“Today & tomorrow. Azerbaijan in Focus”.-2008.-N5.-P.4-19

What is happening in the system of higher education in the modern world and how should

“State Programme on reforms in the system of higher education of Azerbaijan in 2008-2012” be good?

Hamlet Isakhanly, Professor

Foreword

      This writing discourses upon general and special problems of higher education, relations of science, the state and business world with higher education, comparison of processes developing in the world with what is happening in Azerbaijan in the field of higher education, and, at last, the preparatory work of the state programme on reforms in the system of higher education initiated by the President of the Azerbaijan Republic. The analysis of basic problems arisen in our system of higher education is given and ways of their solution are shown.

      While working on this writing, along with benefiting from the articles and books I have written about education policy I had to address to my recent scientific analyses about events taking place in our time. Information I obtained from the present president of the European University Association, former rector of the Vienna University, former president of Austria Rectors’ Conference George Winckler, the Counselor of the Swiss Federal Government and Canton Governments, former rector of the Geneva University, the Chairman of the Swiss Rectors’ Conference, the Member of Managing Board building the European University Association Luc E. Weber, and the Honorable Pensioner President of the Michigan University James J. Duderstadt and some other prominent experts have been very useful in my work;   I express my deep gratitude to them. I am thankful to “The Glion Colloquium Association” and “The Chronicle of Higher Education” where I studied many years. I thank the members of Education Commission under the Azerbaijan President for chances to discuss a number of significant problems.

 

It’s possible both to crawl, as well as to flap wings.
Between wishes and objectivity

 
       In the major part of the 20th century education, including higher education was considered a state work, social commodity, a product grown by the government, a service the state rendered to its own people. And in the modern time higher education is both the state work, and also a private activity type. Education makes both the individual, and also the society change, develop, and, surely, it also bears a private significance. And the leading trends in the world show higher education with time becomes private service. However, as in all times, also today without a right state policy in the educational field it is impossible to gain some big success.

      All the states (excluding very few) in the world want to solve simultaneously three big problems connected to higher education: 1) to make higher education popular, i.e. to make it as much accessible for all as possible, 2) to increase the quality of higher education, and 3) not to increase (not to increase much, not to increase at all, and even to decrease) state expenditures on higher education. This, certainly, is a difficult task, and therefore always is on agenda. An ideal solution of this problem does not exist, and its more or less acceptable solution demands a thoroughly prepared state programme and a political will and a serious, right management for its implementation.

      The idea “Education is the most important, paramount problem of the state” is accepted undoubtedly. Though this idea is confirmed on words, more truly, on the political arena, the reality is different. What are the social security and especially scholarship? And the public health, insurance system? And the struggle against poverty? And the national security? Aren’t these candidates to be the most important, paramount of the state either? The difficulty of the problem and the world experience shows that the idea “higher education is not only the job of the state, but as time goes is more the job of the private sector” is not groundless. The entire developed, developing world, West, the Middle and Far East have accepted or have had to accept it.

     At the modern period the power of wealth, money is by many times increasing in correlation to politics, the army and the civil status. However, the force of human dignity, feeling of love and freedom also being strong leads to creation of a certain balance, to maintain at certain degree equilibrium between wealth and justice. The state, media and the education system can be considered among guardians of this balance. Given that the mass media brings to the foreground daily events and sources, deeper and more long-range function fall on universities. School training gives an opportunity to pass the knowledge treasury gained by the mankind to new generations, and research – having widened this knowledge to enrich them, and having applied them to change life for the better. The educational center is a master of decisive authority in the problem of understanding of the responsibility before the society, feelings of citizenship, protection and development of our culture.

      The appearance and development of highly authoritative higher schools in Azerbaijan as well is a national work. Saying national, I mean the state and people. If people, individuals do not do their work enthusiastically, passionately, selflessly and professionally, works within the state will not be done. This is especially so in education. If the state does not create conditions, order frameworks are not drawn correctly, a right plan is not made correctly, the work done for private endeavor cannot be fruitful either.

The state must undertake the function to develop the system of higher education in a whole, i.e. to change, renovate and strengthen it through carrying out reforms. This function consists, obviously, of two parts: it is necessary make programme of reforms in unison with the world by means of having closely traced analyzing processes, trends and inclinations going in the world, by examining the problems existing today in our education system and the ways of their solution. Concerning this, the President of the Azerbaijan Republic signed the order “On some measures connected with the integration of institutions of higher education of the Azerbaijan Republic to the European education space” (January 31, 2008). The preparation of the project “State Programme on reforms in the system of higher education of the Azerbaijan Republic in 2008 – 2012” is an important article of this order. The main purpose of this our writing is to help, though little, to find a right and comprehensive answer to the question “How should this State Programme be good?”

     The second part of the function to carry out strong reforms in the system of higher education is the systematic and persistent implementation of the State Programme to be adopted. We have seen many plans during all our life, and we have read about building of plans which number surpasses our age. A little part of these plans have been realized, a big part have stayed on paper or works have been done not by essence, but superficially, the life have continued as earlier (or with a little difference). Our developing country, people and state have no right to lose time, to abandon right plans in half. Because one of the most important component parts of our development consists of having appropriated successes of the developed world in the field of education, science, and technology to apply and develop in our country. WHO does advance in time lags behind? It’s possible both to crawl, as well as to flap wings between wishes and reality...

