The School of the Fu­ture. What Is It Like?

Uzbekistan Today (English) - - FRONT PAGE - Oleg Gro­mov

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.

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