Shejshen JUSENBAEV – Director of the Department of the Higher Education and Secondary Vocational Training, Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan

Farida RYSKULUEVA – Chief Specialist, Department of the Higher Education and Secondary Vocational Training, Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan

Higher Education in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan:
Current Status and Prospects

1. General Background

With the last decade of the past century meaning numerous boisterous changes to many countries, Kyrgyzstan became a sovereign country and a peer entity in the global community. During this historically short period the Republic of Kyrgyzstan has covered a long way of social and economic transformations, creation of a democratic state and an open civil society ensuring human rights and freedoms, of establishment of the basis for the market economy, integration into the global community.

Since 1991 the Republic of Kyrgyzstan started drastic social, political and economic reforms. In 1993 the Constitution of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan was adopted laying foundation for the new democratic statehood. Based on the Constitution of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and legislative acts the new system was established on the principles of pluralism of parties, free democratic elections, pluralisms of ideas and human rights transparency. The new legislative, law-enforcement and judicial systems were established.

The country’s economy shifted from planned to free market development principle. Many state-owned enterprises were privatised with private and joint entities emerging. Social sector, and education, in particular was also affected by economic crisis.

Since independence the state education policy has been based on two interconnected principles: on the one hand, preservation of all positive achievements accumulated in the education system during the Soviet period; on the other hand – innovations at all levels of the educational system.

The Law of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Education” adopted in December 1992 determines the state education policy and the main principles of managing and functioning of the system of education, as well as the legal foundation for implementation of these principles. Education reform implemented currently in the Republic is associated with a set of comprehensive measures aiming to change radically its economic organisation, institutional structure and content.

2. Sector Review

Higher education network of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan consists of 51 higher educational institutions including 36 state-owned and 15 private institutions practically each of them maintaining various structural entities – institutes, centres, branches, etc.

Higher educational institutions of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan enroll over 207,000 students including 192,000 in public and 15,500 in private institutions, with over 10,500 of academic staff including 488 Ph.D. and 2,406 Ph.D. candidates, 512 professors and 1,660 assistant professors.

In parallel with the state order public higher educational institutions train students on a paid basis: in 2001 there were 160,000 students studying on a paid basis (77% of the total enrollment) including about 89,000 students enrolled to distance-learning and 445 students enrolled to distance-learning evening programmes. Private higher educational institutions enroll 9% of all contract-based students including 7,500 enrolled to distance-learning and 371 students enrolled to distance-learning evening programmes.

Pursuant to the Law of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Education”, quality control in educational institutions of the Republic is the responsibility of the state education authority – the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. However, according to the structure of departmental subordination, under the Ministry of Education and Culture there are 30 higher educational institutions only, with the Management Academy being under the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Interior Academy – under the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz State Medical Academy – under the Ministry of Health, the Diplomatic Academy – under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Bishkek Higher Military College – under the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Osh Teachers’ Training Institute – under the local Government.

With the view to integrate educational systems of other countries there are 7 inter-state (dual subordination) higher educational institutions: Kyrgyz-Russian (Slavic) University, Kyrgyz-Uzbek University, Manas Kyrgyz-Turkish University; private higher educational institutions – American University in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz-Russian Education Academy, Kyrgyz-Kuwait University, Alatoo International University (Turkey), 9 branches of other higher educational institutions from CIS countries.

During the economic crisis the higher school survives mainly due to multi-channel financing. Before the reform contract-based research and engineering work was the main source of additional funding, while in the economic crisis this source is essentially exhausted. Funding the higher education requires both public and private financing attracted. Public funding of the higher education remains important. Diversification of the sources of finance reflects the public support to education and needs to be expanded to ensure development of higher education, to increase its efficiency and to maintain the adequate quality and relevance. The state support to higher education and scientific research remains the most important for ensuring poised response to educational and public challenges.

Despite financial difficulties the public spending on education in 2001 amounted to over 3.9% of GDP and to 23.2% of the total public expenditures. The public higher education budget is 490.3 mln.soms accounting to 17.2% of total public education expenditures.

Pursuant to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Improving Further Quality of Education Management in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan” #91 of 18.04.02 since 2002 the new system of financing the state-owned higher educational institutions has been introduced based on extending state educational grants from the Republican budget following the results of the national testing. Currently the mechanisms of individual granting of students of higher educational institutions from the public budget are being worked out.

Extra-budgetary proceeds from educational activities in 2001 amounted to 84.6% of public investments, and in some educational facilities even exceeded the amount of public funding.

Other sources of funding for higher education are contributions from international donor and private agencies. Clearly democratic processes drove investments into development of education, retool many educational facilities with modern equipment. For instance, from 1993 through 1997 the amount of grants and other investments to the Kyrgyz National University totaled to USD16.5 mln.

State policy of International cooperation in education targets gradual integration of Kyrgyzstan into the global educational environment. The top priorities of strengthening and development of international contacts in higher education are:

- Establishing a network of direct contacts (partnerships) with foreign educational institutions (both within CIS and abroad);
- Institutionalising exchange of students and teachers;
- Expending cooperation with international institutions and their representations;
- Improving training and re-training system consistent with international standards.

