Education in Azerbaijan is at Extremely Low Level


Nushaba Sadyhly,  World Literature lecturer at Baku State University

- What are the opportunities of receiving secondary education for children living in the provinces of the republic? Do they all attend school: both girls and boys? In the period of the USSR in Azerbaijan there was a 100% general secondary education, i. e., almost everyone graduated from ten-year secondary school. What is the status quo now?

At all times, education should be the strategic axis of state policy. In the governments of all countries are composed of highly educated people. It is not by accident that in 1918 those who created the Republic of Azerbaijan, as a democratic state, had received higher education in various European countries. It was due to this education that they were able to create the first democratic state in the East.

Today, education in Azerbaijan is in an abhorrent state, at an extremely low level. If we are talking about provinces, the situation there is severe. Due to the difficult economic conditions of the people, they are unable to ensure good education for their children. Look, the SOS emergency distress signal has already rung the alarm from the provinces of Azerbaijan several times, particularly from the southern zone. Underage girls are married off, the economic condition of their families is burdensome, and children are not able to continue their education in secondary schools. By marrying off underage girls, parents try to improve their financial situation. As for boys, they mostly go abroad to earn money and help their families.

To answer the second part of the question, I would note that during the USSR, secondary education in Azerbaijan was more accessible. Currently, I am very concerned that the number of students with national language instruction in national schools is decreasing every year. That is, preference is given to instruction in European languages, as well as Russian-language and Turkic-language schools. Unfortunately, the number of Azerbaijani-language classes in elementary school decreases. This adversely affects our national identity.

There is a saying: "One thinks in the language he was educated in." This means that there are fewer and fewer people who think in Azerbaijani, who love the Azerbaijani language. I'm very sorry about it.

I believe that the Ministry of Education should do a lot in this direction. Much needs to be done to ensure that this trend stops to develop at the current pace. The Ministry of Education should analyze the situation and take certain steps in this area.

The education system must be formed in such a way that everyone has the opportunity and interest to receive education. In Azerbaijan, they are now trying to increase the number of schools with instruction in European languages and reduce the number of schools with instruction in the national language. If this process continues in this vein, it will be impossible to solve the problems in the field of education.

Every now and then they say that the level of education in schools with foreign language instruction is higher than in the schools with instruction in the national language. In this regard, I would like to stress that those who graduated from high schools in the Azerbaijani language during the USSR, also spoke Russian, English, French and would read classical literature in foreign languages. We have a lot of specialists in this field. It should not be about the language of instruction in one’s education. It should be about what level of education provided in secondary schools.

- What are the main, to your mind, problems in the education system in the country? What is being done by the state to solve them? And in general, are there any currently imperative reforms in this area?

Since I teach at the university, I can speak about the problems in the field of higher education. In all countries economy plays a key role in the development of education. Economy is omnipresent: in the sphere of politics, in the sphere of culture, in everyday life. In countries with robust economy, there is development in all those areas that I have mentioned above, including the field of education.

Look at the salaries of secondary school teachers. With the exception of a small part of teachers who prefer moral values to material ones, all the others, receiving low salaries, practically do not conduct classes. Because they are interested in pupils attending extra-curricular activities, which are additionally paid by the parents of the children, so that teachers increase their monthly income.

One has a financial capacity to gain knowledge by attending additional lessons and paying the teacher, but that does not work for everyone. For this reason, the situation is complicated. As I said, there are exceptions among teachers who conscientiously teach school subjects, while receiving low salaries. There are students who study on their own, without private home tutoring, and can enter universities. However, their number is small.

When entering a university, young people face new challenges. Coming to Baku from provinces, students need a place to stay, need money to pay for education at universities. Many cannot afford it, cannot find jobs in Baku, and families do not have the financial means to help the students. This is the reason why so many places remain vacant.

The most that families can do is to sell a cow or sheep to pay for a student’s needs for a short period. A major university – Baku State University (BSU) has no student dormitory. If the university does not have a dormitory, then students from the provinces should live in rented apartments and pay for the latter. This factor is also of paramount importance for the level of education.

In the Soviet times, there was such a condition: a student who graduated from a higher education institution would get a job in their profession. Graduates of universities were provided with a job by the state. Now there is no such thing. Recently I was buying shoes and accidentally found out that the shop assistant is a graduate of the Law Faculty of Baku State University. However, because he has not been provided with occupation, he is forced to earn his living by selling shoes.

