Central Asian countries are currently experiencing a significant learning crisis. In the Kyrgyz Republic, 64.5% of 10-year-old students are below the proficiency level in reading. The 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), an international comparative study measuring 4th-grade reading performance every 5 years, revealed that 9.3% and 30.2% of school students in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, respectively, lack minimum proficiency in reading comprehension. The 2020 Human Capital Index released by the World Bank reflects that students in Tajikistan generally achieve a level of learning equivalent to 6.8 years of schooling after 10.9 years of education. These issues are also emerging globally.
How can these negative developments in schools across Central Asia be resolved? “A wide body of scientific evidence confirms that teachers are the most important factor in schools for student learning, so much so that moving from a low-performing teacher to a highly effective teacher can raise student learning by the equivalent of multiple years of schooling”, noted Rita Almeida, Education Practice Manager, Europe and Central Asia, World Bank.
To support the educational authorities of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in designing effective teacher policies, since October 2021, UNESCO and the World Bank have been leading a regional knowledge exchange initiative - the ‘Skilled Teachers, Skilled Nation’ Program. It is financed by the South-South Facility and the China-World Bank Group Partnership Facility.
To date, thanks to the program, four regional symposia on education have been organized, bringing together government officials from the four countries of the region, as well as national and international experts. The participants shared ideas on the reforms needed to modernize the educational sector and explored good examples of teacher policies and practices regionally and globally.
“Over the past three years, we have established a regional forum uniting educational experts to share their insights and expertise regarding teacher recruitment policies, in-service and pre-service teacher training programs, as well as the career advancement pathways for educators,” said Amir Piric, Director of UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office. “This initiative will assist countries of the region in implementing effective policies to support teachers and effective teaching, with a focus on building a prepared, empowered, and motivated teaching force that can deliver high-quality instruction to all students.”
During the Fifth and final Central Asian Symposium on Education, the event participants were acquainted with a regional study led by national researchers in the four countries. It is focused on designing and implementing effective teacher policies across the full career lifecycle of a teacher, including selection for initial teacher education (ITE), quality of ITE, recruitment, career progression, and in-service professional development.
International experts shared case studies on teacher policies and practices in Shanghai, China, and Singapore. Moreover, country delegations had a chance to collaborate with the World Bank and UNESCO to co-design recommendations for reforming teacher policies in their respective countries.
The symposium participants noted that the successful approval of teacher professional standards in the four countries of Central Asia is a significant achievement and would lay the basis for the systematic reform of the teaching profession in the region.
The symposium materials are available via this link.
The World Bank’s education portfolio is $24 billion, benefiting approximately 18 million teachers worldwide. In Central Asia, the Bank is supporting the governments in developing an effective teaching force. In Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, multimillion-dollar projects funded by the Bank are helping the authorities reform pre-service and in-service teacher training systems, develop digital educational resources for teachers and students, improve pedagogical skills, educational infrastructure, children’s nutrition, health, and education outcomes.
UNESCO prioritizes supplying well-trained teachers and hosts the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030. This addresses the "teacher gap" and fulfills SDG target 4. c (by 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries) by providing qualified teachers and improving working conditions. In Central Asia, UNESCO equips teachers with relevant skills, resources, and promotes competency-based education and distance learning. Through the Global ICT Competency Framework for Teachers tool, UNESCO supports Central Asia in assessing and strengthening teachers' ICT skills and standards.