To implement the “Cadre of the 21st Century” National Programme and the “Bilim” Educational Programme based on inter-Governmental agreements over 15 contracts and agreements have been signed with foreign and CIS countries on exchange of students, teachers and research internees, port-graduate and Ph.D. fellows, joint seminars and conferences, creation of new generations of textbooks and training materials for educational institutions of the Republic.

The state policy also includes internationalization of higher education as one of important areas aiming to integrate Kyrgyz higher educational institutions into the global educational environment. This process will be more fruitful with more active involvement of our state into development of the strategy for integration into the global educational environment. Currently the main focal points in this context are:

- Recognition of Kyrgyz diplomas abroad;
- Accreditation of local higher educational institutions with international institutions;
- Improving quality of education up to the best international standards.

Kyrgyz educational policy aims to establish a holistic system of international cooperation. Education reforms target creation of a single (unified) CIS education zone and integration into the global educational environment.

It should be noted, that all the pre-requisites required for the success are at place in the Republic since the multi-layer system of higher education based on advanced training technologies gives the real opportunity for Kyrgyz young people to participate in international programmes in higher education.

Successful development of international ties in education is encouraged by comprehensive support on the part of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev. The Republic of Kyrgyzstan having become a sovereign independent state, ties with foreign countries have been acquiring new quality. Education reforms have proceeded from domestic transformations and legal frameworking to active cooperation with foreign countries. Exchange programmes for higher school students and teachers are being initiated in the country, with a number of joint educational institutions being set up in cooperation with foreign partners (Kyrgyz-Russian (Slavic) University, Kyrgyz-American and Kyrgyz-European Departments in the Kyrgyz National University, American University in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz International University, Kyrgyz-Uzbek University, Kyrgyz-Turkish University, Kyrgyz-Kuwait University, etc.). Educational system attracts grants from numerous donors such as the Soros Foundation, Eurasia, the EU, investments from foreign banks (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, etc.) and funds from various international programmes (IREX, ACXELS, UNDP, USIA, USAID, TEMPUS/TACIS, UNESCO, UNICEF, the Peace Corps, etc.).

Education Commission under the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan is a standing body implementing the “Cadre of the 21st Century” Presidential Education Programme. It supports international partnership development programmes and responds to burning challenges in education.

A set of inter-governmental agreements aims to facilitate employment of foreign teachers and scholars (from the USA, Germany, France, India, Korea, Japan, China, Arab countries, etc.) to work in Kyrgyz higher educational institutions. Much more active have become the contacts with foreign embassies and missions (representative offices) of international institutions.

Kyrgyz system of higher education is being integrated into the global information environment through information technologies and computerization of education facilities based on the national experience and tradition. Integration is further facilitated by accedence to the Lisboa Convention on recognition of qualifications in Europe of 11.04.97 as well as by acknowledgement of other international agreements on equivalence of education certificates.

3. Higher Education Reform of the Recent Decade: Main Indicators and Efficiency

For the entire decade accessibility and quality have been declared as the key short-term priorities in the educational sector, and they remain the core of on-going education reform in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Direction of the reform has been set up by the Law “On Education” since 1992. The Law determines the policy of the priority development of education. It also provides for curricular diversification, search of new forms and methods of training, introduction of multi-channel funding, involvement of various partners – education providers, admission of private providers into the educational sector to ensure universal access to high quality education according to personal needs, inclinations, abilities and talents.

The main priorities have been developed in the “Bilim” National Education Programme adopted in 1996. The given Programme provides for improving the legislative framework, upgrading the content of education, quality improvement, social safety of students and teachers, development of sustainable funding mechanisms for educational institutions.

During the Programme implementation the legal framework has been basically established for all levels of education, with curricular amended, educational standards developed, information technologies introduced into the training process through sustainable development of education.

Rather balanced reform policies during quite short period have allowed the national educational system to:

• Preserve sustainability of the system’s development;
• Institutionalise diversification of educational programmes at all levels of education;
• Suggest alternative forms and new technologies of training;
• Ensure multi-channel funding arrangements;
• Decentralise and democratise the management system.

However, not all the links in the continuous chain of education were progressing equally successfully. Besides, difficulties of the transition period, most critically manifested in the economic crisis, affected the educational sector and quite significantly with reducing financing from the Government budget and restricting access to education, especially for the poor. Problems of teachers’ wage arrears emerged, imperfection of the legal framework, absence of new rules and standards, textbooks and training materials of the new generation became apparent. These challenges were addressed engaging both internal reserves and support of the private sector, international organisations, foundations, associations, etc.

Access to and quality of education was addressed through other national programmes: “Cadre of the 21st Century” Presidential Programme (1995), the “Araket” National Poverty Alleviation Programme (1998), “Ayalzat” (1997), “Madaniyat” (1996), etc.

These programmes have been and will determine the main directions for education development over the recent decade.

Transition to the new millennium crowned with the adoption of the State Educational Doctrine discussed in May 2000 at the “Education and Youth at the Edge of the New Millennium” international conference and approved by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan in August of the same year. Based on the Doctrine, the Education Development Programme was drafted.

