About the country

Convention on the Rights of the Child


Basic Education

Sectoral Setting


In Tajikistan, compulsory education (primary and lower-secondary) is guaranteed for all children, free of charge, under Article 41 of Tajikistan’s Constitution.  Basic education starts at age seven and lasts nine years: four years of primary and five years of lower secondary.  There are two years of upper secondary education.  Together, grades 1-11 are referred to as general secondary education.  In 2010, there were approximately 1.7 million students (grades 1-11) studying in 3,747[1] schools with 93,600 teachers.  Enrolment and completion of the primary cycle were near universal, with gender parity.  The enrolment rate in grade 9 (the last year of compulsory basic education) was more than 90%. However, the dropout rate for girls in grade 9 is 4% and the grade 9 graduation rate for girls (number of female graduates/ 16 year old female population) is only 88%.


Students may enrol at either primary or secondary vocational education training institutions (VET) after graduating from basic (grade 9) or upper secondary (grade 11) education. However, only 4% of general secondary education graduates enrol in those institutions. The VET system faces several significant challenges. Progress is being made in terms of redefining curricula and learning standards, but the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES)’s 66 training institutions require significant investments and there is as yet no clear strategic approach to rationalization and affordable reforms.  The institutions lack qualified staff, most do not have serviceable equipment, and many are in dire physical shape.  There are concerns about the VET system’s effectiveness in preparing graduates for the labour market in terms of relevance and quality.


Tajikistan’s main ethnic-linguistic minorities are Uzbeks (12.2%), Kyrgyz (0.8%), and Russians (0.5%) with others accounting for 2.5%.  By law, ethnic-linguistic minorities may complete basic education in publicly funded schools in their mother-tongue.  Data disaggregated by ethnicity are limited, but there is no evidence to indicate that ethnic minorities are worse off in terms of educational enrolment.  The 2007 enrolment rate for children aged 8-18 years was 91%; it was 91% for both Tajiks and Uzbeks, and 99% for other ethnic minorities[2]Since 2009, data indicates that the number of classes and students with Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Turkmen languages of instruction is reducing. This is partly attributed to the desire of minority parents to send their children to study in classes with Tajik language learning because of the limited opportunities in the future to pursue higher education in their mother tongue. Moreover, there are insufficient teaching and learning materials in minority languages, resulting in teachers having to rely on old Soviet texts or materials from other countries[3]


The administration of education in Tajikistan is shared across various levels of government. At the national (Republican) level, the government takes responsibility for overall planning for educational development and for exercising various executive administrative powers. The MoES has responsibility for setting, implementing and monitoring state policies and standards, and the development of curricula. Local government authorities implement state policies concerning education and develop regional educational programmes. Local government bodies supervise primary and secondary schools.


The framework for education in Tajikistan is set out in a suite of legislation, ensuring rights to children to education and the roles and responsibilities of government, headmasters, teachers, and parents.  The following legislation sets the context for education within Tajikistan:


·       The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On Education” (adopted on 27 December 1993, partially amended in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 2003, 2004 and the version currently in effect was adopted in 2013);

·       The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On Primary Vocational Education” (2003);

·       The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On Higher and Postgraduate Professional Education” (2003); and

·       The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on “Responsibility of Parents for Child Education and Upbringing” (2011);

·       The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on “Pre-School Education and Care” (2013).


The specific arrangements for education are largely described in the National Strategy for Education Development (NSED).  The NSED, up to 2020, was approved by the Government in July 2012.  Its main goal is to create the conditions to ensure universal access to relevant and quality education.  Acknowledging all those challenges in the education sector as described above, the NSED sets out three objectives: (i) to modernize education content; (ii) to re-structure the education system; and (iii) to improve access to quality education.


The Government’s commitment to education is reflected in the education budget which has been steadily increased as a percentage of GDP from 3.4% in 2007 to 4.0% in 2013 (excluding the Public Investment Programme (PIP) and Non-Budgetary Funds (NBF))[4].  Despite these increases, the levels of financing are inadequate to meet system needs or to make significant improvements to the quality of education.  


