In the pre-Soviet period, Azerbaijani education included intensive
religious training that commenced in
early childhood. Beginning at roughly age five and sometimes
continuing until age twenty, children attended madrasahs
, education institutions affiliated with
. In the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, madrasahs were established as separate education
institutions in major cities, but the religious component of
education remained significant. In 1865 the first technical high school and
the first women's high school were opened in Baku.
the late nineteenth century, secular elementary schools for
Azerbaijanis began to appear (schools for ethnic Russians had been
established earlier), but institutions of higher education and the
use of the Azerbaijani language
in secondary schools were forbidden in Transcaucasia throughout the
tsarist period. The majority of ethnic Azerbaijani children
received no education in this period, and the Azerbaijani literacy rate
remained very low, especially
among women. Few women were allowed to attend school.
In the Soviet era, literacy and average education levels rose
dramatically from their very low starting point, despite two
changes in the standard alphabet, from Arabic
in the 1920s and from Roman to Cyrillic
in the 1930s. According to Soviet data,
100 percent of males and females (ages nine to forty-nine) were
literate in 1970.
Soviet period, the Azerbaijani education system was based on the
standard model imposed by Moscow, which
featured state control of all education institutions and heavy
doses of Marxist-Leninist ideology at all levels.
independence, the Azerbaijani system has undergone little
structural change. Initial alterations have included the
reestablishment of religious education (banned during the Soviet
period) and curriculum changes that have reemphasized the use of
the Azerbaijani language and have eliminated ideological content.
In addition to elementary schools, the education institutions
include thousands of preschools
, and vocational schools
, including specialized
secondary schools and technical schools. Education through the
eighth grade is compulsory. At the end of the Soviet period, about 18
percent of instruction was in Russian, but the use
of Russian began a steady decline beginning in 1988.
schools teach in English
Azerbaijan has more than a dozen institutions of higher education,
in which enrollment totaled 105,000 in 1991. Because Azerbaijani
culture has always included great respect for secular learning, the
country traditionally has been an education center for the Muslim
peoples of the former Soviet Union.
For that reason and because of the role of
the oil industry in Azerbaijan's economy, a relatively high
percentage of Azerbaijanis have obtained some form of higher
education, most notably in scientific and technical subjects.
Several vocational institutes train technicians for the oil
industry and other primary industries.
The most significant institutions of higher education are the
University of Azerbaijan
Baku, the Institute of Petroleum and Chemistry, the Polytechnic
Institute, the Pedagogical Institute, the Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzade
Pedagogical Institute for Languages, the Azerbaijan Medical
Institute, and the Uzeir Hajibeyov Conservatory. Much scientific
research, which during the Soviet period dealt mainly with
enhancing oil production and refining, is carried out by the
Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences, which was established in 1945. The
University of Azerbaijan, established in 1919, includes more than a
dozen departments, ranging from physics to Oriental studies, and
has the largest library in Azerbaijan. The student population
numbers more than 11,000, and the faculty over 600. The Institute
of Petroleum and Chemistry, established in 1920, has more than
15,000 students and a faculty of about 1,000. The institute trains
engineers and scientists in the petrochemical industry
, and related areas.