Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Museum Popularity in the South Caucasus

In the South Caucasus there is a tension between the desire to leave the Soviet past behind and the desire to re-evaluate history. Museums are one of the arenas in which the past, culture and history of any country (or nation) are captured. The International Council of Museums defines a museum as “A permanent institution for charity, to the service of the society and of its development”. This blog shows the changing situation of museums in the South Caucasus and reveals that the attendance rate is highest in Armenia although the country has the fewest number of museums in the region.

According to the national statistics offices of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia (the State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia and the National Statistics Office of Georgia), Azerbaijan is home to the largest number of museums in the region (227 in Azerbaijan, 183 in Georgia and 99 in Armenia). Azerbaijan has the largest population of the three states and Georgia has the greatest density of museums relative to its size and population. Additionally, Azerbaijan and Georgia have experienced the greatest increase in the number of museums. There has been a steady increase between 2005 and 2011 in Azerbaijan and a sharp increase from 2010 to 2011 in Georgia. Armenia, with the smallest population, also has the fewest museums in the region. 

Despite the fact that there were half as many museums in Armenia as in the other two countries in 2011, official statistics reveal that museum attendance is the highest in Armenia. Annual museum attendance in Armenia was relatively steady from 2005 to 2009 and then rose sharply after 2009. The number of visitors has almost tripled in Armenia since 2005, which reflects growing interest in museums in Armenia. The attendance rate in Armenia is more than three times higher than in Georgia even though there are almost twice as many museums in Georgia than in Armenia.

The increase in museum attendance in Armenia might be due to a number of factors, such as exhibition content, reduced ticket prices, effective advertising campaigns, and other possibilities. Additionally, tourism is one factor that might have an impact on museum attendance. However, data from the World Tourism Organization reveals that tourism was lowest in Armenia among all three South Caucasus countries from 2009-2011. In the last year, the tourism rate in Armenia was half that in Azerbaijan and four times lower than in Georgia. Thus, these numbers might suggest that museum attendance rates in Armenia are driven by locals rather than foreign visitors.

Data from the 2011 Caucasus Barometer (CB) also confirms that Armenians are the most keen to visit museums (or art galleries). CB data also indicate that this activity is most popular among women than men.

There is also a difference in the predominant type of museums found in each of the three countries: historical, memorial, local lore, arts and other. Museums engaged in collection, protection and the study of historical materials and monuments are predominant in all three countries. Again, data from the national statistics offices reveal a different distribution of the museums in the South Caucasus; memorial museums are the majority in Georgia, while most museums specialize in local lore and history in Azerbaijan, and the majority of museums are devoted to art in Armenia. The size of every museum possibly also affects its attendance rates, yet there is no data comparing their sizes in the region.

This blog shows that the number of museums negatively correlates with their attendance. Armenia has the fewest museums, yet it has the highest museum attendance rate. To add, it seems that museum visits are accelerated by locals in Armenia.

What types of museums do you find most appealing? What do you think explains the sharp growth of museum visits in certain countries? 

You can also explore the CB data sets on similar questions by visiting CRRC’s interactive Online Data Analysis tool at http://www.crrc.ge/oda/.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Education in Azerbaijan: A Snapshot

According to last month’s World Bank Azerbaijan Partnership Program Snapshot, there is an increased sense of urgency in Azerbaijan for long-term reform of the country’s education system. In its one-page education summary, the report describes Azerbaijan’s high primary school enrollment but details three important concerns: 1) low preschool enrollment, 2) low participation in higher education, and 3) an overall low quality of education.

According to Azerbaijan’s State Statistics Committee, only 16% of children between the ages of one and five attended preschool in 2012. However, there is a large gap in preschool attendence between urban and rural areas; in urban areas 23% of children aged 1-5 attend preschool, while this figure is 8.6% in rural areas. 

Created with data from the State Statistics Committee

The World Bank reports a slightly higher preschool enrollment rate in Azerbaijan at 27%, while the 2011 PIRLS-an international reading assessment study- reports that 36% of Azerbaijani fourth grade children attended preschool. Azerbaijan has one of the highest percentages of children without a preschool education among the 45 countries included in the PIRLS study.

*All data is from 2011 except the “Like countries” category which uses the latest available data from each country. (This was 2011 for all countries except 2012 for Kazakhstan, 2008 for Georgia, 2010 for Turkey, and Turkmenistan is not included because there is no data). Created with data from the World Bank. Downloaded from  http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.PRE.ENRR/countries?display=default.

Low rates of preschool enrollment in Azerbaijan are particularly puzzling because Azerbaijan is also an upper middle income country according to the World Bank, yet it has a much lower preschool enrollment rate than many other upper middle income countries. Additionally, most Azerbaijanis place high value on preschool education. According to the the 2011 Caucasus Barometer, 85% of Azerbaijanis agreed that kindergarten is an important part of a child’s development. 

