Dear participants of the Conference!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I take a great pleasure in welcoming you, the contributors to this conference, and first and foremost our dear guests who represent the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, representatives of more than forty countries fr om different continents of the world, and express my deepest respect and sincere gratitude for your participation in this forum.
I would like to convey my special appreciation to President of the Asian Development Bank Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda, one of the initiators of the current conference, for his outstanding contribution to promoting the efforts undertaken in Uzbekistan aimed at stabilizing the economic situation and securing sustainable development for our region.
I believe the participants of this event have paid attention to the fact that the principal topic of this forum, namely, the reform issues in educational system, is directly linked to addressing the issues pertinent to steady and sustainable, primarily economic, development of a contemporary nation.
It is no secret that this subject matter acquires a special urgency in these days, when practically an absolute majority of countries around the planet continues to face the impact of the world financial and economic crisis that broke out in 2008, still threatening with a new outburst of global recession.
Today there is no need to prove that the 21st century is commonly acknowledged to be a century of globalization and vanishing borders, that of information and communication technologies and the Internet, the age of ever growing competition worldwide and in the global market.
In circumstances like these, only that nation can consider itself viable who has among its vital priorities, incessantly, the mounting investments and inputs into human capital, upbringing of an educated and intellectually advanced generation which in the modern world is the critical value and decisive power in furthering the goals of democratic development, modernization and renewal.
Dear participants of the forum!
It is a great honor for us that the model of reforming the educational system and experience of its implementation developed in Uzbekistan is being discussed with contribution fr om outstanding academics and experts, heads and representatives of world-renowned education institutions and eminent international organizations.
To start with, it needs stressing that the education reforms program adopted fifteen years ago and dubbed the National Program for Training of Specialists stands as an inseparable and integral part of our own “Uzbek model” of economic and political reforms based on gradual and evolutionary principle of building a new society in the country.
The program, itself a product of an in-depth research and study, summary of the practice hoarded by advanced nations, aims to completely eliminate stereotypes and dogmas of the communist ideology imposed in the past, consolidation of democratic values in the minds of people, first and foremost among the growing generation. In a word, the program is directed at nurturing a comprehensively advanced individual with independence in thinking and outlook, with its own preferences and firm civic position in life.
It was simply impossible to further that goal without radical reconstruction and transformation of the education system that had been there for many years.
Given that about 35 percent of Uzbekistan’s population is children under 16, more than 60 percent are the youths under 30, the role and significance of these reforms becomes clear and obvious.
In accordance with the adopted program, we have introduced a 12-year universal compulsory and free education in Uzbekistan on the scheme 9+3. The fundamental characteristic of the model being built in our country is that following the nine years of study in a general school, during the ensuing three years young people attend specialized professional colleges and academic lyceums where every one of them, along with the general disciplines, obtains vocational training on 2-3 professions in demand in the labor market.
The law secures that the 12-year education in Uzbekistan is mandatory and free for all, and is conditioned by the fact that the growing generation is obliged to receive a 12-year education, attain a concrete vocation and profession. This is particularly true for our girls.
In this respect, we imply that in every newly created family, it is important that the young women have a certain profession, with their own views and their firm position in life.
Thus, it is imperative that following a nine-year general education, wh ere general knowledge is taught in wide spectrum of disciplines, the youths, and mandatorily our girls, continue with education in colleges and academic lyceums, obtain a profession in two or three areas.
Yesterday and today you have been here in Tashkent, and tomorrow, you can enjoy a trip to Samarkand, while some will want to visit Bukhara and Khiva – our most ancient cities. And I would prefer that you, once in those places, looking through historical and cultural monuments, find chance to visit colleges, lyceums and schools in our remote districts to make sure that they differ little from those in the city of Tashkent.
After 12-year compulsory education everyone by his or her choice can continue study at higher education institutions to obtain undergraduate and graduate degrees.