Yesterday of higher education in Europe


      About 500 hundred years ago Europe started to undertake on itself the role of history’s new master, new leader. Europeans’ discovery of America and endeavor to learn the globe at once enlarged their little world very much. With publishing house and book printing gathering big strength in Europe, start of formation of universities and scientific thought the European period of history started. With the development of capitalism, Europe left the rest of the world behind. But in the 20th century conflicts and mutual massacres among Europeans reached the zenith. Europe became the arena of two world wars. In 1945 Americans and Soviets met in Germany in the center of Europe – this was the end of the European period of history, hegemony of the Europe in the world policy and economy.
     1957–year-Soviet sputnik shook not the sky, but America and Europe, even ... mobilized. The integration inclinations in the West started to grow seriously. The treaty (Rome) on European Economic Union (“Common Market” of Europe) signed in 1957, did not see education as an all-European work. In 60-s the first all-European higher education establishment called the Permanent Commission of Heads of European Universities (was known by its abbreviation in French – CRE, the predecessor of the European University Association) was created. And in 1971 the first meeting and Declaration of supreme member – minister of education was elaborated; these meetings got a periodical character. In the end of 70-s the mutual recognition problem formed in education and in the mid 80-s the mechanism of student research and teachers’ move from one country to another was worked, the famous “ERASMUS” and later on “SOCRATES” programmes starting in 1987 began to carry out this program successfully. One of the interesting documents of these years was “Magna Charter Universitatum” signed in Bologna in 1988, with this the independence of universities was brought to the foreground in Europe. After the fall of socialism in order to assist the modernization of the system of higher education of the East Europe and the former Soviets, the European Union started to implement a new programme called TEMPUS (1990). This program continuing also today widened very much east-west higher education labor cooperation. The Maastricht treaty signed in 1991 made official the idea of the European Union to work for “training in the name of education, quality and flourishing of culture”.

      The Joint Convention of the European Council and UNESCO (Lisbon, April 11, 1997) about the classification related to higher education and document recognition can be counted one more step on the way of perfection of European higher education system. This Convention embraced issues of possibility to receive higher education, duration of education and recognition of higher education documents as well as the creation of corresponding mechanisms.

    The Schengen understanding states united as a unit of single currency carrying out the European policy were to make new steps having joined these efforts.

     At the meeting of ministers responsible for higher education of four big European states – France, Italy, Great Britain and Germany on May 25, 1998 in Universite Paris – Sorbonne “Joint declaration on harmonizing architecture of the European Higher education system” was adopted. This Declaration set forward an idea of creation of the European higher education space and declaring it open. It supported continuation by students of their education passing from one country to another and regulation through measure units called education credits. There was achieved an agreement about higher education consisting of two stages and conducting school training and research in the framework of magistrates or a more long-term doctorates after the first stage.

     With the purpose to turn the initiative of the four states into the pan-European movement a meeting of ministers responsible for higher education of 29 European countries was held in the most ancient university of Europe built in Bologna on June 19, 1999. At this meeting where three Baltic States from the former Soviets participates as well, the “Joint Declaration of the European Ministers of Higher Education” was adopted. In order to create ... the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) that will in a short time until 2010 come to the foreground in the global competition, it was decided to achieve the following targets (to make it simple, we give the articles not one by one as in the Joint Declaration, but in a grouped way):

1. To carry out an education system that can be easily understood and compared and consists of two stages. The first or the stage lasts minimum 3 years, and the second stage must lead to the master and/or doctor’s degree.

2. To provide that students, teachers, researchers, and administrative staff can move freely from one country to another, when determining students’ movement, to apply the European Credit Pass System.

3. To work for determining the European countries in higher education in order to provide quality and to cooperate in preparation of criteria and methodologies.

      When implementing this programme, the importance of respectful approach to the national education systems, language and cultural distinctions, autonomy of universities was especially emphasized.

After that the process of creation of the European Higher Education Area received the name of the Bologna Process (I think the name Sorbonne -Bologna Process would be more right).

The Lisbon Strategy (2000) setting forth the aim of turning the European Union into the most developed knowledge economy of the world, together with the Bologna Process aiming at creating the European Higher Education and Science Areas are a component part of the movement to build secure Europe.

In order to admit new countries willing to coordinate the successful realization of the Bologna Process and to join it, the ministers responsible for higher education started to meet once in two years. At their meetings in Prague, May 19, 2001, and Berlin, September 19, 2003, the number of the countries joined the Bologna Process reached 40. As a result of the Berger (Norway) meeting of May 19, 2005 also Azerbaijan joined this process officially, the number of the countries made 45 (at present, after the London meeting of 2007 this figure is 46).