Network of higher educational institutions of the Republic continues to expand to a significant extend driven by the need to expand the network of educational services. In 1990 there were 9 higher educational institutions with the total enrollment of 58,800 students only, while in 2002 the number of higher educational institutions increased in almost 6 times with the total enrollment having increased in 3.5 times implying noticeable improvement of an indicator commonly used to characterise the status of public education: the number of students per 10,000 of population (130 in 1990 and 410 – today).

Enrolment and the network is increasing mainly through both establishment of higher educational institutions covering all the oblasts of the Republic, as well as through creation of numerous branches of these institutions, structural units with a status of a legal entity and training and consultancy centres.

To ensure access to higher education for the population of all the oblasts of the Republic the higher educational institutions are deployed on a regional basis. In 1991 80% of all higher educational institutions were located in the capital of the country (Bishkek city), currently 70% of the total number of institutions are in the capital enrolling 53% of the total number of the students. Strengthening inter-connections between education and demographic and social changes is the focus of institutional and quality transformations in higher education.

Diversification of higher education has been quite eminent. Currently there are about 7 types of educational higher institutions: an academy, a university, an institute, a college, a training centre, etc. The major classification criterion for higher education is the quality and the amount of scientific research conducted, design of methodological approaches, composition of academic staff, availability of adequate laboratory and research equipment.

Compared to the pre-reform period, the number of specializations has doubled (currently over 200). Multi-level training programmes have been introduced. Bachelor’s programmes are offered in 16 higher educational institutions, Master’s programmes – in 5 higher educational institutions.

Main Qualitative and Institutional Indicators of Higher Education

Public higher educational institutions
Private higher educational institutions
Total higher educational institutions including branches
Total enrollment (‘000)
Number of students per 10,000
Intake to year 1 (‘000)
Graduates (‘000)
Number of disciplines for full higher education
Number of areas for Bachelor programmes
Number of areas for Master’s programmes


To introduce and to implement the multi-level approach to higher schools the “Higher Education. General Requirements” State Educational Standard and the State Classificator for Branches and Specialisations of Higher Vocational Training” were developed and enacted. All the major components have been formulated, i.e. the basic state standards for all level of higher education: basic higher education (bachelor programme), complete higher education (Master’s programmes and certified specialists training). Currently pursuant to the Agreement on Cooperation in Establishment of a CIS Single Education Zone the second generation of state occupational standards are being drafted.

The state educational standards envisage profound changing of the general cultural training, humanisation of education, technocratic biases in the Science and technical education with simultaneous strengthening of fundamental training in Humanities education. The state (compulsory) component envisages preservation of the fundamental education combined with systemic, ecological, legal and computer literacy, creative ability to work in a foreign language environment.

As distinct to the common pre-reform higher education, today the higher school in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan can be regarded as an open system successfully adapting to a free market. It offers a broad range of vocational training programmes varying not in specialisations only (as it was previously), but in levels of education, study periods, specialisations, forms and goals of education. In parallel to traditional training programmes, bachelor and Master’s programmes have been becoming common for higher educational institutions including also implementation of foreign training programmes.

Such broad variety of educational services has significantly expanded opportunities for realization of constitutional rights of citizens for higher education and to the choice of the path of vocational training. It is adequate to requirements of the market and primarily meets the interests of the citizens seeking diversification of vocational training given the competition at the labour market. Besides, it allows educational institutions – based on labour market requirements and demand for education, as well as on their financial and human resources – to plan educational services, to pool students by branches, specialisations and forms of education.

First level higher education programmes with compulsory state attestation have been introduced into the higher school practices. This is the level for general Humanities, social, economic and fundamental Science training including training in world languages and computer technologies – the basis for formulating variant vocational training programmes for undergraduate years. Introduction of the incomplete higher education allows for preservation of fundamental component and equivalence of educational services in all higher educational institutions providing the students with the opportunity to change the training area with the minimum losses. To a certain extend it compensates for the lack of equivalence in the period of training between our school education and foreign general education systems thus creating an opportunity for our citizens to join foreign higher educational institutions.

At the legislative level the state component of the basic education has been created by all areas and specialisations. Appropriate quality of implementation combined with compliance with the requirements of this programme component ensures rather high theoretical level of fundamental, general professional, legal, social and economic training of graduates.

Pursuant to the Law of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Education” under international projects of cooperation with foreign counterparts local higher educational institutions implement individual programmes beyond the state educational standards. Interstate higher educational institutions such as the American University in Kyrgyzstan and the Manas Kyrgyz-Turkish University established by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev have been implementing educational programmes from foreign countries harmonising programmes of foreign higher educational institutions with the state requirements.

Thus, since the independence the structure of educational programmes of the higher education in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan has streamlined into a system of interacting successive educational programmes quite consistent in its levels with the Model Law “On Education” adopted by a resolution of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

Content of national general education and vocational training programmes in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan was being reformed taking into account the content of the educational programmes in CIS countries pursuant to the adopted interstate Agreement on Cooperation in Establishment of a CIS Single Educational Zone.

Currently main conditions appear created for equivalence of levels of education with the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) from the point of view of the major criterion – content and objective of educational programmes.

For quite a long time the education management system was centralised with predominating directive forms of management. Education reforms, however, have put a number of new challenges for managers requiring some new specialised knowledge and skills for the personnel and democratisation of the management structure alongside with its computerisation.

