Sociology assistant professor publishes articles about education in Central Asia
In the past year, Christopher Whitsel, assistant professor of sociology, published three articles addressing various aspects of education in Central Asia.
One article tests differences in educational attainment rates among Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 1991, the Soviet republics became independent states. In 1994, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan decreased compulsory education to ninth grade, but Kazakhstan kept the Soviet era standard requiring secondary education. Educational attainment was higher in Kazakhstan than other republics, although there was divergence in patterns of educational attainment among other republics. This indicated that there are other factors at play as well.
Another article, written with a colleague from Afghanistan, compared school enrollment in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It also presented a new way of modeling the relationship between individual, family and community factors. It argued that community factors shape the influence of individual and family factors on educational participation. It demonstrated ways that school availability, school costs and work opportunities shape individual and family determinants of youth enrollment in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The authors found there is greater divergence in enrollment based on community characteristics between communities in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan. This could be due to the greater differences in school conditions among in communities in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan, which was part of the former Soviet Union until 1991 and had a highly developed educational system.
The third article, examined corruption in the educational system in Tajikistan. To date, little work has outlined the various illegal costs that students and families encounter in the school system. Whitsel reports that parents and students are often asked to contribute funds for the upkeep and daily running of schools. For example, families are asked to purchase heating fuel, chalk, poster board, etc. Some schools have even set up a system in which parents contribute monthly to a fund which supplements teacher’s salaries. A few students report that they are required to pay money for passing exams.