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Zahid Khan: Successful implementation of Educational Reforms after Independence of Azerbaijan

The advancement of society has instantly relied on the development of education and the accurate assessment of its significance of all times. The demand of the societies has been intensifying the development of education and scientific and technical advancement raised more sophisticated devoir to be solved in front of the education system. The part of education is accelerating in the time when contest in the field of social and economic areas of activity are strengthening and natural coffers are gradually depleted in an information society where the range of globalization is increasing.

Unsurprisingly, the 21st century is declared as the “century of education” by the United Nations Organizations (UNO).

The education system of Azerbaijan has gone through several stages until it reaches to it’s todays case. For approximately thousand years ago, the foundations of education in Azerbaijan were laid down. It is evident from the history of Azerbaijan that education system firstly dawned in III century, B.C and it was VII century that the education system of the country was founded. To touch its present status, the education system of Azerbaijan has passed through three chronological eras, i.e. firstly from 1918 to 1920, secondly from 1920 to 1990 and thirdly from 1991 to present. According to Jafar Jafarov, who served as the Rector of Tourism Institution of Azerbaijan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the countries that got freedom from the rule of soviet union started to find ways through which they can get independence  in all areas of life and to adopt the contemporary world benchmark. For ensuring this independency, one of the most vital task was to get  away of old framework of education, contemporize it to the modern economic and social circumstances and to become part of the advanced worldwide criterion.

But it was not an easy task to be achieved and faced numerous hurdles at the time of independence Azerbaijan enjoyed the advantage in education sector because of it high literacy rates, a society that virtue education, and a strong education system. The policy makers of Azerbaijan constantly illuminated that for newfangled education system that will meet international criterion and will enable graduates to vie effectively in the global market place, there should be a crystal clear national education envisage for reformation of the education . For this purpose major legislation since independence in education has taken place.

Over the last decades, to form the modern structure and governance of the education system, numerous reforms through legislation and presidential efforts have been made in Azerbaijan.

These reforms faced numerous hurdles including the traditionalist and the vested interests of several education institutes. These groups were actually benefitting  from the previous education system.

The 1992 constitution of the republic of Azerbaijan gives the right to education to all citizens and that state will be responsible for free general and secondary education. The education system will be under the control of the state. Furthermore, this constitution banned the intervention of political parties, religious organizations, and sociopolitical societies in education. All the citizens were allowed to get education in their mother tongue despite the fact that the state language was Azeri.

After this, education law of 1992 was passed by the National assembly of Azerbaijan in 1992, through which the education system was decentralized, allowing private sectors to offer education and at the same time changes in content of school curriculum perspectives in the content of the school curriculum were made. The aim was to incorporate market economy perspectives in the content of the school curriculum. But due to economic challenges this aim was not achieved and the deficit were corrected in the revised law of 1995.  

 In the 1995 education law, the role and the authority of ministry of education (MOE) was illuminated. Furthermore, an increase in the duration of the obligatory education was increased to 11 from 9 years. In the year 1998 presidential edict on program of education came into effect. According to this presidential edict, a State Reform Commission (SRC) was founded. After this decree, in another presidential edict on the improvement of education system in the years 2000 came into effect. In this edict efforts were made to reaffirm the implementation of the concept of national education, the right to education, enrich effectiveness in the use of physical infrastructure and human resources, foundation of education problems institute, and assuring the training of teacher.

According to this decree whole education and training institutions with the exception of those under the ministries of interior & defense will be moved to ministry of education (MOE) and all the district education departments will be moved to MOE and from the year 2000 all the funds will be distributed by MOE.

In 2001, “Conception of education” was approved. According to this documents, education system will be opened to scrutiny, should be free from totalitarian processes, and democratic principles will be adopted in the education system. This document emphasized the significance of education to be closely linked to culture and science, contemporize of economic and industrial system, and the establishment of democratic society. In the same year 2001 “Education Sector Reform Program (ESRP) was approved.

According to this program ,  reforms were to be devised in three phases. In the first  phase the legislative, information and economic basis of the new system were to be prepared. In the second phase, there will be focus on the short term perspective that facilities the implementation of the reform.

