News agency Avesta has published possibly the most boring story I’ve read about the prospects for higher education cooperation between Tajikistan and China. Seriously, this post could easily have been called ‘Diplomacy wins, or: How to make a story from nothing’.
Bear in mind I read a lot of news stories about education in Central Asia (I know, I know, it’s a selfless task) and I come across my fair share of government-issued press releases or uncritical adulation of whatever new policy the Eternal Leader of the Spotless Country has come up with.
But this one was so vague and, well, diplomatic that I am translating it in full so that English language readers can share my pain (Russian language readers, you can check out the original here):
Education cooperation between universities in Tajikistan and China discussed in Beijing
Avesta.tj, 3 December 2019
The Ambassador of Tajikistan to China Parviz Davlatzoda visited Beijing City University, the press service of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Chinese People’s Republic reports.
During the Ambassador’s meeting with Liu Song, the Rector of Beijing university, the parties exchanged views on the prospects for cooperation in the areas of science, education and culture.
Parviz Davlatzoda noted that Tajikistan attaches great importance on educational cooperation, particularly in relation to professional training of highly qualified personnel
The Rector of the university and heads of departments acquainted the Tajik diplomat with the University’s phases of development. The main directions of the university’s activities in research and teaching were presented.
The parties also discussed possibilities to cooperation in the field of international education, research and industrial activity.
The parties noted the importance of establishing and developing cooperation between universities in both countries through organizing joint events and participating in each others’ conferences and seminars.
The immportance of actively engaging in academic mobility programmes for students and faculty was also underlined.
Still awake? Well done you, and congratulations Avesta for producing this yawnfest.
Hot off the online press!
International research collaborations – whether these are informal groupings of researchers working together on a scientific problem of common interest or more formal arrangements (often with a budget and fixed timelines) – have increased so rapidly in number that one expert has called this growth “one of the most dramatic social changes of the twenty-first century”.
On the one hand, this suggests tremendous possibilities for researchers in countries with open borders and technological connectivity to not only be part of knowledge generation but also to enhance the quality of knowledge through interconnectedness. Yet on the other, while global science may have shifted the ways in which knowledge is produced (just look, for example, at the dramatic growth in co-authored publications and the rise of scientific producers such as China), it has not flattened or as yet significantly altered existing knowledge hierarchies.
In my new article, published online today, I get under the skin of these international research collaborations from the perspectives of Tajikistani researchers. Such collaborations in Tajikistan are more likely to be formal and initiated by outside funders, who are commonly development agencies rather than other universities or scientifically minded alliances. Not only having to deal with the trade-offs involved in so-called partnerships where the agenda is set from the outside, Tajikistani researchers face constraints on their academic freedom from the domestic political environment.
Based on a small-scale study in which I interviewed nine Tajikistani researchers in depth about their experiences of engaging in international research collaborations, the article aims to move beyond the more usual conceptualization of the dynamics of international research collaborations from a (Global) North/ (Global) South perspective and instead bring forward voices and ideas that have not to date been sufficiently heard or heeded.
The article forms part of a special issue I have co-edited that explicitly takes up this idea of moving beyond North and South. The eight papers examine an array of ways in which we could examine international research collaborations and think about power and science differently. I’ll add a post when the entire special issue is out.
You can find the article at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1028315319889345 – please contact me if you don’t have access to the journal.
To close, I would like to repeat the dedication in my paper, a very small token of affection to mark the passing of a very wonderful person:
This paper is dedicated to my dear friend Ulrika Punjabi, whose untimely passing as this study was being completed in 2019 came as an enormous and unwelcome shock. This paper’s investigation of the possibilities for a better global future presents an apt way to commemorate Ulrika, who dedicated her life to making the world a more equitable place, striving for justice, and bringing joy to many.
Female students in Tajikistan are to get a boost from the new Intellect centre at Khorog State University.
Opened with a US$40k grant from the World Bank/Ministry of Education, the centre aims to support women’s learning by improving their living and studying conditions as well as their academic preparation.
