215. The education system has undergone significant transformation on all levels over the past several years. Reflecting a balanced education reform policy, the Republic has been able to maintain stable development of the education system, ensure diversity of educational programs, foster alternative forms and new education technologies, and achieve multi-source financing of the system.
216. Accessibility and quality are the key priorities in the area of education in the Republic. These priorities have always been and remain the center of attention. The following strategic tasks will be addressed under these priorities:
· guarantee accessibility and equal opportunities in access to education at all levels; and
· create effective education quality control mechanisms.
217. At present, the primary and secondary levels of the educational system of the Republic comprise 407 pre-schools with 51,914 children, 2014 schools which cover nearly 1,117,000 students, as well as 400 schools of the new type (gymnasiums, lyceums, experimental schools, etc.), that play the role of catalyst in dissemination of innovative educational methods and promotion of individual-oriented educational processes. There is also a well-developed network of additional education, which covers nearly 76,000 children and adolescents.
218. In the system of higher education, there are presently 43 educational institutions with over 180,000 students. In comparison to the pre-reform period the number of specialties offered by higher educational institutions (HEIs) has doubled to 200. Multi-level educational programs have been introduced. The bachelor program is offered in 16 HEIs, masters programs in 5 HEIs. Conditions have been created to ensure competitiveness of HEIs in the market for educational services. Links have been established and developed with CIS and 28 other countries in the education sphere. Nearly three thousand young people use the opportunity to study abroad offered by the Presidential program, Cadres of the XXI Century, and other international agreements in the education sector. New technologies promoting active forms of education and an orientation to the development of individual students’ inclinations and talents are being introduced throughout the sector. Higher and vocational technical education is starting to gradually respond to economic conditions and labor market requirements.
219. The non-state education sector is expanding. Currently, the sector is represented by 31 private secondary schools educating 3,077 students and 14 HEIs offering education to over 12,000 students.
220. A number of serious issues have emerged in the process of economic adjustment in the education sector.
The system of pre-school education has turned out to be the most vulnerable level. Currently, pre-school education covers only 10 percent of children of appropriate age. Such a low level reduces children’s preparedness for school and indicates lack of access to pre-school education for the majority of the population. The hope that the requirements at the pre-school level would be covered by the private sector has not been realized. Private pre-school institutions are few, and systematic management has not take root.
Another serious issue of the transition period has been accessibility of secondary education. While the general level of secondary education coverage has remained quite high, the Republic has not been able to ensure that all school-aged children and adolescents have access to secondary education; in the academic year 2001-2002, there were 2,512 out-of-school children (0.22 percent of the total number of children attending schools). A number of studies carried out by UNESCO, UNICEF, Save the Children Fund and other agencies indicate that the number of out-of-school children is in fact much higher, because the figure indicated above does not take into account the “hidden dropout” rate (long-term non-attendance of school by children). This is especially characteristic for low-income families that are not able to provide their children with books, school appliances, uniforms, and other educational necessities and to help the child with education by creating a favorable family and school environment.
The decline in the level of education negatively affects the country’s development and efforts to reduce poverty. The newly introduced curricula have raised several more issues, namely, the excessive educational load on children, inconsistency between the standards set and the curricula, and the inadequate supply of modern textbooks for the new approaches. The textbooks, training manuals and other teaching materials have not been renewed for a long time. The increased demand for alternative textbooks has not been satisfied. Technical facilities at pre-school and secondary educational institutions have significantly deteriorated.
Market reforms have significantly changed the rural schools that account for over 80 percent of all schools of the Republic. As a result of reforms, rural schools have been made the responsibility of regional authorities. Regional budgets, in many cases, have turned out to be incapable of bearing the load of maintaining educational institutions. Therefore, a share of financing education has been transferred to the families of school children, and this has seriously affected poor families and reduced accessibility of quality education for children from poor families. The growing spread between the rich and the poor have increased the gap in the quality of education between students from rural and urban schools. The inadequate remuneration of teachers and low social prestige of the pedagogical occupation have reduced the supply of teaching staff, which has seriously affected the quality of secondary education in particular.
The problems of quality in higher education require urgent attention. Licensing, accreditations and attestation of HEIs have not been fully instituted. Receipt of higher or secondary vocational education does not guarantee later employment to the graduates. The number of unemployed HEI graduates rises every year. They numbered 15,100 people in the year 2000, increasing 17,900 in 2001. These figures indicate that the educational system is still unresponsive to changes in the labor market. With the adoption of market principles and transition of HEIs to contract forms of financing, there has appeared a possibility that some youth will be excluded from higher education due to the high tuition fees. To address this, new principles of admitting students to higher and secondary special educational institutions, as well as provisions of educational grants are being tested. The problems of aging pedagogical staff and the low innovative potential of working teachers affect quality of education and require attention. Systems of life-long education and qualification upgrading of adults are yet to be developed.
221. Funding of the education sector from the state budget has declined from 6.1 percent GDP in 1991 to 4.2 percent of GDP in 2001. Such a drop in state funding had serious negative implications for the budgets of educational institutions.
