President Otunbayeva elaborated on the broader policy focus for the country, noting "we must begin to focus more on the educational system, moving beyond [the present] focus on political structures." She called for a national dialog on education, in order to raise awareness among lawmakers of the centrality of educational change for Kyrgyzstan's long-term economic future.
In reviewing the impact of 10 years of independent testing in Kyrgyzstan, President Otunbayeva and Dr. Davidson agreed that merit-based access to higher education is now a reality, supported strongly by Kyrgyz parents and teachers across the country's regions. Just as students compete for positions in the best programs and universities in Kyrgyzstan, so do the universities now compete for the best-prepared students entering as freshmen. President Otunbayeva observed that the more transparent this healthy competition is among universities, the better it would be for all of Kyrgyz society. She recommended that the Ministry of Education, the Kyrgyz Center for Assessment (CEATM), and American Councils in the U.S. collaborate to produce an annual publication of objective rankings of all of Kyrgyz public and private higher education institutions. This publication would provide students with more accurate and comprehensive information when selecting a school to attend.
Other areas of discussion focused on the support for teacher professional development and the practice of placing strong, American Councils alumni from the US-CAEF and FLEX programs in key government and business internships. The President saw this practice as particularly necessary at the present time, as Kyrgyzstan attempts to reform and improve the quality of the national civil service. Otunbaeva hopes to advance career-planning services at Kyrgyz state institutions, expressing her admiration for the quality of services available on American campuses to facilitate student transition to the job market.
President Otunbayeva also emphasized the growing need in Kyrgyzstan to bolster vocational education programs, to train more faculty in vocational curricula, and to add more technology to current vocational schools. The President and Dr. Davidson talked about ways to attract more youth to vocational training and how American Councils and the United States can work with Kyrgyzstan to share best practices and strengthen cooperation in this area.
"Kyrgyzstan is a strategically important nation for the U.S. and a country with relatively strong institutions of civil society, one of which is its independent testing system. President Otunbaeva has signaled that education must be a priority area for her country not only for the remainder of her own term in office, but for years to come, if Kyrgyzstan is to continue to grow and prosper as a national. President Otunbaeva is a leader with a very clear vision of what is needed in her country in the educational field," Davidson noted in summarizing the meeting, which took place at the President's residence outside Bishkek.