Posts tagged FLEX program

Update after this week

Ken at Koktobe

Not much going on that is unusual…I found a photo of my husband showing off an American hat from our US locality in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We were on Koktobe for a nice outing by using the cable car.  When I had first lived in Almaty, the cable car was not working in 1994 but by the time we went back to live and teach in 2007, it was working and bringing many people up to see the city of Almaty below.

Me in Almaty

During our time at KIMEP, as I wrote earlier, my husband and I went to an American football game where our students were playing against another team that had far better jerseys and equipment. I can’t remember what the score was or who won but it was inspiring to see that the Kazakh students who had lived in the US for a year or two under the FLEX program had been encouraged enough to replicate what they saw back in their own home country once back.  Even the girls got in the act with cheerleading.

NU Astana, Kazakhstan

After our 2-3 years of teaching at KIMEP, we ended up at NU in Astana when it first was getting started. That would almost be eight years ago now. You can see a model of what the whole campus is supposed to look like once all is finished.  The building itself where I taught is in the background.  What a HUGE undertaking this was to create this kind of “westernized” university in the capital city of Kazakhstan. I wish the students and teachers all well.

 

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Kazakhstan’s Education According to my Friend Tatyana

I have my Kazakhstani friend, Tatyana Kazanina, to thank for the following talk she gave the summer of 1993 to the first Peace Corps volunteer group who arrived in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Tatyana, Polish by ethnicity, was my soulmate who was one of my bridesmaids when I got married in December of 1994.  She had strongly encouraged me to marry Ken when I was wavering by saying in her characteristic, Russian accent, “You’d be a fool to NOT marry Ken.” (emphasis on the word “fool”) Somehow Russian speakers have a way of showing their passion in how they talk.  Tatyana didn’t mince her words either.

Tatyana was also a very good English teacher to her young pupils maybe because she had experienced living one year in Arizona through the FLEX program.  That’s how good her English was, she was passionate about mastering it.  Sadly, she died of thyroid cancer, several years later.  I was shocked that my friend, whom I had met in Almaty, had lived only 40 some years.  I still miss her even now as I write out the words that she had so carefully crafted for the Peace Corps volunteers in 1993 to understand Kazakhstan’s educational system.  Here is what she told them:

Until recently the educational system in Kazakhstan was very much the same as the educational system in the whole of the Soviet Union.  Actually, it was a part of that huge machine called the Soviet educational system and thus had the same features, suffered the same problems.  It had its merits and shortcomings and drawbacks but it was the state system we lived in.

First of all, education was inseparably connected with ideology and thus was strictly controlled by the government.  Usually all the instructions came from the Sate Committee on Public Education residing in Moscow to Republican Ministries of educational and then to the local departments of public education. Some deviations were possible with respect to national or regional peculiarities of different republics, but the core, the essence was usually the same.

At school students were taught either in Russian or their native tongue, but the curriculum remained the same for al school-goers.  All schools were expected to follow general guidelines. Textbooks on all subjects were the same for the whole Soviet Union. So, schools were kept within certain bounds and it was forbidden to wander off from them.  Under these circumstances, experimenting was hard.

Second, as everywhere else, education in this country depended on the state of economy.  No wonder schools were and are poorly facilitated.  Teachers have always been overloaded and miserably paid.  When I first started teaching at school, my monthly payment was 80 rubles (about $100 a month).  A bus or trolleybus driver those days could be paid 300 rubles a month.  The gap was incredible.  It was clear that something was wrong with the educational system.  Besides, in schools same as in the whole Soviet society, there was a contradiction between what was being said and what was actually being done.  Everybody saw this, but nobody spoke about this publically.

Under these circumstances, a reform of general education became necessary.  In 1984, the program document envisaging the all-round development of education was approved by the first session of the USSR Supreme Soviet.  It was doomed to fail, though, because the main reasons why our education was in such a poor state or condition hadn’t even been revealed and the main emphasis was again made on the teachers’ enthusiasm.  Some innovations had been introduced but they never worked:

Before the reform, children in Kazakhstan started school at the age of 7 and finished it at 17.  Usually a regular secondary school comprised all three types of education.  Elementary from 1st to 3rd grade, the incomplete secondary (from 4th till the 8th grade) and then complete secondary (from the 9th to 10th grades). Secondary education was mandatory for all.  Thus, all the subjects were obligatory. You could not choose. So, no matter what your future profession would be, a librarian or a language teacher, you were obliged to study math, for example, in the same amount that would allow you to pass the entrance exam to be in a math department of a university.  The same thing happened with chemistry, physics and biology.

So, the requirements on these subjects were initially raised unreasonably high and it was a reason of constant complaints on the part of parents and students.  So, rather than make the school system more flexible, look over the programs on certain subjects to meet the requirements of students the reform proclaimed the switchover to an 11-year education, to spend four years on a three-year curriculum.”

(to be continued)

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Dreams Realized by my Kazakh Students

The following are quotes from my Listening and Notetaking students answering the question: “Have you ever had a dream that was almost unattainable, almost impossible to master? If not, do you know someone in your family or friends who realized their dream?”

