Two main ideas, the democratization of education (as a political slogan) and the global free-market orientation (as economical reality), define the transitional period of the Uzbekistan educational system. The democratization of education means that there is liberation from the Soviet ideology, doctrines, and centralized stiffness. Global free-market orientation means that there is a risk of lacking support from the state and the obvious necessity to seek support abroad with the goal of one day to becoming self-sustained. Uzbekistan education is going through two types of transformations in regard to its structure and content. New administrative structures, educational institutions as new forms, restructured old institutions as renewed forms, and seemingly the same schools with less or more years to study all need new content for education. The change of ideology, language, and orientation all lead to dramatic changes in the taught subjects, tested knowledge, and results of education.
Political leaders state that the new Constitution, laws, and regulations provide a political foundation for the restructuring of Uzbekistan economical life and education that will take at least 10 to 15 years. According to educational leaders, new standards based on international experience have been developed for all four levels of education. New textbooks and instructive materials for schools in the Latin script are being published. In collaboration with various international organizations and financial institutions, a number of projects for the restructuring of the system of education in Uzbekistan are being implemented. The gradual transition to a market economy leads to the introduction of a network of business-schools and new technologies and the establishment of distant education.
However, the country is still on the same level as developing countries. With its high literacy rate (98 percent) achieved by the former Soviet system, Uzbekistan is seeking international standards and financial help to become accepted on the international market. The modernizing efforts and reforms of the educational system, as well as the tuning of it to fit the free market global economy, will take a lot of time. Estimations by politicians' of 10 to 15 years for noticeable results should probably be doubled.
International programs assisting the transformation of Uzbekistan education generally work in the following directions:
- language help and instructional help in language acquisition
- financial help to individuals and organizations open for change
- technological help (libraries, computer centers, and research and communications equipment)
- organizational (restructuring existing structures, aiming for reform and change, introducing new structures, and providing help to self-growing structures), and informational help.
Many foreign entities, including the American Embassy in Tashkent, as well as hundreds of volunteers, work with Uzbek universities and secondary schools in hopes of improving the quality of English instruction. The idea is to increase access to internationally available information and resources in order to ensure the process of opening. Teacher training activities and information exchange lie at the center of this process. Some universities introduce community outreach activities to involve students; others introduce a weekly English language radio program and the publication of an English newspaper. Volunteers make efforts to introduce English as early as possible and to reach youth. They organize day camps for Uzbekistan youth to teach English and discuss issues of common interest.
In 1998 almost 600 teachers and students participated in international conferences, and over 300 professors from other countries worked at the universities of Uzbekistan. Education in Uzbekistan is undergoing significant change. It needs and seeks change. The educational system and educators liberated from Soviet control are heading toward the future. The needs are numerous. One of the most serious needs is the change of an ideological system from stable Marxism to eclectic, but flexible free-market ideology. Teachers and professors have been trained in a predominantly atheistic way of thinking, and this ideological core has influenced all aspects of education. It will take time and effort to overcome this influence. The fact that the president of Uzbekistan and most of its modern leaders are former Communist leaders, and the leading political party is the former Communist party, only adds to the complexity of the situation.
There is the need for language changes. This touches domains such as language education, history, and literature with less involved scientific education. However, in a few years with the students speaking only Uzbek, it will also be necessary to use Uzbek in teaching sciences. There will be a significant need for teachers and professors newly trained in Uzbek. Not all teachers and professors are able to do so. There is also a need for new textbooks. Leading experts from the Uzbek Academy of Sciences have been called upon to produce new books for the secondary schools. The Republic Education Methodology Center planned to introduce "Stories of the History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan" in pictures to the fourth grade in 1993 and a country history for eighth and ninth grades.
The ultimate success of educational reforms will depend on funding, public or private. The latter will become more likely when Uzbekistan demonstrates a desire to join the mainstream of the world economy. The eventual goal of the country is to move from state to private funding and make the system self-supporting or self-sufficient. According to Gulyamov, the educational system must go through the following phases of change:
- The first phase (1997-2001) foresees the creation of a legislative foundation for the restructuring of the system and the renovating of educational content. During this period, teachers must be trained and retrained for the use of new techniques, educational standards, and training programs.
- The second phase (2001-2005) foresees the implementation of the main objectives of the National Program on Personnel Training, which includes implementation of the necessary transformations to fit the labor market and social conditions.
- The third phase 2005 and further foresees the further improvement of educational system on the basis of the twenty-first century's accumulated experience.
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—Andrei G. Aleinikov
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