If someone had asked me last year if I would be bringing the most talented kids from Kyrgyzstan to participate in the International Economics Olympiad and then writing about it for a joint book by the University of Central and Oxford University, I would have never believed it.
In early 2023, I began my work promoting and recruiting high school students for the Economics Olympiad (EO) as part of the “Common Sense Economics” project by the Economic Fundamentals Initiative (EFI) and the University of Central Asia (UCA). The initial round was conducted online in April, with 1800 students participating from across the country. Following this, 50 finalists were selected to compete in the national round held in May in Bishkek. From these 50, the top five students travelled to Bratislava in September to represent Kyrgyzstan.
During this selection process, I observed a significant educational disparity between urban and rural areas in Kyrgyzstan, which inspired me to delve into this field for further research. When the opportunity arose to join the UCA-Oxford team and contribute a chapter on post-COVID rural societies, I eagerly agreed because I already had a topic in mind: post-COVID education in rural Kyrgyzstan.
The EO results had shown that urban students outperformed their rural counterparts, with the top five students all coming from Bishkek schools. To conduct my research, I embarked on a field trip to the Kochkor region in June. There, I conducted interviews with 36 respondents, including teachers, school directors, deputy directors, parents, students, as well as regional administration and regional educational administration heads. The findings confirmed my initial assumptions about the urban-rural education divide and helped me uncover the underlying reasons for this gap.
Numerous factors contributed to the situation described above. One key solution to address these challenges in the education sector and enhance overall education quality is to implement substantial reforms in Kyrgyzstan’s educational system. Interestingly, stakeholders have already provided detailed feedback on necessary changes to the educational system. I am excited to be working on a project that has the potential to bring about positive change in Kyrgyzstan’s education landscape. Through two collaborative projects between UCA-EFI and UCA-Oxford, I have been able to identify issues and propose solutions. I hope to share this valuable information with the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) of Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the UCA-MES partnership, especially since MES has been actively supporting the EO.