The efficiency and equitable distribution of public spending has increased in recent years as a result of the introduction of per capita financing (PCF), which now covers all general secondary schools.  For instance, the average class size in the final wave of schools adopting PCF increased from 19.4 in 2009 (before PCF) to 20.7 in 2012 (two years after adoption).  In terms of equity, whereas in 2010 only 82% of all general secondary schools had an approved budget in line with the formula-based budget[5], in 2011 95% of schools had a PCF-compliant budget.  The switch to PCF provides greater budgetary autonomy to schools and gives responsibility to school management to manage resources effectively and efficiently, and to work closely with communities on school development planning, budget formation and expenditure monitoring.  Approximately 35% of school directors have received adequate training on financial management and pedagogical leadership.


The MoES has a functioning Education Management Information System (EMIS).  There are eight modules containing information on students, staff and facilities; the information can be disaggregated to school level, and the analysis and reporting of data are automated at district, oblast and central level. Under the fourth Global Partnership for Education grant (GPE-4), the MoES intends to add two more modules to the EMIS system:  one on VET and one for pre-primary education.  The MoES publishes an Annual Education Statistics Book based on the EMIS data which is utilised among the government and partners’ agencies. The main challenge is to further build staff capacities to use the information system for decision-making and strategic planning.


A Local Education Donor Group under the Development Coordination Council coordinates policy dialogue between the Government and development partners. This group has also been instrumental in assisting Government in the preparation of its latest application under the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), approved in June 2013.  In addition, the DCC assisted in the application for the GPE Education Plan Development Grant, approved in October 2013, of which the funds have supported  a Joint Sector Review in April 2014, and the development of the Education Action Plan 2015 – 2017, along with a monitoring and evaluation framework and costing and financial model.


School Infrastructure


The MoES estimates that out of 3,747 schools in the country, 18% are in emergency conditions (with the majority of them being unsafe) and 3.5% are situated in railway cars and private homes. In addition, 30% of schools require major rehabilitation work (related to roof and floor replacement). Many of these facilities lack lighting, heating, water and basic sanitation.


Further, many schools are either closed or poorly attended by students and teachers during the winter period (which lasts up to 5 months in the mountainous areas). As a result, the curriculum cannot be fully provided in such schools.  The stock of school furniture is also old, much of it dating from the Soviet period.  The dire state of schools is the result of damage caused during the severe civil war in the mid-90s. It is also the result of the chronic underinvestment that afflicted the sector for much of the 1990s and early 2000s when the economy collapsed in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


The rapidly growing school-aged population put additional pressure on the education sector in general and, in particular, on the system’s ability to accommodate school aged children.  The number of children aged under one year (currently just under 200,000) has been increasing on average by 2.6 per cent over the past three years, and internal population shifts are creating additional demands in some urban areas. Currently, 4% of students are enrolled in three-shift schools, with the bulk of the remainder being enrolled in two-shift schools. Three-shift schools not only prevent an increase of the number of classroom hours, but also do not allow provision of the existing curriculum in full.


Early Learning


Pre-primary education is not compulsory, and access is extremely limited, particularly in rural areas. The pre-school enrolment rate (ages 3-6) achieved a historic high of 16.7% in 1990.  However, the events following Independence led to a decline in the number of children enrolled from 141,500 in 1991 (in 944 institutions) to 51,600 in 1999 (in 523 institutions).  The number of children enrolled started to increase in the early 2000s, such that in 2010 there were 62,500 children aged 3-6 years (of which 44% were girls) enrolled in 488 kindergartens and 14,860 children in 707 Early Learning Centres.[6]  The net enrolment rate (ages 3-6) is currently 8.9%, the lowest rate in the region.[7]


Of enrolled children, roughly 80% attend publicly-funded state kindergartens[8], which offer a full range of care and education services that are provided on an all-day basis, and generally operate with 15-20:2 pupil: teacher/caregiver ratios.  Three quarters of these kindergartens are in urban areas.  Though they are open to all children living in the catchment area, space and/or budget constraints may restrict enrolment; the payment of supplementary fees may also hinder access for poorer households.  Most of the remaining enrolled children attend early learning centres (ELCs) which provide only education services, usually on a half-day basis.  ELCs are predominantly located in rural areas.  The opening of ELCs is the main source of recent increases in access to pre-school.  They are generally supported at start-up by aid agencies, local Government and communities; tend to rely on parental fees to cover recurrent charges; and operate with higher pupil:teacher ratios. 