During the past years we have made strides enormous both in scale and depth to radically renew and transform the sphere of education. We have built anew, overhauled and supplied with the latest teaching and laboratory equipment about 9.5 thousand or practically all functioning general schools in the country, implemented fundamental measures to qualitatively and methodologically renovate the learning process.
The general education in Uzbekistan is carried out in seven languages: Uzbek, Karakalpak, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Tajik.
More than 1,500 professional colleges and academic lyceums have been built. Many of you, the distinguished participants of the Conference, while on tour around these colleges and lyceums must have been convinced of the fact that on their architectural design and technical facilities they are hardly inferior to any of the best higher education institutions. The advanced teaching and laboratory utensils, computer and production facilities available in the colleges allow the students not only to get a full scope of knowledge on general subjects, but also master the cutting-edge equipment and technologies.
I would draw your attention to a rather vital point. In the system of education we attach a great importance to teaching pupils not merely liberal arts and vocational skills, but also required learning of foreign languages, for this is critical for them to maintain pro-active communication with their counterparts abroad, get extensive knowledge of everything that is going on around the globe, and command the august world of intellectual treasure.
Important in reforming the learning process and training highly qualified specialists in demand in the labor market have been higher education institutions. Within the past few years their number has increased twofold and now there are more than 230 thousand students enrolled at 59 universities and other higher education institutions.
In Uzbekistan, we have set up the successfully functioning branches of the leading educational institutions of Europe and Asia with a high international repute and deep historical roots, including Westminster University, Management and Development Institute of Singapore, Turin Polytechnic University, Russian University of Oil and Gas, Moscow State University, Russian University of Economics. Bachelor’s and master’s majors in mechanical engineering, oil and gas business, information technologies, economics and business management, finance management, commercial law are taught in these higher educational institutions, and their graduates receive diplomas acknowledged across the globe.
This year, National University of Uzbekistan and the Academy of Sciences, with the leading British institution – Cambridge University, are setting up the educational and experimental Center of High Technologies. It is tasked with teaching talented students, postgraduates and young academics the modern methods of conducting applied innovative scientific research in chemistry, physics, biology, biochemistry, biophysics, geology and geodesy. The Center is envisaged to be equipped with high-tech facilities wh ere the scientists and specialists from Cambridge University are to train our young scholars how to pursue modern research.
It is necessary to note that it is this very direction that currently acquires a great importance, i.e. strengthening the scientific potential of higher educational institutions and integrating the educational process with innovative activity by transferring a number of academic scientific institutions to universities and creating new modern inter-institutional joint-use scientific and laboratory complexes.
The issues of broader involvement of young people in sports occupy a special place in implementing the National program for cadres training. The striking illustration of the aforesaid is creation of the Children’s Sports Development Foundation of Uzbekistan funded by the state budget, sponsorship and charity moneys.
During the last period about 1,500 state-of-the-art and generally accessible sports facilities for children have been built at the expense of this Foundation.
Today practically each secondary school, college and lyceum has both an open air sports ground and indoor gyms and swimming pools with modern outfit.
We have established an integral three-stage system of annual sports competitions – each separately for schoolchildren, for students of professional colleges and academic lyceums, and the Student Games for those of higher education institutions. This allows involving hundreds of thousands of our children, young men and women in mass physical, recreation and sports movement.
The issues of the quality of specialists’ training and to what extent they are in demand in the real economy remain in the focus of our attention.
In the framework of the Program we have accomplished wide-ranging works to reorganize the system of training and raising the qualification of teachers and teaching faculty for colleges, lyceums and higher educational institutions of the country, and first of all, this refers to radical review and adoption of new standards, methodological and learning aids that meet the latest requirements. We have radically changed the criteria of assessment and stimulation of their work.
Let me cite some figures: if the growth rates of teacher wages, those of professional colleges, lyceums, universities during the last 10 years have been 1.5 times ahead of average salaries in the real sector of economy, it underscores time and again that without a rational, let me put it – priority, evaluation and remuneration of labor of the teaching staff, we could have scarcely achieved those results and objectives we set out. That is, allow me to reiterate – within the last 10 years, the educators’ wages have been 1.5 times ahead of average salaries in other sectors of economy as a whole.