Several times in various restaurants I met my students, graduates of the University, who are forced to work as waiters. People do not have faith in the future, so they become estranged from education. Many students wonder, “Now we have come to get higher education, but what will happen when we graduate?”

I would suggest this option: those students who received high scores are provided with work in accordance with the topic of their thesis paper. Students should have confidence that at the end of the university education they will be able to work somewhere by their specialty, they will be able to support themselves and their families, build a career.

I believe that in the field of education we have a myriad of problems that need to be solved. Otherwise, the level of education will collapse year after year.

I remember when I was a student, my scholarship was at a high salary level. Now the scholarships that students receive are not enough even for food. I know many very talented students from the provinces who study with great pleasure. But their families, for the most part, cannot provide for their living in the capital. Students are forced to live in the capital only on their meagre scholarship. They do not even have the opportunity to buy the necessary books for themselves.

Education is not merely inside the university auditorium walls; students should have an outlook shaped. They must attend theaters, museums, exhibitions, watch movies. All this requires additional costs. A low-level worldview is usually limited. Yes, now there are Internet resources, but most of the students from the regions do not speak Russian or English, so they cannot fully make use of the former. In this regard, I think that students studying in their native language should learn foreign languages, too. The more languages they know, the easier they develop and adapt to the Internet space. Children graduating from school must speak foreign languages. Unfortunately, in schools and even in universities, foreign languages are taught at a very low level. Even graduates of the University of Foreign Languages for the most part do not speak the languages that they studied at the university. Many of them hire tutors and additionally learn languages, which also requires material costs.

In order to normalize and improve the education system, the economy must be robust, the standard of living of the population must be high enough. The teachers' salaries must be so high that they do not think about additional earnings and, entering the audience, feel responsibility and teach at the highest level possible.

- Is it possible to say today that education in universities of Azerbaijan is a guarantee not only for getting a good job, but also decent salary and standard of living? What professions are most popular in the country today?

As I said, the country is currently facing a situation that students who have received higher education cannot find jobs by specialty. People with higher education are forced to work in the service sector, as waiters, hairdressers, taxi drivers, sales agents or engage in small businesses.

Considering the fact that no field of science is developing in the country, students do not engage in scientific activities. The remuneration in the sector matters, too.

At present, young people are mainly engaged in small business and computer technology. Many of them open channels on the Internet, upload videos, do editing, thereby earning a living.

It is known that in the recent years many international competitions and events have been held in the country. Young people are trying to get into these areas. Some do volunteer work, with a hope of getting a job in the future.

As a result of the construction boom that began in the country several years ago, many students are engaged in the construction industry. However, as I said above, the majority of young people are engaged in trade and small business. This applies both to private trade and to trade on the Internet, which is currently very popular, because it does not require large material costs and brings maximum profit.

- What are the educational opportunities of the population in the country and abroad? Are there any government or private youth assistance projects?

Regarding youth assistance projects for receiving education abroad, we had government programs for students who wanted to study abroad. Such projects were carried out by SOCAR (State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic). SOCAR entered into contracts with those who wanted to get an education; students were allocated a certain amount of money, in return for which any property belonging to the student or his close relatives was pledged. After passing the exams, the student went abroad (mainly to the United States or the United Kingdom). However, later many of them faced problems. The problems mainly consisted in the absence of any guarantees in event of student’s illness, a visa, etc. There was one case where a person who wanted to get higher education in London could not pass the exam due to a serious illness (he had all the medical documents in his hands and the doctor's recommendation, who strictly prescribed him to bed). Because of his illness, he was expelled from the course, was forced to return to Azerbaijan, and SOCAR went to court with a claim for the confiscation of mortgaged property. It was a small house in Balakan where the student’s parents lived. A young man in private meetings with the representatives of the Oil Company offered them this option: he works for their company, and his salary is used to pay off the expenses that were made to send him abroad. Unfortunately, the company did not agree to this and insisted on confiscating the house. I also heard that the British School functioning in Baku is also engaged in sending students abroad for education. But the amounts spent on this range from 15 thousand to 30 thousand euros. In addition, students themselves must pay for accommodation and meals in European countries. Only privileged students whose families have large financial capacity can afford this option.

This material was prepared in the framework of ”Public Dialogues for Communication between Armenian and Azerbaijani Specialists” project, supported by the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (a project by the G. Marshall Fund). Opinions expressed in the material do not necessarily represent those of the Black Sea Trust or its partners.


30 January, 2014
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