Former Soviet states sign deal

February 7, 1997

THE CONFEDERATION of Independent States (CIS) - the territory of the former Soviet Union with the exception of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - is to become a "common educational space", according to an agreement finalised in Moscow last month.

The decision is part of a move towards greater integration, which some member states are resisting. Georgia, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine did not sign the agreement, which focuses on the legal and formal aspects of cooperation.

The practical details are to be worked out by a special council comprising two representatives of each member state. Each delegation will have a single vote, an arrangement which would formally give Armenia (population 3.75 million) and Kyrgystan (4.5 million) parity with the Russian Federation (170 million). Topics covered by the agreement include: * the financing of joint projects in educational research * free access to scholarly and scientific information * compatible educational standards * the right of CIS citizens resident in a CIS state other than their own to equal education with a citizen of that state.

* mutual recognition of degrees and qualifications, including creating an information system of education and qualifications * the compatibility of the laws of member states on matters related to education Russian was the main language of instruction throughout the former Soviet Union. Now non-Russian CIS states, with the exception of Belarus, are switching to their national languages.

Schools provide native language instruction but linguistic barriers could prove an obstacle for people resident outside their own state to get access to higher education.

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