There follows, also in a shortened form, a report on the situation in Central Asian countries, where the emphasis of education programmes is not on literacy but principally on initial and continuing training in the areas of vocational education, languages, new technologies, etc.. Marifat Abdullaeva has 15 years of experience in teaching statistics, demography and health care management in the State Medical University in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and has conducted more than 300 training courses and seminars in adult education.
By the end of the 90's Central Asian countries had a sustainable and effective system of education formed during the long existence of the Soviet Union. The system had a common structure for all Soviet republics and it was managed centrally. It is necessary to note that the USSR's education system was able to reach a high level of coverage of almost all the adult population of the republics. The level of literacy of the adult population was about 96-100%. According to 1989 USSR census data the number of people having incomplete secondary, secondary, secondary special and higher education in Central Asian countries was as follows:
Table 1: Number of people having education above incomplete secondary education (% of the total population above 15)
(% of the population above 15)
|Higher||Incomplete higher||special dary spezial||spezi ondary||Incomplete secondary|
Note: the proportion of people having incomplete secondary education includes the number of persons having primary education according to the existing Soviet educational system and correspondingly these indices are taken into account while calculating the final index
Thus, out of the persons over 15 having above incomplete secondary education every 13th (Tajikistan) and every 7th (Armenia) had higher education; and every 2nd (in almost all countries) - secondary or secondary special education.
Such good results were achieved due to the following advantages of the education system in these countries
Besides positive factors, by the 90's the system of education in Central Asian countries also had problems:
The end of the 90's was marked by an important historic event - the disintegration of the USSR, and each Central Asian country selected its own way of development. Independent states were formed following different models and the education system of every state underwent significant changes under the influence of different factors that had an impact on the level and quality of literacy. Change in the way of life and abrupt transfer to the market economy showed huge the inconsistency of the quality of education of adults. Despite the fact that every adult residing in Central Asian countries had reading and writing skills (in accordance with the accepted definition of literacy by UNESCO, p.7), the main problem for them was lack of adaptation skills, perception of the new conditions of life and the need to acquire new knowledge and skills.
The first and foremost problem for the adult population of Central Asian countries was so-called functional illiteracy. That is why the good indices of the level of literacy of the adult population for the last 10 years indicated in the following table should not be seen as reassuring:
Table 2: Comparative table of coefficient of the level of literacy of the population of Central Asian countries
Some of the main factors influencing the problem of the quality of education and leading to a high level of functional illiteracy among the adult population of Central Asian countries are the following:
Situation analysis has shown three main problems of literacy for the population besides lack of funding in Central Asian countries:
Unequal access to education exists in all Central Asian countries (there is no information regarding Turkmenistan). First of all this group includes the rural population, people without citizenship (refugees, migrants), IDPs and children with disabilities. Wars in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan resulted in destruction of education infrastructure, outflow of qualified specialists, establishment of camps for IDPs and refugees. As these groups of population lived in camps, suffered from extreme poverty, vulnerability and lack of elementary conditions for education in the native language they were often excluded from education.
Limitation of access to education of children with disabilities has special significance; especially those children who live with their families but not at specialized institutions. That happens because children with physical disabilities do not have technical conditions for attending ordinary secondary schools, including lack of special access for persons using wheelchairs, lack of special facilities, etc.
But besides, it also depends on the low level of cultural perception of children with disabilities in the society members by health child dren and teachers. The society has stereotypes of non-perception of children with disabilities in the society of physically health children. Families with children with disabilities hide this fact and as a result the child suffers from the lack of normal access to education, communication and development. The society is not tolerant towards children with disabilities and does not treat them equally. Virtually no one, neither school nor family, nor society makes efforts to change stereotypes regarding this group of population.
Some years ago in one of the northern cities of Tajikistan the nongovernmental organization which works with disabled children, adopted a decision to make a festival. They organized transportation of the disabled children to a concert, so that they could like the others to listen to their favourite performers. Their arrival caused huge indignation from the adults, which was a heavy blow for the disabled children. Many children openly demonstrated their antipathy and adults considered the festival as failed as they had to look at the disabled children. That is why it is very important to breed the sense of respect and equality for children with limited possibilities, and in this regard a lot depends on the employees of the education system, parents and the society itself.
Gender disbalance in educational aspect takes place almost in all countries. It is noted that while in such countries as Armenia the disbalance is in favor of girls, in the republics like Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan the situation is vice versa, and the level of girls' education is low. In the first place the reason is the early involvement of boys in maintaining families, and in the second place it is connected with the low education prestige among the girls early marriage and the religious code. A part of the population prefers to provide girls with religious education via private lessons conduced by religious people. Another reason of gender disbalance gender roles in the ingrained concept about the gender roles in the society, which are fixed through the school education due to the stable stereotype of the teachers towards this issue.
Unsatisfactory quality of education is the problem for all countries under analysis without any exception:
Many school graduates do not have the skills of independent creative thinking. Countrywide transfer to the education in local languages with the weak material base and deficit of education materials (both in quality and quantity) lead to the decline of training standards in schools as well as in a higher education establishments.
The above mentioned problems relate to a complex of factors which could be grouped as follows:
The governments of the Central Asian countries are at present making an attempt to improve the situation in the sphere of education via the development of effective and financially viable education reforms. Almost all the states already have programs of education reforms oriented towards solving priority problems of literacy.
As was mentioned above, there are three main problems in the area of adults' education. Increasingly unequal access to education is being solved by the state through the following ways:
In Azerbaijan: increase the access to free textbooks; increase the number of free places for the poor (less burden on the family budget and more educational opportunity for the children from these families)
In Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, within the Strategy Document on poverty alleviation it is envisaged to establish a basis to involve children from the vulnerable families in school and vocational education.
