WENR, June 2009: Russia & CIS
Turkish Schools Set Standards in Central Asia amid Increasing Scrutiny
Haji Kemal Tajik-Turkish boarding school in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe is considered one of the best schools in the country. Students are taught and communicate in four languages – English, Turkish, Russian, and Tajik – and have the opportunity to travel internationally to compete in international education contests. The school is highly popular with children from Tajikistan’s elite and well-to-do families, and is well equipped with modern teaching facilities.
The first Turkish schools in Central Asia were founded in the mid-1990s by Sunni Muslims advocating tolerance and dialogue among different religions. More than 65 Turkish educational institutions were once operating in Uzbekistan alone. There are some 25 Turkish schools, including boarding schools and two universities, in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan has six such institutions. Throughout Central Asia, Turkish schools are known for their strict educational methods and discipline and are highly regarded by students and parents, who have seen hundreds of graduates go on to win scholarships from famous universities around the world.
However, Turkish educational institutions have come under increasing scrutiny in Central Asia, as governments have begun suspecting that the schools have more than just education on their agendas. In Turkmenistan, education authorities have ordered Turkish lyceums to scrap the history of religion from curriculums. In Tajikistan, the government and academics alike are wary of the possible spread of pan-Turkic ideas. They fear that these schools promote Turkish influence and the Turkish language in their country.
However, it is Uzbekistan that has taken the toughest stance toward Turkish schools. In 1999, Tashkent closed all Turkish lyceums after its relationship with Ankara headed south. Uzbek officials have expressed suspicions that Turkish-school graduates in government offices and other key institutions use their positions to weaken the secular government.
In an unprecedented move earlier this year, Turkish lyceums in Tajikistan invited local journalists to examine their curriculums to ensure they do not include “suspicious” and “dangerous” content. In Turkmenistan, Turkish schools have accepted the government’s demand to remove all religion-related subjects from their teaching programs. As for Uzbekistan, it is unlikely that Turkish schools will resume operations there any time soon.
Students Resort to Underground Classes
Classes at Belarusian state universities are conducted in Russian, yet classes taking place in non-sanctioned classrooms in apartment buildings across the country in subject matters banned by the state, such as independent news media, are being conducted in Belarusian.
For 10 years, professors of the Belarusian Collegium have held classes in private apartments and rented offices. The institution, known as the “underground university,” is not officially registered. Under the regime of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the dictator who has been in power for 15 years, professors who teach at the collegium face three years in prison if convicted. Yet, the professors conducting these classes are the cream of the Belarusian intellectual elite: scholars, writers, critics, and journalists. Some were banned from teaching at state institutions after working in the 1990s for the George Soros Fund. In 1997, Belarussian authorities shut down the fund, which had invested in medical, cultural, and educational programs, and seized its US$3 million bank account.
In the years that followed, authorities clamped down on perceived political opposition at universities, firing professors for expressing views critical of the government. Academics wishing to teach without government interference had a choice: Either leave the country or stay and teach underground. In 1997 a handful of such academics joined activists and journalists to form the Belarusian Collegium.
The founders declared in a statement: “We are few now, but once our institute is born, we will multiply.” Beginning with four professors, the faculty has grown to 50, who teach about 100 students. The stated aim of the collegium is “to revive the multicultural Belarusian tradition, to promote the democratic transition of Belarusian society within the European civilization and pan-European integration process.”
The collegium runs a three-year post-baccalaureate program, and master’s programs in philosophy, literature, journalism, and modern history, recognized by some independent mass-media companies in Belarus.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 1, 2009
Republic of Georgia
War-torn University Struggles to Recover
Gori State University suffered the most damage of any Georgian university during the brief war in 2008 between Georgia and Russia, and it is still struggling to recover.
The main campus is located just outside the disputed territory of South Ossetia and was bombed twice in August. Some buildings reportedly remain in ruins, while others continue to house refugees from neighboring towns. Russian tanks across the border remain visible from campus. Student dormitories, which were briefly occupied by Russian soldiers during the war, still house hundreds of refugees from South Ossetia
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 8, 2009
A New Category of High School Opens: ‘Secular-Religious’
The Tajik government has officially opened the “secular-religious” Imam Abu Hanifa high school in Dushanbe, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports. According to officials interviewed by RFE/RL, the school teaches Islamic and modern subjects according to a plan from the Education Ministry, with 70 percent of students’ time spent studying Islamic subjects and 30 percent in classes such as English, Tajik, literature, and science.
The school, which is supported by the Swiss government, currently has about 20 students enrolled. The school opened last September and is viewed as a model in finding a compromise between a traditional madrassa education and a secular education.
May 6, 2009