The School of the Future. What Is It Like?
The concept for the development of general secondary education through to 2030 and the roadmap for the cardinal improvement of the public education system for 2018-2021 are under elaboration in Uzbekistan. Aziz Abduhakimov, deputy prime minister of the country, told in an interview to the correspondent of Uzbekistan Today about the tasks to be addressed within the framework of these programs.
- Recently, the media has been actively discussing the problem of the low level of prestige of the teacher’s profession. Do you agree with what they say in these publications and what measures are planned to undertake in order to restore the former eminence of this noble profession?
- I agree with many opinions. At the same time, I would like to stress that much is being done to correct the current situation. Measures are being taken to prevent the engagement of educators in non-professional activities, in particular, public, landscaping, agricultural works, and cotton harvesting. Everyone must do their job. The teacher’s task is to give children knowledge and education. Much has been done to eradicate the vicious practice of compulsory subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, as well as forced deductions from teachers’ and employees’ salaries for utility payments, tickets and the like. In the near future, it is necessary to achieve a complete ban on this.
There are many problems that still await their solution. One of the painful topics is non-competitive, non-market wage level. The average monthly salary in the sphere of public education is 1,230.6 thousand soums, which is 20% lower than the average monthly wage throughout the country! At the same time, teachers are overwhelmed with work, from which they can and should be released. First of all, we are talking about the consequences of bureaucracy, paper red tape. We will pay close attention to resolving these issues in the near future.
Another big problem is the unreasonable interference of outside organizations in the educational process. During the 2017-2018 academic year, more than 200,000 inspections were carried out at various schools of the nation. At the same time, most of these interventions could be painlessly abandoned in schools. No need to distract from the direct responsibilities of either teachers or the school administration, and this will have a positive impact on the quality of education. We intend to exclude the conduct of inspections without coordination with the Ministry of Public Education, as well as the prohibition for three years of the application of financial penalties to employees of educational institutions for newly discovered violations. At the same time, we propose to entrust the inspecting bodies and hokimiyats to render every assistance in eliminating and preventing such violations in the future.
The structure of the Ministry of Public Education will have special units for the protection of the rights and interests of teachers. One of them will be the Service of the Minister for Control, as well as ensuring the protection of the rights and interests of employees. It will be given functions on internal and external supervision, protection of rights, honor and dignity of workers of public education. It is planned to create a call center (hot line) within the Ministry, whereby teachers can notify about possible violations of their rights, as a result of which effective measures will be taken against persons who infringe on their rights and freedoms. We will open the Media Center with the Ministry to boost educational activities in the media to create a positive image of the teacher and an educated person in society.
- We must admit that students feel not always comfortable. What problems are priority for the solution in this direction?
- Due attention should be paid to the fact that the coefficient of school occupancy exceeds the existing capacity by more than 1.5 times.
Priority is given to the low level of knowledge of secondary school graduates. This is the result of the lack of support for the individuality of students. There is a low level of work with children with special needs, including the inadequate development of inclusive education and work with gifted children. It is an effect of excessive training load per student. Weekly school load of pupils of schools in Uzbekistan is more than 35 hours. For comparison: in advanced countries in the field of education like Germany, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Poland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, this figure is 30- 32 hours. Among the objective reasons for the problem that has arisen is the lack and low quality of the content of educational, enlightenment, methodological and teachingdidactic materials.
Currently, the public education system of the country has more than 11 thousand vacancies and more than 66 thousand teachers without higher education. It is necessary to raise the level of qualification of teaching staff. It is necessary to develop a set of measures to enhance the status of teaching activities and attract highly qualified personnel to the system of general secondary education.
- Let’s dream a little. It is necessary not only to eliminate all the accumulated problems, but to go forward. How do you imagine school education in Uzbekistan following the implementation of these programs?
- I think we will be able to implement all the plans, all those plans that have been repeatedly discussed at the meetings chaired by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
It’s no secret that today, the students receive most of the information from the internet and the media, the role of the teacher as a knowledge center is reduced, so the latter should become the organizer of the educational process, which will guide the students, encourage the formation of their own opinion through independent search and analysis of information.
We finish the transition to a competent approach in education. The key competencies that the student must have at each stage of the educational process will be clearly defined. STEAM- directions ( science, technology, engineering sciences, art and mathematics) will be introduced into the learning process. Classes for schoolchildren will be held in training laboratories, using modern electronic training programs. They will have modern textbooks developed and published with the participation of leading foreign experts in the field of preparing and publishing textbooks for children.
We will be able to reverse the problem of learning languages and learning in other languages. Over the past 10 years, the number of specialized schools in the German language has decreased from 16 to 4, in French - from 14 to 3. At the same time, the number of teachers in general schools in the German language has decreased from 4,500 to 3,000, and teachers of French, respectively, from 3 thousand to 2 thousand. Also, due to a sharp increase in demand from parents for schools with the Russian language of instruction, there is an acute shortage of teaching staff with the Russian language of instruction. Today, the total number of graduates of higher education institutions in these areas does not cover even half of the existing need, especially in primary education, the need is almost three times as much as the number of graduates.
We must pass the process of harmonization of higher and secondary education, in accordance with international standards and the requirements of the Bologna Process.
