Archive for July 25, 2010

Photos of Bolashak Competitors and Astana Pipes

This photo, taken outside of the Diplomat Hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan shows nervous anticipation of students waiting to be interviewed for the Bolashak Scholarship. What do young people competing for the prestigious Bolashak (means “future” in Kazkah) program have to do with pipes in Astana? Read to the end to find out.  Hundreds of Kazakh and Kazakhstani students have succeeded (since 1993 when this program first started) to go either to the U.S. or U.K. to study for their B.A. or masters degrees.  Once completed, the students are required to return to Kazakhstan to use their skills for five years for the benefit of their motherland.  

By Decree of the President of Kazakhstan on November 9, 1993 he said:

“In Kazakhstan’s transition toward a market economy and the expansion of international contacts, there is an acute need for cadres with advanced western education, and so, it is now necessary to send the most qualified youth to study in leading educational institutions in foreign countries”.

Seems most everyone in the country readily admits that their educational system needs improvement except those who are “tenured” or deeply entrenched educators trained during the Soviet system.  No intentional dig meant by the last sentence but there are many teachers, through no fault of their own, who are not in the 21st century yet. Their “digital native” students are. This is true worldwide, not just in Kazakhstan.  However, the vision continues with Kazakhstan’s president when he said in a speech April 2000 at a Eurasia Economic Summit in Almaty:

“Our common agenda must begin with education. First and foremost, we must transform our population which is already educated and motivated into a work force for the future: 21st century training for the 21st century jobs The battle for the future will be determined not by armies but by education, not by tanks but by technology, not by cannons but by computers. It is vital that we insure that Central Asia is on the right side of history in all respects politically, economically and technologically”.

The question is asked about whether this Bolashak Scholar program will continue with the beginning of the new university starting in mid-September in Astana. It takes a LOT of money to fund these Bolashak scholars, but it will take even MORE money to bring about 50 western teachers to Astana to teach in subjects that require highly technical skills.  Reformation of the Kazakh educational system will maybe look like some of these pipes that you see in Astana.  I believe it is because there is such a high water table, Astana sits on marshy land where the pipes cannot go underground.

So too with educating the future of Kazakhstan, there will appear to be awkward “unteachable” moments that are like these above ground pipes.  However, there are reasons for what the Kazakhs and Kazakhstani people do, we as westerners sometimes cannot fathom it.  For instance, there are many Bolashak scholars who come back as managers but they are too young to “manage” those older people who are already secure in their jobs.  More managers or senior managers is NOT the answer to getting an economically viable democracy jumpstarted in Kazakhstan.  What is necessary is creative and “outside the box” thinking, more entrepreneurs are needed who take risks and manage their own money, not someone else’s.

What do the Kazakhs hope to “catch” (better to have caught one’s education rather than be taught at)? I would hope they would envision a land of freedom, of grace, of risktaking so that others can extend the same.  Otherwise, it has been reported that the Bolashak program has been compromised by rich parents having their child’s way paid to get into the program so they can be considered “scholars.”  The very corruption that should be drummed out of these young people, the future of the country of Kazakhstan, continues to be perpetuated!!!

So to answer what Astana pipes have to do with Bolashak scholars. I believe that there will be many interesting twists and turns that necessarily have to happen in the future if Kazakhstan is to be taken seriously as possessing an advanced educational system. Rating systems with different universities from around the globe show Kazakhstan’s more formidable university systems rank in the lower thousands. (like 3,000 or worse!)   Some of these Bolashak scholars go overseas ill prepared for the rigors of university coursework. But they are doing the best they can with what they have. We can only look forward to the future for positive results. Just like these wires that go in all directions throughout the city of Astana and the rest of Kazakhstan.

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