|The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports|
Part III Prospects
The analysis presented in Part II describes a system that has been confronted by many challenges during the decade of the 1990s, challenges that have eroded to a certain extent, the participation rates of children in early childhood and primary education. Through deliberate government action, the situation has stabilised. Within the context of an improved economic outlook, the Ministry of Education together with other Government structures is examining the current state of education to identify what changes are required for the future. This part describes the changed economic and social circumstances that acted as a catalyst for educational reform and outlines the nature of the proposed changes.
The Need for Change
Azerbaijan is one of several Republics who have recently gained independence from the former Soviet Union. During the period of Soviet domination, Azerbaijan had a centrally planned economy, its industrial base was geared to the needs of the Soviet Union and education was dominated by a teacher-centered pedagogy and a curriculum largely filled by Soviet content. Since independence in 1991, the economy of Azerbaijan has been in crisis with gross industrial output falling by 20% per year during 1992 to 1995. Thus, the end of the decade sees a new economic and social context in Azerbaijan. The country is in transition from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented economy, a new industrial base is developing, and the information age is bringing new demands to the workplace. All of these factors imply a need for a new type of education, one that is relevant to the needs of the new emerging Azerbaijan.
Preparation for Reform
Since 1998, preparations have been underway for a reform of education. To support these reforms a series of three inter-related documents have been prepared for Government and Presidential approval. These three documents are the:
The Conception of Education document provides a framework for education within the overall context of fundamental changes in the social, economic, political and government structures of the Republic. This document stresses that education should be free of any totalitarian processes and should be open to scrutiny. It stipulates that education should be based upon the principles of democratisation, humanisation, and individual needs, in order that the main mission of education is to form each students own personality through a process of student-centered learning. This document also stresses the importance of a fully integrated education system of high quality so that those advances in research from the scientific and pedagogical community can be applied for the direct benefit of teachers and students. At the same time, it is necessary for education to be closely linked to the establishment of a democratic civil society, to improvement of science and culture, and to modernization of the industrial and economic system thus leading to stable economic growth. A fundamental tenet of this document is the reversal of management style from a model of state social-management to one of social state-management. All of these changes will require the development of a new economic model for the education system in order to strengthen its resource base and to improve cost efficiency and effectiveness.
The revisions to the Education Law of 1992 were necessary since the original law was drafted before the promulgation of the Constitution in 1995. In addition, the experience from 1992 until 1998 highlighted some shortcomings of the law and difficulties in implementation of some of its policies. For example, the original 1992 Education Law stipulated 9 years as the duration of compulsory education whereas the 1995 Constitution nominated 11 years as the compulsory period.
A major function of the Education Law of 1992 was to establish normative guidelines for the material development of the system. However, the economic situation of the early 1990s was such that many of these norms were simply not possible. For example, the maximum class-size, teachers hours of lessons per week, teacher salaries, school maintenance schedules, etc were found to be simply unrealistic. The revisions to the Education Law correct these deficiencies and present a realistic set of goals and targets.
The revisions to the Education Law represent an important step in the development of education in Azerbaijan and in recognition of this; the government instituted a period for public debate and submissions between the first and second readings of the Law in the National Assembly.
The final document is the Education Sector Reform Program and this defines the mechanism of implementation of the changes described in the first two documents. The reform project is to be implemented in three phases. Phase I has commenced and is due for completion by the end of 1999. This is the preparatory phase in which the legislative, economic and information basis of the new system will be identified and described. The second phase will continue from the year 2000 until 2003 and will focus on short-term perspectives that facilitate the implementation of the reform. Phase 3 will continue the implementation of all activities contained within the overall reform program.
Implementation of this reform program is being assisted by the use of a US$5 million credit from the World Bank.
Content of the Reform
Given the fundamental changes that have occurred in Azerbaijan since 1990, the reform process is required across the entire education system. However, this report will focus on reforms that have an impact on primary education and EFA.
The types of institutions serving education have not changed since the Soviet era and linkages between schools and the labor market are weak or non-existent. The number of early childhood development institutions must be planned in accordance with the changing demography. The impact of the Armenian aggression and ongoing tension has created special problems and there is a need for the establishment of special rehabilitation centers for children suffering the psychological effects from this aggression. There is also a need for a new type of institution to cater for those students with disabilities. In general education, there is a need for the establishment of a non-state sector to supplement public education and also to provide a place for religious educational institutions in post-secondary education.
To improve the overall quality of the education structure, an Education Academy of the Republic of Azerbaijan will be established and an Education Management Training Centre will be implemented to provide in-service training for managers so that modern management principles and functions can be implemented at all levels of education.
In the third phase, specialised schools will be established that have a focus on high technology and a new type of institution will be developed for development of gifted children. In addition, a special Scientific Research Centre will be established to facilitate the early identification of gifted children.
Content of Curriculum and Textbooks
A number of fundamental changes took place in the content of the curriculum of primary school after Azerbaijan gained its independence. These changes are mainly connected with consolidation of students' sense of citizenship and patriotism. At the same time, allocation of hours with the consideration of students' interests and aptitude was a significant measure directed to the content of primary education.
