Archive for September 5, 2010

T/F “All Kazakh universities should reward obedience to the collective rather than academic achievements”

Yesterday I gathered 11 more survey results of what I put together titled “Education in a Modernizing Society.”  That is, if I include the one British person’s responses who studied history at Oxford University.  His answers to my 24 T/F items lined up with what you would expect an American to answer about education with the exception of a few questions.  Perhaps because a few survey questions had ambiguous meanings embedded in the question if answered either true or false.  That was also true of a Kazakh man who grew up and was educated in Kazakhstan but has spent half his life in the U.S.  He did not know how to answer some questions because he knew and understood both sides.

One question that I’m looking at today is about obedience to the existing power structures in Kazakhstan’s educational system.  I believe this is a very relevant topic especially in a “modernizing society” such as Kazakhstan’s.   Now that I have collected 30 surveys, I had eight Kazakhs who believed obedience to the collective should be rewarded over academic achievements. Of those eight only one had studied in the U.S.  The rest of the 20 people disagreed with this statement or there were two people who did not know how to answer and left it blank.

Another question as a follow up concerning rewards for Kazakh teachers was phrased in the following way:  “Kazakh universities should reward teachers who are committed to learning along with the students and who color “outside the lines.” A few Kazakh students who don’t have strong English asked what I meant by coloring outside the lines. I simply explained it was like a teacher who thought creatively “outside the box.”  Perhaps a young teacher who was excited about trying new ideas.  Those who had studied in the U.S. knew exactly what I meant having experienced a learn-centered classroom instead of a teacher-centered one.

Some unexpected results came from the following question, but perhaps it is one of my ambiguous questions because reforming education is a difficult and slow process: “All Kazakh universities should reform quickly by reeducating Soviet trained teachers in new pedagogies.” Eleven people disagreed with that statement by putting “false” next to it, while 18 put “true.”  Another aspect to consider is that those who have been taught in the U.S. think that it would be difficult to re-train Soviet style teachers.

One thing I might add is that there are no right or wrong answers to this “quick” survey that I gave.  I hope those 30 people who took it, knew that it was based solely on what they thought or experienced.  Again those people who have lived in two different cultures (Kazakh and the U.S.) had the most difficult time answering these questions because they have known two different kinds of teaching methodologies. Even if they understood the English words and their meanings, they still had to deliberate on which is the better of the two methods of learning.

For example, this last question which relates to obedience to the hierarchy had an interesting split with those who agree or disagree with this statement:  “All schools and universities throughout Kazakhstan should suppress initiative and independent thought.” Sixteen disagreed and presumably they believe in more independence and creativity in the classrooms while 13 Kazakhs agreed with this.  To me, as an American teacher, that is a bit vexing but maybe some of the students didn’t understand the word “suppress” or  “initiative.”  I doubt it.

In any case, the old, care-worn Soviet phrase of “Initiative is punitive” might still be reigning supreme in the Kazakhstan educational system.  I hope that is NOT true!

(to be continued)

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