Answering my former Kazakh student’s questions

3. What are you doing at the moment? Typing answers to your questions. (;-) Seriously, I am now an administrator and looking for hard working, western or Kazakh teachers who will give sacrificially to their Kazakh students and not be in their job for the money.  I certainly wasn’t teaching for the money and I am not an administrator for the money.

What I feel is the most important is to improve the educational system in Kazakhstan to reflect the hard work that students can produce if they are pushed to do it and given a rationale behind it. Often they were asked to do busy work out of textbooks or handouts that were not relevant to their present day situation in the 21st century.

b. How do you like your new position? I like the people I am working beside, there are about 50 of us all together. We are all working hard to make this university something unique and novel for the first year students for fall of 2010.  These Kazakh students from all around the country will be expected to meet some very high standards in their levels of English proficiency. They will have to study hard and in order to set an example for them, we as employees of this great, new university are working tirelessly to meet this ambitious goal of 500 students by fall semester of 2010.

c. Do you have similar problems at your new job? My problems as a teacher were different than as an administrator now.  I have encountered a bit of the same rigidity about not thinking outside the box but I’m mostly around people who have never done what they are being required to do before.  So, many of the individuals I am surrounded by are ready for BIG changes and even if they might not have the background knowledge to achieve the goals, they are asking questions and being humble enough to admit that they don’t know something.  That is very different from the teacher-centered teacher or administrator who is expected to KNOW everything when in fact they don’t.  It is actually refreshing to be around this new kind of energy seeking change.

4. What’re your future plans? God only knows, I would like to stay for at least five years in my new administrative position to see my long range goals played out into reality.  I have goals that take time and effort but I think it is worth it especially since I think those people I’m working beside are very capable of getting things done. A driving force among all of us is that we want to see this turn into a success despite all obstacles or roadblocks.  Believe me, there are a few people who do not want to see us succeed.

b. How long would you like to stay in Kazakhstan? Perhaps five more years.  I don’t think my husband and I could last beyond 2020 though that has a ring to it like having 20/20 vision means you have a clear vision and our new university is just that.  Setting high standards and goals that are achievable for the bright and earnest Kazakh students, the hope and promise of Kazakhstan’s future.

c. Some other future plans. Well of course I would like to visit all regions of Kazakhstan and maybe I will get to now with recruiting for this new university.  I am flying to Taras tomorrow and will go to Kostanai next week.  Perhaps I would eventually write a book about this great nation of Kazakhstan and get it published only after I have seen more of it than just Almaty and Astana.  Those two cities are NOT Kazakhstan!

5. Have you ever faced similar problems in other countries? When I lived and taught for two years in northeast China in the mid-1980s there was the old school of teacher-centered methodology vs. our western style of teaching.  We, as foreigners, were so much in the minority yet very much in demand that we were more or less given the freedom to do and say what we wanted to in our classroom even though there was a monitor in every class to make sure we were not doing something unorthodox.

But one always had the feeling that we were dispensable, as if the Chinese would suck us dry of our energy and then find their next group of teachers to victimize.  It was not easy to live in China almost 20 years ago, they have come a long way from that period of distrust of our foreign ways.  I think it may take Kazakhstan some years to trust western teachers with their different methodologies.  Yet I am also quick to say that our western universities are not the panacea of all social ills regarding education, we have our own problems in education that need to be sorted out.

6. How do you think, what should be changed at our university in order to gain freedom? It will take a younger generation of computer savvy and knowledgeable teachers who know the differences between the different methodologies of teaching. These new kinds of teachers would be encouraging student inquisitiveness and adventuring outside the prescribed lines for more freedom to be gained.  I think the urgency of this change will come about faster once the younger students start taking over positions of management and power.

Unfortunately, the older generation cannot comprehend the digital reality that exists outside of Kazakhstan yet at the same time there are many time honored codes of ethics and behavior that need to be adhered to that can only be learned from the older generation.  Sadly, what was inherited from the Soviet period of distrust, greed, discouragement and hypocrisy can only be banished with Truth.  Truth telling will gain freedom for those in captivity, yes “freedom of speech” is definitely needed in Kazakhstan.  That is the necessary, most needed change that MUST happen in Kazakhstan’s educational system throughout this great land.

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Nathan said,

    Congratulations on the new position. Are you at the New University of Astana? I just read about the New University partnering with several U.S. based schools.

    I’ve got some ideas related to the Kazakhstan English Language Theater. Would love to talk to someone about it!

    Nathan F

  2. 2

    Herman said,

    I can only follow the other readers in giving you praise for keeping up the disciplined writing and the sharing with us of your adventures and observations. “Freedom of speech” is a precious and elusive gift for sure. Rich are those nations who have fostered it and harvested the benefits of it in their culture and economy. Growth through innovation, spirited debate and checks and balances of the press and civil groups. At the same time we have learned that “freedom of speech” has to be learned in a process of cultural growth where respect for the other person’s opinion is a given, and discussions and discourses are based on reasoned, substantiated facts. Ever since independence the KZ education system has continued based on the momentum gained in the former Soviet Union. Sadly enough the education investments are still below par, internet is amongst the most expensive in the world, more than 300+ villages are without electricity. Water, energy and education are the Achilles heels of Kazakhstan. KZ is a semi-desert without country-wide water-management plan: you pump here, it goes dry there; energy is amongst the cheapest in the world, but generation is resting on the Soviet era production and distribution remnants without economic model to re-invest because of the low prices; education is divided amongst the “haves” and the “have-nots” in private and public institutions. You solve the WEE, and you have a true “we, the people”.

  3. 3

    kazaknomad said,

    Nathan, that would be GREAT to have English theater up at our new university!!! I will check out your link later when I am not paying at an Internet cafe.

    Herman, thanks for your very thoughtful response to my latest blog post. I’ll write to you later too!!!

  4. 4

    Nathan said,

    Cool. Look forward to it.

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