Analytical materials / Tajikistan

Komron Hidoyatzoda: The Bologna Process and Reformation Issues of The Education System in Tajikistan

07.11.2016

“The signing of the “Bologna Process” opens ample opportunities for Tajik students, but the implementation of the system in this country is not being accorded with international standards, which leads to negative consequences”, – specially for CABAR.asia, Komron Hidoyatzoda, a political analyst, deliberates over the issues of the education system in Tajikistan.

DSC_0628_001 (1)The Republic of Tajikistan is in an active process of reforming the education sector, to bring it in line with international standards of the Bologna process. As regards the higher education, it is characterized by a period of transition to the credit system of education.

In this regard, reforms have been implemented over the past few years. More specifically, the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On Higher and Postgraduate Professional Education” includes provisions that secure the respective principles of the Bologna Process, such as:

  • ensure a two-stage system of education;
  • introduction of the system of credit units;
  • assessment of knowledge and quality of education in accordance with international indicators;
  • mutual recognition of diplomas and qualification degrees of higher education of Tajikistan and their correlation with international standards;
  • expansion of the student and teacher mobility.[1]

It was assumed that the accession of Tajikistan to the “Bologna agreement” would raise the graduating students’ level of competence, their willingness to acquire knowledge independently, a strive for self-improvement, and focus on the changing requirements of the labor market and the level of social mobility.

However, the quality of education is dropping year after year, due to the many challenges in this area that require urgent solutions. Among the main issues one can highlight a decline in the quality of education, an acute shortage of highly qualified personnel, low salaries of teachers, high level of corruption and a lack of modern textbooks.

A Decline in The Quality of Higher Education

According to UN estimates of 2015, the level of education in Tajikistan amounts to 99.84%. Nevertheless, the issue of the quality of higher education has become the subject of intense debate and scrutiny in the government, public and professional circles.

The Bologna system with a well-constructed implementation provides a great opportunity to improve the quality of higher education in the country, as it envisages joint educational programs and a high level of academic mobility.

It should be noted that after graduating from secondary schools, most students currently are not trained to independently acquire knowledge, because all schools follow conventional methods of teaching.

Thuswise, to improve the quality of education the schools have been provided with modern technology, and computerization of educational institutions has reached 111% in 2016, while at the universities, the correlation of computer availability per student is 1 to 7. However, due to the chronic shortage of electricity in the winter, from October to March, these computers are not being used by schoolchildren.

Some high school graduates go to university only to avoid the army service. The other part, pursues higher education on the instruction of parents. Therefore, education is not a priority for either.

Most of the successful applicants who are easily adaptable and strive to gain practical skills and increase the level of their knowledge, are graduates of private schools or institutions based in the central cities and regions, while the situation with the quality of education in rural schools, where there is a problem with acute shortage of qualified professionals, leaves much to be desired. The functioning of the state institutions of a new type also contributed to the preparation of students with higher level of educational independence. In private institutions with higher demands, highly qualified staff members are engaged in work with the cutting edge methodology and technologies. However, not all families can afford to enroll their children for study in schools where the monthly payment is quite high and requires large investments in children’s education.

According to the professor of the Russian-Tajik Slavic University, Koshlakov G.V., “the quality of education in Tajikistan has fallen sharply over the past few years, and the testing administered countrywide is disadvantageous, because the test is absolutely unsuitable for the assessment of knowledge”.  In his opinion, only by means of oral examinations can there be a more accurate assessment of the students’ level of knowledge. While exams are being evaluated by a computer, teachers lose all interest in teaching, which naturally leads to a decline in the quality of education.[2]

In order to obtain a decent education, the majority of graduates enter universities abroad. Up to date, more than 35 thousand of our youth study at the universities of about 40 developed countries. [3]

The Educator as a Key Figure

The key figure in the educational process is a teacher, therefore the quality assurance policy begins with the development of the teaching staff. The shortage of qualified teachers is largely due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing civil war in the country. [4]  The “Brain drain” – the outflow of talented youth abroad due to low wages and unpopularity of the teaching profession in the country, further complicates the situation. On the other side, of great importance to the development and reform of the country, its economy and the state apparatus, are precisely those citizens who had the chance to obtain education and work experience in developed countries. It is essential that young people show patriotism and work for the good of their country, putting in maximum effort for the development of the socio-economic state of their country.

