Tajik State Pedagogical University

New Minister of Education for Tajikistan

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Cats sparking joy, unlike certain Tajik civil servants…

Whilst Russia has been making the headlines for its more-Marie-Kondo-than-Marie-Kondo approach to replacing government personnel (if it doesn’t spark joy…), the Tajik government has been doing some pretty comprehensive new year cleaning of its own.

I heard earlier today (January 24, 2020) from a knowledgeable source in Tajikistan that many high ranking staff in the Ministry of Education have been kicked out and replaced with more forward-looking and innovative colleagues. This framing is interesting given that for the most part our outsider view of most civil servants in Tajikistan is of corrupt / nepotistic practices outweighing talent and policy vision in employee selection.

However, the source assured me that the head of the Ministry Nuriddin Said was safe in his top spot… but only minutes later, I found out that he too has been moved on. Said had been Minister of Education and Science since 2012 but as of today has been moved to lead the government’s Television and Radio Broadcasting Committee. That seems a big step down.

Said was an unpopular Minister, receiving heavy criticism for his poor Russian language skills. An online petition even circulated on social media in 2018 calling for his resignation. That is extremely unusual for Tajikistan, where social movements are not allowed to exist (unless government sanctioned) and any hint of online protest tends to get the internet shut down.

Responding to the dissatisfaction with his language skills, Said responded “I’m neither Tolstoy nor Solzhenitsyn”, but did acknowledge he has a strong accent when speaking in Russian. You can judge for yourself here.

Said has been replaced by Mahmadyousuf Imomov, who until today was Rector of Tajik Nationa University. Imomov is no stranger to government, as he is also a representative in the Majlisi Milli, the parliamentary upper house.

Imomov began his academic career in 1981 immediately after graduating from Tajik State (now National) University. He worked at the Institute of Languages and Literature before moving to the USSR Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Literature. He later switched to work at the Tajik Academy of Sciences and after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, taught at Tajik State University. By the end of the 1990s he had worked through various promotions to the level of Dean.

His first major leadership position came in 2004 when he was appointed as Rector of the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University, at the time a new entrant on the Tajik higher education scene (it was founded in 1996) and considered at that point to be the country’s top university. In 2012, Imomov was moved to become Rector of Tajik National University and now, another eight years later, he has become Minister of Education and Science.

In other education-related government appointments:

  • Updated Jan 27: Some confusion as to who will replace Imomov as Rector of Tajik National University. Previously, it was reported that Abujabbor Rahmonzoda was taking over but today (Jan 27) I read that in fact the new Rector is the youthful Khushbakht Khushbakhzoda. Khushbakhzoda is still in his 30s and was previousy Dean of the Finance and Economics Faculty, whereas Rahmonzoda was previously a presidential advisor on social development and public relations. Prior to that Rahmonzoda was Rector of the Pedagogical University (2012-14), Minister of Education (2005-12), and a representative on the TV & Radio Broadcasting Committee (what is it with this committee?);
  • Deputy Minister of Education of Science Sayfiddin Davlatzoda has been ‘exiled’ from his cushy Dushanbe posting, replacing Muhammad Shodiyon who has been fired as Rector of Bokhtar State University.
  • The head of the Centre for Islamic Studies under the President of Tajikistan has become Murodullo Davlatzoda, an Islamic Studies scholar and ex-parliamentarian.

A full list of the government changes as at January 24 can be found here.

Most popular degrees in Tajikistan

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The results of this year’s university admission testing in Tajikistan (which, like in many other former Soviet countries, is now centralized) are now in. Over 100,000 higher education hopefuls took entrance exams in 2019, most for entrance to university. Around 10% were seeking admission to college i.e. the final two years of secondary education (usually ages 16-18).

This year’s top courses are in the social sciences, for which there were over 1.7 applications for each place available. This continues a trend seen in Tajikistan since the fall of the Soviet Union as students have increasingly turned to subjects such as management, banking and law.

Closely following demand for social sciences were courses in medicine, biology and sport. Across these subjects (which are grouped by the National Testing Centre into clusters), the overall number of applications to places available was 1.7.

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Medicine and related subjects are the most popular in Tajikistan based on number of applications in 2019

The most popular courses based on the highest number of applications received were:

  1. Medicine at Tajik State Medical University – over 14,000 applications for state-funded full-time places
  2. Pediatrics at Tajik State Medical University – over 11,000 applications for state-funded full-time places
  3. Pediatrics at Tajik State Medical University – over 7,500 applications for tuition paying full-time places

So, lots of young Tajikistanis want to be doctors – and many are prepared to pay if they don’t get a free ride from the state.

In terms of highest competition per place (places are capped by the state), the top three looks quite different:

  1. Judicial/Forensic Expertise (help me out here Russian speakers – the original is Судебная экспертиза) at Tajik National University – over 500 applications per place
  2. Structural Engineering at Tajik Technical University – nearly 450 applications per place
  3. Chemistry and Biology at Tajik State Pedagogical University – over 400 applications per place