Remarks by Ambassador Rosenblum

5th Annual English Language Conference
Uzbekistan State World Languages University
October 16, 2019, 9:30AM

Assalomu alaykum! Ingliz tiliga bag’ishlangan beshinchi yillik anjumanga khush kelibsiz. Bugun sizni ko’rib turganimdan juda khursandman. Bu yerda o’zimni o’z uyimda-gidek his qilyapman.  (Hello and welcome to this 5th Annual English Language Conference.  I am very happy to be with you today.  I feel at home here).

I want to thank the University of World Languages and the Innovation Center for partnering with the U.S. Embassy to host this Conference.  Thank you all for coming today.

Bu yerda o’zimni o’z uyimda-gidek his qilishim boisi – men o’qituv-chilar oilasida tug’il-ganimdir.  (I feel at home here because I come from a family of teachers).

My mother was a teacher, and I grew up in a home full of books.  One of my sisters taught in elementary schools for many years and later became a school librarian. My uncle was a college professor for more than 40 years.  My wife’s mother was also a teacher, and also two of her three sisters.  So you can understand why I feel as if I am with family in this room!

Thanks to the profound influence of educators in my own life, I am particularly interested in education reform. As I said in a video message just before I arrived here in Tashkent in May: “Khalq kelajagi uchun yoshlar ta’lim-tarbiyasidan muhimroq narsa yo’q.”  There is nothing more important for the future of a nation than well-educated youth.  That is true for the United States, and it is true for Uzbekistan, too.

I have only been living here now for five months but I am starting to learn something about Uzbekistan’s culture.  And I have been extremely impressed by how much value is placed on education in your society.

At the entrance to the madrassa of Ulugbek in Samarkand, built in the 15th century, there is an inscription from a Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, as recorded by the renowned 9th century scholar, Abu Isa Muhammad Tirmidhi:  “To strive for knowledge is the duty of every Muslim.”

The great scholarship of Al-Tirmidhi and the scientific accomplishments of Ulugbek are a gift to all humanity, part of Central Asia’s proud intellectual heritage.  Today, few people may actually know about the inscription at the madrassa entrance – yet millions of people here in Uzbekistan — practically every parent, of every religion — believe in those words, and practice them when it comes to raising their children.  The legacy of Al-Tirmidhi and Ulugbek survives.

American parents also want their children to strive for knowledge, to obtain the best possible education.  This is a value our two countries share, 100 percent.

We have enormous respect for what President Mirziyoyev and the government of Uzbekistan are trying to achieve by undertaking a major reform of your education system.  In a recent speech, the President said, “If we really strive to build a great future for Uzbekistan, then we must create all the necessary conditions for our youth today.”  I could not agree more.

As we understand it, the goal of the educational reforms is to ensure your education system is compatible with the ongoing modernization of the country’s economic, social and political system.  The goal is to ensure your young people are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century and that they are prepared to take their place as active citizens in a democratic society.

As part of the strategic partnership we have developed over the past several years, the United States is committed to supporting your President’s reforms in any area where we have something useful to offer.  And we have quite a bit to offer in the field of education.

So, we have launched a new, multi-year effort to support Uzbekistan’s education reform.  The United States and Uzbekistan recently signed a landmark assistance agreement, which will commit up to $50 million to support education reform in Uzbekistan over the next five years, including for English language education in primary schools, as well as other key skills including early grade reading and math and IT education.

Many of you have seen the great American Space at the Navoi Library here in Tashkent, furnished with English language books, magazines, and videos, test preparation materials and other great resources, including free internet access.  I am delighted to announce that we have received funding from Washington to open six new American Spaces, so over the next two years, there will be American Spaces in cities all around Uzbekistan.

We are also ramping up efforts to make information about American educational opportunities available to your students.  As we speak, over at the Miran Hotel, we’re sponsoring another event, an “EducationUSA” information fair, provided information to thousands of Uzbekistan’s high school students about opportunities in the United States.  Representatives of 16 American universities are there to answer questions about studying in the U.S.

And then there’s English language…..We have great respect for all languages. Each nation should be able to develop its own linguistic tradition, use its own language as it sees fit, and promote its use.  Language connects us directly to our national histories, to the cultural and literary achievements of our ancestors.

But there is no debate about the fact that, today, English is a gateway to economic success, at the national and individual level.  English has become the global language for information technology, tourism, the financial sector, and much else besides.  Proficiency in English is a great advantage to any young person entering the job market.  That will be more and more true as Uzbekistan opens up to foreign direct investment and develops its tourism sector.  The government of Uzbekistan fully recognizes this.

The United States is honored to be able to support Uzbekistan’s goal of improving English language skills for all students, and I would like to tell you about some of the exciting efforts we have underway.

We are delighted to have increased the number of English Language Fellows, Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, and English Language Specialists working at universities and schools in Uzbekistan from 3 to 18 over the past two years.  I am especially grateful to the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education for opening so many new universities to our scholars; and to the Ministry of Public Education for accepting the first American teachers in public schools this year for the first time in 14 years.  This reflects the new spirit of partnership between our nations.

I am sure many of you have already had the pleasure of meeting or maybe even working with some of our American English teachers.  If you haven’t, today is your lucky day!  All of them are here with us today, and they are looking forward to exchanging ideas with you over the next two days at the conference.

Another exciting program we have developed is the Access English for STEM program.  This program works with first year university students studying science, technology, engineering, and math, to help them develop the English language skills they need to succeed in the modern global economy.  We are really proud of this program, because we created it right here in Uzbekistan! No other country in the world has this program.  In two short years, we have opened six English for STEM programs across the country, and this year we will open two more.

And finally, I would like to share another exciting development in the field of English language teaching in Uzbekistan.  Are there any English teachers in the room?  {PAUSE}  Good, I thought so!  I think you will like this because it was created with you in mind.

It is my distinct pleasure to announce today that, in close partnership with the Ministry of Public Education and American Councils, the United States has dedicated $5 million to the government’s English Speaking Nation program – a transformative education reform effort that will provide advanced training in English language and the latest teaching methodologies for more than 15,000 secondary school English teachers across all 14 regions of Uzbekistan.

All of these positive developments demonstrate our ironclad commitment to supporting your President’s visionary reforms.  We have friends and partners like you to thank for these successes.  Together, we have done and will continue to do amazing things to build a bright future for the children of this great nation.

Once again, thank you for joining us today.  I hope you have a wonderful experience at the conference, and that you take home ideas you can use in your classrooms to help students in your communities develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed in the modern world.

Katta rakhmat!