Education centers to be shut down in Turkmenistan

Non-governmental education centres in Ashgabat, which are in demand by residents, are being closed down by the authorities. Several months ago, among others, the artistic centre for pre-school age children, or to be more precise the elite kindergarten "Arakchi", was shut down.

Unexpectedly for parents, their children attending the prestigious educational establishment are now out of school in the middle of the academic year.

Staff members of the education centre complained that various commissions had made inspections of the centre in the run up to the shut-down. The reasons behind the shut-down of "Arakchi" were not explained to the parents and the latter hoped that any misunderstanding would be resolved. Previously, the kindergarten was scheduled to resume its operations in December 2013, but it seems in vain. The parents still come to the closed gates of the kindergarten expecting to hear news, but the guard simply shrugs his shoulders.

Many wanted to secure a place for their children in the kindergarten because it offered a variety of educational programs (for instance, children learned Turkmen, Russian and English), and provided good care and nutrition. Bread was baked on the premises and it smelled good in a superclean kitchen, unlike the majority of state-run kindergartens. Children were provided with separate single beds, unlike other kindergartens where twin beds are considered to be the norm. Both the buildings and the premises were decorated with images of heroes from international fairytales. They featured Yarty Gulak and a mermaid�

The teaching staff might have been the main "drawback" for inspectors as they were predominantly composed of experienced educators who had Soviet education or foreign diplomas, wearing European style clothes rather than pseudo-national Turkmen dress and Iranian scarves. This, as viewed by the officials from the Ministry of Education, does not fit into the existing system.

It became known in January that the process of closing a few non-governmental artistic and education centres (by termination of licenses) is irreversible. The popular education centre "Intek", which offered foreign languages and IT courses to adults and children, was forced to curtail its operations. Initially it was closed for two weeks and then customers were refunded the balance of their tuition fees.

Residents are disappointed with yet more arbitrariness by the authorities. Moreover, all of this happens amid the extremely low standard of education at schools and universities. Education and artistic centres are the only schools allowed to function pursuant to the revised law on education, which provides for the operation of non-governmental educational establishments.

It is difficult to understand the rationale of officials from the Ministry of Education. Education reform was one of the top priorities declared by the incumbent President after his rise to power. The results of the reform are deplorable. This is well illustrated by the fact that many parents are willing to pay tuition fees to place their children in educational establishments considered to be "non-conventional" for Turkmenistan. In other words, with their money the country's residents "vote" for alternative education rather than state-run institutions. This means that the government is uncompetitive.

To prevent residents from the opportunity to compare and select, the authorities first closed down popular Turkmen-Russian schools (under the incumbent President), and then the Ashgabat branch of the Russian State Oil and Gas University named after Gubkin. Now it is the turn of selected, relatively independent, education centres for children.

The branch of the Russian State Oil and Gas University, which was grandly opened in 2008, functioned for only four years. Like Turkmen-Russian schools and non-governmental educational establishments, it also did not fit well into the system of Turkmen education, which is deteriorating year by year.

Source: TIHR