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Working Paper - UZBEKISTAN, EDUCATIONAL POLICIES AND GEOPOLITICS

Auteur: 
Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann
Date de publication: 
13/6/2012

Uzbekistan has positioned educational policies at the center of gravity of its modernization process. Educational policies, economic and political modernization and geopolitics are increasingly strongly intertwined strategies in the context of globalization. The globalization process creates many opportunities but also imbalances changing former balance of power between states. Educational policy is not independent from global geopolitical processes.

The focus of the Uzbek government on education as a strategic policy for modernization demonstrate a resolute political will to find a right place for Uzbekistan among nations in the future multipolar world .

The positioning of Uzbekistan is driven by a very ambitious goal: the President of The Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov underlined during the conference that “it is important to take into consideration that for over the span of many centuries the ancient land of Uzbekistan has remained as a seat of enlightenment and science, one of the centers of world civilization, and aspiration to knowledge has always been an alienable part of our nation’s mentality”1.

The International conference on education organized by the Ministry of education of Uzbekistan in February 20122, has underlined the coherence of the Uzbek strategy of Education as a central feature of the Uzbek model of development. Uzbekistan is further strengthening cooperation with educational institutions of foreign countries and this was also the goal of the conference. Educational experts, teachers, member of national parliaments and diplomats of more than 40 countries participated to the conference. Representatives from the United Nation, the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank were also present. The President of Asian Development Bank Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda was one of the initiators of the conference with the Uzbek government.



The visits to schools and universities during the conference organized for participants to meet and observe teachers and students during their learning activities at all educational levels and performance shows in music and art were a central feature of the program to make participants see the reality on the ground and understand the achievements of the “Uzbek model of education”.

Impressive quality of the different levels of Education was an impression largely shared by all participants when visiting the different institutions in an atmosphere of overall vitality of the country, due to an advantageous demography, but also because of a palpable motivating system of education.

Discipline, resolve, motivation, pride, and loyalty were the values the students and professors expressed at all ages. The happiness of very young kids, playing music, dancing, learning and also older students and professors proud to show their skills and methods was a good indicator of the growing success of Uzbek educational strategies. The focus on the incremental development of Infrastructures and use of new technologies are also a valuable asset of the Uzbek model of education. The Uzbek education system is characterized by a 12 years compulsory and free education system. After 12-year compulsory education, everyone can continue study at higher educational institutions and universities to reach bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The world Context: geopolitics of information flows

Mastering the flows of information including knowledge, science, culture, ideas, images, is an instrument of power like financial flows in the globalization context. States but also private actors compete for influence at regional and global level. Educational strategies at all levels are becoming more and more important with nations and alliances of nations competing for society models. As a central element of the geopolitics of flows, educational policies are of special Importance.

Preserving roots

Educational policies, impacting long term economic growth, wealth, development but also cultural awareness, national identity and also internal security, will be increasingly considered as a geopolitical asset. Preserving territorial roots for all national cultures in the context of globalization is also of utmost strategic importance. Educational policies are crucial in this respect. Attracting investment on the national territory, avoiding “brain-drain” of specialists and researchers and master migration of young labor force is a matter of importance for states and nations. Student’s exchanges with other countries and international programs of education are more and more of utmost importance. States should however be able to preserve their sovereignty by keeping a control on the educational contents and adapting new ideas to national needs in the process of building national educational policies.

The necessity of a strong educational policy enters in competition with the objectives of globalist ideologies promoting the privatization and deregulation of national educational policies. The development of “world educational systems” disconnected from national purposes is however a new utopia (which means “without any territorial roots “in old Greek language). Educational policies, schools, Universities are not commercial products but are the buttresses of any state strategy to foster development, future prosperity and national cohesion.

The specific interests of Uzbekistan

Being an influential actor in the geopolitics of flows at world level requires a strong state whose aim is to preserve its strategic role. The Uzbek educational model is anchored in the overall strategy of the “Uzbek model of modernization”. This model promotes international cooperation and student exchanges, compare different world class models, but focusses at the same time on national roots and develops world and national values. It is unique in the world. The focus on education as a central strategy underlines very long-term strategic thinking in a world where short term decisions are two often the norm in many countries.

