School and Education in Turkmenistan


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 president Saparmurat 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.

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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 The low quality of the school system, with outdated Soviet teaching methodology, is still a critical problem.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.