     Everybody accepted that higher schools and students are important players at the Bologna Process, the must to listen to them, to consider them. The ministers emphasized the necessity to work in close connection with the organizations the European University Association (EUA), the European Union Association of Higher Education Schools Association (ERUASHE), the European National Students Unions Association (ESIB), the European Net for Quality Provision and significance of cooperation with them.

    As a development of the Bologna Joint Declaration, it was noted important to create alongside with the European Higher Education Area the European Analysis Area, doctor (Ph. D programmes being both the third high stage of education, and a scientific-research degree. The idea of elaboration of the Burga (inter-countries, inter-universities master and doctor programmes was set forth (was started to be carried out in the next years). The ministers undertook an obligation using every possibility and means to enable everyone to receive higher education.

      And the basic requirement of the European universities became responsible independence. The application of the strict administrative management from the top hinders the dynamic development of a higher education school, does not make it possible to operatively respond to the demands of the changing environment and increase the strength of competition.

      The Bologna Process shows that in choosing a higher education model Europe took the America as a sample. The Bologna process has been demonstrating that the European higher education system is on Americanization way. The higher education and analysis area built on the three-stage-degree system, the comparative accumulation principle based on credit units comes namely from the United States, the leader of higher education in the world. At last, starting from April, 2008 in Europe with its much disperse in the quality measuring issue, there was given a sign on building of all-European mechanism for so long we had been waiting for.

      As it is seen, the Bologna Process does not consist of the credit system only! (The Bologna Process, one can say, is identified with the application of credit system in Azerbaijan.) The availability of higher education, giving common degrees at the levels of magistrates and doctorates of higher education schools, school net building around such kind of ideas, bringing system of higher education to the state of comparative ability – harmonization, independence, transparency and responsibility of higher schools, bringing scientific research to the foreground, high quality standing in the base of everything, preparation of all-European quality measure – these are the basic elements of the Bologna Process! In short, the wish of the Bologna Process – is to turn Europe into the area of qualitative higher education and the high-level research.

Yesterday of higher education
in Azerbaijan  and the Bologna Process

     Problems linked to education turned into the theme of heated discussions in the Azerbaijani state joined independence in 1991. One thing was clear – it was impossible to make changes fast including the education system, and even if possible, it is dangerous. At least, some period, even though it is inert, the Soviet-type education forms would continue. On the other hand, alongside with the new political and economic models entering the changing world the appearance in essence and form new education centers must be viewed usual. Throughout history, small countries (and a number of large countries) did not posses an original and greatly differing from other education systems. Only big states and empires, great civilizations built their original education system, accepted this culture, and peoples under its influence, possibly, appropriated this system making a little change. Azerbaijan education history and education system also must be learnt, classified and analyzed not in separate, isolated form, but in the context of the civilizations it entered, as their component part. By taking the American experience as a basis, starting from the autumn of 1990 formation of Khazar University was started. For the first time in our country the work was run on bachelor, master, doctor (Ph. D) degrees and programmes, so that the model called credit system and enabling every student to progress by a private education trajectory, was built. There was made a pass to the 100-score and stage evaluation system of the student’s knowledge the periodical publishing of the university catalogues, the policy to conduct anonymous interrogation with students, from the teacher-centered system reigning in the country to the student-centered system based on the interactive training methods (it is not an easy work, lays in the base of a different culture). Numerous contemporary ideas, forms and methods related to education were for the first time in our country discussed and applied, passed the test, practiced and polished namely at Khazar University.

      There were two basic reasons of elaborating and carrying out by us namely this higher education model – the fact that the America is, surely, a world leader in the field of higher education and our belief that Azerbaijan is also going to join Europe and it would prefer this model in the near future. And this happened so – the purport of the all-European education reforms programme (of the Bologna Process) started in 1999 and aiming at creating the European Higher Education Area, was to join, harmonize the European education systems on the base of namely the American higher education model. Thus, 8 years before the Bologna Process started in Europe, Khazar University had opened for itself and Azerbaijan a new way, played the role of the country’s main experience arena having successfully carried out the education model of the future.

     And because the national transition to the two-stage education was carried out without serious preparatory work, not step-by-step, but in popular, campaign form, higher education schools could not understand in full the purpose, content and differences of the bachelor and master programmes, the traces of this incompleteness are seen today also.   To add, the essence and form of education-research system following the magistrates is in obscure situation today as well. In Azerbaijan there is an incomprehensible resistance to the three-stage system already with a few exceptions accepted in Europe and in the entire world, the attitude of our Milli Mejlis (parliament) to this problem is for a while strange: “let neither spit, nor kebab burn”, “what of it, let one stage be extra?!”.

     Let us bring examples of the important steps made in the education field in the period of independence (in the chronological order):

1.       The creation and activities of the private sector. Certainly, there are good and middle-fairly good, as well as weak higher schools. However, the development speed and openness to renovation of this sector increases its competitive force. Few examples of education enterprises gained serious success in the fight against corruption or achieved quality having applied the most modern educational-training forms are usually brought from the private sector!

2.       The creation and activities of the central examination system on student admittance (of the extreme centralization alongside with defective features not existing in any country.