Because of its geographical location and historical background, a specific Uzbek model for educational policies is adapted to the special needs of the country. Uzbek political actors compare different models, and propose their own educational model in the context of rapid change. The “step by step” approach help to develop a specific Uzbek model of educational policies, instead of copying foreign models of Education policy. The comparison of successes and failures in the world and importing the best practices suited to the country needs is part of a strategic approach for the Uzbek authorities.

The Uzbek educational policy is the most important process to modernize the country and prepare a new generation of well educated citizens especially for the following reasons:

-The Uzbek demography makes education the most important asset for the future of the country. One third of the population (27 millions 488 000 in 2009) 33 % are under 16 years old, 66 % are under 30 years old. With a very dynamic demography, Uzbekistan has a special interest in educating students at all levels and in every regions of the country for future national wealth and internal resilience.

-Imbalanced level of education on the national territory is problematic for spatial planning and an even development of a country characterized by different regional cultures and languages and a diverse geography.

-Its central geographical position in Central Asia, at the intersection of many influences, requires reinforcing the cohesion of the nation, but is also an opportunity to cooperate with other countries.

-The educational policy is in symbiosis with the goal of reinforcing the new nation-state, promoting its independence and prepares its resilience. Humanity values, patriotism, and national traditions are in Uzbekistan an integral part of the objectives of the education system.

-The objective to reach world class levels is a historic legacy of the very ancient scientific traditions.

-Competitiveness in a globalized world requires the mastering of tools of information geopolitics. Human resources programs and ambitious integrated Education cycles are essential to prepare the citizens to the future challenges.

- Selling natural resources are not sufficient to the long term. Diversification of the economy needs a very broad system of education.

-A successful model of Education constitutes essential steps for enhancing internal security and contributes to stability in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan has chosen the right strategy as nations and societies who will survive in the globalization process will be able to combine strong territorial roots, national loyalty, steady innovation and long-life learning.

The national program for training

The Uzbek national program for training is characterized by a large scope of targets with the objective of reforming the education cycle from Kindergarten to University to reach world class levels. The challenge is huge, as the country is only independent since two decades. The challenge was to initiate a radical reform of the system inherited from the Soviet Union and to adapt it to world competition and national interest. It must develop the infrastructures on a large territory characterized by demographic and economic imbalances. The legacy of the Soviet Union system of education is positive for the level of education but was disconnected from local culture and roots.

The annual expenditures for development and reforming the education in Uzbekistan represent 10-12 percent of the GDP and their share in the expenditures of the State budget is more than 35 percent. Since the creation of the national program for training, more than 1500 lyceums and professional colleges have been built showing the pace of infrastructure programs. Sport and art is also an important focus of the national programme. 500 centers of sport facilities for children have been built in recent years.

Branches of international universities have opened in Tashkent: the Westminster University, the Management and Development Institute of Singapore, the Turin Polytechnic University, the Russian State University of Oil and Gas, the Moscow State University and the Russian University of Economic. Since 2012, the National University and the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan and the Cambridge University are establishing the educational and experimental High technologies center

Conclusion: the Uzbek model and Europe

Only nations and countries aware of their historical pasts and determined to preserve the connection with their ancient roots and civilization will be able to survive in the globalization process. Nations have also to be inspired and open to different new technological developments at the global level, be able to foster innovation but preserving a feeling of loyalty from the students for the development of their homeland, but also contributing to the human and world values and heritage.

Each country should develop its own model of education according to its history and geography. Uzbekistan possesses a unique cultural heritage at the crossroads of different civilizations. European nations of ancient heritage like Uzbekistan have both a strategic interest in keeping their roots and making an alliance to stop world culture standardization in the diverse coming world, no unique model prevails anymore.

The Europeans should learn from the Uzbek experience. The ambitious strategy of Uzbekistan to reconnect with its historical Eastern Enlightenment bringing science and culture to world heritage should be taken as a model for inspiration to Europeans who initiated Western Enlightenment in the past and possess also a rich civilization

Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann

Brussels, June 2012

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1 Opening ceremony, 18 February 2012

2 . “international conference, of upbringing of educated and intellectually advanced generations as the most important condition of sustainable development and modernization of the country” on the 16-17 February 2012

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