Monthly Archives: February 2015

Video games at schools?! – Yes, a thousand times yes!

“Hey! I have got great news: we can change the way we educate students! The answer is an electronic game-based classroom…” – These exact words, taken from the performance of one incredible boy on TEDx talk, inspired me to write this post about the usage of educational digital games in the classroom. In particular, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using the educational video games on lessons at schools by the examples of several teachers who successfully apply this approach in their teaching.

First of all, educational games are different from the usual games kids and even adults play these days. In fact, the educational games can really teach you a diversity of subjects and skills: math, reading, vocabulary, physics, science, computer science (also, check out this video), creativity, persuasive skills, and even social skills. Educational games can challenge students to think about the environmental problems in the world by using SimCity game, about the sustainability and the ways to improve the quality of life with the help of EnerCities application and even prepare students for natural disasters and demonstrate the ways of preventing them. Actually, there is a long list of such awesome educational games on the internet (check out this site).  For me, these games are just amazing tools of educating children effectively without getting them bored and annoyed with school. However, before jumping to conclusions about the appropriateness of the game-based classroom in Kazakhstani context, it is crucial to weigh all pros and cons of this approach.

Screenshot_Facebook_1 math_blaster

The first advantage is an individualized approach to every student. As Cordell Steiner (a boy from the TEDx talk) says, this individualized approach of game-based learning considers the abilities of every student and helps them to be on one track. Cordeil’s teacher Mr. Pai believes that in traditional classrooms one teacher cannot handle the whole class and find an individual approach to every student. Conversely, in a game-based classroom, students are independent learners and a teacher can adapt games to their needs and levels of knowledge. Moreover, in a game-based classroom, students are driven to study by the intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation (Habgood & Ainsworth, 2011). In other words, students are engaged with the game and want to learn more in order to solve the problems and puzzles. Therefore, they care less about their grades and are not afraid of failures since it is one of the ways to learn on their mistakes.

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Even though I do not want to accept the disadvantages of implementing a game-based learning, they do really exist. However, I would call them challenges rather than disadvantages. The first one is the misconceptions of parents about the effectiveness and appropriateness of using video games in the classroom. Lisa Parisi, a teacher of fourth graders, faced this problem at the onset of shifting her classroom from traditional to a game-based learning. She says that parents were worrying that their children used too much video games at school and then at home, since even their homework was based on these games. The second challenge is concerning the digital preparedness of teachers and their eagerness to spend much time looking for games on the internet and adapting them to the content of the curriculum. In Kazakhstani schools, it is even more impossible since teachers are restricted to follow the curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education and administration of schools. In addition, most schools are not able to provide all students with laptops or other technical devices.

To conclude, a game-based classroom is an innovative approach of conducting traditional lessons in an engaging and more effective way. The reality of our education at school shows that the product (education) is offered to customers (students) without considering their preferences and abilities.  Thus, the customers (students) either reject buying this product (resist learning, misbehave at schools) or buy it with a great reluctance because of some external factors (good grades, pressure from parents).  As we live in the era of digital competition, we need to prepare our children to be creative and competitive innovators in the future. Thus, the usage of digital games in teaching and learning can play a huge role in this development.

P/S I CHALLENGE you to watch this amazing speech of Cordell Steiner, a boy who can compete with many adult public speakers.

References:

Habgood, M., & Ainsworth, S. (2011). Motivating Children to Learn Effectively: Exploring the Value of Intrinsic Integration in Educational Games. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 20(2), 169-206.

STOP CYBER BULLYING!!!

I dedicate this post to seventeen-year-old schoolgirl from Aktobe, a victim of anti-social group “Aktobe’s hens” in Vkontakte (social network), who committed suicide in October, 2014, because of receiving disparaging comments (sexual harassment) to her photo.

 

Today none of the students can feel secured against becoming a victim of cyber bullying: 20 percent of American middle-school students admitted to seriously thinking about attempting suicide as a result of bullying online (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). If some times ago, victims of bullying might have been able to at least find some relief at home or somewhere else, technology’s ubiquitous influence made bullying possible to be a 24/7 torment. The worst thing is many parents and teachers might be unaware that their children are being harassed via electronic communication.

Cyber bullying could be concisely characterized as “sending or posting harmful or cruel text or images using the Internet or other digital communication devices” (Willard, 2004; p. 1). Willard (2004) also mentions different types of cyber bullying: flaming, harassment, cyber stalking, denigration, masquerade, outing, trickery, and exclusion. The reason why cyber bullying is spreading so fast could lie in the fact that youngsters often feel that cyberspace is anonymous, and they can therefore write whatever they want. It unties students’ hands to erupt a torrent of abuse on other students without being revealed.  Writing demeaning comments or posting different gossip, some students may not even realize that their behaviors, even if they intend only to joke, could heavily hurt other students.  A number of researchers (Bauman, 2011; Dooley, Pyzalski, & Cross, 2009; Kowalski & Limber, 2007) assert that cyber bullying could result in heightened anxiety in school, where the victim may live in chronic fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. Along with that, it can seriously impact on students’ health. According to Wiredkids.Inc. (n.d.), online bullying can lead to self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.  As a doomsday scenario children can even commit suicide.

