With the Soviet regime, school duty was introduced, and a
secularized school system was built up in Turkmenistan.
Preschool is available from the age of 3. About 1.2 percent
of the adult population is estimated to be illiterate
(2002). However, the education system in independent
Turkmenistan is inadequate. There is such a large deficit of
qualified teachers and resources that many of the students
must read in shifts. The country has a 9-year compulsory
schooling, with school start at age 7. Almost all teaching
takes place in Turkmen, and schools with teaching in Russian
have almost ceased. Other minority language classes have
also been closed. In 2005, only about 20 bilingual schools
were left, and in 2006 it was announced that the remaining
Uzbek classes would be phased out within a two-year period.
The education sector has been marked by many years of cuts
that have resulted in a deterioration in the standard of
compulsory schooling and a reduction in schooling. The
education system is highly centrally controlled, with
tightly controlled teaching staff and teaching literature.
Among the bizarre features include the presidentSaparmurat
Nijazov's writings, including his book "Rukhnama" ("The Book
of the Soul"), were previously compulsory reading.
There are 9 higher education institutions, including a
university in Ashgabat (founded in 1950). Even university
education is now entirely conducted in Turkmen, which has
led to declining quality of education. From 2002, tuition at
state universities is subject to fees, which effectively
excludes many students. According to reports, universities
are also characterized by strong corruption. Students must
also be able to show Turkic descent for admission. In 2003,
the president announced that foreign diplomas after 1993
would no longer be accepted in the labor market.
The extensive shortcomings of the education system,
together with a tightly controlled information flow, closed
libraries and limited access to newspapers and literature
have led to a general decline in the level of education.
Nijazov's resignation in 2006 has opened for changes in a
severely disadvantaged education sector, including the
abolition of compulsory professional practice between
compulsory school and higher education. In addition,
"Rukhnama" is no longer compulsory reading in schools. The
low quality of the school system, with outdated Soviet
teaching methodology, is still a critical problem. The
authorities announced in 2008 that greater resources would
be invested in the entire education sector in order to help
a large shortage of well-educated people.