3.       Coming to life of school building and repair works.

4.        Publishing books with Latin letters financed by the State. 

     It would be unfair to turn a blind eye to the achievements we have gained.  And our today’s problem of vital importance is to think about our lagging fields, to benefit from the world experience, to re-view our development strategy.

     The Education Policy Institute is active at the Khazar University. The purpose of the Institute is to learn the world experience, to work on problems of increasing quality and its measurement, to examine the development way of the education policy and the education system in Azerbaijan, in special case to follow closely the Bologna Process and to render assistance to interested sides in this field. This Institute seems to be the only one in our country that can follow all events taking place in the education field throughout the world, can apply having analyzed, examined them.

 

Contemporary higher education and higher school

      

Until 1930-s the written language of natural sciences was mainly the German language. As a result of the rise of fascism and its later break-up, in parallel strengthening of the United States of America the German language had to yield its place to English. Now the basic language and the second language of the world peoples is English.

     This factor in the great strengthening of higher schools of the English-speaking countries played an important role. The role of the emigration from Europe and the “brain drain” must also be noted in the America’s strengthening. Alongside with the United States, higher schools of the Great Britain, Canada, Austria turned into the gravitation center.

      Australian student influx and the creation of the branches of the Australian universities in foreign countries are a sparkling sample to it. The continental Europe stayed behind in this competition, language differences, social insurance rules in its countries, for example, a different scholarship systems, are of the factors conditioning this relative lagging. (George Winckler – 2008)

      The modern development inclinations demonstrate the addition of a new work to the traditional one of higher education schools such as school training (teaching and learning) and research. And – to achieve an organic union of school training, science, and practice, to strengthen the business world through revealing ideas and ways of their realization, and by this way to strengthen also the higher school itself. Because in the modern period the economy based on science and technology, that is knowledge economy of turning into the basic development strategies of states. The role of higher schools being the main intellectual creator of science and technology increases in the society in an unusual degree. Knowledge is the highest skill!

      Now higher education schools build different from the previous decades development strategies and activity plan. Because all higher schools want to strengthen, the world competition of higher schools increases. To attract a better, that is a talented student (from all the world!), to show being worthy to receive financial assistance from the state, to get bigger orders from the business world - each of these is a base in the activities of the higher education school. Nowadays the higher school is more dynamic, in constant transformation, tries to cooperate with the business world, variegated industrial world. Now the strength of the higher school being on the right path is in direct proportionate with its financial strength, capital and wealth.

     The concept of receiving by the student of education in the modern higher school has changed, widened too. In the past the student’s admittance to a higher school consisted of his having ripped off his place move to the campus, city where the said higher education is situated, having classes there (if we put aside the type of education called correspondence and raising a negative reaction in countries as ours). Now on the one hand the higher school itself moves toward places with a plenty of students, including foreign countries, can arrange its branches there, i.e. the higher school can enter the student’s residence place, goes to the student. On the other hand, an opportunity to receive education from distance (distant learning) thanks to the development of modern high technologies, and especially of Internet, the student sitting at home enters virtual classes of the higher school he wants – writes and receives a diploma.

Modern high-quality schools try to get distinguished not only by its school training and scientific research, but also by beautiful arrangement of the student life, by building a smooth system of providing students non-academic support, to attract students by this way too.

      Certainly, the type of higher schools shortly described above, have located inside the highly developed higher education systems, are “universities in the world and of the world” (James J. Duderstadt -2008).

Higher schools and competition

    

     In the modern world higher schools have to face a compulsion to endure heavy global competition. In order to live and advance, it is necessary to distinguish oneself from others, to prove being better and stronger. Education enterprises that give more qualitative education, have a bigger prestige, are compelled to make constant search, to renovate, try to widen and precise their vision of quality before a strong competition. In fact, an establishment or an individual strive for perfection, must be in constant transformation, this also means improving, changing the purpose he has set before itself/himself. The one going on this way with this purpose, advancing, his intention and target advance too, and this movement does not end, does not stop, stopping becomes equal to deviating from the purpose.

     Turning of competition into a leading force in the system of higher education is one of the basic reasons preventing our higher schools from development. The majority of our higher schools because of their purpose inclining to trade, the low level of management culture, and big shortcomings and difficulties characteristics of transition economy, instead of choosing a development way based on quality, having used relation wave try to be on the surface.

     When analyzing successes and shortcomings of the higher school, it becomes necessary to understand its type, nature rightly, not to overlook its purpose and function. It is a big mistake to break the higher school, to  put into average molds (unfortunately, such an approach also exists in our country). In order to grant a bachelor degree, one higher school can deal by carrying out considered programmes. Other one can have interest in master programmes in a number of fields. The other one can bring to the foreground master and doctor programmes by attaching big importance to scientific-research. Naturally, in the latter case the higher school tries to unite education and scientific research with each other and dies not suffice with keeping, transmitting and spreading the existing, known knowledge, and gives a great importance to develop it, to produce new knowledge.

      The role of the higher education school in keeping the past heritage, educating tastes is undeniable.