222. Management in the education system is built on a functional principle. The reforms have cut down the number of regional subdivisions and altered the responsibilities of the central ministry. The new approaches to education require adjustment of education goals as well as improvement of teaching methods. Unfortunately, inadequate remuneration levels limit the attraction of the educational sector to qualified and progressive professionals, foster high turn over of staff and deficiency of the qualified professional staff. The availability of teacher trainers at all levels of the new approaches to education as well as in information and management technologies is another serious problem in the sector.
Inefficient distribution of allocated state funds creates an environment conducive to corruption. Diversification of educational programs and educational institutions has raised the issue of defining education quality. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the educational process and relevant adjustment of educational programs are vital needs of the present period. Decentralization of management without effective control on the part of the central ministry has led to the deterioration of education in rural areas. Management communication between the central and regional levels has declined. Weak marketing has led to a supply and demand imbalance in the labor market, and has been an indirect factor in increased unemployment.
223. The goal in the education sector has been identified as maintaining a high educational level in society through improved accessibility and quality of education.
224. Development of mechanisms and ways for successful solution of the problems is the foundation of the education sector reform policy for the period of 2003-2005. Stabilization strategy in the educational sphere is directed at ensuring that the constitutional rights of all citizens to access and equal opportunity in the receipt of quality education on all levels are met and that the educational needs of a developing individual are provided for.
The following measures are envisaged in the education sector in order to strengthen the reform achievements:
· Strengthen the legal framework of education to ensure equal educational opportunities for all categories of the population.
· Restore and develop the network of pre-school institutions by the attracting state, municipal and alternative funds.
· Create equal opportunities for both genders and for children with special needs.
· Improve the system of teacher training and qualification upgrading.
· Improve curricula and educational programs, reduce the educational load on students, develop an educational environment favorable for the child.
· Improve evaluation and quality control mechanisms.
· Ensure financial transparency on all levels of education.
· Apply program budgeting to the education sector.
· Elaborate mechanisms for state financial support of students through targeted allocation of grant assistance in the system of higher education.
· Support the rural school infrastructure.
· Improve management and administration in the education sector.
225. Mechanisms for the implementing the stabilization strategy include:
· Develop and adopt the new Law on Education, model laws at all levels of education, the Law on Education of People with Limited Capabilities, Law on Out-of-School Education, and the Law on Adult Education.
· Improve the social partnership in educational matters between the private and not-for-profit sectors.
· Strengthen cooperation with international and donor agencies in the development of educational programs.
· Carry out regular local public hearings about the condition of education, and establish financial reporting on educational activities, with the involvement of the general public, NGOs and private businesses.
226. The education sector development strategy is directed at ensuring high quality educational services and modern standards. It is necessary to train new, highly professional staff, for the education sector, professionals who will foster economic recovery of the country and ensure sustainable human development.
227. The future policy measures in the education sector will focus on:
In pre-school education:
· Maintaining the network of state pre-school institutions, and development of alternative forms of pre-school education through greater involvement of parents, local communities, social partners, sponsors, and international organizations.
· Improving state standards of pre-school education.
· Increasing coverage of children with pre-school education.
In general secondary education:
· Ensuring accessibility of basic education through targeted support of children from socially disadvantaged families through public education support funds as well as attraction of local community and sponsors’ funds.
· Expanding inclusive education through the establishment of alternative secondary educational institutions; ensuring admission of children with special needs to general schools.
· Developing infrastructure and support of children in rural schools.
· Improving state educational standards with greater orientation on abilities and skills.
· Creating an educational environment that is favorable to the development of the individual.
· Introducing a national test that will replace the school graduation exams and HEI entrance exams.
· Transition to a 12-year school program within the funding allocated for secondary education; attraction of funds from international agencies.
In higher education:
· Quality training with consideration of labor market requirements.
· Introducing accreditation, improvement of licensing and attestation.
· Integrating into the global educational environment through the expansion of international links and agreements.
· Ensuring accessibility of higher education through grant assistance to students from poor families, setting quotas for budget funding of graduates from rural schools.
· Creating an adequate legal environment for development of the education system and the export of educational services.
· Introducing a 12-year school program.
· Constant monitoring and evaluation of education quality with involvement of NGOs and international agencies.
· Ensuring transparency of the financial system through establishment of councils of trustees and financial committees.
· Strengthening quality guarantee mechanisms through the introduction of unified national testing, establishing independent testing organizations
· Developing all forms of funding, encouraging donations and sponsorships.
· Developing and improving the research base of HEIs and the creating new scientific research centers, and laboratories that meet international standards.
· Improving telecommunication technologies, developing and introducing distance education.
228. Consistent policy of education sector reforms will help to:
· Ensure accessibility of quality education to all categories of the population.
· Bring the education system into compliance with the world standards.
· Change education contents and technologies for sustainable human development.
· Achieve quality changes in the training and professional activities of teachers.
· Reduce functional ignorance of the adult population.
· Raise the quality of life through improvement of education quality.