From the beginning of the written history of humankind, Central Asia was at the crossroads of civilisations, cultures and development. Archaeological discoveries show that the first known cities and states were present here for more than five thousand years. Magnificent monuments, temples and government buildings, with the sophisticated structures, prove that this land was full of complex scientific and educational institutions.

Even when we look within the past millennia, the inventor of algebra and algorithm – Al Kwarezmi, the father of modern medicine – Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the creator of the first globe – Ulugbek and many more renowned scientists, who added their instrumental value to the development of current scientific knowledge, all lived and thrived in our territory.

Since independence, the education sector was one of the most hurt sectors of the economy. Due to the lack of financing, outflow of specialists and overall changes in the mentality towards more market driven sectors, our country has experienced a dip in education. We tried, nonetheless, to keep certain indicators, such as overall literacy rates, free basic education and maintenance of existing schools.

However, the real transformational changes only started after President Mirziyoyev took office and conducted comprehensive reforms in all spheres of the social and economic life. With the strong political will of the current President, we were able to transform our education system in order to lay the foundations for a new renaissance.

In order to more accurately administer the education sector, four separate entities such as the Ministry of Pre-school Education, the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and the State Inspectorate for the Quality in Education were created.
Each of them has specific tasks and responsibilities. Within the short period of time, we were able to achieve significant gains and improve the landscape.

In the area of pre-school education, in 2016 the total coverage of children under the age of 7 in pre-school education was around 20 percent, today it exceeds 63 percent. In 2017, there were only 5,200 kindergartens, today their number has increased almost fourfold and numbers more than 19,300. Within the past 4 years, 1,450 preschool educational institutions were built and reconstructed with the help of the State budget.

In the area of the higher education, in 2016 there were only 60,000 first year students who represented just over 9 percent of high school graduates. Just three years later the total number of the spots in state universities reached over 170,000 and now covers 28 percent. The number of the universities have doubled and many branches of international universities, as well as private universities have opened.

The most significant reforms, however, have happened in the sphere of public education, which touches upon every single family in the country. Currently, there are 10,008 schools in the country, which employ more than 500,000 teachers with over 6.2 mln students. Since 2017, 201 new schools were built, 1,823 were reconstructed and 2,040 were completely overhauled. The amount of money spent on such reform, in all regions, is at least 3-4 times higher than has been spent in the last 25 years since independence.

Along with the quantity, the quality of the education processes is extremely important. Today, in the age of the internet and AI, information technologies are a fundamental part of any industry. Over 90 percent of all schools, including the ones in remote areas, are connected to a high-speed internet. 70 percent of all schools have local area networks and we are trying to get the number to 100 percent gradually increasing WiFi in schools.

One of the most important changes is raising the status of our teachers in society and making the profession one of the most respected in the country. For this purpose, we have abolished forced labour in the country, lowered the level of bureaucracy and raised the salaries of the teachers. Additionally, we are conducting mass training of our existing teachers in their own subject matter as well as in new pedagogical and psychology skills with the partnership of the US, Great Britain, Russia, Finland, Japan and other countries with the best education systems.

Next, we have completely revised the curriculum, since the entire educational component depends on this. Having good school infrastructure, qualified teachers and high-speed internet is not enough to deliver a quality education. We are working with experts from the best international organisations to create new books and supplementary material, including notebooks for students, handbooks for teachers and apps for gamification of the process.

Overall, the schools have become results-oriented institutions with a clear vision and purpose. Now that educational institutions have been freed from unnecessary red tape, we have begun to demand precisely the high-quality transfer of knowledge that is required to develop our students into leaders of the future. The effectiveness of the work of the teaching staff of the school is not assessed by a beautiful building, newly-printed books or modern infrastructure, it is much more important here to see the actual success and achievements of graduates.

Summing up, I would like to quote the address of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the youth: “New Uzbekistan begins at the doorstep of the school,” which means that the transformation of the education system will continue, and we will make every effort to create opportunities for our nation’s children to reach their full potential and compete in the global markets. We have to make sure that they will be able to solve today’s and tomorrow’s challenges and make the world a better place to live.

Sherzod Shermatov,
Minister of Public Education of Uzbekistan