Links of the higher school with the world of business are very important. The world is globalizing, large companies, corporations can play a big role in every field, including in the development of higher schools. Companies and corporations need the service of the higher school, research it conducts, and specialists it prepares.

       The enumerated alongside with showing the type, category of the higher school, are also a sign on its strength. The higher school can by the highest standard boast with its students, graduates gained big success, strong scientists and teachers, library... And, finally, let us note also the label of higher schools wishing to get big profit during a short time through deceiving tricks, working, as a mill grinding diplomas. Unfortunately, they too have got their clients, their students.

     The function and purpose of education, i.e. by growing up an educated and professional citizen, and corruption rooted in education cannot get used to each other, in fact they are in full conflict with each other. If education pursues a purpose of mobilization and unity of the society, if it intends to open an equal opportunity for everyone, corruption makes its opposite.

 

Reform in the education system and
its force


     The way to achieve development passes through reforms, development consists of steps constantly made forward and thought of. This concerns countries, governments, economy, policy, education, and other national systems, as well as separate establishments. Although reforms necessary on the country scale arise from the demand of the time, the achieving of a significant success depends on the political will, all related forces of the society must be set in motion.

      Reforms must touch not what is seen on the surface, but the features standing in the depth and in the root of the system, must be directed to change them, arrange them in a new order, put them into a new system. This work requires a sufficient enough time together with a thought of reform programme.

Reforming is not a smooth road, it is a serious choice, equally with successes, making certain wrong steps is possible also. Having derived results from mistakes, making certain changes in the general plan, one must continue the way.

      The circles facing the danger of losing their power as a result of reforming, creating obstacles can fetter hands of reformation for a period of time. An effectively working government is an important condition for success of programmes of reforms on fight against corruption and monopoly in the society, including in education. Reformation in the education field is considered the heaviest, most difficult work in all countries. Rooted changes in this field demands innovation in people’s way of thinking, philosophy of life, in the system of values characteristic of the society, the people. Modernity in education (and in other types of the human activities) means at the same time reflecting about today and the future.

     The results of education and its impact on the society are big, complex, and decisive. Education moves a person closer to freedom. Higher education is the area cooked by critic mind.

     As a result of the radical changes in education equally with individuals’ change and development, people’s attitude to the evaluation of social – political environment changes also.

     If at this moment, on the one hand, the strengthening of the national identity, self-perception takes place, on the other hand, an opportunity to make a deeper influence on human values is obtained.

     Reforms in the education system put in the center the problem of changing and consequently strengthening the education system, education enterprises as its carriers. This is a heavier, in fact, in an incomparable degree heavy problem, than individuals’ change. The change of organizations demands a longer time and is based on the knowledge, experience, and will of the ruling person, or board.

    The basic goal of the education reform is to create an opportunity for people to receive education and to increase the quality of education.

 

Quality and standards in education

 
     As it is in all fields of the human activities, in education too there are different approaches to the concept of quality. Quality is to have high standards, an exceptional feature. Standards are measure units, a system of indicators, parameters and indicators thought up to measure quality. Quality means everyone’s comprehension of his responsibility at his work, domination of labor culture in the education center, quality is an internal culture of the education center. Quality is everyone’s participation, organization of the teamwork and its result.

     Quality is domination of the system and methods directed at sustainable development, fulfillment of necessary works in time.

      On the other hand, quality can be accepted as possession by the higher education of minimum standards in all fields of its activity. The establishment meeting minimum standards in every field has, in fact, provided the lack of serious shortcomings.  Quality means the absence of visible shortcomings.

      Quality is also a basic change of an existing form, constancy of a movement directed towards high standards, of the way going towards improvement. Quality is a process and, from this point of view, is more important than quality increasing concept, quality provision or quality control. At the same time, expressions “quality regulation” and “quality management” are used much.

    The difference between parameters in the beginning and the end of the student’s certain school-training interval (one semester, one year, throughout the full bachelor or master programme), more truly, “final parameter minus starting parameter” can be estimated as “additional value” of the higher school (student). Greatness of “additional value” is an important factor indicating strength, efficiency of the higher school (as well as the student’s diligence, will, wish). Quality is closeness between the presumed and real situation, between demand and the result obtained until the present time.

   Higher school grows a human force and produces knowledge. Therefore the level of higher school is determined, on the one hand, by to what degree exactly and properly it works, and on the other hand, by the result of the process, i.e. its graduates’ level, the force of the granted diploma. Higher school as if appears to have installed filters on the way of turning the student into a graduate, i.e. into a specialist by examinations range and other demands in the school-training process. The strength and level of higher school are directly connected with seriousness and exactness of the range of these filters.

In Azerbaijan young people and their parents still choose a higher school in many cases not because of quality, perspectives standing before them, but from the point of view of an opportunity of receiving education for free or easy learning, comfortable pass through the filters.  This can be explained as a feature of the transition period and inertness of the past.

 

Accessibility of higher education.
The world and Azerbaijan

    

      To be able to enter higher education, the access to higher education for the majority of the people, i.e. giving people an opportunity to receive higher education without any obstacle, to enter a higher school is a problem making the states and societies in all places of the world busy, think. This, unfortunately, has turned into one of the most serious problems in Azerbaijan. Here as though there is a big gap between secondary education and higher education.

