Opening and concluding remarks of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the session of the state commission under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the reforms in the field of education in the Republic of Azerbaijan - March 17, 1999

A special commission was established a year ago to canduct reforms in the field of education in Azerbaijan. According to the information conveyed to me, the commission has already finished its work and prepared its proposals related on the reforms in the field of education. 

In the implementation of reforms in Azerbaijan we use the help of certain international organizations and we consider their recommendations, proposals. From this view point, the cooperation of Azerbaijan with the World Bank is of special importance. We cooperate with the World Bank for canducting reforms in many spheres and the World Bank helps Azerbaijan. 

We also cooperate with the World Bank for canducting reforms in the field of education and we take into account its recommendations. I am satisfied with the representatives of the World Bank who are in Azerbaijan today and cooperate with the Ministry of Education and members of the commission created for conduction of reforms in the field of education. And today we are holding a joint meeting. 

It seems to me that we should listen to the chairman of the commission on the reforms in the field of education, minister of Education Misir Mardanov. Often that we shall exchange of views. 

Final speech 

Preparation of reforms in the field of education and development of the new law on education in Azerbaijan is one of the basic parts of our work.

Education is an important sphere of life, activity of each state, country and society. Two million children and youth get education in comprehensive schools and higher educational institutions in Azerbaijan. Two out of eight million, that is, one fourth of the population get education. If we think that each trained child, young man is a part of a family, which forms another part of the population besides the two million, then it is possible to say that the majority of the society are the population is connected with education. In that sense if children, somebody’s son, or daughter gets education – it means that, everyone gets education. Therefore, the sphere of education, interests the overwhelming majority of the members of the society and, demands their participation in education. Education is a complex sphere. Education is not an industry, agriculture, trade. It is a sphere which reflects the special, intellectual feature of society. Therefore, it is necessary to approach to education very carefully and the attitude to education must be very sensitive. I think that such a problem exists in each country. But the countries which experience the period of transition period from one political system to another, must be more careful and, approach education more seriously and sensitively. 

Unfortunately, the Law on the Education, adopted in 1992, delivered a serious blow to this important sphere. I regret that the responsible persons working in the system of education, have not analyzed, studied the nature of this blow struck on the education system of Azerbaijan yet, have not given its due appreciation. The blow, struck on economy or on other fields of our life in the period of transition, are known to everyone, the society knows it. Blows were struck an education too. 

Now we are on the eve of adoption of the new law on education. It has been discussed at the session of the parlament, presented to the national discussion. It is absolutely true that the law on education has been presented to national discussion. I have already said that almost the overwhelming majority of the population is connected with education, involved in it. Therefore, each citizen should express his opinion whether he is satisfied with the new law of Azerbaijan on education. 

Along with it, we have developed the program of reforms in the field of education. Here the World Bank helps us, cooperates with us. I understood so that now our commission on reforms in the field of education and at the same time the representatives of the World Bank have a unanimous opinion that the developed of the reforms in the field of education meets the requirements of the day. I shall study attentively this project, and if I agree with your opinion, I shall ratify it. Then, the document will be ready for implementation into life. 

In this connection, I would like to tell some words. Education system in Azerbaijan has a long history. But the main changes, development in the educational system took place in XX century. In the beginning of XX century there were very few schools, not any higher educational institution in Azerbaijan. And the existing schools, it is possible to tell, had not been established on the basis of a common principle, system. In those years Azerbaijan was a part of the Russian empire, therefore the secular education system was taken from the education system of Russia which existed for many centuries. After the fall of the Russian empire in 1918, the first democratic republic was established in Azerbaijan. During the rule of the democratic republic some work was conducted in the field of education, Baku State University was opened. It was the first higher educational institution in Azerbaijan. I do not know whether they passed a law on education or not. Do you know about it? It seems, no. I cannot say, but I think that the members of the commission, the minister may answer my question. Probably, you do not know it. I also think that they did not adopt a law on education, that is, they had no opportunity to undertake such an important step in the field of education. I think that the greatest service of the Democratic Republic was the establishment of the first higher educational institution in Azerbaijan. Establishment of this higher educational institution was the logical consequence of the socio - political processes going on in Azerbaijan up to that time. 

The education system existing now in Azerbaijan was created after 1920. It is the Soviet education system known to all of you. Today, it is necessary to declare it openly, freely, without any hesitation. You know, we must not be ashamed of anybody, to demonstrate what we are. The minister said that it was necessary to confess it. And not only to confess, but it is necessary to declare resolutely, courageously that the education system, which existed in Azerbaijan from 1920 and up to now, is a part of the Soviet system. 

