Yesterday I wrote what my Kazakhstani friend, Tatyana, had written about her views on the educational system she was a part of during the former Soviet Union and two years into the reforms with Kazakhstan as a new nation. Tatyana was not altogether positive in her perspective. We were the first PC group and so there was much to learn about a country we all knew so little about. Tatyana at least had lived in the U.S. for one year and could speak with authority about education when she compared both systems, western with her own. Here is the rest of what she told the 30 Peace Corps volunteers on what to expect when they went to their respective villages once training was over:
“…Now when Kazakhstan has become an independent state [as of two years before in 1991], schools got an opportunity to experiment with the curriculum, introduce elective courses thus being more flexible. During the reform, four new subjects were introduced to add to the 22 subjects on the curriculum of the 11-year school:
1) Acquaintance with the Surrounding World (1st and 2nd grades)
2) Computer Science and Computer Technology ( 10th– 11th grades)
3) The Ethics and Psychology of Family Life (9th and 10th grades) but this subject totally failed. There were no books, no specialists in this area to conduct decent lessons. The subject in our school I remember was taught by whomever agreed to do it. One teacher simply used to tell the students stories about her family, setting it up as an example of good family relations. She seemed to like it. But by the end of the term, the students knew everything about her family life and stopped going to her class.
4) Fundamentals of production choice of profession (8th-9th grades)
So in general, most of the point of the new reform could not be implemented and were a complete failure. Others, such as the introduction of computer science and technology proved to be quite successful with the exception that a lot of schools are still not properly facilitated.
Now when Kazakhstan became an independent state, schools seem to have a broad field for experimenting. Our government seems to understand now that the essence of a reform is not in dictating from above what, where and how should be done, but in providing favorable conditions for the school development, as Shaisultan Shayahmetov put it.
Having completed one’s secondary education, one can either start working or go on to college. (Institution of Higher Learning). There are universities and so-called “Institutes” in Kazakhstan. Universities are more academically oriented, while institutes are both academic and practice oriented. There are no degrees here equivalent to those of bachelors (BA) or masters (MA). As a rule, students spent five years in college, institute or university. To be admitted to an institute or university, you have to pass a series of oral and written tests.
Education in Kazakhstan has, until recently, been free on all levels and subsidized by the government. Now, when the country is changing to a market place economy, the system of education is also undergoing profound changes.”