Education prepares students for what someone imagines will be their future. When nations undergo dramatic political, economic, and social upheavals, as the Central Asian nations did upon achieving independence in 1991, multiple visions of the future are created, along with multiple ideas of what kind of education is needed to get to those futures, and multiple perspectives on how to assess the quality of that education.
Our three papers address the issues of visions of the future, desired educational outcomes, and who is involved in assessing them, from three vantage points.
Christopher Whitsel takes the broadest view, challenging prevailing models of educational stratification as resulting simply from supply and demand. Contrary to that model of stratification promoted by the World Bank and other organizations, Whitsel, based on his two decades of research on educational access in Tajikistan, develops a multi-level environmental model that better explains both access and educational outcomes. Looking particularly at the data on girls' schooling in Tajikistan, he finds that individual-level, household-level, community-level, and national-level factors interact in particular ways to affect educational outcomes.
Martha Merrill shifts the discussion to higher education and examines why two neighbors, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, make such different use of international program accreditation. As of May 2016, Kyrgyzstan (with 54 higher education institutions) had two programs with international accreditation and Kazakhstan (with 146 HEIs) had over 370. She finds that national-level choices and mandates account for what might seem to be institutional choices in assessing the quality of educational outcomes.
Chynarkul Ryskulova sharpens the perspective by investigating why university faculty in Kyrgyzstan are motivated to participate in the training needed to be members of the new independent accreditation teams that are beginning to evaluate programs in Kyrgyzstani universities. Through both a review of the five newly-created agencies and interviews with faculty, she reflects on faculty motivations and on changing conceptions of quality.
Thus both between and within three Central Asian countries, different visions of the future, with different actors and models, are leading to different concepts of quality in access and outcomes, and different ways of assessing the achievement of those new visons of the future.