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CARK Education Forum

Date: 13 December, 2001


To generate dialogue amongst education policy makers in the Central Asian Republics and Kazakhstan (CARK), to support commitments to the maintenance of quality and universal basic education.

Background and Rationale:
The ten years since the CARK countries gained independence have seen many developments in education policies. These include a review of the languages of basic education, the widespread introduction of new technologies into the classroom, and reflection about the role of vocational education for teenagers. The years since independence have also seen Governments endorse the principles of Education for All, and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both echoing the highest level of political commitment to the principle of maintaining a quality and universal basic education for their country's children.

Whilst national education systems have evolved in ways that reflect the evolution of the five countries more broadly, they have also shared a common starting point, and many of the challenges facing policy makers have been shared. Equally, the determination of Government to maintain their education systems through a period of terrific fiscal pressure has also been evident in each of the countries.

Against this background, there are limited opportunities for education policy makers - whether at the political level or that of technical expert - to share experiences of the last decade, and the challenges that they are currently dealing with.

It is proposed to establish a CARK Education Forum to draw policy makers together to review experiences of education reform, and consider policy options relevant to current agendas.

Drawing on the lessons of the CARK Mother & Child Health Forum , it is proposed to convene a meeting of senior officials of the Ministries of Education of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, to discuss a broad agenda of issue current to the education debate in these countries. The agenda would comprise of issues common to the countries, or specifically suggested by Ministries which feel that there would be benefit to them or their colleagues in discussing particular agenda items.

Should senior officials believe that it would be useful, it is proposed that technical working groups would discuss such matters at a technical or professional level, meeting as necessary between Forum meetings.

It is proposed that the Forum be open to international organisations and bilateral donors active in basic education in the CARK region, and that involvement of relevant civil society organisations be considered by the Forum.

It is suggested that the members of the Forum may wish to nominate one of their members to the Presidency of the CARK Education Forum, which would subsequently rotate amongst the Government members.

It is proposed to provide a Secretariat to support the Forum, and this would service the administration of the annual meeting of the Forum, and the technical working groups held between annual meetings.

The initiative is supported by the UNESCO and UNICEF offices for the countries of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

Initial Agenda:

The initial Forum meeting meets at a time when there are major international initiatives involving education:

  • the World Education Forum met in 2000, with participating countries undertaking to complete National Plans of Action for to achieve the Education for All goals agreed at the World forum by 2002; and

  • the Global Movement for Children, in connection with the UN General Assembly Special Session for Children, commits itself to a global partnership to ensure a broad swathe of children's rights, including quality basic education.

    These commitments involve universal access to education for all school age children, with a quality that is defined by "basic skills" that all children will have to be equipped with to meet the challenges of evolving societies.

    The CARK countries enjoy high rates of school enrolment, with limited disparities between boys and girls, which see near universal levels of literacy. However, whilst there are no indications of widespread patterns of children dropping out of school, there are some indications of pressure on school enrolments, and non-attendance in some areas is considerably higher than formally reported statistics. Where studies investigating this have been carried out, it appears that there is no single reason for this, but factors related to the quality of education pre-dominate.

    On the other hand, recent Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) studies that UNICEF and UNESCO have undertaken with the governments of three CARK countries (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) revealed that children score well in mathematics and social science. Learning achievement, in general, is over 80% (dropping slightly in rural areas). The MLA studies also showed that for most pupils, education still focuses on subject content. 96% of teachers use blackboard as the main teaching method, whilst just 5% of teachers use out-of class activities. Another teaching method predominating is "home work" (95%), though there is no mention of participatory active learning processes, which would equip children with basic life skills such as inter-personal communications, problem solving, conflict management and healthy habits.

    The CARK Education Forum would attempt to address issues related to ensuring Quality Basic Education for All in CARK Countries. It will provide a platform for high-level decision-makers to review and monitor the activities to achieve universal quality basic education. It will provide an excellent opportunity for professionals and practitioners to share their thoughts, experiences and the results of their scientific work in achieving the these goals.


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