Conference “UNESCO-Azerbaijan: Bridge to Future”

August 24-25, 2005

Conference 'UNESCO-Azerbaijan: Bridge to Future' was held in Gulustan palace, August 24.

Conference was opened by President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva.

Then education minister MISIR MERDANOV made a speech and said it is the second conference held by UNESCO and Education Ministry by the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva. First action was held in Paris. Such actions devoted to separate country are held for the first time in history of UNESCO in Azerbaijan.

Minister noted due to successful policy founded by national leader Heydar Aliyev and continued at present time by President Ilham Aliyev serious progress has been gained in education, specially our international relations widened much. At the moment up to 3500 students from 41 countries study in higher schools of Azerbaijan. More than 3000 youth having finished the secondary schools of Azerbaijan possess necessary specializations for our country in leading universities of the world. Education Ministry has established ties with nearly 30 countries, implements more than 60 joint projects and programs with more than 20 international organizations.

Emphasizing the cooperation with UNESCO in sphere of international relations, minister counted 5 directions of this cooperation, talked of the works done in direction of integration to European higher education system, said Azerbaijan joined Bologna process in May this year.

Talking of reasons having negative impact on development of Azerbaijani education, M.Merdanov stressed hard consequences of Armenian military aggression to Azerbaijan. He mentioned in territories occupied as a result of this aggression totally up to 1000 education institutions were destructed, 115,000 pupils and 16,000 teachers became IDPs. Azerbaijan is the only country in the world that managed, despite the big difficulties, to protect education infrastructure existed in the occupied territories and even if necessary circumstance was impossible to be created, organized activity of those schools in different regions of the country and education of IDP children.

Talking of implementation of 'Program of Reform in education field of Azerbaijan Republic' that was confirmed by national leader Heydar Aliyev in 1999, minister said actions considered in the third stage of the program are underway at present. Since 2002 development programs on the most serious problems of education are worked out and implemented. At the moment there are 15 programs on different fields of education system. 6 of them are carried out, 3 are in stage of confirmation and 6 preparation.

In 1998-2005 50219-place 201 new school buildings were built. 23 enterprises where children needing special care are trained were fundamentally repaired by initiative and organization of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva. Heydar Aliyev Foundation has made special program on construction of new buildings for 132 schools located in rural districts that are in wreck state and intensive works are implemented in this direction.

Over the last 3 years I-XI class pupils of secondary schools were provided with textbooks free of charge and so, Azerbaijan was the only country among former soviet republics realizing the free of charge provision of pupils with textbooks.

Experiments started in field of funding of general education schools in frame of the reform. 59 pilot schools were given financial independence, per capita funding mechanism is being tested. According to results of experiment, real impact of this innovation on quality of education will be studied, and if positive results are obtained, geography of this experience will be enlarged in second stage and in third stage financial reform will cover all the country.

At the end of his speech minister expressed certainty that Memorandum to be signed with UNESCO will be beginning of the new phase of cooperation between UNESCO and Azerbaijan in education field. According to Memorandum, joint commission of education ministry and UNESCO will be created and it will deal with implementation of effective cooperation on priority directions.

UN resident-coordinator to Azerbaijan MARCO BORSOTTI underlined in his speech that there is obvious tie between education and reduction of poverty. Because the more level of education increases the more unemployment decreases. Azerbaijan has very nice and positive historical traditions in both science and education. For example, State Oil Academy and Baku State University are world-famous educational centers. Education has always been paid attention in Azerbaijani society, very big cultural environment has been created here.

At the moment Azerbaijan develops with highest speed in the world.

Creation of education commission by Mr President is a nice base for implementation of works in this direction in future. Growth of quality of education is serious issue. Quantity data of Azerbaijan are very nice. But quality must be paid attention now. From this view, improvement of management is one of main principles. Paying attention to management in education system and directing this system to more effective and higher results have big importance.

Reconstruction of education system according to requirements of economic system is very necessary. Consideration of different factors according to economic requirements will bring the benefit to the country. Some issues are not first category goals for Azerbaijan. For instance, it is not so big problem for Azerbaijan if not many children go to primary schools. But still there are problems in education sphere. But it is very important to keep the level of girls in number of pupils of secondary schools. Because I must confess that in some districts of the country girls are taken from schools early.