The pre-school sector faces many constraints, including a shortage of well-trained teachers and specialists, a lack of adequate teaching-learning materials (TLMs) and furniture, and dilapidated or lacking infrastructure and facilities.  Funding is very small by historical and regional standards: in 2010, only 2.5% of public education spending was allocated to the sector.  There is some concern as to the quality and effectiveness of the state pre-school education.  A recent assessment of reading abilities among a sample of primary grade children found that those who had attended state pre-school only performed significantly better on one indicator – unfamiliar word reading - compared to those who had not.[9] A comprehensive review of the pre-school sector is planned for 2014 – 2015, with the support of GPE funds.


Early Learning Development Standards have been officially approved by the Ministry of Education and Science and expanded in alignment with existing Primary Learning Standards and guides Early Childhood Education curricula, programmes and child-centred teacher training and development of relevant reading materials.  The NSED aims to increase access to pre-school education, such that by 2020 50% of children aged 5-6 years are covered with different types of early learning programmes. To achieve that, the NSED calls for introduction of new forms of pre-school services and expansion of the private sector.  There is an animated television programme under development by partners and government that aims to increase access to quality early childhood development principles throughout Tajikistan. 

Quality of Education


The performance of the general education system in terms of learning achievements could be improved.  For instance, the Early Grades Reading Assessment (EGRA) conducted by USAID in 2011 found that 30% of girls and 31% of boys in Grade Two did not meet national standards for reading fluency, rising to 45% and 56%, respectively, in Grade Four.  Further, the EGRA concluded that students struggled with inferential questions, indicating low levels of critical thinking and reading comprehension.  A different assessment concluded that basic education graduates have relatively poor employment and wage prospects.[10]  To date, there is no systematic assessment of learning outcomes at the national level or participation in international learning benchmarking.  Many factors contribute to the relative poor quality of education.


The education curriculum has relatively few hours of instruction yet places a heavy emphasis on languages.  There are in total 5,632 hours of instruction required for students aged 7-15 years, compared to 6,747 hours in the Russian Federation and, on average, 7,384 hours in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.  The difference is more pronounced at the primary level, where 2,142 hours are required in comparison to 3,079 hours for OECD countries.  In Tajikistan, by the fourth grade, students are learning a third language.  In contrast, no OECD country (not even those that are multilingual) imposes a mandatory third language by the third grade.  At the lower secondary level, students are assigned a large number of courses without electives; this prevents a focus on essentials and may encourage superficial learning.  For instance, students are expected to take 17-18 courses in each of Grades Eight and Nine.  In contrast, OECD countries require 9-13 subjects at the lower secondary level.


At present, the MoES is working towards developing a curriculum that is competency-based, moving away from the current knowledge-based curriculum.  To date, standards for the revised curriculum have been set and work on the revised curriculum is on-going. 


Life skills based education will be mainstreamed throughout the new curriculum.  The approach to Life Skills in the past has been thematic and integrated into the school system through extra-curriculars. The Government of Tajikistan, through the Ministry of Education and Science and the Academy of Education, have begun to integrate Life Skills topics, reflected currently in the new Standards. There are no reported significant gaps in textbook availability in the major languages and subjects, the result of prior donor support and financing generated by the textbooks rental scheme.  However, it is widely acknowledged that supplementary materials are in short supply, particularly visual aids and consumables.  At the primary level, age-appropriate reading materials are also in short supply; at the secondary level, equipment and materials for science laboratories and labour classes are lacking.


Teaching-learning techniques have traditionally focused on the teacher passively transmitting information to students, though the education system is moving through the revision of the pre-service teacher training curriculum at the Tajik State Pedagogical University towards broadening the teacher’s range of technique to include more active learning and formative assessments with focus on the teaching results.  Professional development opportunities are very limited.  While teachers are entitled to at least 108 hours of in-service training every five years, the In-service Teacher Training institutes have sufficient capacity to cover at most one half of eligible teachers.

Out-of-School Children


The Out-of-School Children Study conducted by UNICEF with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) shows that there were 674,955 primary-aged children aged 7 to 10 years old in 2010, with an estimated 15,013 out-of-school (2.2 per cent)[11]. In addition, there were 864,896 lower-secondary school-aged children between the ages of 11 and 15, and an estimated 31,386 of them were out-of-school (3.7 per cent).


