The official literacy rate in Uzbekistan is 99 percent. However, in the post-Soviet era educational standards have fallen. Funding and training have not been sufficient to effectively educate the expanding younger cohorts of the population. Between 1992 and 2004, government spending on education dropped from 12 percent to 6.3 percent of gross domestic product. In 2006 education’s share of the budget increased to 8.1 percent. Lack of budgetary support has been more noticeable at the primary and secondary levels, as the government has continued to subsidize university students. However, bribes often are necessary to ensure success and advancement in universities. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 99.6 percent; male: 99.7 percent; female: 99.5 percent (2015 est.). The literacy rate was 97 percent in 1989 when Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union. School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 12 years; male: 12 years; female: 11 years (2011). Education expenditures: NA. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Uzbeks are highly educated. In the 1990s, Uzbekistan was regarded as having the most developed education system in Central Asia. Karimov initially placed more emphasis on education than other Central Asian leaders.

The Program to restructure Soviet-era system hampered by low budget, poor condition of infrastructure, and loss of teachers. In developing a national education system to replace the centralized education prescriptions of Moscow, Uzbekistan has encountered severe budgeting shortfalls. The education law of 1992 began the process of theoretical reform, but the physical base has deteriorated, and curriculum revision has been slow. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The government continued to limit academic freedom and cultural events. Authorities occasionally required department-head approval for university lectures, and university professors generally practiced self-censorship. Although a decree prohibits cooperation between higher educational institutions and foreign entities without the explicit approval of the government, foreign institutions often were able to obtain such approval through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, especially for foreign-language projects. Some school and university administrations, however, continued to pressure teachers and students to refrain from participating in conferences sponsored by diplomatic missions. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Uzbekistan ,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]

Education System in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan schools still follow the Soviet model. Before the Soviet-era, education was almost exclusively provided by male-only madrasahs (Islamic schools). The Soviets brought mandatary schools for girls and boosted literacy rates, in some cases, from below 10 percent to over 95 percent.

Education is supervised by two national agencies, the Ministry of People's Education (for primary, secondary, and vocational education) and the Ministry of Higher Education (for postsecondary education). In 1993 Uzbekistan had 9,834 preschool centers, most of which were run by state enterprises for the children of their employees. An estimated 35 percent of children ages one to six attend such schools, but few rural areas have access to preschools. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In the early 1990s, enterprises began closing schools or transferring them to direct administration of the Ministry of People's Education. A modest government construction program adds about 50,000 new places annually — a rate that falls far short of demand. Although experts rate most of Uzbekistan's preschools as being in poor condition, the government regards them as contributing vitally to the nutrition and education of children, especially when both parents work, a situation that became increasingly frequent in the 1990s. *

In 1993 an estimated 220,000 students were in vocational training programs, with about 100,000 students graduating annually from 440 schools. Working in close cooperation with local employers, the schools choose from 260 trades to offer instruction conforming with industrial needs. In the post-Soviet era, vocational curricula were modified to accommodate an upsurge in light industry. Experts agree that, as the national economy diversifies and expands, the vocational program must expand its coverage of key industries and streamline its organization, which suffered disorientation in its transition from the rigid Soviet system.

School Life in Uzbekistan

Schools are generally unheated in Uzbekistan, which can get quite cold in the winter, and children often have to wear their coat, hat and mittens in the classroom (but this is often also the case in Japan and South Korea). Teachers are generally poorly paid. Rural children have a hard time finding enough time to do their chores, go to school and finish their homework. Commenting on her visit to Uzbekistan in 1997, Hillary Clinton wrote in Newsweek, "Despite crumbling schools and rising tuition classrooms were filled with exceptionally bright young people."

Eleven years of primary and secondary education are obligatory, starting at age seven. This requirement includes four years of primary school and two cycles of secondary school, lasting five and two years, respectively. The rate of attendance in those grades is high, although the figure is significantly lower in rural areas than in urban centers. Preschool registration has decreased significantly since 1991. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