Currentlty a higher educational institution has got the right to autonomous (independent) management. The state has shifted from the rigid administration and limitation to flexible legal and economic interventions. Automation allowed for elimination of multiple layers, management staff retrenchment in the Ministry, re-distribution of management authority within the management structure of an education facility. Automation has become the major tool of reforming and adjusting the higher education of the Republic to changing social and economic conditions.

Forms of interaction between higher educational institutions and government education authorities were upgraded based on principles of voluntariness and democratisation. The role of academic entities in managing higher education facilities has increased. Higher educational institutions have been granted with academic freedom. The State educational standard remains the only regulating mechanism determining the minimum requirements to the content of education and ensuring the quality of educational services provided.

Despite of the new management schemes, however, many managers continue to apply old methods often absorbed by the momentary issues and paying little attention to forward-planning, forecasting, monitoring and evaluating operations of higher educational institutions.

Increases participation of public institutions, self-governance and government entities. Currently independent testing and accreditation companies are being actively established. The student self-governance is being developed. Pursuant to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Supervisory Councils are being actively established in higher educational institutions. As from the next year Supervisory Councils will be piloted in three higher educational institutions to assist not with the management only, but with financial issues as well.

Social and economic situation of Republic of Kyrgyzstan has resulted in tangible reduction in funding for education (1991 – 6.0% of GDP, 1995 – 6.6% of GDP, 1997 – 4.9% of GDP, 1999 – 4.1% of GDP, 2001 – 3.9% of GDP) affecting the budget of educational institutions and especially – teachers’ wages currently constituting only a halve of a consumer basket.

Sustainability of the system of education is determined by the amount of funding. Therefore, during the reporting period expenditures for higher education in general have been steadily growing despite the declining share of GDP allocated. However, funding of the sector remains insufficient and instable.

There is a number of reasons for that: in 1991-1996 high inflation rates caused by transformation of the economic model of the society resulted in reduction in real expenditures for education and caused economic difficulties for development of the sector.

The higher school might seem to have transited to the market rather actively and quickly and not needed state funding due to ability to find other sources of finance. Actually tuition fees became the main source for the school budget. According to statistical data for 2000/01 academic year 84.6% of the total number of students in the country studied on a paid basis (in 1999 – 78.9%, in 1995 – 39.9%, in 1993 – 7.6%).

Number of Students in Public Higher Educational Institutions by Forms of Education

Number of students in public higher educational institutions (‘000),
- paid from the budget
- contracted
Number of students in private higher educational institutions (‘000)

This enabled higher educational institutions to be quite sustainable financially during 1995-2001. However, even the higher school has not avoided financial difficulties.

Serious problems were caused by the Government resolution adopted in 1999 and requiring 50% retention from special accounts, and after tremendous protest it was reduced to 30%. Clearly this undermined plans of higher educational institutions for their own development.

Alongside with that, the state, the Government, financial bodies, the Ministry of Education undertook rehabilitation of the financial situation in the sector. To address these issues internal resources were engaged together with the support from the private sector and international donor agencies.

Besides, sustainable funding mechanisms were being sought for higher school, and stabilisation mechanisms for funding the system under the limited budget were being worked out. The higher school proved to be quite successful in attracting additional resources.

Sources of Funding Public Higher Educational Institutions

Indicators 1992 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Total funding (mln.soms) 3.8 166.7 238.4 322.9 319.9 337.5 490.3
including from the public budget (mln.soms); 3.8 164.8 129.8 130.2 135.0 129.0 144.0
% of the total; 100 98.8 54.4 40.3 42.2 38.2 29.4
including proceeds from paid services and investments (mln.soms); - 1.9 108.6 192.7 184.9 208.5 346.3
% of the total; - 1.1 45.6 59.7 57.8 61.8 70.6
Average cost of tuition per student (soms) - 2,842 3,656 4,241 5,375 5,391 6,102

With development of market relations and transfer of higher educational institutions to contract form of funding tuition there emerged a possibility for exclusion of a certain proportion of young people from higher education due to the high costs. As a results new principles of admission of students to higher and secondary educational institutions started to be searched along with extending educational loans for students for the period of studying.

Not less important is the problem of establishing reliable contacts between higher educational institutions and potential employers for graduates. It should be noted that currently the information on the future employment, on requirements presented by a specific organisation to a young specialist is imperfect thus creating significant problems for a quality control.

Importance of vocational training our days cannot by overestimated with the education providing certain social status and increasing chances to find a job. This is especially relevant for regulating youth migration.

According to the National Statistics Committee, despite certain declining trends migration rate in 2001 remains rather high. During the 9 months of the current year the internal (across the oblasts) migration totalled to 30,500 including 18,200 from the age group of 14-34 – or 60% of the total internal migration. This is the evidence of predominance of young people in the migration processes. During the reporting period the highest out-migration rate among the young people was in the Naryn oblast, while the lowest – in Southern oblasts: Osh and Batken. The least prone to internal migration are the Chu oblast the Bishkek city.

Alongside with that, completing higher or secondary vocational training does not guarantee young people an easy job placement. Many graduates from schools, vocational schools and colleges, provincial and even central (located in the capital) higher educational institutions immediately swell the ranks of unemployed.

