The Turkmenistan education system is closely based on the ideological guidelines of the government. At the same time, President Niyazov reformed the education system by means of the “Bilim” (education) program he designed in such a way that there is talk of a real ” fight against education “. The most momentous measures during his reign include:
- The closure of the libraries outside of Ashgabat (the holdings were destroyed or transferred to the national library). President Niyazov was quoted as saying: ” Village Turkmenistan do not read “.
- The reduction of school time to 9 years (as a result, Turkmenistan school qualifications were no longer recognized abroad, so that Turkmenistan school leavers were effectively denied access to foreign universities).
- The close alignment of the reformulated school curriculum to the content of the Rukhnama. During the newly introduced school subject Rukhnama, which was taught daily, read only from the book, during the subject literature exclusively from President Niyazov’s other books, and during the subject New History exclusively the period since 1991 was spoken of.
- The closure of all foreign-language schools and the abolition or extensive reduction of foreign language teaching in Turkmenistan schools.
- The dismissal of about 10,000 teachers identified as redundant (2002).
- The dismissal of all remaining teachers whose mother tongue was not Turkmenistan (2003).
- The dismissal of all remaining teachers who had graduated from foreign universities after 1993 (2003).
- The reduction of the monthly teacher’s salary to US $ 50 to 60 (depending on the exchange rate).
- The reduction of university studies from five to two years.
- The introduction of an unpaid two-year mandatory internship before starting university.
- The abolition of the doctorate.
After coming to power, President Berdimuhamedov announced the withdrawal of some of these reforms. In particular, he legalized degrees obtained abroad. In 2011, he approved state-owned companies hiring people with foreign degrees. In March 2013 he announced the extension of school time to 12 years after he had previously reintroduced the 10th school year. The doctorate was reintroduced.
In addition, large parts of the established education system were retained. It is true that President Berdimuhamedow reformed the relevant legal situation and adapted some parts of it to European standards. However, there is still a lack of implementation approaches. In particular, President Berdimuhamedow made little changes to the ideological orientation of the content conveyed. For example, during the newly introduced school subjects “Studies of the Renaissance Era” and “Fundamentals of a Healthy Lifestyle”, teachers have to deal exclusively with the writings and philosophies of the president and the successes of his reign. In addition, students are employed to a considerable extent for state-organized mass events. Due to the preparation of the sometimes very elaborate choreographies, there are always school failures. In addition, schoolchildren outside the capital are still being used for harvest work, so that there are longer school failures, especially in the late summer months. In the absence of new school books, schools have to fall back on Soviet-era prints or use the only literature available in the country: books written or dedicated to the President. Outside of Ashgabat and especially in rural areas, schools often lack basic equipment such as blackboard chalk (or blackboards), electricity, air conditioning, furniture and heating. Expensive programs like giving away notebooks for school beginners are staged in the media with great effort, but do little to change the basic problems. There is also an urgent need for reform in the tertiary education sector.
The education system, which is designed to impart ideological content without questioning, hinders the country’s long-term development opportunities and is already leading to a sometimes dramatic shortage of trained specialists. In addition, students from foreign universities are among the population groups most frequently affected by travel bans. Since April 2018, Turkmens under 30 years of age have been banned from leaving the country.
Important universities and scientific institutions
After Niyazov ordered the closure of the Turkmenistan Academy of Sciences in 1997, Berdimuhamedow ordered it to reopen in 2009. Although the academy has been given a new structure and is fundamentally authorized to offer and carry out scientific research and teaching, it still does not play a central role in current Turkmenistan science policy. There is no reliable information about the quality of research and teaching at Turkmenistan universities and the institutes of the Academy of Sciences.
According to healthvv, Turkmenistan currently has 17 tertiary educational institutions (15 of which are in Ashgabat). Across all institutions, the extremely low number of constantly less than 50 co-publications with Turkmenistan participation per year is remarkable. The number of collaborations between foreign research institutions and research institutes and universities from Turkmenistan is also very low. The Hochschulkompass currently lists three collaborations with Germany for Turkmenistan which, according to the German Rectors’ Conference, relate to the exchange of scientists:
A contract agreed in 2004 between the Turkmenistan University of Agriculture and the University of Applied Sciences in Weihenstephan-Triesdorf and a corresponding contract between the West Saxon University of Zwickau and the International University of Oil and Gas in Ashgabat (since 2016) and with the Turkmenistan State Institute of Transport and Communication (since 2017).
In 2015, the DAAD supported a total of 11 German students, young researchers and professors during their stay in Turkmenistan. For comparison with the other Central Asian countries: also in 2015 there were 106 such stays in Kazakhstan, 90 in Kyrgyzstan, 30 in Tajikistan and 37 in Uzbekistan.
In the opposite direction, 61 Turkmenistan received support from the DAAD for their stay in Germany. There are 796 Kazakhs, 457 Kyrgyz, 183 Tajiks and 348 Uzbeks.
Apart from a few individual projects and the occasional mutual visits by delegations, very little is known about vocational training in Turkmenistan. There are no visible concepts, strategies or objectives.
In May 2018, the BIBB received a Turkmenistan delegation on the subject of vocational training. Since the beginning of 2017, the EU, together with the Turkmenistan Academy for the Civil Service, has been promoting a series of seminars on further training for civil servants. In addition, the EU is providing more than € 5 million in 2017 and 2018 to support technical and vocational training in Turkmenistan. In addition, there are projects that can be assigned to vocational training in a broader sense, such as those for promoting Turkmenistan entrepreneurship.