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Ethnic Uzbeks Push For Switch To Kyrgyz Language Schools

Ethnic Uzbek girls walk along a street just outside the southern city of Osh in June.
Ethnic Uzbek girls walk along a street just outside the southern city of Osh in June.
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Several prominent members of the ethnic Uzbek community in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh have proposed gradually switching to Kyrgyz as the language of instruction in schools, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Osh City Council member Amanullo Iminov, an ethnic Uzbek, told RFE/RL he advocates launching Kyrgyz language classes in schools dominated by ethnic Uzbeks and increasing the teaching hours in Kyrgyz in high schools. He said the proposal will be considered at the next City Council session.

Uzbek playwright and journalist Erkin Baynazarov told RFE/RL that the initiative is long overdue. He added he and about 50 other people are holding meetings with the public and lobbying to have only Uzbek language and literature classes taught in Uzbek, and all other classes in Kyrgyz.

Independent expert Abdumomun Mamaraimov told RFE/RL he thinks the switch from Uzbek to Kyrgyz as the language of instruction may compound ethnic tensions, and some parents might consider it discrimination.

School principal Kadyrzhan Yunusov told RFE/RL that his school in the village of Kashgar switched in 2009 to teaching all subjects in Kyrgyz. He said parents had suggested the change due to a lack of Uzbek-language textbooks.

Ar-Namys party member Anvar Artykov told RFE/RL that the initiative could facilitate greater integration after the June 2010 clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks that left hundreds dead and thousands homeless.
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Comment Sorting
by: John from: London
July 02, 2011 06:25
People usually politicize this matter. Otherwise, I don't see anything wrong if a person of a different ethnicity learns Kyrgyz language in order to live inside Kyrgyzstan. The same with the U.K.

by: Farkhod from: Europe
July 02, 2011 06:46
This is an excellent move.
You can see the same picture even in Europe.

by: Anonymous
July 03, 2011 10:26
Excellent idea. It is normal that Uzbeks should study and learn Kyrgyz. Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz should realise that the ethnic Uzbeks have exactly the same rights as them, e.g. to occupy high level posts and to work in any part of Kyrgyzstan they wish.

by: dilek from: turkey
July 04, 2011 10:35
people who do not have a severe history on language cannot easily understand the demands on having education in your mother tongue. why not providing the basic tools for uzbek people to realize their educational goals in social life and continue to assimilate them. think visa versa! it is not hard yet necessitates hearth!

by: CO
July 06, 2011 05:04
And the purging of Uzbek life from Osh continues. What a sad state Kyrgyzstan is in for this to be happening. If the "titular majority" had perhaps a bit more respect for their minorities (to the end of employing them in civil service or printing textbooks in their languages, for example), it's questionable whether Uzbeks would need to propose such measures.

And, to compare learning Kyrgyz in Osh to learning English in the UK is a bit off, isn't it? Can't the Welsh still study in their tongue? Isn't Welsh even an official language in Wales? Like the Welsh, Uzbeks lived in Osh long before today's geopolitical lines were drawn.

Rather than Kyrgyz language instruction, what the Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan need is respect for their history, language, and culture. The same is true for Kyrgyzstan's other minorities.

And I would of course say that Kyrgyz minorities should get similar respect, whether they be in China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, or elsewhere.

by: Teleshaly from: Bishkek
July 06, 2011 09:32
Dear President Roza Otunbaeva,
Your address to compatriots on occasion of VII Kurultai of Kyrgyzstan people suggests “reform of the language component of our education. Children of all ethnic origin should be fluent in Kyrgyz language. We should set this task not today, of course, and not tomorrow even… we need to define it – to make arrangements for switch of the public primary education to Kyrgyz language.”
In your view, this initiative will contribute to involvement of all ethnic groups into language and cultural space of the majority ethnos.
We appeal to you as we believe that suggestions of such sort are controversial and can have irreversible consequences for several reasons:
1. A higher status of the Kyrgyz language is necessary not only to bring stability to the country and to improve the quality of education. The language is a very active political instrument and it is necessary to foresee and to forecast consequences of incautious decisions. We should precisely know what we want to get rid from and what we want to acquire. One can immediately realize that such one-sided initiatives will result in departure of Russian speaking population, unemployment among qualified Russian speaking teachers who can and have the right to teach subjects in primary school in their native tongue in accordance with the Article 5 of the Law on Teacher Status. We can lose human capital overnight that we have been accumulating for decades. The initiative to introduce primary education solely in Kyrgyz language will exacerbate departures of people from the country and we may turn into mono-ethnic state. In the world, there are successful examples of multi-ethnic countries with several state and official languages (Singapore, Belgium, Hong Kong), where different ethnic groups prosper and co-exist peacefully.
2. The wish to speak a language arises when there is motivation to learn it. Switch of entire primary education to Kyrgyz language will not prompt wish to be fluent in Kyrgyz if the Kyrgyz language is imposed instead of the mother tongue. Children of different ethnic groups in accordance with Article 10 paragraph 3, Article 16 paragraph 2, Article 20 paragraph 3, Article 31 paragraph 4, Article 45 paragraph 3 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, Articles 4, 6, 16 of the Law on Education have a right to a free public education in their mother tongue.
3. The results of monitoring of learning achievements ( 2005) among primary school students in Kyrgyzstan show that students from schools with Russian language of instruction have better knowledge than those from schools with Kyrgyz language of instruction. In such situation we should ask ourselves why does this happen? One of primary reasons is the quality of teaching: underdeveloped teaching methodologies, lack of textbooks in Kyrgyz language, shortage of additional literature of a good quality for developing global worldview of a student, lack of a state program for improvement and enrichment of literary Kyrgyz language.
Millions of soms were spent for production of textbooks for schools with Kyrgyz language of instruction. Eradication of corruption, independent review (perhaps, international one) at this stage and other stages is a crucially important factor of improvement of the quality of education.

