Gunel Babayeva. Trust in the Educational Sector in Azerbaijan: Taking a Look at Rural Settlements

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21 June 2016
Gunel Babayeva, CRRC Azerbaijan 2016 Fellow
Introduction
In a rapidly changing world,countries rich in resources face a multitude of challenges. A number of
challenges also emerged in the post-Soviet spaces as a result of economic decline in many fields,
including education, following the collapse of Soviet Union. A period of political instability over
Nagorno-Karabakh, together with economic difficulties, obstructed the government from
undertaking comprehensive educational reforms during the 1990s.
As a developing country, despite the rapid economic development of the country, numerous
challenges still remain. According to a 2003 World Bank report, the quality of education is
inconsistent throughout the country and there is a shortage of adequate facilities for learning and
teaching.In this article I will discuss the state of education specifically in rural areas of the country. I
will review current and prospective reforms aimed at the further development of education.
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Moreover, I will analyse the data provided by the Caucasus Barometer public attitudes survey on
the trust Azerbaijani citizens have in their education system.
According to the General Education Concept in Azerbaijan, a student who completed general
education can (among other skills) “speak his/her mother tongue fluently; has got detailed
information on history and culture of his/her motherland; has respect for democratic principles;
shows commitment to the state system; can study and obtain information independently” (MOE,
2006). Considering the importance of such values and skills in people’s lives, the significance of
general education cannot be underestimated.
Education not only aims to equip people with basic knowledge and skills, but also plays a key role
in forming their worldview and mindset. The education system of the Republic of Azerbaijan is
established on the basis of national and universal values and has a democratic character. However
in addition one of the foundational criteria of the public policy is equity, ensuring the right to an
equal standard of education for all citizens. One ofthe main problems in education in Azerbaijan is
the decline in the quality of education, largely as a result of decreasing public expenditure on
education (World Bank, 2003).
The Government of Azerbaijan’s (GOA)first major educational reform initiative since the collapse of
the USSR came with the Education Reform Program of 1999, the main focus of which was the
‘quality and relevance’ of general education. The Republic of Azerbaijan also joined several
educational initiatives, to support the implementation of educational goals of the state. For
example, the third goal of the Education For All initiative (EFA) stipulates equal access to
appropriate learning and life-skills programmes (EFA, 2000). According to a 2005 UNESCO report,
Azerbaijan was among three countries deemed as unlikely to meet the goal of universal primary
education by 2015. In this regard, changes in policy and the proper implementation of educational
goals are of great importance in order to meet the needs of a changing global society.
Trust in the education system: Caucasus Barometer Data (2013)
In the CRRC’s 2013 Caucasus Barometer
survey, respondents were asked to what extent they trust
Azerbaijan’s educational system. The responses show that trust is relatively high level in all 3
settlement types (rural, urban and capital). However despite this high level of trust, international
assessments tell a different story. According to the 2009 report from PISA (Program for
International Student Assessment), Azerbaijani students graded 362, 431 and 373 for reading, math,
and science respectively; disappointingly, these results are significantly lower than OECD average,
which is almost 500 for each subject (World Bank Group, 2015). This demonstrates the
unsatisfactory condition of education quality by international standards.
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Enrollment levels are also suffering. According to a report of the StateStatistical Committee of the
Republic of Azerbaijan
, the number of pupils from rural areas in state and non-state general
educational institutions declined year on year from 2000- 2013. However, a slight rise in the number
of students attending general educational institutions from rural localities was seen in 2014- 2015.
The low enrollment figures are not surprising as they are a common tendency in most post-Soviet
countries. Firstly, there are a number of small schools in rural areas of Azerbaijan in which there is a
shortage of both teachers and resources (UNICEF, 2008). Another factor related to low enrollment
levels in schools is poverty. Although the poverty rate had declined to below 10% in 2011, many
children are at risk of poverty in IDP and refugee households.
It should be noted that often different aspects of educational reform develop at different pace.
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