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Taliban introduces categorized university entrance exam without women

Taliban’s head of National Examination Authority (NEA), Abdul Baqi Haqqani, has announced that the national university entrance exam, officially known as Kankor, will be conducted in three categories of medical, social, and scientific sciences, while women’s education remains banned.

Haqqani made the announcement in an interview with the state-run Bakhtar News Agency on Sunday, saying this amendment will “enable school graduates to take the exam in their preferred fields of study and based on their talents.”

However, he did not provide further information about the new categorization of Kankor.

More than 200,000 applicants take the nationwide Kankor exam each year.

However, the Taliban’s widespread ban on women’s education, barring women from attending universities since December 2022 and restricting girls’ education beyond sixth grade since March of the same year, has significantly affected millions of girls and women.

Despite international condemnation and pressure, the Taliban authorities have shown no sign of lifting the ban.

In the last year’s Kankor exam, girls’ participation was drastically low and no female test takers were seen among the highest scorers. While before the Taliban takeover in August 2021, female test takers topped the Kankor exam for two consecutive years.

It remains unclear if female applicants would be allowed to take the Kankor exam this year, while universities remain shut for women and girls.