05/14/2009, 00.00
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Tajikistan’s Soviet-inspired schools in crisis

Teachers are few and badly paid in a country where 35 per cent of the population is under the age of 15. Young people are in danger of reaching adulthood without a proper education, compromising their future and that of the country.
Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Education in Tajikistan is in crisis. The number of students far outstrips the number of teachers who are by and large poorly trained. The net result is that the country is in danger of finding itself with a new generation of underqualified workers unable to find good jobs.

According to US data, almost one Tajik in three is under age 15. In primary schools, classrooms of 40 or 50 students per teacher are not uncommon. In some places, classes run only 2.5 hours a day because students attend in two or three shifts.

Teachers complain of low wages (a paltry US$ 52 a month) and of being sent to remove villages.

Very few qualified Tajiks choose the teaching profession.

Last month Education Minister Abduiabbor Rahmonov reported that of the 4,700 university students who had signed up to teach in 2009, only 3,158 showed up for work. The remainder did not live up to the deal they agreed whereby in exchange for a free education, education students promised to teach for at least three years after graduation.

To close the teacher gap, the government has begun drafting high school students. About 500 high school students are now teaching in schools around the country, the ministry said, paid a US$ 20 monthly bonus.

For many analysts such a policy  is shortsighted because young inexperienced teachers could at best maintain discipline in a class of 40 pupils, but they can hardly be expected to teach.

The danger is that children will get at best a second rate education, if not worse.

Experts point out that the problem is also political and organisational. School curricula are still inspired by Soviet-era pedagogy with strong emphasis on ideology and formal notional learning without an adequate focus on math, literature and science.

Furthermore, Tajikistan has huge economic problems. It is energy-poor with few natural resources and many of its citizens have to emigrate to Russia to find work.

Ultimately its education system is in need of a major overhaul.

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