These ramifications really set us thinking how dangerous cyber bullying could be. Therefore, parents should pay meticulous attention to their children’ behavior, especially online. Parents can restrict time children spend in cyberspace, thus protecting children from possible harassment. Schools also should make some steps to prevent and reveal cyber bullying. In order to make children clearly understand that bullying via electronic gizmos is tantamount to face-to-face bullying, schools can provide information to students how seriously it can affect someone’s health and sap someone’s self-esteem.  If schools include special lessons on cyber bullying in curriculum, the problem could become less severe.  Schools can also organize lections for parents which can acquaint them with how to reveal children’ being harassed. As there is a tendency now on social networks when young people gather in closed communities (like “Astana hens”, “Astana cocks”, there are such communities almost in every city) with the aim to harass other people, the Government officials should take serious steps to eradicate such movements. To be more precise, the government should introduce serious punishment for people who harass other people online and, especially, organize such closed communities.

All in all, children today may face more serious problem than school bullying. Cyber bullying.  Youngsters can display their scorn to other people without being exposed. In this post I proffered some steps that schools can take in order to cope with this problem. So, what do you think about this issue? How can we kill cyber bulling?

References:

Bauman, S. (2011). Cyberbullying: What counselors need to know. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Dooley, J. J., Pyzalski, J., & Cross, D. (2009). Cyberbullying versus face-to-face bullying: A theoretical and conceptual review. Journal of Psychology, 217(4), 182–188. doi:10.1027/0044-3409.217.4.182

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2010). Bullying, cyber bullying and suicide. Archives of Suicide Research, 14 (3), 206-221.

Kowalski, R. M., & Limber, S. P. (2007). Electronic bullying among middle school students. Journal of Adolescent Health 41, S22–S30. Retrieved from http://www.sccoe.org/depts/csh/docs/Mar2011/Elec.Bullying.Middle.School.pdf

Willard, N. (2004). An Educator’s Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats. Retrieved from http://cyberbully.org/docs/cbcteducator.pdf.

My favorite commencement speeches. Part 1: Joanne Rowling

j-k-rowling_commencement_address_harvard_university

Many American universities have a beautiful tradition of commencement speech being delivered by a notable professional at the graduation ceremony. In my opinion, this tradition makes university a memorable event rather than a boring waiting procedure until you get your diploma and have some food. Commencement speech also turns graduation ceremony into a kind of lesson, the last lesson that you receive at university. Its purpose is to see students off to their life journey and say best wishes for their future life. In this post, I would like to introduce you to two commencement speeches that are worth reading to all young students and future professionals.

The first commencement speech was delivered by Joanne Rowling, a famous British writer, author of famous “Harry Potter” books. I admire Joanne Rowling for her talent to fill her books with a kind spirit which makes them stand out among the best fantastic fiction literary works. I also admire her for her life story: she struggled with poverty and loneliness,  being a single mother with little support. Despite these difficulties, she was able not to lose her belief in good and bad, she was able to dream and she did not let the creative light inside her go out.  So, she is definitely worth listening to 🙂

In her speech before Harvard students in June 2008, Joanne Rowling speaks about two things: why failure can lead to success, and the importance of imagination. She reveals a secret of success: failure gives you a freedom. Rowling describes how failures in her life led her to engage in writing, which she always loved, despite her parents’ wish for her to live an average life and have stable though typical career. She says: “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

So. Joanne Rowlings Lesson No. 1 is: DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE

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Furthermore, Rowling describes how her work at Amnesty International influenced her life views: she met many people who suffered from humiliation and torture because of their political views. But along with this, she met thousands of people who expressed their goodwill to help other peple: ” Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet.”

So, Joanne Rowling’s Lesson No. 2 is: THERE ARE ALWAYS GOOD PEOPLE THERE TO HELP THOSE IN NEED, SO GOOD WILL WIN OVER BAD 🙂

Amnesty-2011-Blad21

Finally, Rowling speaks about the importance of imagination: it can help us understand feelings of other people, and refusing to notice sufferings of others leads to “mental agoraphobia”. Her Lesson No. 3 is: IMAGINATION IS IMPORTANT

futurethink_jkrowling

I am grateful to Joan Rowling for this speech, because these are really great words of wisdom.

Sources:

1. JK Rowling, June 2008, http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/06/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination

Why do goddesses need education?

I would like to dedicate this post to several TED talks delivered by women activists, all of which are united by the topic of women’s education. These talks inspire me as an educator because they tell about a transformative power of education which can reveal the best in a woman.

