The higher education system in Uzbekistan is plagued with bribery. Whether anything can be done about this is the topic of discussion for today’s Shoot Me panel.The state of affairs in the education system, where honest educators are a nuisance rather than the norm – a system that has developed through the years of Uzbekistan’s independence – is discussed by political science professor Mariyam Ibragimova, human rights activist Dmitriy Tikhonov, and film director Oleg Karpov.Ibragimova: I believe if people are wiling to pay for their education, as in any normal country, let them pay and be educated! For educators this is a ready-made source of income and a job market …
Karpov: But this is exactly where the danger for the government lies. It is not so easy to negotiate with an educated person.
Ibragimova: I have to agree with you on that.
Karpov: As a result: educated people are not needed, they are dangerous.
Ibragimova: Absolutely not needed! An educated person is dangerous for a bureaucrat. Let’s take a look at the entire education system – from the minister to the teacher. It seems that the minister would be most interested in bringing order to the system, of creating high quality education. But in our system everything revolves around the bureaucracy and paperwork. Anything – attendance, grades, subjects and diplomas – can be falsified by the university.
In order for the minister to prove his effectiveness, he needs many accomplishments on paper. So he demands that from his employees, who in turn generate such ‘paper accomplishments’ but in reality they can do as they please. This creates the following system – the dean of students takes bribes and he needs to be surrounded by professors who also take bribes. They do not need someone like me, what use do they have of me?
If they get rid of me, they can sell my position and make a profit. Do you know how much my position costs? I do not generate any bribes. How can I give a passing grade to a student who has not attended any of the lectures?
Karpov: It is said that until someone has been caught taking a bribe they are innocent but everyone knows that bribery is omnipresent in our system…
Ibragimova: Ninety percent of educators take bribes!
Karpov: Yes but this is not the main problem. The minister should create an adequate education system.
Ibragimova: How can they do that? These two things do not go together. In order for the dean of students or their deputy or anyone else at a university to take bribes they require that professors act as sheep – give the grades they are being told to give to the students.
I have personal examples: it happens that half of my students are missing at the beginning of the school year and I report that to the dean of students. He signs the list of the missing students and takes it to the department’s administrator. My job depends on this administrator. At the end of the school year, the administrator gives my students their grades, without consulting me. When I question him about that, his response is: “I need my job.” So the question of bribes is the most essential question.
Karpov: It appears that there are two co-existing realities happening in our current education system. You are interested in passing on your knowledge to the students and there are students who are interested in receiving it; and at the same time there are forces that are interested in moving the financial capital through the system.
Tikhonov: There is also a question about giving bribes, not just receiving them. What is a student’s role in all of this?
Ibragimova: My students tell me that they come to my classes because they like them not because they are afraid of me. And they give bribes to the professors whose classes are unbearably boring and they do not want to attend them. Besides, it does not matter if you study or not, you still have to pay.
Tikhonov: Please understand, we have the following situation – the students themselves are keen on giving bribes. When I was a student I had very interesting professors. I was eager to go to my classes, sometimes my classmates would almost beat me up and say: “What are your doing, we all want to skip this class.” They are more interested in paying money than going to class.
When I became a teacher myself I witnessed that students are willing to pay bribes. If you don’t ask for money, they send their classmates to pay or come by themselves. When you refuse their money, they look at you like you are an idiot… Why does the current education system not work?
Ibragimova: If the system is set up so that every employee caters to the whims of their superior who does not care if you are a talented and honest educator, how can honest people survive? I have been terrorized for fifteen years for working honestly.
I have long forgotten about any sort of encouragement. I try to be invisible as so they leave me alone. I ask them: please do not give me any promotions or bonuses – just leave me alone and let me work. Am I asking for too much?
Karpov: We have dealt with the question – who is to blame? Now we need to figure out what can be done about this.
The entire conversation about the current state of affairs in education can be seen in the latest installment of the program jointly produced by Shoot Me and Uznews.net. It is available herehttp://youtu.be/tT6lIjDsUaU.