Archive for September 4, 2010

T/F – Kazakh teachers SHOULD be strong, authoritarian figures!

I created a survey this past week with 24 questions in an attempt to find out where Kazakh people are tracking with their ideas on education.  My questions ranged from finding out their thoughts on Kazakhstan’s teachers, students and methodologies.  I used some of the respondents’ comments in yesterday’s post.  Now I will ferret out what I can learn from the questions that were either answered true or false concerning Kazakh or Kazakhstani teachers.

What surprised me is that I got 12 people’s responses who disagreed with the following statement “All schools and universities throughout KZ should employ teachers who are strong, authoritarian figures.” Nine people agreed with that first statement.  I can say for sure that ALL Kazakhs who responded to this survey have mostly had strong, authoritarian teachers from the past Soviet training in pedagogical schools.  So what is this perhaps saying?  Over half do not like being taught by strong teachers who are authoritative.

A follow up question that was mostly answered “False” by all but three people was “Teachers should command students rather than use democratic measures of majority rules.” That is affirming, most all want democracy displayed in the classroom.  No one likes to be bossed around or commanded especially as students gets older.  Kazakhstan is supposedly a new democracy as of 20 years ago, so a good place to start would be in the schools and universities.

Another question I asked, with western teachers in mind who are perceived as “easy going,” was the following:  “Kazakhstan universities should hire teachers who are less easy going and more dogmatic in their teaching.” Hopefully some of the weaker students from American Corner understood what the word “dogmatic” meant.  Here’s the outcome from my sampling of 19 Kazakhs:  17 people wrote “False” which means, they would prefer more easygoing teachers who are less dogmatic while two seemingly preferred that kind of teaching.

What was most interesting to me was the split that happened over this question about discipline.  Ten said they agreed that “teachers should use strict disciplinary measures for late assignments, absent students, etc.” while nine Kazakh students said false to this sentence.  What do they have in mind with “strict disciplinary measures?”  A failing grade or loud shouting to shame them in front of others?  I would have to observe a Kazakh classroom to find out the answer to that question of how strict discipline is meted out to an errant student.  Some students believe they need the extra kick in the pants to push harder to do better.

Here’s what is interesting as the last question I’ll write about today which relates to where I work here in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana and where the Ministry of Education is housed.  I asked: “All Kazakh schools and universities should address the prevailing attitudes about authority and power structure inherited from the Soviet system.” My nine colleagues at work who answered this split with four saying TRUE! While five disagreed.  Those four who believe that the post-Soviet attitudes about authority are not helping the education process spent at least two years in the U.S. getting a masters degree, a few even longer time.  Interestingly enough, those younger students from the American Corner who also spent time studying at James Madison University believe the power structure that exists in Kazakhstan needs to change.  That means 13 respondents to this little survey I did do not know there is a different kind of power structure in place in educational systems, in administration or in the classrooms.

If I had asked this same question in a different way such as “The administrating bodies in charge of education need to update to the 21st century challenges to reflect a more student-centered approach to learning.” Perhaps I would have gotten the same mixed response.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I reveal more about what I found out how these Kazakhs who are a product of the post-Soviet educational system still in place now think things might be changed.  My firm belief is that something does have to change with the bureaucracy because many in places of authority are not coping with the 21st century very well.  We are in a social network and plugged-in, global environment.  No turning back now unless a disaster happened where all electronic communications would be cut off.

May that not be so!

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