     At present according to the relative number of persons who received higher education, the Azerbaijan Republic not only lags behind the developed countries very much, but lags behind even the big majority of the former Soviet neighbors, moreover, this lagging increases year after year.

     The participation level of the population at the certain age group on the different stages of education is one of the most basic parameters measuring the strength of the reforms being carried out in the education field and generally demonstrating the development level of corresponding country or region.

Gross enrolment rate in the higher (leading to bachelor and higher degrees) and incomplete higher (leading to prior-bachelor degree) education means the percentage made up according to the quantity of population in the certain age group (mainly embracing five years, for example, 17-21 or 18-22) of quality of students studying in the education center.

    The following figures from the UNESCO Statistics Institute we are going to present are mainly related to 2004.

     According to the economic, scientific and technological strength the group of the most advanced countries of the world – the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is also the first according to the gross enrolment in education (31 countries are included here: the United States, Canada and Mexico, Japan and Korea, Australia and New Zealand, 23 developed countries of Europe and Turkey). The gross enrolment degree in higher and incomplete higher education of this group is 71.2 per cent in average. There is a leader here: Finland – the gross enrolment degree 89.5%, Sweden – 83.7%, the United States – 82.4%, Norway – 80.5%, The Republic of Korea – 88.5%. Let us to pay attention at some great countries: France – 56, Italy – 63.1, Japan – 54, Spain – 65, the Great Britain – 60.1.

    According to gross enrolment degree, the Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States are on the second place with 49.8% in average. In the Eastern Europe and the former Soviets the public was in possession of a wide education, science and culture net. Though in 1990-1996-s these countries being under the transition economy were facing economic and political problems, the majority of them achieved to restore, even to better their qualitative and quantitative parameters. The education and science inherent in the socialist period were a help in overcoming these problems.

It is enough to cast a look at the examples (respective enrolment degree in higher education): Byelorussia – 60.5%, Estonia – 65.1, Hungary – 50.6, Latvia – 74.3, Lithuania – 73.2, Poland – 61, Russia – 68.2, Ukraine – 65.5. In the significant part of the countries included in this group (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Romania,.. corresponding enrolment degree is around 40 – 50%. Who are outsiders of this group? Armenia – 26.2%, Tajikistan – 16.4%, Turkmenistan – (approximately  - 21%), and on the last place Azerbaijan – 14.8%. In our country the decrease took place even by absolute too – 16390 (23%) in 1991, and 12270*14.8%) in 2004. And our population in this period increased greatly on 1 million one hundred and seventy thousand...

   From the dynamics point of view, these parameters increase every year in all countries – in the big part speedily, in the other part little by little. Azerbaijan decreases these parameters from year to year: in 1990 – 23.9%, in 1995 – 18%, in 2000 – 16.33%, and in 2005 – 14.8% (in 2005 – 14.7%). Azerbaijan lags behind even the regions of Latin America with average parameter 27.5%, the Middle East and the North Africa with 22.7%, the Eastern Asia and Pacific Oceania with 19.4%. We’d like to tell also that during 1999 – 2005 the European education and science ministers joining the Bologna Process undertook an obligation, having mobilized all possibilities to create possibilities for everybody to receive higher education. Consequently, the enrolment percentage in higher education has grown in 15 out of 46 European countries; unfortunately the exceptional country is Azerbaijan.

   How these works are going on in the five bordering neighbors of ours, naturally, raises a special interest. According to the enrolment in the higher education, in the regional competition in 1990 Russia was on the 1st, Georgia on the 2-d, Azerbaijan on the 3-d, Armenia on the 4th, Turkey on the 5th, and Iran on the 6th place. And now the situation is as follows: Russia is again the first (68.2%), Georgia has managed to defend her second (41.5%), Turkey has arisen from the 5th place to the third (29%), Armenia is again on the 4th place (26.2%), Iran (22.5%) having left the last place handed it over to Azerbaijan (14.8%).

    In 1999 under the public influence, the Chinese government was compelled to increase its student quantity on 48% compared to in relation to the previous year! The year of 2002 was declared the beginning of popularization of higher education in China. In comparison with 1999, in 2004 the student admittance increased on 226, 6%! (The Chronicle of Higher Education, February – 2007)

    In Egypt with 29% enrolment degree in higher education the necessity of increasing the number of persons with higher education in a significant degree has turned into one of cares and headaches of the public and the state.

     Lets also note the fact that Azerbaijan, according to his economic growth speed, is much ahead of all these countries (and other countries in total!).

     It is interesting to have a look at the degree of the secondary school graduates’ admittance in higher school the same year in the countries on standing different stairs according to their economic development. In this sense, Azerbaijan’s parameter too is very low.

 

Why is our higher education not
sufficiently accessible?