At present the content of education in primary schools of Azerbaijan is being constructed in accordance with the state standards of general education which were approved by the government of the Republic in April 1999, the curricula and syllabuses, textbooks are being elaborated and improved in accordance with these standards.
The first phase of the reform program will translate the new educational standards defined by the Education Law into a new basic curriculum and an integrated education program. An important area for revision is the incorporation into the curricula of a thorough teaching of national history, culture, traditions and love of country. Special training programs will be developed for managers who will then work with children and youth organizations. Subjects in humanities and sciences will be organised into integrated curricula and a computerization program will be developed that will allow the introduction of technology and multi-media into the education system.
In phase II, a syllabus will be developed that provides greater flexibility in order that students will have some choices in what they study. This will allow education to satisfy the personal needs of students in addition to meeting the objectives of both society and the state. A program will also be developed for participation of gifted children in organised competitions and Olympiads, both within the Republic and internationally. The examination system will also be reformed so that student evaluation is both simplified and made more equitable. To provide a boost in implementing reforms, a series of exemplary programs will be developed: - 30 programs for early childhood education and 50 interest courses for general education.
Phase III will strengthen the content of education by improving the education management information system through the introduction of technology, by engaging researchers to carry out research in the fields of pedagogy and psychology and through the introduction of an integrated system of supervision for quality improvements.
Provision of Personnel
In the past, the emphasis in teacher training institutions has been on theoretical content rather than practical aspects and content knowledge was seen as more important than teaching skills. In addition, teachers have little understanding concerning the relationships between education and the market economy; for example the skills and knowledge required to produce middle and small enterprises, and the competitive nature of the mixed economy. At a broader level, there is as yet no information concerning future labour market requirements.
Phase 1 will establish mechanisms to organise in-service training of educational personnel as well as to update pre-service training programs. This also includes special training programs for senior staff of institutions and organizations within the system. A new mechanism for staffing of schools and other institutions in the education sector is also to be developed together with revisions to the evaluation and promotion systems for pedagogical staff. Formal statutes will support these new systems.
Phase II will establish a scientific basis, operating on international standards, for forecasting of labor-resource demands and translation of these into educational strategies. Phase II will also implement the new mechanisms for in-service training of teachers at all levels through the establishment of specific institutes for this task. This in-service training will include distance education methodologies so as to allow retraining of district staff with minimal disruption to teaching schedules. This phase will also develop mechanisms for facilitating the introduction of a model of education where the student is at the centre of the process with appropriate revisions to teachers behavior and attitudes.
Phase III will focus on improving the professionalism, flexibility and competitiveness in the training of educational personnel while at the same time improving the quality of training programs using both the new curricula and advanced pedagogy that are developed as part of the reform program.
The Republic of Azerbaijan has a limited capacity for publishing of materials, including education-related materials. A major problem has been the transfer to the Latin alphabet and producing adequate educational materials using this alphabet. Furthermore, there is limited access by teachers and students to non-school information databases such as public libraries, museums, and international data banks. Needless to say, there is virtually no use of the new information technologies, (for example the Internet and the World Wide Web) in schools or teacher training institutions.
Phase I will develop a database of advanced experiences related to information sources and publishing, from both inside and outside of the Republic. This database would be the responsibility of a special analytical Information Centre that will be established. A program for the introduction of computer technology to the information base for education will also be developed and a program instituted for publication of textbooks and other materials on a competitive market basis.
Phase II will establish an appropriate network for distribution of textbooks and other methodological materials throughout the education sector. All materials would be based on the Latin alphabet. This will also involve production and distribution of textbooks prepared in minority languages. An automated technology-based system will be introduced to unify information contained in the various research and public libraries of the Republic. Exemplary materials for subjects included in the core curriculum will be developed and distributed, and alternative textbooks will be produced and distributed on a competitive market basis. Underlying all of this work will be a research basis that takes into account the specific characteristics of the national people; that is, international practice will not be simply adopted but changed according to national needs.
Phase III will provide a methodological and scientific basis for developing strategic directions for future provision of educational information. Included in this process will be the establishment of a telecommunications mass media channel (television and radio) and publication of regular journals related to pedagogy, psychology and education problems aimed at researchers, teachers and young workers. Phase III will also ensure the de-monopolization of publication of alternative textbooks and other materials developed as part of the exemplary programs.
The dominant model of educational management that has prevailed in Azerbaijan both during and following the Soviet era is that of the "administrative order" principle. Under this model, personnel waited upon the order or direction from the very top levels of management and until such an order or direction was received, no action or decision was taken. This highly centralised model of educational management reinforces the traditional model of teaching where the student is the passive receiver of information from above and conforms to the principles of a centrally controlled economy. There is a need to reform educational management to improve efficiency and effectiveness through aligning it with the principles of decentralization and the requirements of the market economy. This revision of management style in education should be consistent with the overall reform of management in the Republic; a move to a model of social state management where the needs of both the individual and society as a whole are satisfied.