In the last phase there will be focus on the implementation of activities. In 2005 Azerbaijan become signatory of Bologna process “The Bologna process is a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries to assure comparability in the criterion of higher education qualification”.

Under the Lisbon recognition convention (LRC), the process has formed European higher education area. Global education reforms are always welcomed by the education system of Azerbaijan. Although Azerbaijan formally become member of the Bologna process in 2005, its education sector since early 1990’s  had opened its doors to the 2 cycle education system as many of its universities had set up education at the bachelors and masters level. This 2 cycle education system is a step forward towards the transfer to 3 cycle education system integrating the Doctorate level into the higher education area. In 2007 the president of Azerbaijan approved “Government school program” which enabled the students of Azerbaijan to study in numerous higher Education Institutes (HEI) worldwide through scholarships. It is pivotal for the exposure of student to new environment and higher standards of education.

Through this initiative 1244 student studied in abroad at the expense of the state oil fund. In general about 10800 students are being educated in high ranking university of the world, some at the expense of the personal initiatives or through some sources Despite this, several reforms in higher education are approved. In 2009, “State program one reforms in the higher education system 2009-2013” was approved by the decree of the President of Azerbaijan. This program  was successfully completed in 2013. The prime goal of this program was to bring the content of curriculum to the level of the Bologna process to adopt a system where meritocracy is ensured, to upgrade the level of higher education so that it may meet with the modern economy demands and to make a system where through competitive environment talent can be brought to front. For the up gradation and enhancement of the content of the Bachelor level, the cabinet ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan accredited “Bachelors study content and arrangement rules” in 2010. Similarly in the same year for upgrading the content of masters level the cabinet accredited “regulation of Master’s course content and arrangement rules”. Framework for the rules of admissions to Doctoral studies was also approved in 2010. On 24, December, 2013 “The national strategy for the development of education” was accredited by the President. According to this to this strategy schools will be equipped with internet and technical equipments will be provided. Moreover, every school will be provided with projectors, laptops  and electronic tables . Every student will be equipped with tablet under the framework of one student-one computer. Under this strategy 1100 electronic schools will be constructed.

Similarly Tahsil TV and online TV channel will be founded under this strategy. The main focus of government of Azerbaijan is fleet-footed economic diversification in non-oil sectors. Because of this depletion of the oil and gas reservoirs, Azerbaijan does not want to be fully dependent on the oil and gas sector. For this purpose the government adopted strategic designs for “Vocational Education and Training” (VET) 2016 -2025. This strategic move was adopted in 2016. In 2012 the President of Azerbaijan accredited the “Development Concept. Azerbaijan-2020: Outlook for the future”. According to this concept the Government of Azerbaijan will made a considerable increase in the budget of education in order to reach to the level of the developed countries. Moreover modern technologies will be adopted in the education system to get the desired results. This plan included the establishment and renovation of schools that will be made to encourage the intellectual activity of students and to ease the transfer to “Thought provoking” schools from “memory based”. In higher education it was planned to increase the number of scholarships to 5000 till 2015. Special attention is given on the training of teachers and for this purpose Azerbaijan Teacher Institute (ATI) was founded in 2000 by the decree of Hyder Aliyev. The National Leader called the Teachers as the rescuer of the Nation. He used to say: “Being a Teacher is both honorable and hard responsibility. Being a Teacher at a HEI which is being a teacher’s teacher is twice as honorable.” In 11 region of the country the Azerbaijan Teacher Institute (ATI) was founded which work for the training of the staff and for solving their problems. Azerbaijan Teacher Institute (ATI) also contributes in vocational training of teachers. Every year almost 11 thousand Teachers of Schools, Colleges, Universities and Vocational Centers are trained by Azerbaijan Teachers Institute. Thus keeping in view the development in the education sector, it can be stated that after independence one of the top priority of the government of Azerbaijan is the enhancement and up gradation of education sector.

By: Zahid Khan,
Master in International Relations (UoP),
Masters in Communication Studies (Institute of Communication Studies: University of the Punjab)