WENR, May 2007: Russia & CIS

Russia & CIS


American University of Armenia Awarded US Regional Accreditation

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges [1] (WASC) has accredited the American University of Armenia [2] (AUA). WASC is one of six regional associations recognized by the United States Department of Education [3] that accredit public and private universities and colleges.

AUA was established in 1991 with support from the Armenian Government, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and USAID, and from its founding has been an affiliate of the University of California [4]. The University offers graduate degrees in the health sciences, political science and international affairs, industrial engineering, computer and information sciences, teaching English as a second language, business management, and law. AUA began the WASC accreditation process in 1998 and was supported throughout with grants from the US State Department.

AUA News Release [5]
March 2007


Russian Schooling Much Preferred in South

Kyrgyz and Uzbek parents in south Kyrgyzstan prefer sending their children to Russian-language schools because the schooling is generally considered better. The growing popularity of these schools versus Kyrgyz- or Uzbek-language schools is also believed to be attributable to the high levels of labor migration from Kyrgyzstan to Russia where Russian fluency is vital. Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyz authorities have made efforts to promote the use of Kyrgyz as the national language, especially for official purposes, although they have been careful not to marginalize Russian. Despite these efforts, many parents in the south continue to prize Russian fluency above that of the Kyrgyz language. In the large southern city of Osh there are 54 schools, nine of which are Russian-only, 12 teach classes in both Kyrgyz and Russian, and another 12 use Uzbek and Russian. The city also has 28 Russian kindergartens.

Institute for War and Peace Reporting [6]
April 13, 2007


New Tier of Elite Universities and Business Schools

The Russian government is planning a realignment of its university system through the creation of elite business schools and a network of federally funded “mega-universities” that would be better funded than before, but less autonomous. In the near future, two of the country’s oldest and most highly regarded institutions – Moscow State [7] and St. Petersburg State [8] universities – will be redefined as “federal universities,” a new category that conveys new privileges.

The first two federal universities were founded recently through a series of mergers. Southern Federal University [9] was created in November by a merger of Rostov State University [10] with two other universities and an academy, while Siberian Federal University was created through the merger of Krasnoyarsk State Technical University [11] and three other institutions A fifth federal university is planned for the far-east region, and probably will be created by adding other universities to Far Eastern National University [12], in Vladivostok, and renaming it. The new category creates an elite echelon of state universities intended to rebuild the prestige and competitiveness lost during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Government financing is substantially higher for universities that carry the federal status. The 2007 budget for Moscow State is US$223-million and about $115-million each for St. Petersburg State, Southern Federal, and Siberian Federal. Annual budgets for other state universities range from $58-million in major cities to $19-million in the regions.

Similar plans are afoot for a new tier of business schools that would grant master’s degrees of international caliber in business administration. The Skolkovo Moscow School of Management [13] is scheduled to open in 2009, and promises to help fill the need for trained managers to help guide the country’s economic boom. The school is a noncommercial partnership between the government and private donors. The redesigned Graduate School of Management at St. Petersburg State University [14], however, will remain a largely public undertaking. The business schools and the federal universities are included among the reforms in the government’s continuing national project to improve education, a program made possible in large part by revenue from the sale of oil and gas. The federal universities are seen partially as a government response to the proliferation of private universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [15]
April 20, 2007


Government Seeks to Reform Education

Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov wants to introduce modern teaching methods modeled on the Russian education system, no easy task considering the devastation caused by his predecessor’s policies, and also considering comments from local observers on what has actually transpired since Niazov’s death. According to the minutes of an April 30 cabinet meeting, President Berdymuhammedov told officials that schools and universities must soon introduce multimedia technologies similar to those used in Russia. In addition, he said school students must develop better critical thinking skills.

In the last years of the presidency of Saparmurat Niazov, who died in December 2006, school education was reduced from ten to nine years and university education was limited to four years. Under Niazov, foreign languages, art and sport were cut from the curriculum, and in their place schoolchildren were forced to study the Ruhnama, philosophical ramblings penned by Niavoz. Advanced teacher training colleges were closed down, and the introduction of new teaching methods was prohibited.

Observers say the reforms Berdymuhammedov is planning will face a number of difficulties as there are few highly qualified teachers in the country, the literature on educational theory is out of date, and there are still strong controls placed on access to the internet, a major component of the new interactive teaching methods.

“At the moment, Turkmenistan simply does not have the resources to develop its own systems. Niazov’s crazy rule meant that the educational system was effectively destroyed,” said NBCentralAsia expert Oleg Gant.

Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Bulgaria-based Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, says that since Berdymuhammedov assumed office as president, there has so far been no reappraisal of the education system and the values installed under Niazov. The Ruhnama still figures high on the list of curriculum subjects, the authorities are in no hurry to develop new textbooks, and they are rejecting all local initiatives. There were also reports on NBCCentralAsia that authorities are planning to open an International Ruhnama University, and that there was recently an international student forum on the Ruhnama, not a particularly positive sign that the Nizov era in education is behind Turkmenistan.

Institute for War and Peace Reporting [16]
May 8, 2007