According to the National Statistics Committee, unemployed graduates grow in number every year: in 2000 they were about 15,100, while in 2001 they already amounted to 17,900 with the number of graduates from vocational and general schools having reduced by 15.5% and 31.5% respectively. One in every 6 young people registered with the employment service has graduated from a secondary general, secondary vocational or higher vocational training institution. In 2000 only and during 9 months of the current year over 21,700 graduates from all types of educational institutions have already applied to the employment service of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan looking for a job, including almost 4,000 those having graduated from higher educational institutions. All in all across the country the employment service helped to find jobs to 3,300 graduates form higher educational institutions and vocational colleges.

This is to witness the system of education still not being flexible enough to respond to changing requirements of the labour market. In other words, the labour market and the market of educational services do not liase with each other. And this is especially characteristic to higher educational institutions. The number of students here is planned depending on the demand for a certain educational service and is absolutely not connected with the need for specific specialisations at the labour market. Another prove to that is the lack in the majority of local higher educational institutions a system of a feedback and controls over the job placement of young professionals.

To find a good job today is not an easy task. Due to the lack of appropriate qualification, labour skills and experience graduates cannot compete on equal terms with the mature labour force at the labour market. Only 43% of 16-35 aged applicants to the employment service find jobs, with only 38% job-placement rate for graduates from all educational institutions and 47% - for graduates from higher educational institutions.

As of today there are about 100,000 teachers employed in the educational system of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, including 10,500 higher school teachers, with their professional competence, comprehension and the will to attain goals and objectives of contemporary reforms driving the success of the current ambitious reforms in the education system and in the country in general.

Quality profile of the teachers’ corps of the entire system is quite high with over 68% of working teachers having higher education. There are a lot of creative, venturous, highly skilful professionals among them. Merits of 207 have been recognised with various state awards. During the recent 5 years only 54 teachers have been awarded with the high honorary title the “Honoured Teacher of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan”, 78 have been awarded with the title of the “Honoured Educator”.

However, the situation with teachers cannot be called safe and sound.

During the preceding decade teaching was not listed among the national priorities. Teachers of all the levels of education are basically ranked at the bottom in terms of wages and benefits among large groups of professionals with higher education, which clearly do not motivate them for a high quality work. For instance, the average salary in a higher education faculty paid from the Republican budget in the current year is 1,004 soms on average, while in vocational colleges – 592 soms.

The first step in addressing this problem was increase in salaries of teachers and other budgetary employees by 20% as from August 2000. By 2025 increase in teacher’s salaries will have been gradually legislated up to the respective level of developed countries.

Understanding the importance of professional advancement of teachers, educational authorities in the short-term are planning to upgrade the teacher’s training and professional development system through introduction of new training techniques and distance learning primarily.

Teachers of higher school also have got problems. The age of the bulk of current school teachers is 45-50 years with teachers working at higher education being even older. Judging from the age profile, the overwhelming majority of teachers were trained 20-30 years ago, consequently being affected by the old pedagogical mentality and stereotypes.

Given the existing situation, a lot is currently being done in the Republic to train teachers in higher educational institutions. The proportion of public allocations in the budget of higher educational institutions is mainly the one earmarked for pedagogical specialisations.

Teachers professional upgrading system of the Republic is at a very low level due to insufficient funding for the education in general and for the professional upgrading in particular. Therefore, staff of higher educational institutions is trained and upgraded in higher educational institutions of foreign and CIS countries with the grant support provided through co-operation with international institutions and programmes.

The Ministry of Education and Culture motivates the research capacity building in higher educational institutions through establishment of specialised research institutes and centres under higher education facilities to turn these institutions into focal points for integration between fundamental and applied science. During the recent 2 years 5 research institutes have been established under higher educational institutions alongside with the growing support of research units under provincial higher educational facilities in the country.

In line with the free market processes democratisation of management of educational system is being developed determined by academic freedoms of higher educational institutions – a freedom of teaching and a freedom of research. They enjoy the right to identify areas and specialisations for training, to design and to implement curricular varying by levels and objectives of education, to say nothing about organisation of research, the training process, in-site controls over the quality of education, selecting forms and methods for training, determining the depth of studying of the content of the trained subjects. During the pre-reform period the higher education component of a curricular did not exceed 15% of the total learning input, while currently it accounts to minimum 30% at the basic education, minimum 50-60% at the complete higher education and minimum 70% at the level of a Master’s programme.

However, with broad academic freedoms granted at the given stage the state controls over the quality of educational services (compliance with the state standard requirements) are becoming of especial importance. Ensured compliance with the national requirements related to the content of education and the level of training of graduates from all the higher educational institutions is commonly recognized as one of the strong positive sides of the Soviet educational system. The state quality assurance policy should be equally relevant nowadays.

The holistic system of licensing and attestation for educational institutions of the Republic has been elaborated for a number of years already. In 1994 the State Licensing and Attestation Inspectorate Service for Educational Institutions of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan was established under the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

By now, practically all the educational institutions of the country have been licensed. The process, however, requires improvement, since some of the institutions clearly do not comply with the granted status. For instance, in the Republic there are private educational institutions with a status of an academy and a university, which clearly do not comply with the requirements set forth for educational institutions of the claimed type. Having obtained the new status during the transformation boom of 1992-1994 today these institutions require accreditation. And currently the mechanisms for accrediting educational institutions are being elaborated.

