Archive for March 12, 2010

Photos of students in Taras

Meeting all the students in Taras (over 500 of them) made our travel woes all worth it. Well, what an evening Aigerim experienced trying to leave Taras. Arriving had been no problem with flying into Chymkent and taking a 6 hour train ride to Taras.  However, our flight on SCAT was to leave at 7:00 p.m. and we were to arrive in Astana at 9:00 p.m. but there were very high winds and the aircraft from Astana did not arrive.  With the delay, we finally did leave six hours later after being rescued by Zhanna, our efficient scheduler and the driver Volodimir.  They brought us to a well-lit restaurant.  Otherwise we were the only ones at the airport with the electricity off. Our SCAT flight finally left at 1:00 a.m. and arrived at 3:00 a.m. with only 15 passengers on this small plane.  We left in sleet, snow and rain and arrived in fresh snow in Astana.  These Kazakh students are GREAT kids, the brightest and the best, full of questions, energy and hope!!!  Kazakhstan has a bright future ahead, look closely at their beautiful faces!

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Taras Impressions (Part II)

Why do A or A+ students always  feel the most anxious or nervous about taking tests or entrance exams?  That’s what we encountered on Thursday when three of us reps for the new university went to three different high schools to visit with the top students who were in attendance on Wednesday. We answered questions to about 110 of them, 45 in two schools and 22 students in the first school. They were all convinced they could NOT do this, too many hoops and they had not tried the first registration because they knew that the standards were so high. Also, I must keep in mind that this is not a quick decision they can make, many of them have to negotiate this with their family.  Many considerations to make that will impact them as well.  We WANT the best students.

We tried to encourage these bright Kazakh students. I think we will have a good turn out from Taras, at least I hope so. They looked earnest, intense and I would love to have them as my own students.  I told them a story about when I taught in China back in the mid-1980s.  I kept hearing my Chinese students say they were studying hard for their Motherland.  The officials kept talking about reform and change.  You look at China now and you can see they have come a long way from over 30 years ago.  The same can happen for Kazakhstan with their aim to be one of the top developed countries by the year 2030.

I told the young students that low aim is crime and that they must make their aim high enough for the love of their country.  Excellent students become the future professionals that Kazakhstan needs for the different industries that have to develop with fresh ideas.  I was impressed by one school where the teachers are required to take a test two times a year in order to be a part of the teaching staff.  They have to know their subject and if they don’t pass the test, it is competitive enough where there are other teachers waiting in line to take their place.

Also, the competition among the students to get placed in the top schools that we visited is very intense.  We heard in the one school 1,000 students apply for the 50 spots and so they have their rigorous admission policies in place.  One school admitted that they were number one in their brand name and let up recruiting students from the villages the last two years.  The teachers found that the level of students had dropped as a result.  So, they KNOW that they need to keep the competitive edge in order to get the top students for their limited slots.

This information is grist for the mill when we consider how our campaign to get Kazakhstan’s brightest and best students.  For now, we had to explain that we will have backup help for them, that they will be encouraged in their studies.  They are used to have 4 to 1 teacher/student ratio.  Our university will have 10/1 student ratio, that is what is needed for some who feel weak in the area of their English proficiency.  They may be brainy with their math or computer skills, they may have physics or chemistry as their discipline for now but they don’t have enough chance to practice their English.  That will all be worked out once they are in an environment where the students are all expected to listen to their English teacher who are native speakers of English.

I’m impressed with the students in Taras, I look forward to visiting with more students in other areas of Kazakhstan.  Maya, Aigerim and I were quite a team, we are very happy with the way things worked out with our scheduled visits. Thanks to Zhanna here in Taras and Zhanna back in Astana.  A team effort is required by all in this new endeavor.

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