   

     What ways have been undertaken in the world in order for higher education become accessible? Though there are many state universities in Japan, the majority of students go to private universities. Japan managed to solve the problem of popularization of higher education mainly by means of one way (the higher education entrance degree has already passed 74%!). In Northern Korea in 1990 33.2 per cent of secondary-school graduates, and in 2004 81 per cent entered higher schools! (Nam Pyo Suh-2008). Moreover, Korea is one of countries sending most students to receive education abroad (in the 2006-2007 school year it sent 62,392 students to the United States –less than India and China only). In Singapore this entrance percentage is more than 70. In Brazil 73 percent of students receive education in private higher schools, out of 2165 higher schools 231 are state higher schools (there are 176 universities only, 86 of them are private) (Carlos H. Brito Cruz-2008).

    One of the factors increasing the problems of education after the secondary education is the regress of professional-trade schools and attractiveness of a big part of colleges, called “technicums” in the recent past, at present providing pre-bachelor or junior specialist degree. A network like Community College in the United States was not built foe technicum-colleges, i.e. two-stage college students have no opportunity to pass to higher school; thus, this decreases the development wish and opportunity of both the education centers providing a pre-bachelor degree, as well as of their students. In 2004 about 38% of the first-year students in the United States had gone to Community Colleges. To encourage private and some state higher schools in Azerbaijan to create such kind of two-year colleges could help solving a number of problems.

    In Azerbaijan the government determines how many students will be admitted on specialty every year not only to state universities, but also to private universities. The student admittance on specialties in which higher school has during many years been for many years investing and achieved their high quality, can all of a sudden be forbidden (?!). Let us note that the sharply decreased admittance in our country is not even fulfilled and thousands (!) applicants having achieved higher results are left out, and thousands applicants who have gained lower results are admitted to a higher school.; the reason for this is an extreme centralization of admittance lists.

    What is the reason of an obvious lagging created in our country in the issue of the accessibility of higher education?

1. May be, the number of higher schools is little or the potential to support students to study is weak? At present we have a lot of (34 state and 15 private) higher schools and some of them are in possession of facilities to support more students than today to study.

2. Possibly, the government decreases the student admittance because of the expenditure growth? Truly, financing of the state higher schools falls on the state mainly. However, paid admittance to the state higher schools at present constitutes more than a half of the general admittance. And on the other hand, admitting by private schools more students does not increase the state costs in any way. In full contrast, this would help the state plan its expenditures in a more effective and optimal way.

3. May be, quality, contents, and form of education in higher schools does not satisfy the government? And indeed, in Azerbaijan the quality of higher education, if we say in general, is not high. Unfortunately, in the evaluation of the student’s knowledge bribe and “order” being the first enemy of education still plays its role on the stage. Nearly all students entering a higher school become a graduate at the exact time, both studying weakly, and not studying at all, attending lessons or not attending... However, there are also our higher schools that have gained authority in the country free from corruption and far from the country borders, exemplary by content and form. And the decreasing by the state of namely their student admittance plans is one of the biggest paradoxes of our present day. According to the world education experience, the state addresses to the higher schools giving qualitative education, saying “admit more students”. It helps them for this work, for example, by paying education fee for one part of students, giving very privileged debts to others, by giving  the higher school a big territory as a present to enable it to build a student campus...

4. May be, the examination participants’ results are low and a less number of student admittance is necessary for raising the education quality? Although this thought have seen reasonable at first glance, it is not correct. First, the examination conducted only once a year and during several hours, is not satisfactory for full measuring of knowledge, skills and motivation. Second, in the principles of forwarding of candidates to studentship to higher schools, as we have noted above, there are mistakes (beginning from this year, certain changes are expected to be made).  As an example, according to the admittance results for 2006, “if we pay attention to number of those who received “good and excellent” marks: 29.859 - this evaluation and figure belong to the State Commission on Student Admittance. If to say otherwise, it would have been possible to admit “fearlessly” 29.859 students to our higher school, but the admitted, as we have shown above, were 22.479 and that was not fulfilled in full.

      Certainly, the governmental functionaries not confuse the case purposely, knowingly, the state cannot have such interest. Given that the securing at a certain level stabilization of the situation in the country, the function to ensure the smooth flow of events falls on namely our government, its acting a little bit conservatively in a number of issues is natural too (if a person standing aloof criticizing the government will come to power, he has to abandon at least a part of his revolutionary ideas, understands the must of working through consultations, agreements, compromises). With the increase of the number of our higher schools providing clean, qualitative education, in its policy of the accessibility of higher education the government will do more work. Certainly, it is necessary not sit and wait, but by helping the good, by encouraging them, to forward others information “be good too, and we will help you too”. The governments have a method passed testing well in the policy of struggle with corruption – to protect, cherish, and work for the development of “islands not for sale”. The world experience is so also, the good of the work demands it.

      Higher education is not for young people only. The lasting unceasing development of separate persons, establishments, and the society on the whole is throughout the life based on education and training. The average life expectation is increasing in the countries with a high living standard and the special weight of elderly people is growing. The number of people wishing to change their trade, to learn something new increases at the cost of elderly people. This makes the life-long education concept stronger, demands accessibility of higher education for every person at every age.

The State Education Reforms Programme embrace in itself also solving of the fundamental problem as accessibility of higher education!