The Caucasus Research Resource Centers. (2011) “Caucasus Barometer". Retrieved through ODA - http://www.crrc.ge/oda/ on {May 2, 2013}. Available at http://www.crrc.ge/oda/?dataset=17&row=176

However, nearly 100% of Azerbaijani children attended primary school (grades 1 to 4) in 2011 according to Azerbaijan’s State Statistics Committee. This puts Azerbaijan on pace to achieve full primary school enrollment which is the major educational metric tracked by the Millennium Development Goals. World Bank data corroborates high primary school enrollment rates, but suggests that a small proportion of children (4%) may not attend school at all. The gap between gross and net enrollment suggests that some children attend primary school outside the suggested age range— they either enroll late or finish late.

 Primary School Enrollment in Azerbaijan
World Bank data on gross enrollment, net enrollment, and primary completion rate (male and female).
State Statistics Committee education data. *For a full explanation of gross and net enrollment see this helpful post by Friedrich Huebler.

According to the World Bank, Azerbaijan’s university enrollment rate is 20%— the second lowest in the CIS region and well below the averages for Europe and Central Asia, for upper middle income countries, and for “like countries” in Central Asia and the Caucasus. In fact, within the CIS only Uzbekistan (and possibly Turkmenistan but there is no data) shows a lower percentage of students attending university than Azerbaijan (9%). 

Nevertheless, enrollment figures are increasing. The percent of secondary school graduates who have been accepted to university has risen from 21.7% to 27.4% since 2010. The number of students enrolling in university each year has risen 16% over the last three years, even though the percent of applicants has remained relatively constant at 60%. This means that more applicants are being accepted.

University Enrollment in Azerbaijan
State Students Admission Commission (SSAC) data compiled from annual reports available at http://www.tqdk.gov.az/az/statistics/.

Despite the fact that the ‘success’ rate for university applicants has risen by over 24% in the past three years, score distributions from the 2010-2012 State Students Admissions Commission university admissions exams show slightly decreasing scores during this time period. A possible explanation for the increasing number of students accepted with lower scores is that the test is becoming more difficult while the university admissions cut-off for lower scores has become more flexible. 

State Students Admission Commission (SSAC) data compiled from annual reports available at http://www.tqdk.gov.az/az/statistics/

Although Azerbaijan’s education system is making strides, there is still a lot of work to be done to create an inclusive system that provides opportunities for all children, and which develops Azerbaijan’s human capital. Azerbaijan’s spending on education has increased from 1.2 to 1.4 billion AZN between 2010 and 2012, but this is a decrease from 10% to 8.8% of the state’s total spending (because overall state spending has increased by a much higher percentage). Spending on education is currently 3.5% of the GDP, and while education spending is not considered to be a good indicator of education quality, the overall downward trend of social spending on education might be a problem. 

Contributed by Vitaly Radsky from the Center for Innovations in Education Policy Unit, and former CRRC International Fellow

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Freedom of Press in the South Caucasus

Freedom of press is one of the indicators of a free society (e.g., immunity of communications media from censorship or governmental control). Freedom House’s 2012 analysis of Freedom of Press found that only 14.5% of the world’s population live in countries with a free press, while 45% have a partly free press, and 40.5% live in an environment without a free press. As for the South Caucasus region, Georgia was classified as having a partly free press ranking 111 out of 197 countries, similar to Bangladesh, Kenya and Mauritania which were among countries classified as partly free. Both Armenia (rank 149) and Azerbaijan (rank 172) were classified as having a “not free” press. This blog discusses the changing situation with regard to media freedom in the South Caucasus, as well as perceptions of trust in the media. It also highlights a gap between media freedom and trust in media in the region.
The Freedom of Press survey was first conducted in 1980 and has annually assessed the level of media freedom and editorial independence worldwide ever since. Freedom House provides analytical reports for 197 countries and territories and assigns them with a total score from 0 (best) to 100 (worst). The score is composed of 23 methodological questions that are divided into three categories: legal, political and economic environment. Primary attention is given to the political environment for press circulation, referring to the ability to operate freely and without fear of persecution. The degree to which each country permits the free flow of news and information determines the classification of its media as “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.” Countries scoring 0 to 30 are regarded as having a “Free” media, while scores of 31 to 60 indicate “Partly Free”, and 61 to 100 represents “Not Free”.
In 2012 Georgia was the only country to make significant improvement in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia – it moved from 55 to 52 points (out of 100). This was primarily due to the establishment of new publications, the issue of a broadcast license to a media group critical to the government (TV9), and enforced provisions for media ownership. However, a few deficiencies have remained. For instance, the Georgian National Communications Commission has been broadly reported to have limitations, delays in the access to information, and a lack of independence from political parties.
The report also identified Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan as countries of special concern in the region (i.e. not free). Freedom House’s country overview of Azerbaijan explains that journalists continue to be persecuted and imprisoned, authorities use economic and political pressure to maintain control over major media outlets, and the 2000 Law on Mass Media remains inoperative.
In Armenia, press freedom also remains restricted. The media environment remains controlled despite several amendments and legal protections that have been in place since the 2008 presidential election. In addition, close ties between government authorities and media owners encourage journalist self-censorship, particularly in the broadcast sector.
Freedom House data also allows us to follow its Freedom of Press index over time. According to the index, freedom of press has worsened (again, 0=best and 100=worst) in Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1994. Furthermore, while press freedom in Armenia has worsened from 1994 to 2009, there was a slight improvement from 2009 to 2012. The freedom of press index has fluctuated more in Azerbaijan, although it steadily deteriorated from 2004 to 2012. Georgia’s index sharply improved from 1994 to 2000, after which it worsened from 2000 to 2009, and began improving again from 2009 to 2012.

