By Maksim Yeniseyev
TASHKENT -- Changes are coming to Uzbekistani public education after a previous reform disappointed and troubled parents and children.
Recently appointed Deputy Public Education Minister Alisher Sadullayev will be in charge of a transition from a nine-year primary and secondary school system to an 11-year one.
Sadullayev, 22, the youngest cabinet member in Uzbekistan's history, will be implementing the government's July 5 decision to transition to the 11-year system.
"In 2009, Uzbekistan decided to introduce a 12-year [9 + 3] compulsory system," Tashkent schoolteacher Nadezhda Orekhova told Caravanserai. "It includes nine years of [primary and secondary] school and three years in a vocational college or academic lycée."
The system had flaws, she said.
"The quality of vocational college education was low," she said. "And children suffered stress during the hardest teenaged years because they switched classmates."
Starting with the 2017-2018 school year, 9th-grade graduates will have a choice -- either stay in secondary school for two more years, or enter a three-year vocational college or academic lycée, the Public Education Ministry said in a statement July 5.
Those going on to university apply at the end of 11 years of schooling.
A shocking incident in May made many Uzbekistanis question the wisdom of the 9 + 3 system.
A group of students at Borovsky Medical College in Tashkent beat up a sophomore, Jasurbek Ibragimov, who died of his injuries a month later.
After the tragedy, which to many seemed evidence of the dangers of pouring too-young students into an unfamiliar environment, officials expressed their determination to fight youth violence.
One answer was to return to the previous system, letting children from the same neighbourhood stay together for 11 years.
"In high schools, children are developing as individuals and learning to work as a team," President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said during a June 16 visit to Public School No. 78 in Tashkent, according to his press office. "During this very period, you can't separate them from the environment they've adapted to."
"All parents and children eagerly awaited returning to the 11-year system," Orekhova said.
An uninterrupted educational process for 11 years will help children prepare better for higher education, she predicted.
"With the 11-year system ... a child doesn't have to switch environments and classmates, and for me as a parent, managing him is much easier," said Nonna Khurshudova of Tashkent, a mother of two. "I don't have to worry how he's adapting to a new set of classmates."
Letting children stay in the same system for 11 years is much better than shunting them off into vocational colleges after 9 years, argued Tashkent high school teacher Svetlana Ten.
"It's critical for educating children who will be studying fundamental sciences and theoretical subjects," she told Caravanserai.
"I wouldn't want to study in a [vocational] college since all my friends from the neighbourhood study in my school," said Tashkent ninth-grader Bakhtiyer Dekhkanov. "In a college, the students come from all over the city. I very much didn't want to switch to a new set of classmates -- I'm afraid of conflicts."