Pursuant to the Law of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Education” the state intervenes into the quality control for education through licensing and state attestation of both educational institutions and their curricular. This process requires to be further strengthened through institutionalisation of public accreditation of educational institutions resulting in the national control over the quality of the system of higher education. Accreditation mechanisms for educational institutions of the country are currently being elaborated in the context of establishment of the Independent Accreditation Service.

Higher education is expending its international links. Currently 28 foreign countries have been added to the CIS countries basing their cooperation on traditional educational contacts between the former Union Republics. In parallel to contacts at the level of inter-state and inter-agency agreements many higher educational institutions efficiently use opportunities of the direct access to foreign educational institutions and foundations. About 3,000 young Kyrgyz citizens study abroad owing to the opportunities offered by the Presidential “Cadre of the 21st Century” Programme.

Pursuant to the principles of creation of a single educational zone with the neighbouring countries contacts have been established with 11 CIS countries, 21 inter-agency and inter-governmental agreements on co-operation have been signed with the respective ministries. Signing of the Agreement on co-operation in creation of a single educational zone of the Commonwealth of Independent State in January 17, 1997 gave a new impulse to implementation of the common policy agreed between the CIS countries. In 2000-2001 academic year only there were 244 under-graduate and post-graduate students studying in the Russian Federation; 50 – in Tajikistan, 117 – in Uzbekistan, 90 – in Kazakhstan. Total 502 students studied in the CIS countries, which is a rather good number for small Kyrgyzstan.

Intergovernmental agreements are being drafted addressing the issue of mutual recognition of education certificates. In May 2002 the first Agreement on recognition of higher education qualifications and certificates was signed with the Peoples Republic of China.

Under the programme of co-operation between the EurAsEc countries on creation of a single education zone on March 29, 1996 the Agreement was signed on ensuring equal rights of citizens of countries – members to the Agreement on Deepening Economic And Humanitarian Integration to be admitted to higher education of respective countries based on mutually recognized education certificates. In 1998 the Agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of Buelorus, the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Government of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Government of the Russian Federation on mutual recognition of education documents, degrees and qualifications relevant for state standards documents only effective within the participating countries regulating the mutual recognition system.

Under the programme of co-operation with foreign countries in June 2002 the first inter-government agreement on recognition of education certificates was signed between the Government of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Peoples Republic of China.

Educational systems of different countries has been bridged to a certain extend through establishment of higher educational institutions of dual subordination providing training along combined curricular and issuing diplomas of two countries recognised in both respective countries. Owing to co-operation of higher educational institutions with their foreign counterparts Kyrgyz student can participate in foreign educational programmes both abroad and within the country. Another positive factor if introduction of American, West-European and Russian vocational training programmes in Kyrgyz higher educational institutions.

4. The Past Decade: Experience and Lessons Learned

Development of reliable mechanisms to evaluate reform progress, quality of service provided, learning achievements of students has been very important for the Republican educational system.

There is a number of ways to evaluate the reform progress:

In 1997 educational policy, planning and trends were evaluated through participation in the international UNESCO and the ADB projects “Regional Study of Trends, Challenges and Policies in Education”.

In 1999 the Republic of Kyrgyzstan evaluated access to “education for all” through participation in the “EDA-2000” assessment international UNESCO programme.

The pivotal task of the state educational policy of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan is to preserve the achievements alongside with reforming educational system in accordance with the market requirements. Predominance of general human values, development of national spirituality and culture, targeting the world level of education, preserving accessibility of education have been declared as strategic goals of development of education. These goals are determined by the Law of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Education”, by the Presidential “Cadre of the 21st Century” educational programme, by annual addresses of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev to the Parliament of the Republic and are being implemented through the “Bilim” National Education Programme. The President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan persistently promotes that “currently priority development of education is the major dictate of the life itself, the major requirement of the new era of information, a key to creating a new production basis”, and that “powerful public educational movement is the key to prosperous 21st century”.

These programme objectives are being addressed quite successful. And today we can say that Kyrgyz higher education has become an open system functioning under the free market conditions and offering to public a broad variety of educational institutions and training programmes. Higher school integrates traditional programmes of training specialists with complete higher education and in parallel –Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes, the best programmes from Russia, a number of European countries, America, Japan, other countries. A student today may vary the direction of his/her vocational training not only across the country, but within one and the same institution as well.

From the institutional point of view, under difficult conditions of the transition period education in Kyrgyzstan has clearly proved its viability and sustainable positive development compared to other sectors. We believe that the main success factor has been the reasonable combination of an efficient state educational policy with the profound democratisation of the education management across all the structures.

Democratisation of the education management and the state’s responsibility for the quality of education are the fundamental tools of the higher education reforms. Coherent state policy granted educational institutions and their founders with broad rights in all types of activity thus having created conditions for smooth integration of the educational system into the market economy.

During rather short time period the economy of education was significantly transformed – especially, economy of the higher education. Funding of education has become multi-channelled, with the extra-budgetary funds of public higher educational institutions in the current year accounting to 65% of the total financing. Non-public sector in education has been established and been expanded comprising 5 higher educational institutions. Thus, elimination of the state monopoly on education and real competition in the sector can be positively stated for Kyrgyzstan.