Female students from all regions of Tajikistan living in Khorog State student accommodation will now enjoy a well-equipped reading room featuring high-speed internet connected computers (no small matter for Khorog, where the remote and mountainous location is often deployed as a reason for typically poor internet access) and text based resources.
The new space will also be used for seminars, clubs, debates, quizzes and more.
Recognizing the positive impact of nature, attention has also been paid to the physical environment, with the introduction of plants and foliage in the space and its surrounds.
Congratulations to Khorog State on this exciting new development!
Material from Murod Mirzoev’s article for Asia Plus, 8 October 2019
Recommended article – “Educational research in Central Asia: methodological and ethical dilemmas in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan” by Dilrabo Jonbekova
Published in well rated peer-reviewed journal Compare, Dilrabo Jonbekova’s 2018 article examines the challenges and opportunities open to researchers of Central Asia, studying both ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ researcher perspectives (and the blurring of the lines between these two groups).
Jonbekova, a faculty member at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, is well placed for a study like this, being able to draw on her own research expertise as well as professional background and contacts to recruit respondents for this paper.
She argues that researchers face various ‘methodological dilemmas’ when conducting research in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The dilemmas are multifarious, sometimes connected and sometimes not. They range from poor internet access in rural areas to self-censorship in more constrained political environments. As a result, some methods become problematic – surveys may get low response rates, focus groups could be ineffective and secondary data may be unreliable or inaccessible.
In addition to methodological dilemmas, Jonbekova also highlights ethical dilemmas facing researchers. These too have multiple roots and consequences, whether this is a fear of signing a written consent form or selective choice of research owing to safety concerns.
Whilst Jonbekova finds that these findings were fairly consistent across the three countries she compares, she also notes similiarities with dilemmas facing researchers in other contexts such as the Middle East. On balance, as might be expected, ‘outsider’ researchers face greater barriers than ‘insiders’ in conducting research in Central Asia, but no one was immune from challenges.
This article is well worth reading in its entirety (please contact me or the author if you are unable to access it directly) as it adds valuable perspectives to our understanding of the specifics of doing research in Central Asia as well as the suite of challenges and opportunities faced by researchers doing on the ground work across a range of contexts.
Мой отчет о политике в сфере высшего образования в Центральной Азии и Афганистане теперь доступен на русском языке. Его можно найти на сайте Университета Центральной Азии (заказчик проекта) илл скачать здесь.
Огромное спасибо УЦА за перевод! If you prefer it in English, you can find my report on higher education policy in Central Asia and Afghanistan here.
Данный отчет преследует две цели. Первая – рассмотреть сферу высшего образования в Центральной Азии, делая особый акцент на Кыргызстане, Таджикистане и Афганистане. Вторая цель – предложить политические решения, способные помочь этим государствам сделать их системы высшего образования более инновационными с опорой на науку и технологии. Отчет состоит из двух разделов. В первом разделе рассматриваются некоторые общие тенденции и вызовы в сфере высшего образования в Центральной Азии и Афганистане.
Выделены основные проблемы и возможности, стоящие перед системами высшего образования и обществами стран региона, с точки зрения государственных приоритетов, сформулированных в общедоступных документах и материалах. Во втором разделе на основе обзора текущей ситуации делается переход к будущему планированию.
В отчете изложены факторы, способствующие инновациям в системе высшего образования, и приведены примеры того, как это делалось в других местах. Наконец, в тексте предлагается ряд предложений в сфере политики высшего образования для трех государств, которые направлены на развитие научно-технического потенциала, что, в свою очередь, может заложить основу для внедрения инноваций в Афганистане, Кыргызстане и Таджикистане. Рекомендации, представленные в отчете, сгруппированы в план, охватывающий пять областей: нормы, навыки, исследования, научная культура и бизнес. Целью стратегического плана является поддержка развития науки, технологий и инноваций в сфере ысшего образования.