Turkmenistan wisely following the path of Uruguay
Turkmenistan is actually not the first country to computerize its first graders: in 2009, it was Uruguay, where each elementary school pupil received a free laptop from the state. Turkmenistan, however, is the first among Central Asian states to care for its future Einsteins and Newtons. Until now, no country within the region has come up with a similar initiative.
Resource-rich Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan prefer to spend money on army enhancement, confining only a small portion of funds to academics by granting a few personal computers in order to create a thin public relations spin that “the state actually cares about the growing young generation”. As for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, they are too short of funding for something that is anyway assumed to be unnecessary.
Why is this a good decision for Turkmenistan? On the one hand, a laptop gift is the best stimulus for the start of an academic life, so the authorities’ will to introduce children to computer technology deserves approval.
On the other hand, it is not clear (and the Turkmen media do not indicate) whether kids will or will not have access to the Internet. The answer is pretty clear though — Turkmen authorities do not allow for free and unobstructed access to online media in general. But then again, would first graders really need unfettered online access at this stage anyway?