Phase I will focus on the development of a mechanism to distribute power of decision making, to de-monopolise decision making and to decentralise management of education. Such a mechanism needs to ensure that new practices ensure a dynamic system that provides flexibility for teaching and educational processes. The model of decentralization that will be adopted is one where local levels have independence in the allocation of non-salary budgets. Schools will also be able to establish local accounts for funding received from other sources. However, the salary budget will continue to be allocated through the Ministry of Finance and its District Finance Offices.
One component of this new system will be the establishment of a single state system for licensing, evaluation and accreditation of teachers. In addition, appropriate norms will be developed and published to be used for the evaluation of senior managerial staff of all levels. A further innovation will be the development of a process whereby experts and public representatives are involved in regular appraisals of educational institutions.
This new model of educational management developed under Phase I will be introduced over Phase II. In addition, Phase II will examine international education systems with a view to integrating management processes in Azerbaijan in line with international practices. A significant component of Phase II will be the establishment of a unified monitoring mechanism for the private sector. This mechanism will ensure that activities and practices of the private sector conform to the norms and educational principles determined by the Constitution, the Education Law and the philosophy of the Education Reform Project.
Phase III will organise and implement social control over the performance of the education system, using norms and legal standards developed, with the participation of society members outside of the education sphere as part of the reform process. This will enable the introduction of a public supervision system for the execution of regulatory and legal acts within the education system. Furthermore, at all levels of management the participation of senior-year pupils, community members, founders of education and representatives from other enterprises will be facilitated and encouraged. A mechanism will also be developed to introduce autonomy into higher education institutions. The overall aim of these reforms is to de-monopolise educational management and to create a management system that provides dynamic and flexible development leading to quality education.
There is an urgent need for improvement of existing infrastructure and the provision of new facilities. The Armenian military aggression had disastrous effects on education, as it did in all spheres of life. Some 20% of Azerbaijan territory were occupied as a result of this military aggression with the consequence that even in 1999 some 1 million of the total population are considered to be refugees or internally displaced persons. The destruction and loss of school facilities was considerable and the effects are still in evidence: a lack of appropriate buildings for classes, many temporary sites, no repairs or maintenance to existing facilities, a shortage of textbooks, and a lack of specialised laboratories, computers, training materials, etc.
Phase I will focus on preparing norms and regulations that will ensure quality and safety in all infrastructure developments. To this end, norms will be developed for construction, health, medical, sanitary and hygiene services. In addition, a list of necessary equipment, visual aids, etc. will be produced for all levels of education.
Phase II will see the beginning of the program of construction and renovation of buildings used for education purposes. A centralised inventory of equipment, facilities, and capital funds will be developed for the additional purpose of forecasting future requirements. Phase II will also see the introduction of the new mechanism for producing educational learning materials, visual aids, etc. During this phase, special attention will be paid to specific needs with respect to learning materials, such as those relating to regional features and those that are not yet produced within the Republic. It is also hoped that during this period of time, a program can be implemented for the reconstruction of facilities and provision of teaching programs in the occupied territory of Nagorny-Karabakh. In anticipation of an appropriate settlement to the conflict caused by the Armenian military aggression, the Education Sector Reform Project sees the incorporation of this planning as an important aspect of the overall development of education in Azerbaijan.
The continuing improvement of infrastructure will continue during Phase III with the goal of having facilities and learning materials that meet the requirements of the modern information age in place and in use.
An outdated centralised socialist approach to educational financing continues to be applied in Azerbaijan. This means that education is financed according to total government outlays, rather than applying a cost-recovery for services provided model. In addition, non-state financial resources are difficult to attract since there are no financial benefits to providers of such funding. Changes to the financial base of education should be aimed at securing a long-term stable base for educational development and this is more likely to be realised if the education economy is rebuilt on a corporate basis.
Phase I will be concerned with the determination of norms required for the transition to a new economic model and to identify the changes required to move to a system of "per capita" financing in early childhood development programs and general education. Involved in this process will be the identification of a mechanism that will allow schools to become both independent financing entities within the treasury systems, and to have greater control and independence in the allocation of their local budgets. To encourage the private sector, a set of recommendations will be developed that will enable incomes related to educational enterprises to have exemption from taxation and obligatory governmental deductions. In addition, a proposal will be developed to establish a joint education-commercial bank and an Education Development Fund.
Phase II will implement processes developed during phase I. Tax incentives for non-state stakeholders will be implemented while at the same time a social protection system for education participants will be introduced. An educational credit system will be gradually introduced in order to increase budgetary resources available to education. To improve the efficiency of the overall system, recommendations will be identified to make more rational and effective use of property belonging to the educational system. Local executive powers will be allowed to allot additional financing to educational entities in addition to regular budgetary financing. During this phase, development of a model that provides greater autonomy to educational institutions will take place.
Phase III will see the establishment of the joint education-commercial bank ("Tahsil") and the introduction of the new organizational funding model. At this time, an innovation fund will also be established to provide funding for the future development of the education sector. In addition, a fund will be established that will support continued renewal of facilities and equipment.