academics have argued over what computer science is, what role it plays, and what it contributes to the development of the higher education system and the economy of the country. Although the discipline of computer science is well-established internationally, in Afghanistan it is relatively new. Its development in the US and other countries has been shown to be the result of robust social processes. This thesis builds on these illuminating studies to understand and examine the developments and processes of computer science in government universities in Afghanistan. To achieve this insight and analysis, this thesis takes the particular environment into account to analyse the interrelations between the local higher education system, international networks, private sector and non-governmental organisations. Following the work of Adele Clarke, the establishment of computer science is examined from a social worlds perspective, with her situational analysis as a conceptual and methodological approach. It focuses on the perspectives of the lecturers - they are the ones who teach in the universities and define what computer science is through their statements and practices. However, their actions are influenced by the complex environment in which they are embedded. Therefore, this study presents a broader interpretation of the higher education system by indicating that computer science is highly recognised and is heavily supported by international involvement. At the same time, the institutionalisation of the discipline is mostly based on local networks and relationships. The lecturers define what a computer scientist is in Afghanistan, and how their visions and orientations are shaped by their education, experiences, and expertise. When they implement their visions and change teaching methods, they are often limited by their socio-cultural identity as lecturers, which is much more entrenched with social structures than in Western countries. Further, the marginalisation of scientific competence and discovery impedes the flourishing of a scientific environment and hinders the establishment of a strong scientific community. Despite a challenging security situation, the development of formal institutional processes has taken place rapidly since 2001. Computer science faculties were opened and degree programmes established. Yet, there is a tension between these institutionalisation processes, which are informed heavily by international bodies of public and private institutions, and the lecturers’ capacity to create their own vision of computer science within the Afghan higher education system. Lecturers have found it necessary to mediate between technical and socio-cultural practices. Moreover, they act as translators between different social worlds. This influences how they perceive themselves, and it shapes their own identity as well as their disciplines’ identity.