Dealing With Vocational Education in Uzbekistan

By  News Briefing Central Asia


Recent instructions by Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov to improve vocational colleges and schools by raising teaching standards indicate real concern about the state of education in the Central Asian state. 

Karimov ordered a programme of testing existing teachers to be pushed through by the time the new academic year begins in September, as well as ongoing workshops to improve their skills and the provision of computerised teaching aids. 

After independence in 1991, Uzbekistan inherited the Soviet system of specialised schools and colleges offering vocational and other training.

According to the deputy head of a secondary school in the capital Tashkent, "the colleges are treated like the old [Soviet] vocational schools, where D-grade pupils were sent to acquire the skills for blue-collar occupations. The only difference now is that you is that you have to pay a bribe just to get in, and they don’t teach you anything worthwhile.”

Commentators in Uzbekistan agree that vocational education is in urgent need of reform. But before that happens, they say, the authorities need to address the broader problem of corruption in the education sector.

An official from the Tashkent regional education department says anyone can become a teacher if they are prepared to hand over a bribe. Their students are unlikely to learn much from them, and are liable to join the ranks of the unemployed once they leave school. 

Last year, auditors found that 222 teachers working in a range of institutions in Tashkent had diplomas that had been faked, or had been obtained abroad and could not be verified.

A teacher with 25 years’ experience in the northwestern Khorezm province says half the staff at specialised schools in the region are unfit to be teaching. They accept bribes for admission to the school and then for giving students good grades until they graduate. The final money-making scheme takes place when the student has to provide evidence of a job placement in order to obtain a leaving diploma.

"No one cares whether it is a real or fake certificate," he said.

The international watchdog group Transparency International ranks Uzbekistan 177th out of 183 countries for the level of perception of corruption.

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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