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Daniyar Karabaev: Problems of Higher Education in the Badakhshan Region of Tajikistan

“Today, it is a good tendency that young generation from GBAO started to choose the different professions or field of studies which are really necessary for Badakhshan region,”- says Daniyar Karabaev, professor at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek,  in  an exclusive interview for CABAR.asia.

What is the specificity of the situation in the Pamir with accessibility and quality of  higher education, what tendencies exist today in choosing different specialties, what problems exist in the field of education, and how can they be resolved? These questions we discussed with expert Daniyar Karabaev.

CABAR.asia: How would you describe the situation in Pamir with higher education? Is higher education available there? Does transport isolation affect the accessibility and quality of education in Pamir?

Daniyar Karabaev: Ok, before to answer to your question, I would like to go a little bit behind I mean to look to the history. So in spite of that Pamirs became as GornoBadakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) and in spite of its geographical dimension during the Soviet time GBAO did not have a higher education institution. So right after the collapse of the Soviet Union number of professors from Pamir had actively started to raise the question that GBAO as an Autonomous Oblast should have its own higher education institution. In this regard Doctor of historical sciences, Professor, Moyonsho Nazarshoev contributed a lot and in 1992 the Khorog  State University was opened in order to provide high education for all population of GBAO. Thus, currently this university still remains the only university which provides higher education for its population, and of course there is another university, I mean the University of Central Asia, funded and constructed by the AgaKhan Foundation, but unfortunately due to some problems they still did not start to function officially as a higher education institution in the Pamirs. In short, higher education is available for all population there. I do not think that transport isolation can greatly affect the accessibility and quality of education, all GBAO districts and villages are connected to the main Pamir Highway. But certainly it is hard logistically to reach from remote villages of Murghab or Bartang to Khorog, which usually costs more than 150 Tajik somoni (around 16 USD). In this case usually students from these areas come and stay on their relatives houses that are leaving near to university or another option is renting an apartment that coasts cheaper. 

Distance from Murgab to Khorog where the university is located

CABAR.asia: Is there any statistic data on how many Pamir residents leave Tajikistan for education abroad? Which areas (countries) are the most popular among Pamirs for higher education? What specialties are in demand among Pamir people?

Daniyar Karabaev: It was like Soviet syndrome that so many people preferred to study Economics, Law and Russian language and literature during the Soviet times. After the independence Badakhshan people started actively to learn foreign languages, especially English language. It was mostly connected with the Aga-Khan Foundation as well. Today it is really hard to find out the official statistics on how many students from Pamir leave Tajikistan in order to get higher education abroad. So, but from my observation as far as I know that some best students from Khorog and the best students from all Pamir leave Tajikistan in order to get the internationally recognized higher education abroad. For example: most of them come to Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek in order to study at American University of Central Asia, at Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, at other universities as well. They also go to Kazakhstan to the KIMEP University and even to the Nazarbayev University as well. Others prefer to study in Russian and European universities or go far for western countries like America, Canada and others.

More than 30 students study only at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, which is a good number for GBAO who are graduating with double diplomas like Kyrgyz and American. Today, it is a good tendency that young generation from GBAO started to choose the different professions or field of studies which are really necessary for Badakhshan region. For example: they prefer to study Anthropology, Geology, Ecology, Applied Mathematics, Information Technology and other Sciences. Diversification of profession choice is taking place among GBAO young generation. There is no information about certain amount of students who left GBAO but there is a general statistics of how many students left Tajikistan for studies for the last year. “Over 4,993 Tajik students were sent last year to study abroad. To the Russian Federation – 4,370 students were sent, 234 were sent to China, 99 to Kyrgyzstan, 77 to Kazakhstan, 20 to Ukraine, 15 to Indonesia, 13 to Belarus, 6 to Kuwait and 150 other students were sent to other countries”. It was mentioned by the Minister of Education and Science, Nouriddin Said.

Tajik Students that study abroad

Source: “Media group/ Tajikistan Asia Plus”

Retrieved from:  https://news.tj/en/news/tajikistan/society/20180206/about-5000-tajik-students-sent-last-year-for-studying-abroad-says-the-education-minister

CABAR.asia: What higher institutions exist in Pamir and what problems exist in educational institutions? Are there any problems with public funding? Do international organizations and foundations support education there? Have universities problems with workforce in Pamir?

Daniyar Karabaev: As I mentioned before that Badakhshan region has only one official higher education institution today, which is Khorog State University named after Moyonsho Nazarshoev. The second one (University of Central Asia) hopefully is going to get its license and function officially in this year. GBAO people have high expectations from this university. Funding a university is always a problematic in any countries and GBAO is not exception. Khorog State University is state owned and state funded university, it has also contract based (tuition paid) education as well. For instance, currently faculty members of the Khorog State University receive average salary around 600 Tajik somoni which is 66USD equivalents.  But life itself is an expensive in all Badakhshan region, since there industry sector is not functional, agriculture industry is limited and other problems related. Thus, you can make a conclusion that 66 USD salaries per month are not enough for them. This amount of salary is inevitably connected with quality of teaching, make faculty members to search for additional part-time jobs and sustain their families. Consequently, it is clear that highly qualified teachers do not go for low-income jobs. The university also got and still receiving different support, but most support come from international organizations like Aga-Khan Foundation, French, US, UK and German Embassies in order to support only the foreign languages acquisition. For example, Aga Khan Foundation had proposed and had run Aga Khan Humanities project until 2005 which was really nice project for all university students to practice the learning languages, debate in philosophical topics, be familiar with arts, musicand be involved in academic research studies. Technical support was aimed to maintain the labs and etc.

Khorog State University

CABAR.asia: How can the state power solve the problems in higher education in GBAO? What recommendations as an expert could you give to strengthen the higher education system?

Daniyar Karabaev: So, in order to give recommendation for higher education betterment, we need to rely on the academically studied or researched results. Currently one of the problems is that we do not have enough research study evidence on higher education in Pamir. Profession choice among Badakhshan population, the quality of education they are receiving and other education related issues are still remain to be studied. For example, the Khorog State University mostly focuses on humanitarian field of studies like languages, history, philosophy and journalism. In my opinion, Badakhshan region needs to have more professional and technical specialists to address the natural need in the job market because the region is very rich for the natural resources which require highly qualified engineers, geologists, geographers and others. Thus, it is very important to do research on actual need of specialists for the region and then based on research results, it is necessary to focus on preparing of highly qualified specialists with flexible, critical and good analytical thinking skills. For instance, annually hundreds of economists or lawyers can graduate from the university, but no one exactly knows about their future careers, who got the job on profession,who are still jobless or how many of them left for Russia as migrants – remain open question.

Daniyar Karabaev is a PhD candidate at Kyrgyz National University, history department, previously, graduated from Khorog State University in 2007, department of foreign languages. After that between 2008 and 2012 had studied two masters programs: Political Science at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and Education and Cultural Policy from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Currently, he is a head of Liberal Arts and Sciences Division and an Assistant Professor at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek.