Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Education Cut Bad for Women

A decision to end distance-learning courses in Tajikistan will have serious consequences for women who have no other practical way of continuing in education, experts say.
Farzona Abdulqaisova reports that the education ministry made the decision after a special commission found that the distance-learning courses offered by colleges and universities fell short of the required standards.

Part-time students account for a high proportion of the total – there were 6,000 of them among the total 29,000 new college entrants when the current academic year began in September.

It used to be that most of those on part-time courses were working full time, but these days it is increasingly married women or people living away from the main towns.

Students from rural parts of Tajikistan say it is the only way they can get a higher education these days as they cannot afford to move into town, especially the capital Dushanbe where accommodation is particularly expensive.

There are concerns about the effect the decision will have on overall education levels, especially among women.

“If they completely close down distance-learning, many girls and women will be deprived of an education,” warned Muhiba Yaqubova, head of Tajikistan’s Association of Women Scientists.

She blames the authorities for cutting distance-learning course from six to five years, and then complaining about the low standards achieved.

Lecturer Behrouz Shukrulloev says that if teaching standards are inadequate, the system needs to be modified, not abolished.

“It is wrong to unilaterally deprive people of an education,” he said.

Since Tajikistan is desperately short of school staff, an exception is being made for teacher-training courses which will continue to offer distance learning. So dire is the shortage that Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov wants to hire school-leavers with top grades and unemployed housewives with degrees or teaching qualifications.

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