The current panel will examine the interplays of education and inequality in a comparative framework using research from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
While increasing income inequality in Central Asia - and associated social vulnerabilities - have been widely noted in the recent literature, not enough attention has been paid to the divergent educational pathways that foreground these developments. This is a particularly significant issue given the fact that approximately half of Central Asia's population is below the age of 25, i.e. at the prime of their educational trajectory.
Education reproduces existing social inequalities. Consequently, examining the differentiated educational opportunity structures of young people in Central Asia is key to unpacking their restricted social mobility. At the same time, education also opens up possibilities of social transformation through manifest agencies of its many actors - most importantly the young people themselves. Hence, locating youth identities and aspirations also provides unique insights into the contested space of unequal societies.
The panel opens with a paper by Asel Doolotkeldieva that examines how poor families in Kyrgyzstan strategize about their children's education - with madrasas being one such strategy. The paper helps problematize choice of religious education by young people in Kyrgyzstan from the perspectives of social and economic inequality.
The next paper by Daniyar Karabaev presents the educational inequities associated with Kyrgyz ethnic groups in Tajikistan - who study in different languages of instructions. The paper elaborates how the language of instruction contributes to socialization of minority groups - reproducing social distancing and inequalities in a multi-ethnic multi-lingual Central Asian state.
In their paper, Tamo Chattopadhay and Gulnur Esenalieva examine how educational and social-relational attributes of university students - from diverse socio-economic backgrounds - correlate with their understanding of and aspirations for addressing the economic and social challenges facing the country.
Finally, the paper by Emil Nasritdinov, Aigul Abdoubaetova and Aigerim Turgunbaeva examines how young people from lower income families, but with strong aspirations, navigate the unequal urban educational spaces. Thus, while highlighting the role of larger structural socio-economic factors that create the educational divides in today's Central Asia, this paper puts its emphasis on the role of young people's agency as it manifests in their current contexts.
Together the papers of the panel will locate the interplay of social structures and youth agency in the heterogeneous educational space of an increasingly unequal Central Asia.