by: Teleshaly from: Bishkek
July 06, 2011 09:36
4. Schools with Russian language of instruction widely use the latest textbooks from Russia. No secret, we lack modern locally published textbooks using innovative approaches to learning. Having said that, methodological guidebooks for teachers, didactic materials in Russian language enable teachers to improve their teaching techniques. The Government needs to subsidize publication of methodological literature for teachers in a good Kyrgyz language and children’s literature in Kyrgyz language, especially for children of a preschool age. It is required to support development of Kyrgyz, or, to be more exact, Kyrgyzstan culture through art, theater, and cinema. All innovative information in all spheres of our social life reaches us in Russian language. What are we doing to shape love for Kyrgyz language? There are many ways for that: simultaneous translation and subtitles for programs of Kyrgyzstan television and broadcasting of plenary sessions of the Jogorku Kenesh, publication of bilingual books for children and adults, etc.
5. The number of schools with Kyrgyz language of instruction is growing naturally. Among total 2,197 secondary schools, we have 1,379 schools with Kyrgyz language of instruction. Prior to perestroika, for instance, in Bishkek there was only one school with Kyrgyz language of instruction – School No. 5 (current computer gymnasium). The number of the so-called “mixed” schools is growing as well and totals 517 by the beginning of 2011-2012 school year. The number of schools with Russian, Uzbek, Tajik languages of instruction makes only 301.
6. Did we ask parents and, and more importantly, our children what they think about primary education provided solely in Kyrgyz language? What and how will we teach our children if decisions about their future are imposed from above?

by: Teleshaly from: Bishkek
July 06, 2011 09:37
7. One intervention in education will never resolve a problem. It is necessary to use a systemic approach to reforms involving all institutes of the society.

Let us focus first on the quality of education at schools with Kyrgyz language of instruction and quality of teaching of Kyrgyz language in schools with non-Kyrgyz language of instruction, where teaching methodologies require serious improvements. A positive world experience of teaching non-native language, unfortunately, is adopted very slowly in case of teaching Kyrgyz language for many reasons. Let’s study these reasons and plan future constructive initiatives in this regard.

We really want to raise the status of the Kyrgyz language as a language of inter-ethnic communication and unity of peoples living in Kyrgyzstan, this is why we believe it is necessary to think over the concept at first, which would contain incentives for learning Kyrgyz language for all citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

The Government needs to realize that calls to raise the status of the Kyrgyz language, to be fluent in Kyrgyz should be supported with funding of comprehensive state programs and particularly programs for Kyrgyz citizens of a preschool age. The example of such program can be the Program Keremet Koch watched with a big interest by children of different ethnic groups. The most important moment is that Kyrgyz language learning should be accompanied by multi-culture component, since the language is primarily a tool allowing to expand communication but not to restrict it.

Nurbek Teleshaliyev, Master of Science in Education, University of Pennsylvania; Medet Tulegenov, Master of Public Administration, Bowling Green University; Aigeril Kobegenova; Lubov Shevchenko, Financial Manager; Kumar Bekbolotov; Jibek Shimkova-Iskakova, Master of Political Science, Central European University; Irina Nizovskaya, University professor, EdD; Natalia Zadorozhnaya, non-native language teaching methodology specialist, EdD; Tatiana Matokhina, outstanding educationist award holder; Vladimir Briller, EdD; Valery Vomanskiy-Rurua, entrepreneur; Rakhat Orozova, social worker; Mira Itikeeva; Bakytbek Azimbaev; Guljamal Sheripkanova, social policy advisor, Edinburgh University; Lola Abdukhametova, English language teacher; Fariza Teleshaliyeva; Yulia Kolesnikova, Russian language and literature teacher, outstanding educationist award holder; Valentin Deichmann, Master of Education, University of Manchester; Larisa Ileeva, University professor, EdD; Olga Plotnikova, primary school teacher; Nina Eshenova, University assistant professor, author of literature for Kyrgyz school; Vera Malneva, University professor, editor of the World Culture Institute; Elvira Ilibezova, Director of Public Opinion Studies and Forecast Center “El-Pikir”, PhD in Economics; Gulnara Burkhanova, Child Protection Specialist; Ikbalzhan Mirsaitov, PhD in Political Science, independent expert; Rymtai Turdumbetova; Bermet Jamankulova; Maripa Abdieva, independent expert on state language, outstanding educationist award holde