|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Students, classrooms, textbooks, learning and teaching materials, curricula, and most importantly the teachers, along with mechanisms of development and interaction between these components, together constitute the system responsible for educating the nation's children. Previous Asian Development Bank (ADB) projects, including the Second Education Project (SEP) and support from other development partners, have strengthened key components of this system in the Kyrgyz Republic. SEP helped develop a new education curriculum focusing on improvement of teaching methodologies and learning assessment, and supported learning and development and printing of learning and teaching materials (LTM) for grade 1. Low fiscal space in the budget forced the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic to reduce the pace of reform implementation. Consequently textbooks are yet to be developed and printed for grades 5-11 and teachers need to be trained to deliver the new curriculum.
Following independence in 1991, the Kyrgyz Republic has focused on improving education quality in schools. However, low teacher quality and ineffective teaching practices remain key variables that have a significant bearing on the weak learning attainment endemic in the education system. A low-quality education system, inadequately linked to the national growth plans and private sector, neither allows for an optimal realization of the socio-economic development of the country nor leads to sustainable reforms. A sector development program (SDP) is therefore proposed to tackle the problem in a holistic manner. Lessons learned from SEP implementation will benefit the SDP design which will have two parallel and interacting components - a program component to focus on policy reforms and a project component to target key interventions and investments in the education sector. By focusing on all critical elements of the school education system, along with the linkages between these elements, the proposed SDP is expected to have a significant impact on the performance of the school education system of the country.
Teachers are the fundamental building block of a country's education system and are the key to its success. Long-term, sustainable reform of school education will only occur when the curricula for in- and pre-service teacher training incorporate new teaching methodologies and learning assessment systems. This requires the relevant university and teacher training institute (TTI) faculty to be abreast of the latest research and developments in pedagogy applicable to the Kyrgyz context. Teacher trainers also must have the qualifications and training to conduct the requisite programs. There is an acute shortage of active, qualified teachers in the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2011-2012 school year the teacher deficit was 4%, while 1,264 out of the country's 2,204 schools experienced teacher shortages. This occurs especially in science where the lack of sufficient laboratories, teaching aids, and materials is compounded by the absence of appropriately qualified teachers. The move towards introduction of integrated science subjects in secondary grades will help improve the situation to some degree, but there is an urgent need for qualified science teachers. Technology-assisted e-education modules can provide a high quality distance education option to aspiring teachers and, together with existing programs, present a viable option to improve access to high quality in- and pre-service teacher education and training programs.
The low preparatory level of secondary school students is real and pervasive across the country and leads to dropouts of many new entrants to universities. Those that enter the workplace fare no better and face high levels of unemployment. Kyrgyz students ranked last in math, science, and reading among nations that participated in the 2006 and 2009 rounds of the Program for International Student Assessment. This phenomenon is reported to be getting worse each year across the higher education system. There is also significant disparity in test scores between students living in cities and those who reside outside the main urban areas. Lack of access to requisite quality human resources can significantly impact development achievements and growth in the country.
The quality of higher education and its relevance to the economy are currently of greatest concern to the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. The enrollment distribution by discipline in higher education does not support the government's aspirations to prioritize development of mining, construction, telecommunications, agriculture and processing, information and communication technology, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship. The majority (77%) of students are enrolled in humanities and social sciences, with only 23% pursuing technical options. To provide support to and increase the number of students pursuing technical streams requires the availability of modern curricula at the upper secondary level.