In developing a national education system to replace the centralized education prescriptions of Moscow, Uzbekistan has encountered severe budgeting shortfalls. The education law of 1992 began the process of theoretical reform, but the physical base has deteriorated, and curriculum revision has been slow.
Education is supervised by two national agencies, the Ministry of People's Education (for primary, secondary, and vocational education) and the Ministry of Higher Education (for postsecondary education). In 1993 Uzbekistan had 9,834 preschool centers, most of which were run by state enterprises for the children of their employees. An estimated 35 percent of children ages one to six attend such schools, but few rural areas have access to preschools. In the early 1990s, enterprises began closing schools or transferring them to direct administration of the Ministry of People's Education. A modest government construction program adds about 50,000 new places annually--a rate that falls far short of demand. Although experts rate most of Uzbekistan's preschools as being in poor condition, the government regards them as contributing vitally to the nutrition and education of children, especially when both parents work, a situation that became increasingly frequent in the 1990s.
In 1993 enrollment in regular and vocational schools, which covered grades one through eleven (ages six through sixteen), was 4.9 million of the estimated 5.7 million children in that age-group. Because of funding shortages, in 1993 the period of compulsory education was shortened from eleven to nine years. The infrastructure problem of schools is most serious at the primary and secondary levels; the government categorizes 50 percent of school buildings as unsuitable, and repair budgets are inadequate. Construction of new schools has been delayed because the boards of capital construction of the two education ministries do not have direct control over contractor pricing or construction practices at local levels. School nutritional levels often are below state standards; an estimated 50 percent of students do not receive a hot meal. In 1992 about 5,300 of Uzbekistan's 8,500 schools had double shifts; because most of these schools were rural, this situation affected only 25 percent of students, however.
In 1993 an estimated 220,000 students were in vocational training programs, with about 100,000 students graduating annually from 440 schools. Working in close cooperation with local employers, the schools choose from 260 trades to offer instruction conforming with industrial needs. In the post-Soviet era, vocational curricula were modified to accommodate an upsurge in light industry. Experts agree that, as the national economy diversifies and expands, the vocational program must expand its coverage of key industries and streamline its organization, which suffered disorientation in its transition from the rigid Soviet system.
In 1992 some 321,700 students were enrolled in institutions of higher learning; of those, about 43 percent were in evening or correspondence courses. The enrollment represented about 19 percent of the seventeen to twenty age-group, a decrease from the more than 23 percent reported in 1990. In 1992 enrollment declined because an entrance examination was used for the first time, Russian emigration continued, and the economy's demand for college graduates fell. Experts predicted that the government would restrict admittance levels until its policies succeed in expanding the economy. Fifty-three institutions of higher learning, many with productive research programs, were active in 1993. Higher education is hindered, however, by a shortage of laboratories, libraries, computers and data banks, and publishing facilities to disseminate research findings.
The state higher education system includes three universities, located at Nukus, Samarqand, and Tashkent. Tashkent State University, which has 19,300 students and 1,480 teachers, is the largest university in Central Asia; it has sixteen full departments, including three devoted to philology and one to Asian studies. Some twenty research institutes offer courses in specialized areas of medicine, veterinary science, and industry and technology. Another thirty institutes of higher learning offer postsecondary studies in medicine, agriculture, teaching, engineering, industrial technology, music, theater, economics, law, pharmacy, and political science; seventeen of the latter category are located in Tashkent.
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