Interview of Voskanapat.info with PhD in Political Science, South Caucasus geopolitics expert Anzhela ELIBEGOVA
- According to international organizations, only 60 percent of Azerbaijani population has secondary education and only 17 percent has higher education. What is the cause of this situation and what is the situation like in Armenia?
- According to the UN and World Bank Data, 71 percent of Armenian population has secondary education and 52 percent has higher education, which is a very high number in the global context.
Regarding the causes of the low rate of education in Azerbaijan, the figures speak for themselves. Every year, more than 60 percent of Azerbaijani school leavers fail to get a positive mark at final examinations. Only 30-40 percent of school leavers apply for entrance to higher education institutions and 60 percent of the applicants fail to overcome the minimum threshold for entrance. The trend of worsening level of education in Azerbaijan led to lowering the minimum pass mark for higher education institutions from 200 to 150 this year. Also, some concessions were made and the minimum quantity of correct answers in the final examination tests was reduced.
Undoubtedly, this is not a way to tackle the problem. Quite the contrary: seeking to improve the statistics, Azerbaijan's educational system comes down lower and lower and it is the regular policy of the authorities. It is clear that the lower is the education rate and the level of civil culture in society, the less the civil society is developed and the easier it is controlled by the authorities. Of course, an Azerbaijani who asks too many questions is a serious headache to the regime. That is why following the arrests of foreign-educated bloggers and civil activists, Azerbaijan imposed control over the procedure of sending the youth to Europe and the United States to receive higher education. Now, only the "reliable ones" have such opportunity. Ali Hasanov, a representative of Azerbaijani presidential administration, has recently expressed his concern about the negative impact from the outside on Azerbaijani students studying abroad. He called on them to actively cooperate with organizations in Diaspora.
What can you say about preschool education?
Around 15 percent of children attend kindergartens in Azerbaijan and the rest are brought up by their parents at home. Materials published on AzeriChild.info website give a clear picture of what kind of "education" these children receive and in what kind of atmosphere they grow up. Of course, there is nothing of the kind in the textbooks for children in Armenia. The Azerbaijani side, however, tries to find some way to level the resonance caused by the website.
It is noteworthy that back in 1906 world-respected classic Uzeir Hajibekov wrote an article titled From Here and There, telling about the difference between the education of Armenian and Azerbaijani children. Below is a significant excerpt from the article. "An Armenian and Russian child is brought up by a knowledgeable and educated mother at home. She puts the child to bed at the right time, lets him take a walk in the open air at the right time, and entertains the child's leisure with toys useful to his spirit, morality and physical health. This child does not hear a single bad or harmful word. What does he hear? Music, marvelous for soul and health, stories, poems and legends written specially for children by renowned pedagogues, right and instructive speeches of their parents, and talks of cultured and educated guests at their homes. What do they see? Paintings hung on the walls of their homes, pleasing one's eyes, pictures of flowers, magazines and books with beautiful illustrations on the tables, and cleanness and order surrounding them on all sides, etc. Their mothers often take them to watch "cinematograph," and explain the meaning of the stills and pictures to them.
And what about our children? Allah forbid! All they hear is dirty swearing and foul language, intrigues and profane words, all they see is bad acts by grownups, everywhere they are surrounded by dirtiness, places where they play are covered with dust and soil, and their toys are…they smother cats, beat dogs, pour oil on mice and burn them. So, even before our children go to school, "their house is already ruined," that is, they are deprived of education from the very start and therefore, we have a sad result."
- Azerbaijani media said that there is one library for nearly every 900,000 people in the country. How can it be so?
- If we believe the figures, then only 11 percent of Azerbaijani population are readers, against 39 percent in Armenia. Given the fact that the libraries are mostly concentrated in Baku, the real numbers could be even smaller, so it is quite possible. For instance, the results of PISA international survey, conducted in 2009, show that Azerbaijan is behind practically all countries in terms of the knowledge level of students. Azerbaijan's 15-year-old students ranked last but one on the level of readers' literacy. It does not seem possible to compare the situation in 2012 as Azerbaijan does not participate in the project. However, the well-known interview of Sariya Aliyeva gives a general picture of the situation.
Of course, the problem is not only with the students. For instance, this year the exams for teachers to fill vacancies at schools and colleges are conducted not in two stages, as usual, but in one stage and even in one stage all the vacancies were not filled and the organizers failed to get the required number of teachers. People are not motivated to work as teachers in an oil-bearing country, where a teacher gets a salary of 150-250 dollars that falls short of the subsistence minimum. Lecturers of higher education institutions get a little bit higher salary – 250-450 dollars. Meanwhile, yearly pay for students at Azerbaijan's higher education institutions fluctuates between 2,000 and 6,000 dollars. Naturally, parents refuse to pay for such education as they believe it is not especially necessary for their children.