SEnECA Blog Post: High Pace of Reforms in the Educational Sector in Turkmenistan

Everyone is familiar with the popular statement that “Youth is our future”, but if we continue this statement, the contin­u­ation would sound something like this: “and well-educated youth is one of the necessary condi­tions for this future to be prosperous, successful and creative”. Perhaps, this conviction has become the basis for the funda­mental reforms in the educa­tional sector that have taken place in Turkmenistan over the past decade.

Turkmenistan inherited a well-coordi­nated system of personnel training from the Soviet Union, which gave the world outstanding scien­tists and cultural figures. There was a state system that guaranteed compulsory secondary education and equal access to free higher education both in educa­tional insti­tu­tions of Turkmenistan and in higher educa­tional insti­tu­tions of other republics.

Unfor­tu­nately, the reforms carried out in the educa­tional sector in the period after the collapse of the USSR until 2008 had a negative impact on the quality of training and seemed to have thrown off the possi­bility of transition to the inter­na­tional education system for a long time. The period of secondary school education was reduced to 9 years, the number of students in higher educa­tional insti­tu­tions had been reduced by almost 75 per cent, all corre­spon­dence and evening classes had been closed from 1995 and from May 2001 diplomas obtained outside the country had been inval­i­dated in Turkmenistan. From 2002 free higher education was cancelled. A number of special educa­tional insti­tu­tions such as specialized technical vocational schools and technical colleges were also abolished. In 1993, the Academy of Sciences and a number of research insti­tutes were abolished.

Realizing that in modern condi­tions the successful devel­opment of any state in the world economy as a whole is deter­mined primarily by the level of devel­opment of education and science, where an important factor is the effective formation and imple­men­tation of the intel­lectual potential of society, Turkmenistan has been making consistent efforts to modernize and strengthen the educa­tional system since 2008. The 10-year secondary education has been returned giving the young gener­ation an oppor­tunity to get an education not only in our country, but also abroad. Moreover, the progressive reforms have advanced even further: according to the decree of the head of state “About improvement of the educa­tional system in Turkmenistan” the transition to the 12-year school education has been carried out since 2013.

Next to a number of improve­ments in pre-school and school education, the government of Turkmenistan pays consid­erable attention to reforms in the field of higher and secondary vocational education. Among newly estab­lished educa­tional insti­tu­tions (the complex of well-equipped buildings) are: Inter­na­tional Oil and Gas University (1), the Inter­na­tional University of Human­ities and Devel­opment (2), the Naval Institute of the Ministry of defense (3), the Ashgabat pedagogical school named after Aman Kekilov (4).

In 2015, more than 15 thousand boys and girls became students. In comparison with 2014, the reception has been increased by 896 student places. In the same year, the number of secondary vocational schools increased by 56% compared to 2011. Currently, Turkmenistan youth is provided with the oppor­tunity to obtain higher profes­sional education in 24 higher educa­tional insti­tu­tions within the country. An innov­ative and promising approach was the intro­duction of an intensive foreign language course in the first year of study in some higher educa­tional insti­tu­tions of Turkmenistan, which made it possible to invite leading world experts to give thematic lectures covering the relevance of the issues studied to the context of the regional and global agenda.

“Language days” dedicated to the Day of Europe at the Inter­na­tional Human­i­tarian University became a good tradition. The purpose of this format is to increase the interest of Turkmen students in the study of German, Greek, Lithuanian, Slovak, French, Romanian, Spanish, Italian languages. Along with Turkmen teachers, foreign specialists – native speakers of these languages – conduct intro­ductory classes. Mini-presen­ta­tions in the framework of these classes introduce students to the history, culture and tradi­tions of the countries of the languages studied. The co-organizers of the “European week” program in the higher educa­tional insti­tu­tions of Turkmenistan are the diplo­matic missions of European countries.

The openness of Turkmenistan to the Inter­na­tional constructive cooper­ation has contributed to the fact that the geography of foreign educa­tional insti­tu­tions is expanding every year, where Turkmen youth goes for knowledge to be gained under the inter­gov­ern­mental agree­ments. Over the years, thousands of Turkmen boys and girls have become holders of student cards of presti­gious univer­sities in Russia, Belarus, China, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Romania, Turkey, Croatia and other countries. The students-and lectors exchange programs are success­fully imple­mented in the framework of inter­na­tional educa­tional programs like TEMPUS-TACIS and others. Some study programs have been organized by inter­na­tional organi­za­tions such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and UNESCO. Cooper­ation with the programs the Erasmus-Mundus Educa­tional program, FLEX USA, IREX, TEA etc. has been expanded.

Thus, the pace and trends of educa­tional reforms open up new oppor­tu­nities for further compre­hensive devel­opment as well as give hope for a prosperous, successful and creative future.

SEnECA Blog Contri­bution by Guljamal Nurmuhamedova, Ynanch-Vepa