In general, annual expenditures for development and reforming the education in Uzbekistan make 10-12 percent of the GDP, while their share in national budget expenditures exceeds 35 percent – this by itself serves as a particular confirmation of the tremendous attention being paid to this sphere.
As far as I know, one can hardly find similar indicators, i.e. 10-12 percent of GDP, in other nations. This again is a testimony to the priority significance attached to education process, of our reverence toward the work of educators who train the younger generation who, in turn, generate new ideas, those who will continue with the undertakings in reforming the country, building a democratic state in Uzbekistan.
The obvious evidence of a broad recognition of the role and significance of pedagogues’ work in terms of forming and upbringing a harmoniously advanced generation was adoption of the Law of 1996 according to which October 1 is annually marked in our country as a national holiday – Teachers and Mentors Day.
I feel confident that everything done in Uzbekistan for people, who devoted themselves to the most humanistic trade in the world, is quite justified. It is particularly pleasant for me to tell this to you, the ones who understand well that if we truly wish to foster a worthwhile generation, we should have a well-deserved attitude to those who bring up our youth.
I would like to specially emphasize the growing volume of foreign technical assistance being channeled to development of education and which made up more than 500 million dollars for over the past period. In the first instance, this was the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (nearly 290 million dollars), Government of the Republic of Korea (more than 110 million dollars), the World Bank (33 million dollars), the OPEC Fund, the Saudi Fund, Islamic Development Bank (42 million dollars), the Government of Germany through KfW Bank (nearly 20 million dollars) and other donors – more than 100 million dollars.
From this high rostrum it gives me a profound pleasure to bring the words of sincere gratitude to the international financial organizations and banks, all our foreign partners and governments for their invaluable support in resolving such an important task for us.
Dear participants of the Conference!
I believe you will agree with me that today it is very hard to evaluate by certain measures and figures everything that we have accomplished to implement the Program of reforming education and training qualified personnel adopted in Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, speaking about this, it is important to take into account that the Program being realized in our country is not a repetition or copying of someone’s model, but it is, above all, the generalization of the experience accumulated by the developed democratic countries and at the same time it considers the demands of the rapidly changing modern world.
It is also important to take into consideration that for over the span of many centuries the ancient land of Uzbekistan has remained as a seat of enlightenment and science, one of the centers of world civilization, and aspiration to knowledge has always been an alienable part of our nation’s mentality.
Our great ancestors like Muhammad Al-Khorezmi, Abu Rayhon Beruni, Abu Ali Ibn Sino – Avicenna, Mirzo Ulughbek and many others are well-known all over the world for their outstanding discoveries in mathematics, astronomy, geodesy, mineralogy, pharmacology and medicine.
I think you are well aware of the fact that the invention of the notion of algorithm, the decimal system and the concept of zero are associated with the name of Khorezmi. It was Abu Rayhon Beruni who had predicted the existence of a continent 500 years prior to the discovery of America. Abu Ali Ibn Sino – Avicenna is renowned for his first surgeries as early as 11th century. Crucially, his work, “Canon of the Medical Science”, was studied for 500 years in the most advanced European universities as a basic text. The astronomer Mirzo Ulughbek built an observatory in Samarkand back in the 15th century and created a star chart of the world. I think we can by right speak about these individuals who made immense input into world civilization. When we talk of our great ancestors, about people who for ages made enlightenment and science their trade, one would tell our youth again and again that, yes, we ought to take pride in our ingenious forefathers. Yet more important would be to ask ourselves as to what we have been doing today to be their worthwhile successors.
Embarking on the path of construction of a modern state with a developed market economy, ensuring the gradual transition from a strong state to a strong civil society, we have always realized that only those people, who comprehend the necessity of harmony of the national and universal human values, who possess modern knowledge, intellectual potential and advanced technologies, can achieve the set strategic goals of development.
