Ambitions, free time, education
From a present point of view youth is the future, as it always has been. Thus their upbringing, free time activities and education are very important questions for a nation. Travelling across Kyrgyzstan we made short interviews with children coming from various circumstances to get a closer look on how they think, what they want to be, what they like. We were trying to look for patterns, but the only one we found, is that the kids had the same answers to our questions as every kid would have had in the more developed countries.
They want to be astronauts, policemen, Formula-1 pilots, lawyers –and a very ambitious kid: translator. The most popular career path for children was being a businessman. To understand this, you have to know, that Kyrgyzstan plays the role of a transit country between China and Central Asia. As a result loads of people (sometimes both parents) are traders or are in some kind of catering business, showing a desirable example to their kids.
Just as much as they listen to Mirbek Atabekov, the trendiest Kyrgyz pop-star’s songs, you can also find every popular Western hit on their phones. Their favorite movies are Titanic, every movie with Jackie Chan or that has action and crime in it. Turkish and Bollywood pieces are also very popular among them.
When arriving to the topic of kids’ everyday desires or free time activities, the country can be divided –as usual- into the more developed parts like Bishkek, Osh city and the countryside with less access to technology. Kids living in villages help their parents around the house, look after the herd and just play ball games or hide and seek with each other. On the contrary, an average Bishkek child has the opportunity to go to judo, dance or English classes, then ask his parents to go watch the latest animated movie in 3D and then finish with eating pizza. The needs and wants are obviously different.
Mandatory state education starts at the age of 7 and lasts until 16. After reaching this age, kids (rather parents) can decide if they want to finish high school, attend a special college to obtain a profession, or leave. Attending higher education has become more popular during the last decade. Having introduced the Bologna-system in 2011, Kyrgyz students have the opportunity to have a 4-year Bachelor and a 2-year Masters degree. With the presence of the American University of Central Asia, several language schools and civil initiatives (e.g: English zones in Bishkek) Kyrgyz youth has the access to English language and a progressive education, which might be a key factor in the development of the country.
As a cultural characteristic, nomadic lifestyle is still prominent for many families. Those, who are out in the mountains during the warmer months, have no access to any kind of education. To contribute to the solution, Roza Otunbayeva –former president of the republic- created summer yurt-schools for children, focused on developing literacy and English-knowledge.
If Kyrgyzstan can capitalize on being a transit country of goods and information, increase English and computer literacy, they have huge opportunites for development. Their kids are up for it for sure.