At the same time improvement of education programs is one of important issues. It is one of the most criteria of the integration to global economy. Besides, application of information technologies in all fields, stages of education is too necessary for meeting future demands of country and economy. Cooperation between universities and research centers must enter new stage. Number of students of Azerbaijan sent abroad must be lifted. It will have positive impact on future development of country.

Mr Borsotti noted that as a country possessing beautiful traditions, Azerbaijan has all resources to further lift in future level of its education and culture and said it enables to be optimistic about future. In addition, attention must be paid to experience of other countries in this field. Because education is the main field directed to creation of future generations.

Deputy prime minister, chairman of State Committee on Refugees ALI HASANOV valued the visit of director general of UNESCO along with a number of goodwill ambassadors to Azerbaijan as sign of sincere attitude to Azerbaijani people and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva.

Reminding the painful consequences of Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ali Hasanov said 5% of more than 19 million refugees and IDPs in the world is in Azerbaijan. Damage caused by Armenia to Azerbaijani territories it occupied totals to $60 billion. Serious damage was made to education. More than 1000 educational institutions remained in occupied territories and were destructed. Today 687 schools, 61 infant and 31 nonschool enterprises function on occupied districts. 93,000 pupils study in those schools, 17,000 teachers deal with their education. All the pupils in these schools are provided with free of charge textbooks. In new settlements built for IDPs 3200-place 18 secondary schools, 600-place 18 kindergartens were built and commissioned. 2,000-place 15 schools and 175-place 5 kindergartens are built in 13 settlements constructed for IDP families by respective Order of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.

US, Japanese Embassies to Azerbaijan, UN High Commissariat for Refugees, UNICEF, US International Development Agency, other Azerbaijan offices of other international humanitarian organizations take close part in improvement of material and technical base of IDP schools.

Speaker said except all this there are very serious problems existing in schools of districts territory of which are occupied. Vast majority of them function within local schools, as well in unbearable circumstance in buildings unsuitable for education, material and technical base of them are too low, school appliances, classrooms lack.

UNESCO reps having visited the country in May 2005 in order to make report on education problems of refugee and IDP children by the initiative of President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva witnessed all these problems during familiarization with activity of IDP schools in Sabirabad, Saatly and Imishli districts.

But despite the circumstance is unbearable IDP pupils are still interested much in education. Just as a result of this number of graduates of IDP schools is not less than graduates of other schools among those entering the higher and secondary vocational schools. Only last year more than 4,000 refugee and IDP children entered the higher schools. By initial calculations, their number is more than 5,000 this year. As the problem we have has no analogue in the world, gaining of high results in education by refugee and IDP children studying in schools not meeting the modern requirements has probably no analogue in the world. This is the obvious proof to interest of Azeri youth in education.

Speaker later said that since the first day of its activity Heydar Aliyev Foundation pays attention to delivering the numerous problems of refugees and IDPs to world community and their settlement. The conference held today is concrete reflection of this. On behalf of IDPS I express deep gratitude for this care and attention to President of the Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva, wish her successes in future activity.

For paying attention to education problems in Azerbaijan I once again thank director general of UNESCO Mr Koichiro Matsuura and state that this action will play great role in solution of education problems of refugee and IDP children in our country and UNESCO will always help us in this important work.

Then Mr Koichiro Matsuura and minister Misir Merdanov signed Memorandum on educational cooperation between UNESCO and Azerbaijan.

President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador MEHRIBAN ALIYEVA finalized the wide sitting of the conference:

Today we together discussed problems of Azerbaijani education and showed solidarity of view. I believe that this solidarity of view will help us in future in solution of all problems, play big role in our general work.

Conference participants saw the exhibition of the books published on Latin type. Participants of the action were gifted the book 'Construction chronicle' of UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura published in Azerbaijani language due to funds of Azeri Culture Friends Foundation. Then conference participants were taken photograph for memory. Guests saw the view of Baku from Gulustan palace.

After the break, the conference continued its work in section sittings at Baku State University and Heydar Aliyev Modern Education Complex, discussions were held on the reports listened on different topics.