According to the head of media – holding “Afsar”, Suhrob Khaitov, who works with the youth audience, the two main factors hindering the development of the country’s education system is the lack of incentive and of genuine patriotism in the youth. There is no motivation, because the younger members of staff are not eager to devote themselves to science and education, seeing people of the older generation, who are engaged in science and have academic degrees but do not have the economic support from the state.

In 2015, Tajikistan’s schools needed almost 4,000 teachers, which is a catastrophic figure. In many schools across the country a teacher in the humanities may have to teach both history and physics. Given that Tajikistan embarked on the construction of an industrial-agrarian country, the lack of staff qualified in the basic sciences can seriously hamper the government in achieving its objectives.[5]

In the 2014-2015 academic year, out of 3826 graduates of secondary and higher vocational schools referred by the Ministry of Education and Science of the country to work in the public schools, only 2887 took up their duties.[6]

To date, the average salary of teachers in the country is about $100-200 per month, depending on the category, length of service, rates and performance of additional duties. To live on such a salary is almost impossible. Accordingly, in order to feed their families, teachers need to work in a number of locations, while paying little attention to each student’s needs.

 The Education System As a “Market of Services”

An issue of no lesser importance in the education system of the Republic of Tajikistan is a fairly high level of corruption. Today, corruption exists in all structures of the country’s education, from preschool to institutions of higher learning. To obtain free education, as it is specified in the Constitution, is almost impossible.

The education system has become a kind of a “market of educational services”. Admission to institutions of higher learning, even to the most prestigious ones, has become commonplace, since the public has got used to the fact that even with the lack of sufficient knowledge, one can enroll in schools, paying for this very “service”. This in turn leads to a large gap in the knowledge of students, followed by a slowdown of the educational process and the deterioration of education in general, because the teachers have to adjust the learning process for all the students averaging it accordingly. The countrywide introduction of a testing system of knowledge assessment is not conducive to students’ thinking and professional skills acquisition. In live communication, a person learns to analyze and express thoughts, while the teacher can correct and guide the learner.

For the purposes of reducing the level of corruption in the admission of applicants to universities, the National Testing Center (NTC) has been operating in the country for the third year now. However, this system has only replaced a link in the corrupt system. If before the commencement of the NTC, parents of applicants arranged placements through university professors, now it is being done through the NTC employees.

Specifics of the Bologna Process in Tajikistan

Each reform has both positive and negative aspects. When talking about the reform of the education system in the RT, which has been lasting for about 20 years, it should be noted that the government has done very much for the active involvement in the “world education system”. However, there is a range of issues that need to be addressed in timely manner:

1) The signing of the “Bologna Process” opens ample opportunities to Tajik students, but the implementation of the system in this country is not accorded with international standards, which leads to negative consequences.

Table 1. Requirements of the “Bologna system” toward a member state

komron-1

As can be seen in Table 1, out of the four requirement points only one is being observed in the country, and even then partially and unsatisfactorily. All curricula are being imposed by the Ministry of Education and Science. Students, in this case, have no rights to choose their own individual plan. Each group consists of at least 25 students, which affects the quality of learning. The first-year students, who have no knowledge of this system, are in need of an academic adviser. However, in the reality of the country’s universities, there is only one advisor per an entire faculty. Teachers, who studied under the traditional system, do not understand the essence and purpose of a credit – rating system of education.

2) The countrywide test administration system. This decision is not conducive to the development of contemporary educators’ creative capacity. The test is a tool to determine the status of “I remember – I do not remember” and is totally unsuitable for the “I know – I do not know” system. It does not identify the level of knowledge. According to Koshlakov G.V., this system of testing in the basic sciences is “disadvantageous”. To determine the level of students’ knowledge in the sciences is proving to be impossible.