 Dreams Realized by Kazakh students

Abylaikhan – I had a dream which was almost unbelievable to make since I was 5.  I wanted to go to NYC and live in the U.S.  But the problem was that I didn’t know nothing in English except for a word “Please.” When I moved to Kryzlorda, I went to a special English language school.  Till ninth grade I was studying hard, and I won a FLEX program.  I got hosted by a wonderful family from ….New York!!! I can’t even express that moment when the organization called me to inform me that! I was so happy and still remember the day! August 16, 2007. (;-)

Nurlan A. One of my friends has always dreamed about studying in the UK.  Particularly he wanted to study economics at one of the top schools in England.  It took him two years to master his English to the level needed and practice subject tests which he needed to pass in order to get admitted.  But good effort and chasing down a dream gave positive results.

Daniya – My cousin wanted to study in London School of Economics.  But it is difficult to enter this university and also her parents didn’t let her go there.  They wanted her to stay in Kazakhstan.  She is studying in KBTU at the International School of Economics.  After she graduates she will have 2 diplomas: diploma of KBTU and diploma of LSE.  This summer she went to London for 3 weeks, for studying at LSE.  She was sent there from her university at the best student.  And she says that her dreams came true.  She studied at LSE even if it was a small time.

 Galimzhan – When I was 18 years old I was dreaming about studying abroad, but had financial problems.  So I started saving money, a year later I won a lottery and spent all that money to go to the U.S.  I passed a few courses of self-esteem and managing money.

 Gaukhar N. – one of my friends is living and studying in Canada now, actually it was his dream many years and finally this dream came true.

 Raushan – I had a dream but I’m not sure that it was so unattainable. I wanted to graduate from school with Altin Belgi” but everybody, beginning with a headmaster ending with other people, except my class master and friends, didn’t believe that I could do that and they did everything that could help me NOT get “Altin Belgi.”  I think it was like a Rudy’s case.  In spite of these obstacles, I achieved my goal and everybody should go to their dream chasing it.

Aigerim M.  I love dreaming and thinking about my future.  I have many dreams.  In Kazakhstan, after graduating at school, we have a National Test to enter a university.  In school, all my lessons were very good.  I was “5” student, so I had a chance to get “Gold Medal” I don’t know exactly how to say in English.  So, my first dream was to prove my skills in this test and get “Gold Medal” then with our university with a grant.  So, my dream came true.  I’ve realized them.  My National Test score was perfect.  Now I’m studying at our university with Nazarbayev’s scholarship.  My teachers and parents were proud of me.  I was happy, too.  My second dream is to enter Cambridge University for a master.  Third one is to make my parents happy and proud of me. So, I hope that my dreams will be realized.  Of course, it is difficult.  The person should be tolerable for everything despite failures in our difficult life.

Amina – Yes, I had such dream, which I was crazy about.  Actually I had lots of them in my life.  Fortunately I’ve made them reality.  It was VERY HARD, BUT WORTH IT.  The last one was to prepare one totally, not-prepared student for union test.  He got 100/100 in math and 100/100 in physics.  He wanted to have full [ride scholarship?], but his knowledges wasn’t quite enough.

Anar K. Two years ago, I listened about our university and I really wanted to enter in this university.  And I realized my dream, I am so happy!

Aigerim K. – When I studied at school (15 or 16 years old) I really dreamed about returning to my relative’s town of Almaty.  But we lived in Astana.  I thought that it would never happen again that I would live again in Almaty.  But when I passed all exams and entered our university in Almaty, I realized that my parents allowed me to return to Almaty and to live here.

Madiyar – My father had a dream. First of all, I want to tell pre-history.  Ten years ago, my father worked in the theater and his payment was low.  We lived in a small flat. And his dream was to build a big house with a big garden, open his own shop.  Before, he always wanted to be boss.  And his dream was realized maybe because he really wanted it.

Indira – I have never had a dream that was almost unattainable or impossible because I am a realist and I don’t like to dream.  But of course, I know that my sister likes to dream very much and she always realizes her dreams.  She is very clever and self-confident person.  For example, when she was a school girl, she dreamt about studying abroad, and in future work as a translator, she was really interested in Italy.  And now, she really works in Italy as a translator and five years she studied abroad in Russia.

Julia – I don’t think there is anything unattainable.  My aunt finished her school in a small town in Russia (Batagay) then she went to Moscow and started studying in MSU for free.  Those times it was almost impossible (as well as now).  Now she’s an editor in one of Russian magazines.  Her hard working character helped her achieve success.

Elbar – My mother when she was a teenager dreamed to live in a city, (she lived in a village near Almaty), to have a car, own flat, etc.  She didn’t work like all Soviet teenagers, instead of this she studied.  So she went to university, finished, found a good job, by that time she developed in her career and realized her dreams.

Tolegen – To have a dream that I cannot realize, is not me.  I always think realistically, whatever the subject is.  I have a friend who had such a dream; he wanted to leave to Japan and continue his education there, but it was almost impossible, because of lack of money, however, he realized it with an international program for students

Serikzhan – I’ve never had unattainable dreams.  But I have a friend who was eager to be a football player of a professional team. (He ha) It was impossible task.  We all thought that he wouldn’t be able to reach his goals.  But he did!

Karlygash – I had an experience when I really wanted to participate in the science project competition and I really wanted to take a place there.  I dreamt about this and one day my director said that I was chosen to this competition and then I was ready to tell about my project.  At the end, I took third place on Republic competition.

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