Sunday, April 26, 2009

SOS: Kyrgyz primary education in deep koma!

Contributed an analytical article to Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (Johns Hopkins)'s Analyst. The article is about the catastrophic state of Kyrgyz school education as illustrated by PISA, an international educational attainment survey conducted in 2006 and by NOODU, national program for educational evaluation, last conducted and published in 2008. Having participated as an administrator of the program I came across some shocking obervations that could not be put in the article due to space limitations. (the article itself is at )

There were children who did not know what Internet was - not only in the fourth, but also in the eighth grade.
Some of the more advanced Bishkek ninth-graders did not know what is, let alone Wikipedia or anything like that.

Students in villages simply do not comprehend what they read. they need an external authority to tell them what to do, in simple and "vernacular' terms. The latter was vivid when I would read out loud detailed instructions in literary Uzbek and kids would then look, quite surprised, at their teacher, who would reformulate my statement using elements of local Kyrgyzo-Uzbeko-Tajik esperanto.

Disparities in the level of educational attainment are wide indeed. What makes everything worse is that the gap is not between very smart and stupid, but between average or a-bit-higher-than-average and really really challenged kids, challenged in reading comprehension and science knowledge sense.

Equipment at schools is of course, long gone. Recently conducted PISA survey at the outskirst of capital Bishkek, in what turned out to be physics room, and the only relevant piece of equipment available to demonstrate to students were several pieces of magnet.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Legacy of Soviet "colonialism"

Last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April, extensively travelled throughout Kyrgyzstan, from Batken’s Kizilkia and the city of Osh to Jalalabad’s Aksy and Nooken rayons and Bishkek mikrorayons. The primary objective was the administration of assessment program in primary education, however, the secondary objective was to see more of such diverse Kyrgyzstan. Impressions boiled down to the following:

Corruption seems to be the primary ill this country has to access. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a clean-hands public administration would immediately cure Kyrgyz society of myriad of contemporary ills. To cite several examples, in this country producing twice as much electricity as it needs (14.5 against 7 million mW), electricity cuts are still endemic in faraway places, while officially close to 40% (!!!) of electricity is lost. A local TV station aired a story today of cases of corruption in using foreign-provided grants for school repair.

USSR with all its ills and savageries and “colonial” domination of Kyrgyzstan executed a feat that hardly other great Kyrgyz patron will be able to repeat – brought railway, paved road, highly educated professionals and resources to the most faraway regions of this country. Such faraway places like KizilKia, practically a nowhere of great Soviet heartland used to enjoy such state of the art infrastructure as underground telephone cables, German-Jewish teacher passionaries sent directly from Moscow and a mining school that is still respected in Central Asia.

On Bishkek-Osh road, driving by numerous gigantic hydro-power dams and through several tunnels, all accomplishments of Soviet-time engineering thought and construction might, I could not but sadly realize that such intellectual potential that nowadays only economically mighty states can afford has left Kyrgyzstan for long, if not forever. For if you think about it, public engineering system is but a luxury not every state can afford.

Nowadays it is clear that with the above mentioned corruption state-of-the-art engineering project would have to be outsourced to Russian companies and cottage-house tiny school like the one I visited in Dostuk village of Nooken rayon would never enjoy a metropolis-trained intellectual and an adequate library in all three languages people around speak.

The saddest thing for this country is that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The current political system would most likely continue to engage in myopic rent-seeking and exhaustive strip-off of national resources, as well as stealing from budget and inhibiting normal development of medium and small enterprises, while the country would be deeper engulfied into the slough of social problems.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Drop Deutsche Bank account if you have one

According to an international transparency watchdog Global Witness, Deutsche Bank used to and still does keep foreign currency accounts of Turkmen leaders where the latter store proceeds from gas sales. The fact that gas proceeds are stored there means:
1. That monies are not part of the budget and consequently that
2. proceed amounts are not transparent and finally that
3. only the leader of the country has access to it and can potentially use it for his own purposes.

According to GW's Tom Mayne, in 2009 the number might be as high as 12.5 billion USD. Since in 2007 5 billion gas proceeds made up half of the country's GDP, the current number should make up a similar share of the GDP.

Deutsche Bank seems to be very cosy with the fact. Germany corporate world overall has been very good with the late President Niyazov. There even were talks that Daimler sponsored the translation of his magnum opus Ruhnama into German as a gratitude to their VIP client. True, business is business and corporate world might not even give a damn about the nature of Turkmen political system and financial practices.

However, then why
1. Deutsche Bank refer to adherence to UN Global Compact, which, according to Mayne is pretty much an empty declaration?
2. Why does European democratic and anticorruption community not boycott Deutsche Bank or attempt to influence it somehow?