Democratic legislation has open broad opportunities for expanding international co-operation. Currently our partners are 28 foreign higher educational institutions. Higher educational institutions of Kyrgyzstan are actively involved into TACIS, TEMPUS, INTAC, AXELS, USIA programmes and get significant support from the Soros Foundation, the World Bank, other foundations, as well as from such reputable international institutions as the UNDP, ADB, UNESCO.

It’s also clear, that active international co-operation is not possible without real academic freedoms granted to educational institutions. Currently educational institutions are opened for creativity and enjoy all the rights: from development and implementation of curricular varying by levels of education and tailoring curricular to students’ needs to planning and allocating financial resources both received from the public budget and special earnings from paid educational services market.

Similarly to the state guaranteeing the constitutional right to full value education, a higher educational institution, however, cannot be exempt from the responsibility for the quality of educational services. Therefore we believe the strong state educational policy should be maintained with shifted emphasis and vectors of the state intervention from regulation to increasing efficiency of the state quality control in education.

We have discontinued the faulty (to our mind) practice of self-evaluation of schools’ and chairs’ ultimate performance and are currently trying to create a system of independent evaluation of the quality of educational services provided by educational institutions and of the state controls over compliance with the state educational standards.

Evaluation of relevance of higher education should reflect the degree to which educational institutions meet the public expectations. This requires ethic norms, political candour, critical approach alongside with higher level of relevance for the trends in the society and the labour market with the longer-term orientation based on social goals and needs including respecting cultural and environmental values. The mission is to ensure access to both broad education and the special one targeting specific and often multi-disciplinary skills- and attitudes-focused professional activity, since they both aim teaching a person prepared to live under varying changing conditions and to change the occupation.

Being the life-time source of vocational training, upgrading and retraining, higher educational institutions must systematically incorporate emerging labour market, scientific, technological and economical trends. To respond to labour force requirements, higher education and the labour market should jointly develop and evaluate the training process, compensating and attestation programmes, as well as recognition of the past teaching experience through combining theory and in-service training. With respect to forecasting functions, higher educational institutions may contribute to job-creation, which, however, should not become the only end in itself. Higher education should more actively contribute to education development in particular through improving teacher’s training, curricular drafting and related research.

Curricular restructuring has been significantly affected by a transfer to a multi-level structure of higher education. For instance, comparing structures of educational standards of the Bachelor’s programme with the previously existing curricular for respective specialisations proves increase in the share of science and general professional disciplines for many areas and specialisations. This increase, however, is still not significant, despite quite eminent fundamentalisation trend in higher education. This trend shows targeting of the local higher education standards to international educational standards.

New technologies are being introduced focused on proactive forms of training, development of student’s creative dispositions and abilities.

Recently a number of higher educational institutions have initiated new training techniques long ago admitted in Western countries, the most successful of them being module- and credit-hours. Among the most advanced technologies the informational ones are preferred, with effective attainment of training objective expected from them, as well as optimisation of the education structure and content, development and monitoring of new training techniques, their information and diagnostic support, establishment of the appropriate training and methodological support. Efforts are made to design and to implement distance-learning programmes.

To this end programmes of computerisation and connection to the INTERNET global information system are being developed for higher education. Certain local higher educational institutions are already successfully applying new information technologies into training and management processes thus creating advanced information learning environment. In the coming years all public higher educational and secondary vocational training institutions and over 200 (10%) of schools are expected to be connected to the INTERNET. Establishment of a Virtual University is being though through in Kyrgyzstan.

The most important element of the new organisational and economic mechanism is complete and consistent implementation of the legal status of an educational facility (a higher educational institution), i.e. its academic and economical independence provided in the Law of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan “On Education”, including:

• Contract (free market) forms of relations with the state and private customers including direct beneficiaries of educational services;
• State regulation of educational institutions through accreditation and quality control in education;
• Gradual equalisation of rights of public and private state accredited educational institutions.

To increase efficiency of resource utilisation budgeting mechanisms for higher educational institutions should be change to:

- Shift from budgetary classification expenditure line-items based allocation to one category based allocation (the state educational grant);
- Expanding rights of higher educational institutions to manage the financial resources including with respect to budget planning and execution;
- Transparency and accessibility of entire academic and financial activity of an educational institution for public supervision including designing unified reporting forms and annual publication of academic and financial reports;
- Setting forth unified and understandable spending procedures based on competitive selection of suppliers of goods, works and services.

Procedures for utilisation of immovable property transferred by an owner to an educational institution should ensure its efficient use for the chartered purposes. Prohibition of privatisation of property assigned to state-owned educational institutions and their labour collectives should be confirmed.

State investments into education should perform the functions as follows:

• To ensure state priorities in education development;
• To promote efficient use of extra-budgetary earnings by educational institutions;
• To be the tool for selecting the most efficient investment projects of educational institutions.

State investments into education will take two major forms.

(1) investments into the information base of educational institutions and into upgrading their training and research equipment. These are direct investments to educational institutions according to a number of students, the level and the type of training and the state educational priorities.
(2) education development budget based on competitive selection of investment projects for educational institutions and Government co-financing of the selected projects.

