[Editor’s note: Portions of this article originally appeared in the newspaper, Kuliobskaya Pravda, on July 6, 2001.]
Sixty high school economics teachers in Tajikistan are heading back to their classrooms this fall armed with a powerful weapon: increased knowledge.
The sixty teachers participated this past summer in an economics teacher-training program funded by Mercy Corps and taught by ten members of the economics department at Kuliob University in southeastern Tajikistan. The classroom-training program was designed to equip the economics teachers with the fundamental knowledge and tools to teach basic economics in Tajik secondary schools.
"Many teachers in our country have never had the proper training in economics,” Anna Alexanderovna Konkova, Senior Lecture in the Economics Department at Kuliob University, said.
“Because there are not enough funds for training courses available locally and nationally they often possess a poor knowledge in how to teach things like market economics, how to find a job, and how to plan a family budget,” said Konkova, who applied to Mercy Corps for the grant and who oversaw this summer’s training sessions.
Mercy Corps has operated in Tajikistan since 1994, implementing programs ranging from immediate emergency relief to long-term economic development. Working with local partners such as Kuliob University, Mercy Corps’ programs have provided valuable assistance to the educational sector of Tajikistan, a small country in Central Asia that faces a severe demise in social services resulting, in part, from civil war, a weak central government and a collapsed economy.
Economics was first introduced into the secondary school curriculum in Tajikistan in 1996 and many of the teachers have little formal training in a subject matter that was considered taboo for decades. With Tajikistan’s old socialist economy slowly beginning its transformation to a market-based economy, economic know-how is in increasing demand.
Twenty secondary school economics teachers from each of three regions, Kuliob, Muminabad, and Shuroabad, underwent the sixty-hour training program. The ten professors from the economics department at Kuliob University who taught the course helped the teachers to develop curriculum, design tests, and to gain an increased knowledge of basic and advanced economic theory.
“These sixty teachers will not be the only ones to benefit from the training. It is our hope that they will go back to their schools and conduct the same training for other teachers and that in the end the students at these schools will benefit from well-prepared teachers,” Konkova said.
Summer training programs for teachers are not unfamiliar in Tajikistan but budgetary constraints have prevented most from being held since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
“It is not a surprise that Mercy Corps chose to fund our program,” Konkova said. “Mercy Corps funds many projects that aim to help Tajiks move from disaster to normal life. The teaching of economics to young people is high on the list of top priorities in our country. Mercy Corps showed maximum mercy and patience in helping this project.”
Konkova adds that economics is one of the most popular subjects at the university level, but the majority of the students entering have limited knowledge in basic economics.