By Ranokhon Tursunova
It is an undeniable fact that in the 21st century the success in development can only be achieved by those countries that have chosen to prioritize investment in human capital, since accumulated knowledge and information have now become strategic resources.
A state system of sustainable education, which consists of pre-school, general secondary and primary vocational education, higher and postgraduate education, professional development and retraining, is well-developed in Uzbekistan.
However, it is necessary to point out the peculiarity of the model proposed by our state, which implies a permanent learning process, in which a person has the opportunity to gain knowledge for a long time and further improve it.
As for pre-school education, the system has not been regulated from a constitutional-legal point of view so far. It is quite relevant and timely to introduce a new edition of the Constitution with regulations that the state creates conditions for the development of pre-school education and upbringing, as well as general secondary education are supervised by the state. First of all, this project was formed in the process of studying the international experience, constitutions of foreign countries, as well as on the basis of proposals and initiatives of our compatriots.
Since 2017, the government has been working intensively to develop preschool education in Uzbekistan. In this regard, a specialized Ministry of Preschool Education has been created, and the Concept for the Development of Preschool Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan until 2030 has been adopted, which serves as a legal basis for implementing reforms in this sphere. Meanwhile, the government is expected to pay particular attention to stimulating the involvement of private capital by means of public-private partnerships in the sphere, increasing the percentage of children in preschool education to 80.8 percent by 2030, and also boosting the coverage of 6-year-old children by the preschool system to 100 percent by the end of 2024-2025 academic year.
The next link in the chain of lifelong learning is school education, which aims to form the basic knowledge in the training of professional staff.
A new edition of the Constitution, which stipulates that the state guarantees free general secondary and primary vocational education, whereas general secondary education is compulsory, will serve as the constitutional basis for further improvement of the sector.
It should be noted that the work on radical transformation in the school sector of Uzbekistan is being carried out intensively. Over the past six years, the legal framework for improving public education system has been updated, a revised edition of the Law "On Education" has been adopted, the Concept of Development of Public Education in the Republic of Uzbekistan until 2030 and more than 20 legal and regulatory acts of the President and the government have been adopted.
In the "Year of Human Care and Quality Education,” a number of important measures have already been taken, including the introduction of complimentary meals for elementary school children at all schools.
In accordance with a state program-2023, there will be a gradual introduction of teaching students two foreign languages and one profession in one of the schools of each district (city), educational programs aimed at bringing up students in the spirit of human and national values and patriotism since the academic year 2023-2024.
Consequently, consolidating the state's status as a guarantor of free general secondary education and elementary vocational education for the younger generation, as well as a compulsory general secondary education, will serve as the constitutional basis for a radical reform of school education.
The following amendment establishes the right of citizens to obtain a higher education in the state educational institutions on a competitive basis at the state’s expense. In turn, the higher educational institutions have the right to an academic freedom, self-government, freedom of research and teaching within the limits established by law. The proposed formulation in the new edition of the Constitution clearly and distinctly defines the role of the state as regards obtaining higher education on a competitive basis.
Over the past six years, the considerable changes have taken place in the sphere of higher education in Uzbekistan. For instance, the enrollment quotas have been increased, bringing the total coverage to 28 percent (five years ago this indicator was only 9 percent). The number of state grants has increased. Besides, for the second year in a row, girls from families in need are being given 2,000 places at universities. Furthermore, university entrants now have the opportunity to choose five state universities for enrollment, test exams are now staggered, and the scores are announced promptly. Besides, it is now possible to submit documents to a university online, as well as to take an admission test to Tashkent universities, while staying in the region.
At the same time, the switch to a hybrid form of education (full-time, part-time, evening and distance studying) and the increase in the number of universities operating in the country, including private and branches of foreign universities can be considered an important innovation as well.
In carrying out a fundamental reform of the higher education system, Uzbekistan is pursuing the main goal of becoming a competitive country that invests heavily in training highly qualified personnel in demand on the labor market. Thus, the demand for higher education in Uzbekistan has been growing every year.
In the sphere of education, the innovations that are taking place in our society must have a particular place. An inclusive education is part of them.
There are many young people in the country with certain disabilities who, despite everything, want to learn, work and be useful for the state and society.
An amendment is proposed to the new edition of the Constitution "Inclusive education and upbringing should be provided for children with special educational needs at the educational institutions."
The inclusive education is a novelty for our society, therefore, we can only adapt it based on the international experience. At the same time, in the implementation of the social state model, it is necessary not only to identify, but also to create conditions for the integration of young people with disabilities in the educational space of our country, their formation as full members of society.
The components of the state continuous education also include the postgraduate education, advanced training and retraining of personnel. On Sept. 6, 2019, the Presidential Decree "On Additional Measures for Further Improvement of the Professional Education System" was adopted. On Feb. 26, 2021, the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers approved the Regulation on the organization of the process of retraining and advanced training of managerial and pedagogical staff of professional educational institutions.
It should be emphasized, that the role of highly qualified specialists in the innovative economy is significant and will continue to grow. In this regard, the constant renewal of professional and personal skills will contribute to a consistent reform of all spheres of life and activity.
All of the above-mentioned amendments to the Constitution in a new edition shall give a new impetus and dynamic character to the system of sustainable education, as well as ensure Uzbekistan’s innovative development and competitiveness in the world arena.
Ranokhon Tursunova is an associate professor at the Univ. of World Economy and Diplomacy's department of political science. The views expressed in this article are his own. -- Ed.