Teaching and research staffing of the higher school so far is not sufficient and significantly lags behind the growing trends in educational services. Despite growing number of Ph.D.s and Ph.D. candidates during these years efficiency of teacher’s training has declined drastically due to migration, temporary slackening – due to understandable reasons – of academic ties with higher educational institutions of other CIS countries, and, the most important, higher educational institutions themselves not having been prepared to operate under new conditions.

Qualification Profile of Higher Scholl Teachers

Indicator 1992 1995 1998 1999 2000 2001
Main full-time staff,
5.104 4.950 7.710 8.383 99 10.534
- Ph.D. 142 191 303 311 401 488
- Ph.D. candidates 2.063 1.631 1.765 1.819 2.102 2.406

However, here are some positive developments including certain growing trends in the total number of highly qualified teaching and research staff and, the most important, growing interest of young people to science and teaching. In early 90s there were maximum 60 students at the departmental post-gradual courses under the Ministry of Education, while currently post-graduate students in the domestic institutions total to over 1,000, with 96 post-graduate students studying abroad. During 1997-2001 61 Ph.D. candidate theses and 12 Ph.D. these were defended.

Clearly, remuneration schemes for teachers are being adjusted to free market economy. In many educational institutions teacher’s wages are directly related to their performance, while under the planned economy the wages were determined by the duty position only or by academic degrees and qualifications. Therefore teachers are being motivated to upgrade their skills and increase efficiency of their professional performance. Higher educational institutions are creating working conditions encouraging creative approaches to teaching and research activities.

During the years of independence Kyrgyzstan has created competitive environment for higher education at the education services market, the private sector is being actively developed. Growing number of private higher educational institutions, existence of higher educational institutions with different status and different curricular naturally contributes to competition among education facilities thus improving quality of education. Competitive environment encourages higher educational institutions to develop and to introduce innovative approaches to training, to evaluating student’s and teacher’s performance, establishment of a resource base ensuring efficient education process.

Despite instable economic development of the country, the donor presence in the country is increasing every year and respectively increasing is the amount of their financial assistance due to:

- Increasing confidence of the global community into democratisation processes in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan;
- Growing authority and prestige of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayes as a guarantor of Kyrgyzstan’s movement to an open democratic society;
- Increasing participation of educational institutions of the Republic in various international competitions for grants;
- Growing teachers’ and students’ interest in cooperation with international institutions.

Thus, the system of education in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan during the reporting decade was developed through renovating all levels of activity. The reforms had accomplishments alongside with difficulties and contradictions. Despite that, development of the higher education in Kyrgyzstan was clearly progressive one.

5. New Strategies and Future Strategies

Drastic democratic reforms affecting all sectors of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan necessitated transformation to the next stage of development of the system of higher education envisaging reforms varying depending on its components. Training is becoming student-focused, types and forms of education and curricular have been diversified facilitating the choice of the level and form of education, better response to the market requirements and promoting integration into the global educational environment.

One of the sections of the Comprehensive Development Strategic Programme adopted in 1999 identifies perspectives for the development of education, provides the system for mid-term and long-term measures constituting the strategy for the further development of the sector for the period up to 2010.

In the context of attaining the major goal of the Comprehensive Development Strategic Programme – to increase the living standards in the country through sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction – the three challenges are of the priority importance for education for the current decade:

1. Insuring accessibility and quality of education;
2. Strengthening training and methodological basis for educational institutions;
3. Economic efficiency and financial sustainability of the system of education.

Based on the National Development Strategy for the Republic up to the year 2010, the state educational policy will focus on establishing flexible, open and evolutionary system of continuous education. To determine the further strategy of priority approach to development of education, to support public initiatives aiming to attain the high level of its efficiency, in August 2000 the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan adopted the State Educational Doctrine of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. The Doctrine is the main document determining the strategy and tactics for education in Kyrgyzstan up to the year 2025 with the priority objectives as follows:
• Ensuring sustainability and optimisation of funding and management systems in education taking into account modern technologies, timely and adequate remuneration, compliance with the labour legislation;
• Historical continuity of accomplishments in education, preservation of national cultural traditions;
• Systematic updating of the content of vocational training taking into account changes in culture, economy, science, engineering and technologies: ensuring efficiency and high quality of higher educational institutions;
• Priority support to educators, steady raising of the prestige of teaching and the social status of teachers;
• Training highly skilful specialists able to resolve professional tasks in the information society under introduction of new high-end technologies;
• Formation of the modern attitude and scientific-based vision, patriotic education of citizens of free democratic society, development of traditions in multicultural relationships; environmental education for rational and careful treatment of the nature and environment; aesthetic and physical education for harmonic development and self-actualisation of a personality;
• Diversification of types and forms of educational institutions, multi-option curricular, vertical and horizontal integration among educational institutions.

To accomplish the set objectives, in 2002 the Concept for development of education in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan up to the year 2010 was adopted determining the further stages of the development of the system of education.

The major goal of the reform is to create self-evolutionary efficient system of education contributing to:

• Economic growth of Kyrgyzstan and sustainable development of the country in the fast changing world;
• Upgrading human resources, supply of the personnel prepared and capable to work in the realities of the new era;
• Meeting education needs of a developing personality.