Cogent Thoughts on Education from a Kazakh-Korean Friend

The following thoughts are from a Kazakh-Korean friend of mine who already has a law degree.  Aliya is currently studying in the U.S. at the School of Education at Vanderbilt College in Tennessee.  I’m eager to get more of her cogent thoughts on how she would compare her experience of post-Soviet system of learning to that of the American style.  We had a delightful chat over Skype the other day, when it was about 2:00 a.m. for her while it was 2:00 in the afternoon for me.  She shared with me what she was learning about cultural diversity concerning autonomy and the collective group think.  I queried her more between Kazakh and American cultural differences.  She is a wealth of information, a valuable resource in the up and coming generation who will change Kazakhstan for the better. She is one of the best of the best, and she counts me as her friend.

“I still remember the time when I was in secondary school in Aktobe city, all my thirty classmates including myself had exactly the same subjects to study.  Everyone struggled.  Some couldn’t understand literature, some—math.  I personally had difficulty to study chemistry as my strengths were in history, languages, grammar, literature, painting and music.  Even in my young age, I didn’t like the fact that everyone was taught in the same way by the same methods in spite of our talents and interests.  Ever since I was a schoolgirl, I cherished a strong desire to change existing school system.  I knew education should help a person to develop his potential and talents, but not to make him feel as “another regular pupil” with identical personality and strengths.

I enjoy being part of transformation process and relationships with different persons.  The backward teaching methodology and prevailing Soviet pedagogical ideology have stopped Kazakh education from the modern international development.  I, as a cell of new developing State structure, can make a difference. Young generation defines the future of economical, cultural, scientific and political growth of Kazakhstan.  In my personal experience, despite the fact that some of the issues I face in my educational career can be resolved by consulting relevant information through literature, I found that more serious flaws inherent in Kazakh current educational system that can’t be worked out easily.

A saying: “Some people dream of accomplishments while others stay awake and do them.” I truly believe that we need to stand for doing accomplishments to make changes in our society.

There are a lot of facts that cause poor quality of education such as: lack of sufficient finances form the government (it doesn’t allow universities to have necessary equipment and materials.  For example, USA funds 5-6% of its GDP to education, when Kazakhstan funds only 2-3% of GDP), lack of experienced professors staff (many of them still hold to old Soviet methods), lack of information materials, literature, Internet development, electronic databases, lack of students’ responsibility towards their society and future.  Kazakh education is waiting for progressive modification.  The first and most important change comes from mentality of human beings. In order to make significant changes, we need to change ourselves.

The current situation and business world reality dictates to the graduated students: “When you start working, forget what you studied! Let’s start over!”  It is affected by the strong gap between academic university knowledge and practical skills required by public and business institutions.  Out-of-date Soviet educational methods are practiced even after 17 years of independence of Kazakhstan.

I am also concerned about wide habit of “cheating” among Kazakh students at the exams and tests.  Their mentality doesn’t allow them to see the importance of gaining knowledge.  Students use this practice in 80% cases without realizing they are cheating on themselves and their future.  I truly believe – education defines who we are and who we become.

Russian proverb:  “One person is not a warrior in the battle field.” But I believe every single person matters.  I think step by step progressive people of Kazakhstan can change the nation to the better, including education.  My deep-longing dream is to change the world to the better.  Education is one of the tools to fulfill it.”

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