I want to declare openly that this education system is very good system. Everything is measured by its results. For a short period, illiteracy in Azerbaijan was liquidated, a wide network of primary, comprehensive schools was established, higher educational institutions in Azerbaijan were created within ten-fifteen years, and within a short term from historical point of view education covered all Azerbaijan from 1920 till 1940, all within 20 years. Illiteracy in Azerbaijan was liquidated, people got education in various educational institutions and started their activities. On the basis of it the science of Azerbaijan was formed. Scientific institutes were created, culture in Azerbaijan developed. All this is the result of the education system and its effective utilization. Now all present here, and not only they, all living today in Azerbaijan, and the old, middle, and young generations have the education, knowledge of this education system. 

It is possible to judge the advantages of this education system by such a fact that in Azerbaijan there are highly educated people with good knowledge, professionals, scientists who form the majority of the society. Without them the economy in Azerbaijan could have not developed so much. Had they not been, the science of Azerbaijan could have not developed. If they had not been, we could have not ruled Azerbaijan now as an independent state. It must be appreciated and we must never forget the achievements won over decades. Now, by conducting reforms in the education system, by adapting it to the world standards, we should not allow all to appreciate the education system which we used 70 or, it is possible to tell, about 80 years, quite differently. 

I can tell to you that the Soviet education system has not remained the same, it has always been improved, subjected reforms constantly. For example, the education system in the 30-40s differs from the that of the 60-70s. Therefore, I regret very much that when new forces came to power in 1992 in Azerbaijan, the law on such a complex and great sphore was passed within a short term, that is, within two-three months. 

We experience a transition period. In 1991, after the declaration of our independence, Azerbaijan defined the construction of a legal, democratic, secular state as a basis of its statehood, declared the creation, development of a market economy as a basic direction of its economy. However, there is a big gap between declaration and achievement. To declare at all does not mean that it is already a reality. Even revolutionary changes do not change the old system at once. Revolutionary changes usually destroy the old system, but time, years are required for the creation of a system different from the previous one. You know it from the revolution, in Russia in 1917-1918, and from the history of other countries. 

But education is such a system that there can not be revolutionary changes. As a whole, changes in all the areas of our life are evolutionary in character, in the nature of gradual changes. We must never allow the destruction of a thing in one day, which was created within decades, and then to create something new which is unknown to you. 

However, the Law on the Education, adopted in 1992, is of such a character. Therefore, I am saying that this Law on Education has delivered a blow on the education of Azerbaijan. 

Pay attention, how much time we spend now for the adption of the new Law on Education, on the conduction of reforms in the field of education. More than a year we developed the reforms for being conducted. Much more time was spent on the development of the law on education for even more time. It seems, that once an attempt was made to bring this law to the discussion of the parliament, but they could not do it. It was discussed in the parliament for two months, we presented it to national discussion. It is absolutely a normal process. 

Once again I note that unlike economy, finance and other areas, the law on education, reforms in the field of education demand the participation of all the society. We prepare economic reforms on the basis of laws in the field of economy, we discuss them in certain frameworks and we adopt them. But it is impossible to do it in the reforms in the field of education. 

I also remember the changes which took place in the system of the Soviet education. When I was a part of the leadership of the Soviet Union, worked as the first deputy of Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, I supervised over all education system of the USSR. Three ministries existed then, forming all education system of the Soviet Union: Ministry of Public Education, Ministry of Higher Education and State Committee of Vocational Training. In the regions, in union republics, including in Azerbaijan, there were also three ministries. Besides other ministries, I supervised over these three ministries. I did it within five years - from the beginning of 1983 to 1988. 

At that time, there was going on a process called "reconstruction", specific reforms in the Soviet Union. Then we passed the law on school reforms in the parliament of the Soviet Union. I remember, I chaired the commission engaged in the development of these reforms. I worked together with the commission a year and a half to pass this law and the tools necessary for its execution. Before representing the law to the discussion of the parliament, it was nationally discussed within two months, we collected opinions. Then, the law was introduced to the discussion of the parliament where it was adopted and ratified. 

I do not want to assess those reforms now. I think that they were developed on a very high level according to requirements of that period. I want to note only that the attitude to education was sensitive even at the ostensibly non-democratic Soviet system, which many people do not like now. Therefore, I say it for the workers of our education and society, - in 1992 to adopt the law on education within two-three months and to execute it is a blow to the education of Azerbaijan, a crime against the Azerbaijan people. 

It is necessary to draw conclusions from this bitter experience. We must be very exact, sensitive to the Law on Education and to the program of reforms which we shall conduct. In my opinion, the positive experience, of the education system in Azerbaijan up to this day and the system, which has justified itself, yielded positive results, should be kept, developed and modernized, it is necessary to get rid of the mistakes, negative experience. The rules, principles of the world experience corresponding to national features of Azerbaijan should be applied in our educational system. We should study deeply the achievements of all countries of the world – both of the West, and the East, and to apply some of them, which are positive and consistent with the peculiarities of education in Azerbaijan, with the education system of our country. 

