Kyrgyzstan to Switch to 12-Year School System

From the next academic year pupils in Kyrgyzstan are to stay at school for an extra year, a move that authorities believe will improve the quality of education, and make it easier for students to enter foreign universities.

The Kyrgyz Ministry of Education and Science said the 12-year system will be introduced in schools in stages from September. By common consensus, Kyrgyzstan’s school system has long been in need of modernization, as many approaches to education have not changed in decades.

“We will gradually introduce this system so that children will not be overloaded. We have been working on this for more than a year. The transformation of the education system is aimed at updating the content of school education, improving its structure, aimed at preparing competitive youth, and integrating [them] into the global educational space,” said education minister Dogdurkul Kendirbayeva at a press conference in Bishkek.

Ms Kendirbayeva also explained how the transition to a 12-year system would take place. All of the country’s first grade students will be tested in September this year; those children who are already comfortable with the second-grade curriculum will move to the second grade in January 2025.

To improve the quality of teaching at Kyrgyz schools, the Asian Development Bank has provided a $20 million grant, as well as a loan for the same amount for 24 years. This money will pay for teachers to go on courses in science, technology, engineering and math.

A new education system is also needed because currently only 30% of preschool-aged children in Kyrgyzstan are in preschools. This is partly because many parents use their young children as additional labor in the household, or use them as nannies for their younger siblings, and are in no hurry to send their children to school. Many families also don’t have the money to send their children to preschool classes. But from the fall the preschool education program will become compulsory for all as part of the first year of education.

Critics of the new system argue that it will hamper the most able young children, because they will now have to wait for their peers.