Urazali Tashmatov
Professor, Uzbekistan State Institute of Arts and Culture

The UNESCO 2003 Convention was adopted because of the need for safeguarding ICH and ensuring its safe transmission to future generations. While promotional activities allow increasing awareness about ICH among populations, formal and non-formal education ensures its sustainability as well as continuity. It is for this specific reason that the delivery of ICH-related knowledge and skills through formal and nonformal education plays one of the central roles in safeguarding efforts.

With this background, ICH safeguarding by means of formal and non-formal education has its own specifics if seen in the context of Uzbekistan.

Looking at formal education, it is possible to observe the efforts undertaken in four directions. The first one is the effort to introduce ICH-related knowledge and concepts to educational standards, based on which school and university curricula and programs are developed. However, it should be noted that there are some limitations with that regard. On the one hand, the formal education system of Uzbekistan, which is regulated by the Law on Education and the National Personnel Training Programme (1997), stipulates the development of national educational standards for each subject and allows introducing these standards to all educational institutions at the same time. This ensures that relevant knowledge, abilities, and skills are introduced in all educational establishments across Uzbekistan. On the other hand, there is no opportunity to introduce changes to curricula and programs developed based on educational standards whenever needed.

Notably, the National Programme on Safeguarding, Preserving, and Popularizing Intangible Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan in the period of 2010 to 2020 (adopted in October 2010) takes into account the above-mentioned limitation. It deals with the issues of personnel training and capacity development in the ICH field (Chapter IV). Upon that, the national program stipulates, among other matters, the following:

  • Preparing and publishing ICH textbooks
  • Integrating ICH topics into curricula and programs of professional development courses for teachers of general secondary education schools
  • Involving ICH bearers and practitioners in the process of education as well as curriculum development
  • Attracting young people to the process of collecting ICH materials as well as to the promotional activities
  • Building the capacity of ICH specialists and others

The second direction is the introduction of special ICH courses in universities and institutes dealing with arts and culture. For example, there is an introductory course to Uzbek ICH at the Uzbekistan State Institute of Arts and Culture. The course, which is offered during the fifth semester, is for students specializing in folk art. In addition, the Professional Development Center, established under the Institute of Arts and Culture, has arranged professional development courses, which include a special course on intangible cultural heritage, for professors and teachers of higher education institutions. The Center also offers a one-week course on ICH for heads and personnel of cultural centers and recreation and entertainment parks.

The third direction is associated with ICH-related studies and research undertaken at Uzbek higher education institutes. In the last decades many master’s and doctoral theses have been dedicated to studying the challenges associated with integrating ICH-related knowledge into the Uzbek education system, ICH safeguarding problems, and the promotion of certain ICH elements in the conditions of modernity.

The fourth direction is connected with implementing special ICH projects on the national and international levels. For instance, one recent project has been the Implementation of UNESCO Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage on the National Level, which was conducted with the support of the UNESCO Office in Tashkent. Within its framework, a number of seminars were held in Tashkent, Samarkand, and Ferghana with the participation of ICH specialists and experts as well as ICH bearers during 2012 and 2013. These seminars provided a platform to discuss current issues in ICH and allowed the people involved to later organize their own seminars in different places around the country.

Apart from local efforts on ICH safeguarding, there have also been international efforts in which Uzbekistan has taken part. For instance, Uzbekistan (along with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Palau) is participating in the pilot project, Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage for Educators to Reinforce Education for Sustainable Development, which is being coordinated by the UNESCO Bangkok Office and financed by the government of Japan. The project envisages the development of universal methodologies on integrating ICH-related knowledge into school curricula so that these methodologies can be applied to the countries of Asia and the Pacific. For this purpose, several countries were selected based on the different social and economic indicators as well as geographic location.

In Uzbekistan, this project is being implemented jointly by the Ministry of Public Education and the Ministry of Culture and Sports. For piloting purposes, within the framework of the project, sixth grade classes of two schools in Tashkent were selected. The curricula and lessons on ICH-related themes (folk songs and folk games) were introduced. This was accompanied by the development of manuals and textbooks for teachers and students with the assistance of specialists and experts of both ministries and a two week training session for teachers with the involvement of experts, specialists, and bearers of ICH traditions.

At present, within the project, which is to be finalized in June 2014, the process of improving the methodological manuals and textbooks is being continued. It is planned to involve bearers of ICH elements in the educational process and to attract students to the process of collecting and documenting ICH elements.

ICH safeguarding efforts through non-formal education is closely linked with the ustoz-shogird (master-apprentice) method in Uzbekistan. It is non-formal because it is based on the free will of the people involved and education takes place beyond regular school or university hours. In fact, many talented ICH bearers obtained knowledge through this method and use it as the main method of transmitting knowledge and skills to younger generations (in almost all domains).

Notably, the master-apprentice method is widespread and is still used in many ICH-related fields and professions. Sometimes it may become the only way of transmitting ICH knowledge. For instance, ropewalking requires that the skills associated with it be transmitted when the child is young and under family conditions. Thus, to train a person to be a professional ropewalker, one should teach the child when the child is two or three years old while there is no fear of heights. Also, since it is natural for families outside of the ropewalking tradition to not endanger their own children by letting them be ropewalker apprentices, ropewalkers select their own children or grandchildren as apprentices, and the only method of transmitting knowledge in this regard is the master-apprentice method.

In spite of the difficulties in transmitting knowledge and skills associated with ropewalking, at present there are more than twenty-five ropewalking groups in Uzbekistan. This is a bright testimony that the method works well.