 

By whom and how is quality measured
in higher education?

   

     The basic purpose of the education reform is to prepare a serious education concept and to make education more qualitative by implementing it. And in the countries under the transition economy and having gained new state independence, the education is re-worked up in a whole, reform and re-building in education is widely discussed. At this moment thoughts become forked and the government usually keeps the situation under its control not from the strategic point of view, but by tactic steps.
    Who measure quality in the higher school and why do they measure it? Three candidates who wish to undertake this function are before the eyes: the education unit itself, the government and also independent and competent accrediting agencies. I haven’t heard about those who deal with internal evaluation on a serious programme of higher schools in Azerbaijan.

    Periodically, carrying out of internal evaluations and official announcing of results by means of paper and electronic sources also with students’ active participation at Khazar University is well known (it is, naturally, very little for the country). After the education centers makes own evaluation, carrying out by fully competent accrediting establishments of an external evaluation is most frequently met and most expedient case in the practice. The establishment making accreditation alongside with giving its professional opinion about the situation in the higher school must also give recommendations about ways of conducting quality.

     The rich experience of America that is the motherland of accreditation, shows that there is no need for the direct participation of the state in accreditation, the intervention of the state can harm only, to create monopoly in the field of quality measuring is the worst solution of the problem. Being a quality-measuring agent, accreditation commissions usually act in the world. In the countries that are in the transition period these commissions often change their subordination, always new commissions are created, along with their objectives and functions not being fully clear, decisions they take are not long-lived either. These accreditation commissions are not in a position as in the developed countries as a result of the control to take natural decisions as appreciating, and if appreciated to show the ways of removing weak characteristics and to allocate a certain time in order to pass this way. As a result of accreditations not the question of financing and giving or not giving superiority in other fields, but only the question “to be or not to be?” – closure or not closure of the education center or faculties is put (during a true war when coming face to face with the enemy, he is not killed, by being told “stop, hands up!”, they try to take him prisoner).  And the most unpleasant feature is an instant annihilation by this way of the field during many years developed in the higher school. “Orders from outside” and probability of corruption around accreditation characteristics of the transition period also thickens the problem.

Only the joint work of independent public accreditation agencies, as well as professional associations on different scientific and trade fields, independent from the government and any other big organization, has a likelihood to yield a good result. The participation of the corresponding international organizations or foreign specialists, specialists who received education abroad and their associations also can play a positive role in these commissions. On the other hand, it is possible to use the service of the regional accreditation agencies based on the joint activities with some neighboring countries, as well as the European accreditation organizations. The Bologna Process intends the creation of European accreditation agencies and also the right of any higher school acting on the European education area to address for accreditation to one of these agencies (this process – the registration of the accreditation agencies in Europe starts in April, 2008!).

     The creation of an education unit and its licensing i.e. to deal with education, a state-related organization such as the state Milli Mejlis, the Ministry of Education, or the Education Commission under the Azerbaijan President can give a valid only once permission.

     The main result of the accreditation being on no one side showing ways of measuring quality and its increasing must basically be determination of the state assistance to the higher school, including financial assistance policy. Whether there will be or will not be a direct financing for the state higher schools from the state budget, and in case if there will be, its category (high, average, low, etc.) may be determined. And in the status of a private higher school, its gaining a right to receive credit and debt with a big privilege, as well as to request the state for the payment of education fee of students of the said higher school or to get from the state debt on very big privileges must be the main purpose of a successful accreditation. Certainly, both state, and private higher schools may receive also other assistances in other form as a result of the successful accreditation. If the accreditation finds out shortcomings of that or other programmes (specialty fields), the higher school will not be able to demand anything from the state for the development of that programme, nether the corresponding students will for education payment.

     The accreditation of the state higher schools carried out by the government (for example, the Ministry of Education) bears a very formal character, if truly, no serious accreditation is carried out. Practically, the state, first of all, must work for expediency and effectiveness of the budget allocations, and determine it by means of the accreditation.

     The prestige of a higher school is a very sensitive and complex problem. The public opinion forms an average idea and image about the higher school, at that moment a number of strong and weak sides of the higher school may remain in the shadow of the general average image. The experience of the group of inspectors, their comprehensive knowledge of the field, and indifference to external influence diminish possible future subjectivity in the evaluation.

    Who and what ensure quality in the higher school? Surely, on the one hand, learners and teachers. Another important feature is the condition and environment where learners and teachers act, that is a moral environment, management and material-technical sources in the higher school. And, finally, ideas and programmes which are in the base of the school-training, i.e. a modern and dynamic education model, programmes and school-traning plans are very important.

     Concrete parameters (indicators, standards) that can measure the level of the higher school are directed at measuring both the student admittance to the higher school, i.e. the starting conditions, as well as education process, also the result, product of the education. Three factors consisting of the entrance, the way (or the process), and the exit, must be examined all together in the quality analysis.

     Depending on the purposes set forth, the time allocated to the evaluation, and the factors, standards may be wider or specially appointed. They are aimed to measuring in a whole or in selected fields the strength, perfection of the higher school.