And one more very important point. We must ensure that school education develops in close integration with preschool, vocational and higher education.
We will develop and implement the program “Safe School”. Its main goal will be the prevention of violations in schools.
A new qualification system for teachers will be working. Centers of improvement of professional skill of workers of public education will return to the system of the Ministry of Public Education. This will facilitate accelerated retraining and advanced training of teachers, ensuring close interaction between pedagogical science and practice. In place of a five- step system, a three- level system of teacher qualification will be introduced. We will introduce a system of certification of teachers.
- You mentioned the problem of implementing information and communication technologies. For the last ten years, the Ministry of Public Education has talked about the most diverse projects to introduce IT technologies into the educational process. However, judging by everything, most of these projects remained either on paper or at the experimental stage. What is planned to change in this direction?
- The government is determined to fully implement ICT. For this purpose, it plans to create an agency for the development and implementation of ICT in the public education system, and all opportunities for public- private partnership will be used.
All schools will be gradually connected to the broadband internet ( at least 10 Mb / s) and equipped with modern computer equipment. To date, only 72% of schools have computer classes, of which only 37.2% have modern equipment and only 7% use the internet.
An educational management system ( EMIS) and a unified database of schools, teachers and staff, as well as pupils and parents will be introduced. The electronic system of admission of students to school, transfer from one school to another and provision of other electronic services will work. In the electronic format we will translate the control of attendance and progress. Electronic journals, diaries and a report card will help to save teachers from unnecessary reports. Today they spend on them up to 4 hours a day.
We will introduce a system for identifying students in schools ( ID- card, NFC label and others) with the possibility of integration with banking and other systems ( medical, law enforcement). In addition, it will allow the student, if necessary, to easily call for help from parents or representatives of relevant services.
It is planned to introduce a financial management system in the field of public education ( FMS), which will ensure transparency in financial management and bolster the role of supervisory boards of schools.
- To implement these plans the government needs a strong Ministry of Public Education. Will it be able to achieve the objectives? Will it change?
- With the appointment of a new chief in the ministry, great changes have already begun. There formed a new team capable of reforming the school education, taking into account the requirements of today. At the same time the renewal awaits the whole system of management and financing of school education. Let’s dwell on some of the issues.
The structure of the central apparatus and the system of Ministry of Public Education is to be reviewed. We need to create a structure focused on effective reform implementation, with the right to the Minister of Public Education to make changes to the whole system of the Ministry of Education without coordination with the Ministry of Finance and local authorities or other third parties.
It is planned to provide the Ministry of Public Education with the right to make decisions on all aspects of the public education activities, including the approval of state educational standards, of curricula, of the incentive system for employees, the management of the selection system, training and retraining of staff, and the independent formation of expenditures necessary to fund the public education system.
It is proposed to abolish the mandatory requirement on school principals for the availability of pedagogical education. In schools, corporate management will be introduced, taking into account the division of responsibilities between the director ( manager) and his deputies ( teaching and upbringing activities), the introduction of a certification system for school directors and upgrading their skills under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Education. This will attract effective managers to schools.
It is planned to organize supervisory boards of schools from among active parents, successful school graduates who will have the right to elect directors on the recommendation of the Ministry, approve the school development strategy and monitor the budgetary and extra- budgetary funds of educational institutions.
It is necessary to create engineering companies to develop technical specifications for project documentation and monitoring the quality of construction projects in the field of public education. Over 60% of schools require major repairs! At the same time, the responsibility for the construction, as before, will lie with local authorities.
We are to create a “school of the future”, which provides transparent doors and walls, smart, computerized and technological classes, laboratories, canteens that meet all sanitary requirements, sports facilities, video cameras, single school desks. It will serve as an example, which we must achieve in the development of every school in the country, including on the basis of publicprivate partnership.
We will also improve the system of funding the public education. It is intended to transfer the financial management in the system of general secondary education to the Ministry of Public Education, including the formation of the School Development Fund under the Ministry of Public Education, at the expense of part of the funds from the Extrabudgetary Fund for the Development of the Material and Technical Base of Educational and Medical Institutions under the Ministry of Finance.
It is planned to switch to per capita voucher financing, according to the principle “money follows the student”. The system will be implemented based on the results of the pilot project in Mirzo Ulugbek district of Tashkent.
We intend to increase the total amount of funding public education when planning budget expenditures. In recent years, the share of spending on public education in GDP, unfortunately, has decreased from 4.1% to 3.8%. Average per student in Uzbekistan is 2.6 times less than in Kazakhstan and 6.7 times less than in the Russian Federation, 73 times less than in Switzerland.
Within the Ministry of Public Education, the Fund for Assistance to Reforms in the System of General Secondary Education will start its work to attract highly qualified specialists, including compatriots living abroad.
It is planned to diversify sources of financing, stimulate public- private partnerships ( PPPs), develop market mechanisms ( now 0.6% of private schools of the total), including the possible inclusion of private ( non- elite) schools in per capita financing. Schools will be able to earn their own by renting temporarily vacant premises, providing additional educational services. These funds will be used to bolster the material and technical base of schools.
It is also important to optimize the network of educational institutions, based on general settlement schemes and long- term demographic projections.
- Thank you for the detailed conversation. All the best in your endeavors.