“Why We Teach Overseas” (Part IV)

This story about a ring of Russian spies being caught by FBI is a strange kerfuffle in my estimation. It may be a news media set-up to distract us from where the REAL news stories are happening.  I watched the Wall Street Journal videotaping of the Anna Chapman (not her real Russian name, of course).  She had no substance, didn’t talk like an entrepreneur and I think the WSJ interviewer knew it.  Simply political posturing by those in high places and Anna is being used, her interview was a joke! It must be heady business to get the news media to take a byte out of that whopper.

The following are my last reasons why my husband and I live and work in Astana, Kazakhstan. Look back several days ago and you will see other reasons “why we teach overseas.”

6. I have many years teaching both at home in the U.S. and abroad. I can detect a problem in the classroom that can be remedied quickly.  For instance, when I taught in Kyiv, Ukraine I had 40 students bunched together in a big classroom.  I found that the black leather jacket guys who were enamored by their cell phones and did not care about what I was teaching, were disruptive and rude.  This disrespectful attitude became a terrible distraction for me and the rest of the class who wanted to learn what I had to teach them.

After putting up with this behavior for several weeks, I finally determined to purge 10 of them from my class of good, hard working students and create a new class for them, meeting at a different time.  The dynamics of the class changed drastically once these “characters” were separated out.  It also served notice to the other Ukrainian students who might have considered being absent to show up for my class or else they would be put in the remedial class.

7. I know the Kazakh educational system has many huge obstacles. This reminds me of the Kazakh saying, “Getting an education is like digging a well with a needle.” One problem that impacts the whole country is to require all Kazakh students to be taught tri-lingually (Russian, Kazakh and English) in the elementary and secondary schools.  The pressure is keenly felt by the Kazakhs to realize their own identity after having it suppressed for so long.  Many middle- aged Kazakhs feel they are “shala” Kazakhs because they do not know their own language or even their old customs; they are Kazakh in ethnicity only.

Second, undoubtedly China does pose a threat to Kazakhstan.  This Asian country just east of them is burgeoning with people, and Kazakhstan would appear to the Chinese like an empty, unoccupied land of only 16 million people.  Of course, learning a fourth language, such as Chinese, would be out of the question.  The Kazakhs have gained their independence and they will do what they can to maintain that.  However, the Kazakhs have a proverb they like to quote attributed to their highly revered, wise man, Abay.  Abay highly recommended learning seven languages. “Try to master seven languages and know seven sciences.”

Perhaps because Kazakhstan is close to the Silk Road, knowing many languages was considered good for bargaining power and knowing seven sciences fits with the goals of the new university in Astana. However, Kazakhstan is on a mission and that is one to succeed.  I want to be here in Astana, working with the future of this country. That future sits in the desks of every classroom throughout Kazakhstan and is in the minds of the bright young Kazakh students. They want to work hard to build up their country to be recognized by the rest of the world.  My husband and I are here in Astana to help in whatever way we can to facilitate the new university to reach these achievable goals to educate Kazakhstan’s future.

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