Wednesday, 19 December 2001

SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN KYRGYZSTAN TO BE REORGANIZED

Published in Field Reports

By Aisha Aslanbekova (12/19/2001 issue of the CACI Analyst)

On November 7, the Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic announced that an internal structural reorganization would be carried out in the higher educational institutions of the country. Kyrgyzstan has too many universities, an quality is far from conforming to quantity. The poor standards of university education, corruption in universities, and the prospects of unemployment that most of the Kyrgyz students face after graduation are problems that the ministry now seeks to address.

On November 7, the Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic announced that an internal structural reorganization would be carried out in the higher educational institutions of the country. Kyrgyzstan has too many universities, an quality is far from conforming to quantity. The poor standards of university education, corruption in universities, and the prospects of unemployment that most of the Kyrgyz students face after graduation are problems that the ministry now seeks to address.  

On November 7, the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Kyrgyz Republic held a press conference, at which Minister of Education Kamila Sharshekeeva announced that an internal structural reorganization would be carried out in the higher educational institutions of the country. Branches and divisions of universities that do not meet state requirements of higher education will be abolished. The minister said that the reorganization is being carried out in order to rationalize the higher education system, to raise the quality of university education, and to avoid duplicating training of experts in structural educational divisions.

According to information provided at the press conference, there are 43 higher educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan. They have 143 structural divisions and 16 branches in various regions of the country. The total number of university students is 200,000.  40,000 of them study in local branches of universities, and 90,000 of them are non-resident students.  80% of students pay for their education, while the remaining 20% study free of charge.

The number might sound impressive. However, today’s reality is that quality is far from conforming to quantity.  In fact, the presence of too many universities in a small country like Kyrgyzstan with 4,6 million people is itself causing problems such as the poor standards of university education and the prospects of unemployment that most of the Kyrgyz students face after graduation.  

The quality of university education is poor, especially in those branches where the material base of instructors is lacking. The reform that is being carried out will dissolve the branches, or unite all structural divisions of higher educational institutions that duplicate each other. In other words, it is an attempt to strengthen the central structure of Kyrgyz universities and thus to increase the quality of education. According to the Ministry of Education, the university branches will not accept new students next year. At the press conference, Sharshekeeva said that students currently studying in branches of universities to be dissolved, will be dealt individually and will be given an opportunity to finish their education. Those structural divisions that duplicate each other and meet state requirements of higher education will be dissolved before the end of this year.  But next year their structure will be renewed, their regulations will be amended and they will have to re-register with the Ministry of Education.  

One of the results of the excessive number of universities in the country is that most of the graduates cannot find a job after graduation. During the Soviet era, the number of universities in Kyrgyzstan was limited. Strict entry examinations meant that very few young people could actually have access to higher education and for those students who managed to graduate, there was a guarantee of getting a job. However, today there are a large number of higher educational institutions and there are few restrictions on enrollment. Having a university degree now does not mean that you will find a job.

Another problem that the current Kyrgyz higher education system is marred by widespread corruption. The main factor that causes corruption is low staff salaries. On average, the monthly salary of lecturers and professors is between $20-40, while that of rectors is $60. At the press conference, the Minister mentioned that measures will be taken to eliminate corruption in universities.  According to Sharshekeeva, the ministry plans to establish financial committees in all of the higher educational institutions.  If these financial committees are created, the university resources will be controlled not by a single rector but by several committee members. Sharshekeeva added that corruption could be fought only through the equal and transparent distribution of resources.

The system of higher education in Kyrgyzstan needs to be reorganized.  The country does not need and cannot afford so many institutions of higher education. The quality of higher education needs to be raised, corruption in universities needs to be fought and eventually eradicated. The reform proposed by the Ministry of Education is a big step toward meeting these needs and establishing a firm ground for higher education system of Kyrgyzstan.

Aisha Aslanbekova

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