In Uzbekistan they are working on full access to the system of 12 years of school education. Increasingly unequal access according to income level is considered while a strategy is being developed to increase the life standard of the population.
There are other attempts to improve this issue. Many non-governmental national and international organizations are having an influence on the improvement of access for separate levels of population. For example, ACTED in Tajikistan, Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan implements the program of school feeding in the border districts of Fergana valley, which fosters the significant growth of school attendance in the program implementation areas. UNICEF and Save the Children Fund (UK) support the projects oriented on disabled children in such countries as Kyrgizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. OSI activity in the Central Asian countries has a row of educational programs which include provision of schools, universities and libraries with the modern textbooks; support in preparation and publication of up-to-date books for the particular region, replenishment of library funds and training of library specialists and many other issues.
Many reforms imply the solution of the other important task - provision qualitaty education. Solving of this task depends on the condition of the education system itself, availability of the high level professionals, funding, improvement of the system etc. There are two approaches to improving the issue:
Data from studies shows that almost all the countries suggest making efforts for the improvement of the education system and settlement of the specific education problems. Reforms conducted by the state are mainly oriented towards the improvement of the formal education system. The main problems with implementing reform may include:
The modern concept of functional adult literacy is possession of the system of knowledge and skills which allow people to use them for maximum adaptation in a fast changing world and achievement of success in survival.
To improve the existing situation the most suitable and proved step is to introduce the understanding by responsible officials and the people themselves of the necessity of lifelong learning. In solving this issue a special role is given to formal and informal education.
As was mentioned earlier, while the majority of national reform in the education area is oriented towards the improvement of the formal education, in all countries of the Central Asia region the civil society is actively involved in the process of improvement of the non-formal education.
Some non-governmental development organizations over the ten years, with the support of international donors (USAID, Counterpart Consortium, OSI - Soros Fund, International Labor Organization, Eurasia Fund, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, Asian Development Bank, WHO, UNFPA, IOM, INTRAC, World Bank, Mercy Corps, TASIS,OSCE, IIZ/DW, Friedrich Ebert Fund, ACCELS, Embassy of USA, Switzerland, Norway) have conducted huge educational activities oriented towards elimination of gaps in the Soviet education system, namely: independent problem-solving skills, human rights, entrepreneur skills and basic knowledge of how to survive in market conditions.
Apart from that, an important aspect of NGO activity is the issues of gender education, prevention of violence against women, vocational training and re-training of migrants and others. Activity of such organizations in cities and remote villages allows stereotypes to change and increased opportunities for better life in the communities.
Differences between the formal and non-formal forms of education of adults
|formal sector of education||non-formal sector of education|
Source: Angragogical research in Central Asia countries, Center of sociological research TAHLI, ordered by the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education, page 27
An example of such activity is the cooperation of local non-governmental organizations, state structures of the Central Asia countries and the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association. The activity of this organization is concentrated on basic education and democratization. Special attention is paid to poverty alleviation, advocacy of the ideas «selfhelp» and increasing the women's role in the society. The main priorities in its activity in Central Asia are:
This organization established in Kyrgizstan eight centers for adult education, combined in a unified net, which is unique itself.
In Tajikistan for the last two years of partnership there were 60 courses and above 800 persons were trained; mainly they are representatives of the vulnerable level of population.
In Uzbekistan this organization plans cooperation with the state organizations, such as the Ministry of Higher and Secondary/Vocational education, Ministry of Labor and Employment, and national NGOs.
Enlargement of cooperation with this Institute is mutually beneficial for all the Central Asian countries, as it is directly connected with the improvement of the situation of adult education in the region.
In settlement of the third problem - resolution of the gender disbalance - we may note the joint efforts of the state and non-governmental bodies. Thus, in Tajikistan there was adopted a special Presidential Decree on provision of quotas for higher education of girls from the remote areas. Such organizations as OSI Soros Fund, UNIFEM, UNFPA, GAA and others, which are operating in many Central Asian countries, have a gender component in their activity, which also helps to alleviate the gender problem in the region.
Thus, adult education in the Central Asian countries despite the population literacy figures has a number of problems, where the most vital are decline of the education quality and increasing of inequality of access to qualitaty education for some categories of population.
The main factors which foster the decline of education quality are: insufficient funding of the education system, reduction of the number of qualified specialists, decrease of the material and technical basis and deficit of modern textbooks, especially in the national languages. The accelerated transfer to education in the local languages without the corresponding basis leads to the decrease of education standards. One of the examples of poor quality education is the high level of functional illiteracy among the adult population.
Other factors are poverty, especially in rural areas, forming of groups of refugees and IDPs as a result of local conflicts, and lack of an adequate physical basis of education which creates the conditions for disabled people to attend schools, combined with increasing of the inequality in education access.
One important aspect is social stereotypes, when the joint education of healthy children and disabled children is considered unacceptable and a painful situation for the healthy children. Girls' education is decreasing in all the region (Armenia is an exception), the image of educated girls especially in rural areas is declining and the tendency of early marriage increasing.
The governments of the Central Asian countries are taking various measures to reform the education system in order to improve the situation in this sector. Many of them have adopted some important government documents, implying the gradual improvement of the education in their countries.
It should be noted that state measures in general are oriented towards improvement of formal education, and the efforts of many international and non-governmental local organizations are concentrated on non-formal education.
It should be mentioned that the success of the reform in each Central Asian country will depend on such factors as sources of funding, increasing the quality of the education management system and high interest from the party of government to achieve real transformations in education.
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