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