3) Insufficient funding. Only in the last 6 years (2010-2016) funding of the education sector has grown by 13 times. In 2016 up to 3 billion and 150 million Somoni has been allocated to this sector (more than $410 million). However, financial support alone for education, has not led to a sharp rise in its quality. It is necessary to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of the allocated funds.

4) One of the serious issues of integration of the Tajik education system into the Bologna process – the officials’ insufficient awareness of the purposes and principles of the process. In Western countries, a holder of a Bachelor’s degree has every right to apply for a job, while a graduate of a Bachelor’s program in Tajikistan is considered  “half-educated” and faces great challenges when applying for a job.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Thus, education is one of the main tools in increasing the competitiveness of the country as a whole and of each person individually. Tajikistan’s accession to the Bologna Process is the main achievement of the education system reform, but there is a need in more elaborate work in this direction.

The law on education is an attempt to solve a number of pressing issues. But for an adequate development of the nation, it is imperative that additional measures are undertaken in the field of education. The state should not only strive to ensure that education conforms to international standards, but also fully meet the needs of the country in qualified professionals and highly educated citizens.

In order to heighten the level of education, the government and its relevant ministries must take concrete measures, namely, urgently raise the salaries of educators in order to improve recruitment and retention of talented teachers in their profession, improve the teacher-training system, and improve students’ knowledge assessment system.

Also, in order to improve the quality of education, the reform of the system should start in the schools. In grades 10-11, it is necessary to prepare graduates to adapt to the new system of education in the universities.

It is also necessary to boost both material and non-material interest of teachers in improving the quality of education. It is necessary for the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic to carry out systematic monitoring of the quality of teaching.

According to a Professor of RTSU, Spector A., “it is necessary that the students finally realized that in the world of today, even with the rapid development of engineering and technology, there is no substitute for a book. If students do not show interest in learning, no education system can help”.[7]

Objectively speaking, the low level of students’ knowledge connected not so much with the reform of the education system by way of the Bologna process, but rather with the sharp drop in students’ motivation to learn. To rekindle interest in knowledge can only be helped by literature, interest in life, and parental supervision, because under the new law, parents are also responsible for the education and fostering of their children.

References:

[1] The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On higher and postgraduate professional education”www.medt.tj/documents/main/normativno-pravovie-akti/zakonodatelnieakti/ru/02535-ru.pdf

[2]  A lecture on “The consequences of radical reforms of the education system in the post-Soviet space”, Dushanbe,24.09.2016

[3]  E. Rakhmon, Address on the occasion of the Day of Knowledge and the 70th  anniversary of Kulob State University named after A. Rudaki, http://www.president.tj/ru/node/9739

[4] M. Jabborova, “Why is there a shortage of highly qualified professors in Tajik universities?”  »http: // catoday.org/centrasia/tjru/14869-pochemu-v-tadzhikskih-vuzah-malo-vysokokvalificirovannuh-prepodavateley.html

[5] The education system in Tajikistan under threat: Tajikistan is short of 3715 specialists http://www.tojnews.org/ru/news/sistema-obrazovaniya-v-tadzhikistane-pod-ugrozoi-v-rt-ne-hvataet-3715-specialistov

[6] The education system in Tajikistan under threat: Tajikistan is short of 3715 specialists http://www.tojnews.org/ru/news/sistema-obrazovaniya-v-tadzhikistane-pod-ugrozoi-v-rt-ne-hvataet-3715-specialistov

[7] A lecture on “The consequences of radical reforms of the education system in the post-Soviet space”, Dushanbe, 24.09.2016

Author: Komron Khidoyatzoda, Chairmen of the Youth Wing of the “Eurasian Development” Central Asian Expert Club (Tajikistan, Dushanbe)

The views of the author may not coincide with the position of CABAR.asia

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