08/10/2009, 00.00
CENTRAL ASIA
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Corruption threatens to stifle Universities in Central Asia

Students and families denounce the widespread practice in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan of asking for heavy "bribes" to guarantee a place in university, or to pass exams. As a result many deserving - but poor - young people, remain excluded, while the value of degrees declines. The opinion of experts.

Tashkent (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In the developing countries of Central Asia, a university degree often means the guarantee of a top quality job. But there are frequent complaints of corruption in access to courses and the passing of exams. Several professors have been placed under investigation, but some analysts comment that trials court sentences are not enough to eradicate the phenomenon.

In July, the head of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), a head of department of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khujand (Tajikistan) and two university professors in Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan) were accused of corruption for accepting "bribes" from students.

In these three countries, students and their families have complained to Radio Free Asia that they are forced to pay for admission to university. For example, a young student had to pay 1000 US dollars to ensure he passed the entrance exam to the taxation law course at the University of Finance in Tajikistan.

Quite a low amount, if you think that in Turkmenistan the “entrance fee" to the most desirable course options, such as law, can amount to 40 thousand dollars. In the country the phenomenon is so widespread that it even has its own nickname: elaklyk, which literally means "thanks giving”.

In Kyrgyzstan many complain that there are price lists to overcome exams without studying.

The system could have disastrous effects on the future of these countries. In addition to preventing access to higher education to worthy but poor young people, (who often can only find work abroad as migrants), corruption risks granting degrees to many rich kids who do not study, with obvious detrimental effects on the value of the qualification.

Analyst Faridun Tajik Rahnavard comments that the problem can not be resolved by prosecution alone, because it is too widespread. He notes that high school and university teachers in these countries have low wages, 70 to 400 US dollars a month, and believes that it would be appropriate to increase them as a first step.

 
 
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