Matluba Mukhamedova, Communications Officer in the World Bank Uzbekistan Office, offers this story.
Maktob Jumaeva's mother used to tell her that if she wanted to know something thoroughly, 'teach others'. She took her mother's advice to heart and became a school teacher, like her. After graduating from teachers' college, Jumaeva went back to her small town in Bukhara District. For the last six years she has been principal of Romiton School #1.
Jumaeva has seen a lot of improvement at Romiton School #1 in a short time. The school has had an infusion of new materials and resources—67 visual aids and master classes—that are helping teachers improve what they know and how they teach.
"Our government spends a lot of money on education. Probably this helps to maintain high enrollment and attendance rates. But the important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn, and this is only possible when the quality of education is really high," Jumaeva says.
Together with 1,501 schools countrywide, Romiton School #1 has been benefiting from the Uzbek Government's basic education project. Supported by the World Bank, the project aims to improve the effectiveness of both teaching and learning.
It's needed. Many teachers lack the skills to engage students in what they are learning. In addition, classroom equipment is either insufficient or outdated - available aids and information technologies were used ineffectively, especially in primary classes where teachers have been making aids themselves. Since Romiton School #1 received its new aids, one student won a prize at an Olympiad, another won an essay contest, and a third received the governor's scholarship. Among the students are deputy members of the Children's Parliament and winners of ecological contests.
Jumaeva explains their success: "We want to create a stimulating environment to encourage students to be masters of their learning. To achieve that, the teachers themselves need to know how to apply new teaching methods and make the lessons more interactive, and apply a student-centered approach to improve learning outcomes."
To that end, teachers even shared desks with pupils. Their changed attitude was taught by principals and teachers trained to impart new methods.
Along with new attitudes for teachers came stronger roles for school boards and ways to involve parents and other community members in decision making. Boards comprising parents, neighboring communities, sponsor organizations and teachers can be powerful, especially in knowing what a school needs to improve.
The board of Romiton School #1 made an inventory of available equipment and applied for grants to supply a camera, projector and other gear necessary for multimedia classes.
In 2008, per capita financing was introduced in the Bukhara region, completely changing school financing. Governed by regulations, the old system was unevenly allocated and inequitable. It resulted in inefficient and nontransparent spending of public resources. Schools had little budget authority, and no incentive to spend wisely, as savings would result in budget cuts the following year. With per capita financing, basic education schools became legal entities; school directors were primary administrators of funds. Subsequently, school principals and accountants had to estimate budget and staff needs; pass a working budget through the regional Treasury, and manage resources according to the law. They had to make payments, including wages.
Jumaeva comments: "Because of per capita financing, we have to attract pupils. The more pupils come to our school, the more funds are allocated to us. You cannot just lead children to school by the hand. But when there is positive word of mouth around the district that the teaching in our school is on a contemporary level, many parents want their children to study in our school. Currently, the enrollment in our school is twice as high as that in neighboring schools. Parents bring their kids not only from the neighborhood, but also from remote districts."
On any given day, Jumaeva is relentlessly active: talking to parents, meeting the chairman of the school board, discussing urgent issues with teachers, checking the recently planted school garden, and doing a lot of other things. Asked whether every day is as hectic, she answered: "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."