In 1993, 86 percent of population ages six to sixteen in regular or vocational school. The 1993 enrollment in regular and vocational schools, which covered grades one through eleven (ages six through sixteen), was 4.9 million of the estimated 5.7 million children in that age-group. Because of funding shortages, in 1993 the period of compulsory education was shortened from eleven to nine years. The infrastructure problem of schools is most serious at the primary and secondary levels; the government categorizes 50 percent of school buildings as unsuitable, and repair budgets are inadequate. Construction of new schools has been delayed because the boards of capital construction of the two education ministries do not have direct control over contractor pricing or construction practices at local levels. School nutritional levels often are below state standards; an estimated 50 percent of students do not receive a hot meal. In 1992 about 5,300 of Uzbekistan's 8,500 schools had double shifts; because most of these schools were rural, this situation affected only 25 percent of students, however. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The Progress Center in the remote Aral Sea town of Nukus is an innovative school where students take classes in English and don't sit in rows and listen to lectures but instead sing songs, create their own dramas, watch films, and discuss their feelings. The Progress Center opened with 40 students in the Soviet era and had more than 500 in 2000—all of whom take a regular class load at public schools. Competition is stiff to get it. Only 25 percent of those who apply get in. Parents from Tashkent try to get their kids in. Visitors are welcome but often they are asked to sing a sing or recite a poem for the benefit of the students

Curriculum in Uzbekistan

Personality cult measures have woven their way into Uzbekistan school curriculum. In September 2003, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov’s historical writings became the core of the Uzbek national curriculum. In a survey by the U.S. State Department in 2000, 35 percent of Muslims said schools should provide more religious instruction for children.

In the early 1990s, the greatest controversy in curriculum policy was which language should be used for teaching in state schools. In 1992 Uzbek and the other Central Asian languages were made the official languages of instruction, meaning that Uzbek schools might use any of five Central Asian languages or Russian as their primary language. Uzbek and Russian language courses are taught in all schools. After independence, a new emphasis was placed on courses in Uzbek history and culture and on increasing the short supply of textbooks in Uzbek in many fields. For a time, the Karimov regime closed Samarkand University, which taught in Tajik, as part of a broader crackdown on the country's Tajik minority. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The expansion of curricula, including the addition of courses in French, Arabic, and English, has placed new stress on a limited supply of teachers and materials. In the mid-1990s, a major curriculum reform was underway to support the post-Soviet economic and social transformation. Among the changes identified by Western experts are a more commercial approach to the mathematics curriculum, more emphasis in economics courses on the relationship of capital to labor, more emphasis in social science courses on individual responsibility for the environment, and the addition of entirely new subjects such as business management. Because such changes involve new materials and a new pedagogical approach by staff, the reform period is estimated at ten to fifteen years. *

Education in Uzbekistan

Before the Soviet-era, education was almost exclusively provided by male-only madrasahs (Islamic schools). In a survey by the U.S. State Department in 2000, 35 percent of Muslims said schools should provide more religious instruction for children. In the 1990s, after Uzbekistan independence and the break up of the Soviet Union, madrasahs, often funded by Middle eastern countries, began returning. The government has but restrictions on them and prevented some from opening. Turkish lycees are often the best schools.

Private schools have been forbidden since the establishment of Islamic fundamentalist (Wahhabi) schools in the early 1990s brought a government crackdown. However, in 1999 the government-supported Taskhent Islamic University was founded for the teaching of Islam. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The law allows only those religious groups with a registered central administrative body to train religious personnel. Registration of a central administrative body requires registered religious groups to be present in eight of the 14 administrative units (including Karakalpakstan and Tashkent city). Nine specialized Islamic training schools (including two for women), an Orthodox and a Protestant seminary, as well as the Tashkent Islamic Institute may officially train religious personnel. The government did not permit training of Shia imams inside the country and did not recognize such education received outside the country. [Source: “Uzbekistan: 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom Report”; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State ^]

“The law limits religious instruction to officially sanctioned religious schools and state-approved instructors. The law does not permit private religious instruction and imposes fines for violations. The law also prohibits the teaching of religious subjects in public schools. The law prohibits the wearing of “cult robes” (religious clothing) in public places by all except those serving in religious organizations. ^

“Eleven madrassahs, including two for women, provide secondary education on a full range of secular subjects. The Cabinet of Ministers considers diplomas granted by madrassahs equivalent to other diplomas, enabling graduates of those institutions to continue their education at the university level. In addition, the Islamic Institute and Islamic University in Tashkent provide higher education religion programs, although the Islamic University in Tashkent is a secular institution. There is no other officially sanctioned religious instruction for individuals interested in learning about Islam.” ^

Russian Language and Education Issues in Uzbekistan

Instruction in Russian or local languages has been an issue in Uzbekistan. After the break up of the Soviet Union Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to adopt the Latin alphabet in order to make trade easier and improve relations among themselves and the outside world. Even so use of the Cyrillic alphabet endures. The switching of alphabets has confused students and teachers.

