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School education: Tajik parents prefer Russian-language schools

Why even now, dozens of years after gaining independence, parents in Tajikistan choose Russian-language schools for their children?

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“It is much better in Russian-language schools. We read many books, wrote many essays, our teachers were strict. Our Tajik classes were very weak by comparison,” says Anusha Khodizoda.

Anusha Khodizoda. Facebook photo
Anusha Khodizoda. Facebook photo

According to Anusha, who is a graduate of the Russian-Tajik Slavic University, now a financier working abroad, the situation was the same at the university as well.

“Graduates from Tajik schools were weaker, and graduates from Russian schools were more competitive,” says Anusha Khodizoda.

Other parents also said that students of Russian-language schools receive a better education and more freely express their thoughts not only in Russian, but also in English.

Idigul Vatanshoeva, the mother of two children, also believes that teachers that are more competent work in Russian-language schools.

Moreover, according to her, they are better funded and equipped.

– In addition, there are interesting programs and books for elementary grades, colorful, illustrated age-appropriate and workbooks that greatly facilitate the learning process. My son studied at a Russian school, and we are very pleased with his results, we also plan to send my daughter to the same school,” says Vatanshoeva.

After the collapse of the USSR, many Russian-language schools in Tajikistan closed forever, and a significant part of the teachers left the country. However, the process of personnel outflow also affected Tajik-speaking schools.

Many parents believe that students in Russian-language schools receive better education. Photo: ozodi.org
Many parents believe that students in Russian-language schools receive better education. Photo: ozodi.org

“A small number of Soviet-tempered teachers who are familiar with feelings of responsibility and duty towards parents and state departments are still remained in Russian schools,” the director of one of the Russian-speaking schools in Dushanbe said to CABAR.asia on anonymous terms.

According to her, these teachers understand that “a lot depends on them, and their primary task is to work diligently, with children for the result.”

– It is very sad when children come to school and do not understand a word in Russian. I feel very sorry for such children. Parents do not understand whether it will be comfortable for the child to study in such an atmosphere when until recently he spoke exclusively Tajik,” the director noted.

She believes that in such cases, parents need to think carefully so as not to torment the children or prepare them in advance.

“But, everyone wants the best for their child, and everyone is eager for Russian schools,” the director added.
At present, there are 26 Russian-language schools in Tajikistan, where 17,778 students are enrolled in 603 classes. There are also 141 schools with Tajik and Russian languages ​​of instruction, in which 177638 students are studying.

According to the director, Russian-language schools are in dire need of personnel (teachers).

– We send a request to the Russian side and get a teacher. One part of the salary is paid by Tajikistan, the other part by Russia. This year I do not have a teacher in computer science and biology. I have made a request, it was approved, but in the end, it was decided to invite only biology teacher. The flight expenses are covered by school, and we don’t have enough funding,” says the school principal.

 Meanwhile in Tajikistan, until September 2021, it is planned to build five general educational institutions with the Russian language of instruction in the cities of Dushanbe, Khujand, Bohtar, Tursunzade and Kulyab for 1200 places in each institution.

This is stated in the protocol of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation between Tajikistan and Russia, from March 20, 2019. As stated in an interview with RIA News, the Minister of Education and Science of Tajikistan, Nuriddin Said, the project will be implemented as scheduled.

In Tajikistan, along with other Central Asian countries, the Russian language has been and will remain an important language of interethnic communication. A similar situation is observed in other Central Asian countries, where the scientific expert elite is largely Russian speaking.

Asemgul Kassenova, a journalist from Kazakhstan, says that, the Russian language is close and understandable for her.

– Kazakh is the state language, the Russian language has official status, some kindergartens and schools have already introduced the English language of instruction. However, according to statistics, the number of graduates of schools with the Kazakh language of instruction becomes more every year. The northern regions are Russian-speaking, and the southern are Kazakh-speaking,” Kassenova said.

The language of instruction is not so important?

Obidkhon Kurbonkhonov an expert in the field of education, coordinator and teacher of the Human Studies project in Tajikistan does not consider the language of instruction to be of fundamental importance.

Obidhon Kurbonkhonov. Photo: CABAR.asia
Obidhon Kurbonkhonov. Photo: CABAR.asia

– I would not say that the secret of success is precisely the purposeful study of a particular subject in Russian. The child can learn in any language, whether it is Tajik, Russian or English. The main thing is that he/she really studies, consciously shows interest. The position of parents and their participation in all this is also important,” said Kurbonkhonov.

According to him, it is necessary to create competition in education atmosphere.

“The more opportunities given and the fewer obstacles from the side of the government to open new private schools and pre-school educational institutions, the more opportunities there will be to study and develop better,” said Kurbonkhonov.

Farangis Aminova, an auditor at Ernst & Young Tajikistan, agrees that graduates of Russian schools have more opportunities for further admission to universities. However, according to her, a huge con is that in the future these children do not know the Tajik (native) language.


Farangis Aminova. Facebook photo
Farangis Aminova. Facebook photo

– After graduating from a Tajik school, I often talked at home and with friends in Russian, read fiction and non-fiction literature in Russian language as well. I had a bit more complications at the university with some subjects, but I have studied with tutors and I caught up on everything. However, I could always proudly be the first at work when it was necessary to solve the issue of documentation in Tajik language. While working with foreigners, the Tajik language was more useful to me than Russian – when translating complex texts and while working in socio-economic projects. It is impossible to give an accurate assessment of which school is better, Russian or Tajik. A matter of luck, where in the future the student plans to develop and live,”Aminova believes.

Lola Abdulloeva, a former teacher at a gymnasium in Dushanbe, negatively assesses the situation in Russian-speaking and Tajik-language schools. According to her, it is better for parents to take care of the child’s self-education.

– We have a big problem with schools, classes are crowded, even private gymnasiums do not give guarantees. I am dissatisfied with the quality of education provided by our gymnasiums, not to speak about ordinary schools. The most reasonable thing that can be done is to deal with the child’s education yourself, ”said Abdulloeva.

Guldastasho Alibakhshov, a representative of the Zerkalo Center for Sociological Research, generally believes that the Tajik education system as a whole is not ready for the changes that are and will happen in the world.

Гулдасташо Алибахшов,
Guldastasho Alibakhshov. Photo: CABAR.asia

– In my opinion, it is not necessary to consider the language in isolation from the socio-economic and cultural-political environment, but to take a more holistic approach to explain the interconnectedness of factors that influence people’s decisions regarding the language in which their children should receive education.

In other words, getting an education is not an end in itself, but an acquisition of knowledge and skills that provide access to a better life.

Given the existing socio-economic problems in the country, getting an education in Tajik language, narrows the socio-economic opportunities even inside Tajikistan itself, not to mention beyond its borders,” said Alibakhshov.

According to him, people understand that getting an education in Russian expands employment opportunities and provides access to other socio-economic opportunities, at least in the CIS territory.

“The factors that force people to obtain Russian citizenship or apply for resettlement programs — and their number is increasing every year — are exactly the same factors that make parents prepare their children for these changes,” the expert emphasized.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.

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