Children who have never attended school, have attended but dropped out, and those who are attending but are at risk of dropping out are particularly vulnerable.  Most out-of-school children are girls, who begin dropping out-of-school at the primary level, and the number of girls who dropout increases with age. The basic pattern of girls’ enrolment has changed little in the past 10 years. Girls continue to be enrolled in school in lower numbers than boys. School dropout for both boys and girls begins after completing primary grades. However, there is a greater drop in girls’ enrolment and the gap between girls’ and boys’ enrolment continues to widen with age. Although the pattern has changed little, the difference between boys’ and girls’ enrolment is smaller than it was 10 years ago.


The Ministry of Education and Science has made some initial strides in addressing girls’ education.  Increasing girls’ enrolment in school is a focus of policy and strategy. The National Strategy for Education Development (NSED) contains basic strategies to have media campaigns promoting girls’ education and establishes the Centre for Gender Pedagogics.


Similarly, children from poor households, working children, children from single-parent households, children in institutions and children in rural and remote areas are at risk of dropping out or have dropped out, and a minority have never attended school. Most children in conflict with the law are institutionalized and thus receive education, but are at high risk of dropping out-of-school.


To compound the situation, recent data indicate that attendance rates are poor amongst many students.  A survey conducted in 2010 by UNICEF found that 47% of young people are regularly absent from school[12].  The main barrier to school attendance is general household poverty. Poverty results in the need for children to work, and hence, not attend school. Although schooling is free, the cost of school equipment and the need to make informal payments are not sustainable for households with low income.


Children with Disabilities


Children with disabilities have been noted to be one of the most marginalised groups of children who are both out of school and at risk to dropping out of school.  A UNICEF-conducted study on out of school children in 2012[13] noted that children with disabilities are the most marginalised in terms of access to quality education.  And an OECD study (2009) noted that approximately 80% of children with disabilities receive no formal education.[14]


The Ministry of Education and Science maintains a network of schools for children with disabilities, including 7 pre-schools, 4 day-care centres, and 13 boarding schools.  However, in recognition of the need to make pre-school and basic education more accessible, the Government of Tajikistan recently approved a National Conceptual Framework for the Inclusive Education of Children with Disabilities (2011-15), the main thrusts of which were incorporated into the National Strategy for Education Development, 2020.  These include creating the physical conditions necessary for children with special education needs to get an education in existing pre-school facilities and general education schools; the training of teachers, healthcare workers and social workers in inclusive education; a revision of curricula to satisfy the educational needs of all categories of pupils; and the involvement of local authorities and communities to promote inclusive education.


An Inclusive Education Working Group was established in 2013 bringing together key actors in the field, including donors, civil society, and government.  In addition, the GPE-4 includes a component that promotes inclusive education and provides for the development of further teaching and learning materials to support mainstreaming of children with disabilities as well as the rehabilitation of schools for accessibility. 

[1] Including boarding and specialized schools

[2] State Committee on Statistics, 2007. Tajikistan Living Standards Survey.

[3] OHCHR, 2013.  National Minority Access to Education in the Republic of Tajikistan.

[4] Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan. Budget Performance Reports. / IMF Article IV Staff Reports (July 2013; May 2012; June 2011; June 2009).

[5] Being in compliance was defined as having a budget that was 95% or greater of the budget as calculated using the PCF formula.  This cut-off is based on the regulation that districts are entitled to reallocate up to 5% of the district-level budget, while ensuring that no school receives less than 95% of the budget as calculated by the PCF formula.

[6] The ELC figures are for 2012.

[7] World Bank, 2012. SABER-Early Childhood Development Country Report: Republic of Tajikistan (draft).

[8] Of the 488 kindergartens, 450 are funded by local authority budgets and 38 by state enterprises.

[9] Tvaruzkova, M. and Shamatov, D., 2011.Review of Early Grade Teaching and Skills.The Kyrgyz Republic and    Tajikistan.Final Report. USAID: Bishkek and Dushanbe.

[10] De Laat, J. et al., 2011. Drivers of Secondary Education Participation in Tajikistan: the Link with Poverty, Labour Market and Migration Outcomes. World Bank: Washington DC.

[11] UNICEF and UIS, 2013.  Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children: Tajikistan Country Study.

[12] Jane Lowicki-Zucca.  Youth Perspectives in Education Quality in Tajikistan, UNICEF, 2011

[13] UNICEF and UIS, 2013.  Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children: Tajikistan Country Study.

[14] OECD, 2009. Review of National Policies for Education, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan: Students with special needs and those with disabilities.         



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