higher education reform

Quantity not quality in Kyrgyz universities

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The ever reliable EurasiaNet had a nice piece recently on the growth of ‘inferior’ universities in Kyrgyzstan. There’s not been any recent news on higher education in the country so the report is able to take a longer term and slightly more analytical perspective. Some of the facts that are used appear to be lifted directly from comparisons I drew in my recently published article on challenges for higher education in Kyrgyzstan (e.g. the comparison to countries with similar populations). It’s a compliment to know that your work is being read and that it has stimulated the author of the EurasiaNet article to investigate further. The government is not pushing hard for reform, so the more pressure that is applied by researchers, the media and others, the better chance there is of pushing higher education reform up the agenda.

Read the article at:

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/72681

Reforms in Tajik higher education: report on World Bank funded project

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Here’s the critical quote from this World Bank press release reporting on the end of a five year Russian government funded project:

…improved education is fundamental to alleviating poverty and improving economic competitiveness

So says their Tajikistan country project manager Patricia Veevers-Carter. The purpose of the project was to introduce a standard university admissions test in Tajikistan, along the lines used by other countries and introduced in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan in 2002.

The admissions test is part of the remit of the National Testing Centre (NTC) established by the Tajik government in 2008. The NTC intends to undertake other assessments to inform educational policy and contribute towards the improved education that the World Bank underlines as being of such critical importance to the country’s development.

The early results are impressive: a 30% increase in the number taking the admissions test between 2013 and 2014. That figure masks a poor female participation rate at only 33% of the total number, which, sadly, is in keeping with the current enrolment breakdown by gender.

In the Kyrgyz case, it has been said that the university admissions test is a ‘a success story in the struggle to
eliminate corruption and nepotism from post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan’s education system’ (Smith, 2012), moving away from the informal practice of either paying under the table for admission or getting in because someone you know is able to negotiate a place for you.

So there may be lessons for Tajikistan to learn from the Kyrgyz experience, but there is still a long way to go before improvements to higher education in Tajikistan become fundamentally embedded. Starting with admissions, reforms are needed throughout the student journey, from funding to corruption to post-study employment.

Reference

Smith, M, Kyrgyzstan Trying to Systematize University Admissions, Curbing Corruption, EurasiaNet, 29.05.2012