Soviet social policy created a modern education system in Tajikistan where nothing comparable had existed before. However, by the time the republic became independent the quality and availability of education had not reached the Soviet Union-wide average, still less the standards for Western industrial societies. After independence, the education system remained under the control of the national Ministry of Education with full state funding.
By the 1920s, few Tajiks had received a formal education. According to the first Soviet census, in 1926 the literacy rate was 4 percent for Tajik men and 0.1 percent for Tajik women in the territory of present-day Tajikistan and in the Republic of Uzbekistan. During the late 1930s, the Soviet government began to expand the network of state-run schools. There was strong public opposition to this change, especially from Islamic leaders. As a result, some new state schools were burned and some teachers were killed.
Over the ensuing decades, however, the Soviet education system prevailed, although a uniform set of standards was not established in every instance. For the average Tajikistani citizen in the 1980s, the duration, if not necessarily the quality, of the education process was neither the greatest nor the least among Soviet republics. As elsewhere in the Soviet Union, the system was divided into schools for primary, middle (or secondary), and higher education. Middle schools were differentiated as either general or specialized. For the period between 1985 and 1990, an annual average of 86,800 students attended general-education middle schools and an average of 41,500 students attended specialized middle schools. In the academic year 1990-91, Tajikistan reported 68,800 students in institutions of higher education.
Education in the 1980s and 1990s
Prior to 1991, the level of educational attainment in the adult Tajikistani population was below the average for Soviet republics. Of the population over age twenty-five in 1989, some 16 percent had only primary schooling, 21 percent had incomplete secondary schooling, and 55 percent had completed a secondary education. Those statistics placed Tajikistan ninth among the fifteen Soviet republics. Some 7.5 percent of inhabitants had graduated from an institution of higher education, placing Tajikistan last among Soviet republics in that category, and another 1.4 percent had acquired some higher education but not a degree.
In secondary education, 427 out of 1,000 Tajikistanis graduated from a nonspecialized middle school and another 211 out of 1,000 went through several grades of such schools without graduating. An additional 110 out of 1,000 had attended a specialized middle school. Despite the nominal emphasis placed by the Soviet system on science and mathematics, the quality of education in those subjects was rated as poor in the last decades of the Soviet period.
The languages of instruction in the state system were Tajik, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Russian. When Tajik became the state language in 1989, schools using Russian as the primary language of instruction began teaching Tajik as a second language from the first through the eleventh grades. After independence, school curricula included more Tajik language and literature study, including classical Persian literature. However, few textbooks were available in Tajik; by the end of the 1980s, only 10 to 25 percent of students attending Tajik-language schools had textbooks or other teaching materials in their own language.
By the late Soviet era, education in Tajikistan also suffered from infrastructure problems. School buildings were in poor repair. The construction industry, an area of particular weakness in the republic's economy, produced only a small fraction of the new school and preschool facilities it was assigned to complete each year. As a result, schools sometimes ran on triple shifts.
In the late Soviet era, the quality of technical training available in Tajikistan fell far below the standard for the Soviet Union as a whole. Graduates often were far less prepared for technical jobs than their counterparts elsewhere in the union. Many vocational schools were poorly equipped and lacked basic supplies. The general shortage of textbooks in Tajik also affected vocational courses. Although instruction was available in about 150 trades in 1990, that range fell far short of supplying the various types of expertise needed by the republic's economy. A large proportion of students in vocational secondary schools had poor skills in basic arithmetic and Russian. Although Tajikistan's population was nearly two-thirds rural, in 1990 only thirty-eight of eighty-five technical schools were located in the countryside, and fifteen of those were in serious disrepair. Many factories failed to provide students vocational training despite agreements to do so.
Higher Education and Research
By the late 1980s, Tajikistan had twenty institutions of higher education. Despite the ample number of such institutions, the proportion of students receiving a higher education (115 per 10,000 inhabitants) was slightly below the average for the Soviet republics in the late 1980s. In scientific and technical fields, Tajikistan ranked near the bottom among Soviet republics in the proportion of residents receiving advanced degrees. During the Soviet era, Russian, rather than Tajik, was the preferred medium of instruction in several fields of higher education.
The first institution of higher education in Tajikistan was the State Pedagogical Institute in Dushanbe, which opened in 1931. Tajikistan State University opened in 1948. By the mid-1980s, about 14,000 students were enrolled in the university's thirteen departments. At that time, admission was highly competitive only for applicants seeking to study history, Oriental studies, Tajik philology, and economic planning. In 1994 the university had 864 faculty in fourteen departments and 6,196 full-time students.
The Tajikistan Polytechnic Institute opened in Dushanbe in 1956, then was reclassified as a university after independence. In 1994 it offered training in energy, construction, mechanical engineering, automobile repair, road building, and architecture. In 1996 preparations began to open a new university for the Pamiri peoples; it was to be located in Khorugh, the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province.
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