Sebastien Peyrouse of the Woodrow Wilson Institute wrote: “ In Uzbekistan, Russian lost its status as the interethnic language of communication through a language law enacted in December 1995; however, minorities may still express themselves in their native language during administrative procedures. The full transition passage of state agencies to use of the Uzbek language, announced in 1997, was delayed until 2005, the year of the final abandonment of the Cyrillic alphabet in favor of Romanized script and the graduation from public school of the first generation of students educated entirely in Romanized Uzbek. In spite of the complete legal absence of Russian in Uzbekistan, the language remains present in urban environments, even as the entire administrative apparatus is Uzbek speaking. [Source: Sebastien Peyrouse, “Russian Minority in Central Asia: Migration, Politics, and Language”, Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2007 ^^]

Uzbekistan “had only 93 schools that taught entirely in Russian as of 2004. Andijan, the third-largest city in the country, has only one Russophone school. More than 600 schools offer bilingual Russian-Uzbek instruction, or trilingual education in Russian, Uzbek, and Karakalpak, but this number was twice as large in 1992. Half of the Russianspeaking schools are located in or around Tashkent. In the 2004–2005 academic year, only 277,000 students (5.6 percent of all students in the country) studied in Russian, compared to 560,000 (12 percent) in 1993. In both primary and secondary education, the number of hours spent teaching Russian as a foreign language has drastically declined. Moreover, the transition of Uzbek from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet has now made teaching Russian more difficult.”^^

In Uzbekistan universities, “the number of specialty positions in Russian has fallen to the point where such positions now represent no more than onethird or one-quarter of those available in Uzbek. Faculties of Slavic philology have been transformed into departments of foreign language in which Russian is just one language among many others. In addition, the number of students authorized to enter these courses of study declined sharply in the late 1990s (from 525 in 1996 to 245 in 1999, a reduction of 53 percent), even though the volume of requests for Russian-language teachers remained significant in all the rural schools of the republic. The Uzbek authorities also refuse to allow branches of large Russian universities to open, although they did accept satellite institutes of the Russian Academy of Economics, the Moscow State University, and the Gubkin Institute for Oil and Gas Studies in Tashkent.” ^^

Higher Education in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is home to 16 universities and 40 other institutions of higher learning. Higher education is hindered in Uzbekistan by a shortage of laboratories, libraries, computers and data banks, and publishing facilities to disseminate research findings. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

1992 enrollment declined because an entrance examination was used for the first time, Russian emigration continued, and the economy's demand for college graduates fell. Experts predicted that the government would restrict admittance levels until its policies succeed in expanding the economy. *

About 10 percent of the adult population in Central Asia has a university education. Uzbekistan's elite University of World Economy and Diplomacy has classes in economic in English, law in Russian and logic in Uzbek.

Many Uzbeks have studied abroad and returned home to take up careers in business and government . The United States and Malaysia are favorite places for studiers to travel abroad.

Uzbekistan has a tradition of giving university positions to students who pay bribes, There have eeb a number of cases reported in which students with high test scores lost out to students with lower scores who had paid bribes.

Universities in Uzbekistan

Between 1992 and 2001, university attendance dropped from 19 percent of the college-age population to 6.4 percent. The three largest of Uzbekistan’s 63 institutions of higher learning are in Nukus, Samarkand, and Tashkent. All are state-funded. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

Fifty-three institutions of higher learning were active in 1993. In 1992 some 321,700 students were enrolled in institutions of higher learning; of those, about 43 percent were in evening or correspondence courses. The enrollment represented about 19 percent of the seventeen to twenty age-group, a decrease from the more than 23 percent reported in 1990. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Tashkent State University, which had 19,300 students and 1,480 teachers in the 1990s, is the largest university in Central Asia; it has sixteen full departments, including three devoted to philology and one to Asian studies. Some twenty research institutes offer courses in specialized areas of medicine, veterinary science, and industry and technology. Another thirty institutes of higher learning offer postsecondary studies in medicine, agriculture, teaching, engineering, industrial technology, music, theater, economics, law, pharmacy, and political science; seventeen of the latter category are located in Tashkent. *

The University of Central Asia was founded in 2000 by the presidents of the Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Describing as the world’s first internationally chartered private university, it was established with the help of the Aga Khan foundation and is committed to providing secular education for people of all ethnic groups. It has campuses in the capitals of each of the participating countries.

The University of Central Asia, See Tajikistan

The American University-Central Asia has been set up with U.S. government money. In 2004 it had 1,100 students from 27 countries, more than 90 percent of them from Central Asia.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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