You declared your views here and the representatives of the World Bank are also of the same opinion. I listened with pleasure to the representatives of the World Bank that have seen the positive points of the education system which existed in Azerbaijan up to now, appreciated them and were against their refusal. 

Certainly, we must listen very attentively to the advice of all the international organizations. In particular, we must accept the recommendations, advice of the World Bank, with which we cooperate, very attentively. We must use each positive proposal in favour of Azerbaijan, its national features and apply them in our education system. But we must also keep the positive features of the former system, and everything corresponding to requirements of the present and future. 

I understand so that now the basic purpose of reforms in the education system is to adapt our education to the world standards of the education. Once more I say that the education system of Azerbaijan has yielded positive results for the last decades. But the knowledge level of those who received education Azerbaijan, in particular graduated from higher educational institutions and the documents confirming their knowledge, should be adopted to the knowledge level of high schools in the developed countries of the world. It is necessary that the person educated and got the diploma of an engineer in Azerbaijan can work with this diploma in other countries. Or the doctor, who was graduated from the Medical University in Azerbaijan, received the diploma of a doctor, can work with this diploma in other countries. That is why, his knowledge, and the orientation of his education at the Azerbaijan Medical University should be recognized and accepted on a global scale as a universal value. This is its purpose. 

But at the same time, achieving it, once more I repeat, it is necessary to observe and develop the principles of education reached by us till now, within tens of years. I think that if we pursue this way, we shall manage to adapt the education system of Azerbaijan to world standards within a short time. 

I positively estimate your proposals on the implementation of reforms in the field of education in three stages. These proposals completely confirm my words, that is, our opinions coincide. Why do I speak with such an excitement about the Law accepted in 1992? I do it because, you know, this Law says: "Destroy the old one, I have developed a new one, implement it into life". It is impossible to do it. But you offer three stages. The first is 1999, the second - till 2004 and the third is till the present day. It is quite right. 

For example, In our country, - and it is not only in our country but also in other countries, - we make in economy not for one or two years, but for five-ten years. For example, transition to the market economy is impossible for one year. Or for a year it is impossible to implement privatization, transform of the state ownership to a private one.

In 1995, we passed the Law on Land Reform. Now it is 1999, for the present we have not managed to finish the realization of that law. However, now, when we conduct the Law on land reform, there are new challenges before us. I spoke about it yesterday at the international conference held jointly with the World Bank on reforms in the field of management. We face new problems, and a new program is necessary for their solution. I repeat, if the conduction of reforms in the field of economy demands not one, but several years, reforms in the field of education demand even more time. It is necessary to understand, to know it. Therefore, I emphasize that there can not be revolutionary changes here. 

I approve your proposals and I they are very valuable. I hope that you will prepare measures for all the three stages and carry out them in due time. I want to tell that you have defined three stages anyway, the measures intended for each stage should be carried out in due time that following order not to have a delay in the next stage. It demands very serious work. 

I think that the commission on reforms in the field of education will be dealt with it and we shall be assisted also by the World Bank. I understand so. The help of the World Bank is not only allocation of grants and the credits. I am very glad that a big group of representatives, experts of the World Bank are participating here. The World Bank will assist to acquaint Azerbaijan with the world experience. We also study world experience, workers of education are engaged in it. But here the help is also necessary. It seems to me that it must form the basis of our cooperation with the World Bank. Certainly, credits are very necessary for the realization of these measures. I hope that you will allocate these credits. You said that after the credit of five million dollars you will develop a big program credit. I support it, agree with it and wish you to confirm your statements and words with real activities. 

I think that the reforms in Azerbaijan move ahead in all areas. Yesterday we held an international conference devoted to the reforms in the system of management. Today it continued its work and came to the end. We conduct very serious reforms in the field of economy. We shall conduct reforms in the field of education. I have created a commission in connection with the realization of reforms in the field of public health. Probably, we should discuss their proposals and provide their realization in the nearest future. Does the World Bank help or not? You will work together. 

We declare once more that Azerbaijan aspires to use this transition period fruitfully. Azerbaijan consistently moves ahead on this way. The process of construction of a democratic, legal, secular state goes on in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s economy develops on the principles of market economy, and it yields its positive results. And in other spheres of Azerbaijan, including education and public health, reforms will also be conducted in future. I thank the World Bank and its representatives who are taking part in our work. I wish to express confidence that our cooperation will extend and deepen.

I wish you successes in your future works. Thank you.