It would barely be any exaggeration to assert that the radical reforming of the system of education has become the most important factor and fundamental basis of changing the minds and worldview of people, raising their political and civic activeness, as well as confidence in their future.
What is particularly important is that the new generation, the educated youth who are free of any vestiges of the past are today turning into a vital driving force of democratization, liberalization, renewal and confident growth of the country.
Suffice it to say that for over the past period more than 2 million 300 thousand students have graduated from the professional colleges and academic lyceums, and this year over 500 thousand students are going to graduate with vocational education diploma, and this stands as a powerful stimulus for not only modernization and diversification of the economy, but also qualitative renewal of the country’s human resources.
According to assessments of prominent international financial institutions, Uzbekistan despite the ongoing global financial-economic downturn maintains steady high growth rates of the economy which during the last 5 years have made up not less than 8.5 percent, and the GDP has increased 2.1 times as compared with 2000. Uzbekistan provides the current account surplus, the low external debt and sufficient official reserves; the strong economic growth projected over the medium term.
It is important to note that these growth rates are provided primarily thanks to deepening structural changes and diversification of the economy, the accelerated development of new high-tech enterprises and industries, speeding up the processes of modernization and technical re-equipment of the operating enterprises and extensive attraction of foreign investments.
If during the past 10 years 80 billion dollars of capital investments have been directed to the economy of Uzbekistan, then over 23 billion dollars or nearly 30 percent of them were the foreign investments.
In 2012 the growth of foreign investments will make up 16 percent, meanwhile 70 percent of them are the direct foreign investments and this speaks by itself about the growing interest of foreign capital towards the reforms being carried out in our country, and crucially, about the confidence in the prospects of Uzbekistan’s development.
Summing up the aforesaid, we have all grounds to state that for over the historically short period of time – 15-20 years Uzbekistan has made a giant step along the path of achieving our main goal – to join the ranks of the developed democratic states in the world and create the decent living conditions and standards for the population of the country. And we, let me stress it, can rightfully be proud of this.
We well understand that the issues of reforming the educational system as the most important condition of steady and sustainable development of the economy, suggested for discussion at the current forum, in no way can cover all aspects of multifaceted and comprehensive problems in terms of establishing a harmoniously advanced individual, i.e. the task which has always concerned the best minds of humanity.
Second, each and every model of reforming the educational process in one country or another cannot claim universality.
Everything done and is still being done in Uzbekistan to implement the Education reforms program primarily meets the long-term interests, realities and peculiarities of a rather complex stage of our country’s current development.
We all well understand that times are moving ahead fast, so are the issues related to perfecting the education system. Here, pivotal is the international cooperation, interaction of all those who labor in this sphere, not merely those who train the specialists, but also those who are in demand of those specialists.
Therefore, for us it is extremely important everything that will be said and suggested by the participants of the Conference at the plenary and group sessions taking into account a priceless experience generated in other countries.
Uzbekistan, I would like to stress it, is interested in further strengthening a comprehensive cooperation among our and respective educational institutions of foreign countries. We believe this is one of the goals of this Forum.
I have a wish to share with you. We wish very much such meetings and forums were held more often.
What do you think of this proposal? When they say Uzbekistan has a pretty hospitable people, we would rather that you felt it more frequently on your own example. Our communication and cooperation is important not merely from the perspective of the topic we have gathered here.
In this dialogue, a cooperation is born on a wide spectrum of issues which go far beyond the subject matter we are discussing today. And what is crucial is that through the cooperation of scholars, leaders, specialists, educators, a cooperation is born among students, young people irrespective of their place of residence and study and work.
Thus, we are happy to see you in Tashkent, and not only in Tashkent, but also in the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and other towns who preserve ancient history and ancient civilization.
Taking this opportunity, allow me once again to express to you, our dear guests, and all participants of the Conference my enormous respect and sincere gratitude.
I wish you a fruitful work, pleasurable stay in Uzbekistan, a sound health, new successes and the best of luck in your endeavors.
Thank you for your attention.