Education systems in many countries of the former Soviet Union have suffered from poor economic conditions and funding shortages. There have been numerous calls for the OSCE and other organizations to become more closely involved with the reform of education systems and to address some of their most blatant shortcomings. The OSCE Academy in Bishkek is one concrete example of how the Organization is addressing the issue.
The OSCE Academy
Set up in December 2002, the OSCE Academy in Bishkek is a unique institution in Central Asia, focusing on regional security issues and taking a comprehensive approach. Annette Krämer, Academic Co-Director, says that the school aims to become a regional centre of excellence for training, research and dialogue.
"Its goal is to contribute to the improvement of security-related regional and international expertise and boost co-operation on, as well as in Central Asia," she says.
Earlier this year, the Academy launched its Master of Political Science (Central Asia) post-graduate programme, which focuses on regional and international security, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. The first 25 students from Central Asia, Italy and the UK were chosen out of 320 applicants and began their studies in February 2004.
"The OSCE programme is a perfect opportunity to find out about the problems and concerns of the other Central Asian Republics," says one recently-enrolled student. "The media in Central Asian is not always reliable."
The Academy’s goals
This year, the Academy will also launch a number of training programmes for young professionals and researchers on topics relevant to Central Asian security. "The main motivation for participants in these programmes is to learn about neighbouring countries,” said Gerhard Schaumberger, an expert at the OSCE Academy. “Although a regional approach focusing on dialogue is challenging in many ways, it is a worthwhile effort."
One of the core missions of the institution is to foster the exchange of information among Central Asian academic and research institutions, and their international partner organizations. Through its activities and close contacts with other academic institutions, the Academy is already playing a key role in bringing together academics and researchers from Central Asia and beyond.
OSCE co-operation with the Academy
Given the constant need of qualified specialists who can contribute to the democratic and economic transition of Central Asian countries and to regional co-operation, the Academy plays an important role in laying the foundations for a stable and prosperous future. However, it needs the continuing support of OSCE participating States and field offices, as well as academic institutions from inside and outside Central Asia, to reach its objectives.
In return, it is hoped that the Academy will provide a great deal of insight for future education initiatives of the OSCE and other organizations. The OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office this year, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, underlined this last point during his visit to the Academy on 7 April 2004. He hoped that the Academy would help focus efforts to boost regional co-operation.
Year of education initiatives
The Chairman-in-Office said he was pleased that education in general is given a high priority by Kyrgyzstan, the Academy’s host country. “Education is also very high on the Chairmanship’s agenda,” he said.
The OSCE has organized a range of activities on education this year, including a seminar on professional skills in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on 29 and 30 March 2004. The seminar met with strong interest from the academic and non-governmental organizations across the OSCE area, as well as from international organizations involved in education.
A conference on education in Central Asia was also held at the ministerial level in Tashkent. It brought together a variety of interested parties to discuss achievements of the Central Asian States, to foster increased co-operation with all actors, and to take stock of ongoing support by international organizations.
Investing in education will also be addressed by the twelfth OSCE Economic Forum in Prague, 31 May to 4 June 2004. This year’s Forum will look closely at the professional skills required for successful economic transition.
OSCE Center in Bishkek, May 18, 2004