While on Christmas vacation I did a year end report for the Ministry of Education to hopefully READ and make some important decisions for the future of education in Kazakhstan. As a western educator, I needed to justify what I am doing in Kazakhstan. Teachers typically are not trained to defend their position on why they exist or negotiate for better pay or a different job title with a description of their work. But this is Kazakhstan and there have been so many rapid changes that as an American, I have to roll with it. All the other Kazakh teachers are having to roll with the changes as well. What I wrote for the first part of my report has been translated into Russian, it was the year’s schedule of activities I had my PDP (Professional Development program) students do and then the course descriptions for two semesters. The following will help explain my western logic and rationale for my teaching in Kazakhstan, I hope it makes sense and that it translates well into Russian.
III. Main Goals for the four courses of blended learning
Targeted Students – Orken [means "intellectual" in Kazakh] teachers and recent graduates of pedagogical institutes from throughout Kazakshtan
A Kazakh proverb “Hard in learning, easy on war” means that the struggle in education is worth it in the end. If I understand this proverb correctly, if we continue the fight long enough we will achieve much. Another Chinese proverb provokes the kind of thought I want to encourage in all my classes: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” As a western style teacher who has been a student in many student-centered classrooms but has taught in teacher-centered environments, the freedom for today’s Kazakh students to be autonomous in their learning is important with the advent of the computer and living in the Information Revolution.
Secondary schools in Kazakhstan need to be integrated with higher education goals and objectives, sadly many secondary school graduates are not adequately prepared for the rigors of university studies in a western setting. The secondary education curriculum needs to support the goals of the new university for future success of the students. Those goals as stated by the President of Kazakhstan are the use of creative solutions to problems by innovation and effective use of modern technologies.
This goal can only be accelerated and managed if the Kazakh teachers are given adequate instruction on how to use multimedia programs, teacher-student communication tools and social networking programs. By doing so, the Kazakh teachers can efficiently teach English in all skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening more effectively to young students who are receptive to this form of instruction that uses the self-access approach.
Unfortunately, primary and secondary education teachers have been confused by the chaos of the huge educational reforms that have been necessary to keep up to the 21st century. When there is a vague curriculum concerning technologies that is still “under construction” and when there are no specific standards or benchmarks by which a teacher can know that they are knowledgeable enough to disseminate information via computers to their young students, it eventually impedes on the progress of the nation of Kazakhstan. That is why all teachers throughout Kazakhstan should be equipped with the highest standards of information literacy.
Kazakh teachers need the extra training and instruction in information literacy and the use of modern technology especially as begun at the new university. These courses are targeted to help facilitate the teaching of English in a meaningful manner where the burden is taken off the teacher to “know-all” and placed squarely on the students’ to have intrinsic motivation to learn on their own independently. Because we are living in the information age, students will have to take more responsibility for their own learning autonomously while the teacher becomes less teacher-centered and by necessity allows the classroom to be more student-centered.
However, the Kazakh and Kazakhstani parents need to become more involved in this process as well so that the learning community is not only with teachers and students. As one Orken teacher claimed: “Sometimes the parents may expect teachers to be wizards and to make their children geniuses.” Teachers in Kazakhstan need to be given higher status by learning and knowing more, especially with computer technology. Otherwise it will be impossible for the public to be open or ready to have trained specialists in the field of technology. If the teachers are not first given adequate training and continuing education courses as the President of Kazakhstan knows is important in any western company, the singular goal for 2030 will fall woefully short. To say, “This is the way we have always done it” will not work anymore.
(to be continued)