It is also difficult to find a direct link between changing freedom of press since 1994 and trust in the media. According to the Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey, the level of trust in the media has also varied in these countries from 2008 to 2012. The overall picture that emerges after combining results from the CB and the freedom of press index is interesting. Although the Freedom of Press index has slightly worsened from 2011 to 2011 in Azerbaijan, trust in the media during that period sharply increased. On the contrary, Georgian trust in the media has decreased since 2009 although the index of freedom of press improved. Thus, the freedom of press index does not directly tell us much about how much societies trust media. 

The South Caucasus has not yet achieved a completely free press. However, according to Freedom House, freedom of the press index is improving in Georgia, whereas the index is stable in Armenia and worsening in Azerbaijan. This blog discussed major criticisms about the press environment by Freedom House, as well as the interchanging level of trust in the media in the South Caucasus.
You are invited to see the full 2012 Freedom House report and to find out more about trust in institutions using the CRRC Caucasus Barometer.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Contradiction Between Civil Liberties and Democracy in Azerbaijan

Many conversations about civil liberties focus on the freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, personal autonomy and individual rights. According to Freedom House, these civil liberties play an essential role in measuring the robustness of democracies worldwide. CRRC data from the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) shows a disjoint between perceptions of democracy and civil liberties in Azerbaijan. Specifically, the data suggest that in Azerbaijan, which is categorized as a Not-Free country according to the Freedom House 2012 rankings, people perceive that their country is either a full democracy or one with minor problems more than the other two South Caucasus countries. This blog reveals the ambiguity of the relationship between civil liberties and perceptions of democracy in Azerbaijan and provides comparisons with Georgia and Armenia.

Democracy means something different to different people. The perception of democracy is different in three countries of the South Caucasus. For instance, even though the Economist Intelligence Unit rankings show Azerbaijan as an authoritarian regime, Azerbaijanis themselves perceive their country to be more democratic than citizens in Armenia and Georgia. Despite the fact that Azerbaijanis recognize a number of weaknesses of civil liberties in their country (e.g., an unfair court system and controlled freedom of expression), the 2012 CB shows that about half of the population assess Azerbaijan as a full democracy or democracy with minor problems.

Less than a half of Azerbaijanis identified the most recent national election (2010 parliamentary election) as fair, compared to 54% of Armenians (2012 parliamentary election) and 87% of Georgians (2012 parliamentary election). Azerbaijanis are also more skeptical about their participation in elections and its importance for citizens although voting in fair elections is an essential feature of a functioning democracy. Two thirds (68%) of Azerbaijanis say they would participate in a presidential election the following Sunday, and approximately one fourth (24%) doubt that voting is important for citizens. While these results focus specifically on electoral process, they are also major indicators of civil liberties.

Freedom of assembly and expression are additional indicators of democracy. Over half of Armenians (66%) and Georgians (55%) agreed that people should take part in protest actions against the government to show the government that the people are in charge, whereas only 29% of Azerbaijanis said the same. There is a similar tendency regarding freedom of expression. Just under half of the Azerbaijan population (47%) think people have the right to openly say what they think (in comparison with two thirds in other two countries). Additionally, 19% of Azerbaijanis agreed that it is important for a good citizen to be critical towards the government, compared to more than half of Georgian and Armenian populations (55% and 53% respectively).

CB data also suggest a strong feeling of inequality before the law and government in all three countries. Only half of the populations in Azerbaijan and Georgia believe that people are treated fairly by the government, whereas one fifth of Armenians agreed. Additionally, the results are even more controversial regarding the legal system; only around one tenth (approximately 13%) of each population believes their court system treats everyone equally. This means that laws, policies, and practices do not guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population. However, one third of Azerbaijanis trust in their court system although the majority does not believe that it is equal for everyone.

Despite problems with certain civil liberties in the South Caucasus, many people still believe that their country is a democracy or a democracy with minor problems. This is most recognizable in Azerbaijan where many people distrust court system, question the fairness of elections, and remain concerned about the right to criticize the government or participate in protest actions. Moreover, the Economist Intelligence Unit named Azerbaijan a strong authoritarian regime although half of the population believes it is represented by a democratic government or a democracy with minor problems. This seeming contradiction in perceptions of democracy as measured by subjective and objective measures would be an excellent topic for further research.

If you want to explore more about these questions, visit the 2012 Caucasus Barometer dataset