In one of the books by Diana Wynne Jones, a British fantasy writer, the main character, a teenage boy named Christopher encounters a girl in a fictional world which is worshipped for being an incarnation of a female goddess. The “living goddess” dreams about going to school and living life of an ordinary girl. In the end, she happily escapes. This story is not pure imagination: living goddesses live in our world. Probably, the author, Diana Wynne Jones was inspired to create the female character by the Nepali tradition of choosing a pre-pubescent girl as a living goddess named Kumari. The chosen girl spends several years until she grows up in a temple, not seeing people except for holiday celebrations. Traditionally, she also receives no education. One of the ex-kumaris Rashmila Shakya has fought to abolish this tradition of not getting lessons so that her successors could receive proper education. She was the first kumari to receive bachelor’s degree in information technology after being absolutely lillterate at the age of 12.                                             .feature_kumari1nt5046

As you can see from this story, even goddesses need education : -) As for mortals, this is a serious issue, especially in developing countries in Asia and Africa.Many women in those countries dream about education to be able to fight for their rights.

The first TED talk that I would like to introduce is by a Syrian female photographer Laura Bushnak. Laura Bushnak tells stories of women from the Arab world, striving for education. She cites one female Yemen teacher’s words: “I sought education in order to be independent and to not count on men with everything. ” She tells the story of an Egyptian woman who  joined a nine-month literacy NGO project: “I saw how she was longing to gain control over her simple daily routines, small details that we take for granted, from counting money at the market to helping her kids in homework.” She also tells a story of Fayza, a Yemen woman who was a divorced mother of three children at 18. Since childhood she was forced by her relatives to get married three times. As an Arab woman herself, Laura Bushnak faced many difficulties in pursuing her dream to become a photographer, because she was a woman, and she met many people who told her what she “can and cannot do”.  Laura calls women to freedom, citing one of the women she interviewed: “Question your convictions. Be who you to want to be, not who they want you to be. Don’t accept their enslavement, for your mother birthed you free.” 04-lb-yemen-laura-boushnak-1000-english-jpg-data

A Pakistani educator, Ziauddin Yousafzai, tells a story of his daughter, Malala who was a famous activist for education: supported by her father, being only 10 years old, she started campaign for her education in Western media. She was successful, but in 2012, when she was only a teenager, she was shot in face by a Taliban “for simply daring to go to school”. When Malala was in hospital, Ziauddin asked his wife if he was guilty for raising his daughter independent, but his wife supported him. Ziauddin compares his daughter to a bird, whose wings he did not clip, and he is proud for this. He could lock his daughter at home and make her be like everybody but he and his family were brave to bring up their daughter as a strong personality.

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Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activists, tells a story of an African teenager who dreamt of going to school and when she went to school, was abused by a school sports director “as a favor for getting her in school.” Leymah works to give education to illiterate girls and she sees education as a place where society can help “to unlock intelligence, passion, greatness of girls.”

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Education for these women is not a tool for self-development like for women from rich countries but a saving way to control own life. Laura Bushnak, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Leymah Gbowee are from three different parts of the world, but they share the same spirit and the same vision of education. They believe that all women should be educated, because they deserve a better life, indepency, freedom and happiness.

Sources used:

1. Life after the living goddess (Nepali Times) http://nepalitimes.com/news.php?id=18515

2. Laura Boushnak: For these women, reading is a daring act https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_boushnak_for_these_women_reading_is_a_daring_act/transcript?language=en#t-248890

2. Ziauddin Yousafzai: My daughter, Malala https://www.ted.com/talks/ziauddin_yousafzai_my_daughter_malala#t-341394

3. Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls https://www.ted.com/talks/leymah_gbowee_unlock_the_intelligence_passion_greatness_of_girls/transcript?language=en

Tutoring: A Real Profession?

tutoringI used to be a student who had a tutor; and later I became a tutor myself. My underachievement in mathematics irritated me from full joy of schooling. Therefore, I went to a math tutor. She was an expert in her sphere with several years of experience. Tutoring was her additional work; her major one was at school. The world of getting into math was full of difficulties. Nevertheless, as it is said, hard work pays off. It did, I could finally make it from an underachievement to an achievement. Since then, math was one of my favorite subjects. Later, while pursuing my bachelor’s degree I used to do tutoring. Teaching English for preschool and elementary children was fun and useful way of spending holidays. Somewhere inside I understand that my former math tutor inspired me to become a tutor.

Although I no longer do tutoring, I have been thinking whether it is possible to make it as major way of making a living. There is a big stereotype that tutoring is only done by those who cannot obtain other normal job, housewives or students. Many people believe that it not a real job. In order to find an answer we need to look at both sides of tutoring job: pros and cons.

The main pros of being a tutor are the followings:

  • Freedom of managing your own time. No one controls your working hours because you are a boss yourself.
  • Healthier and less stressful tutor. It is an accepted fact that teaching a class of twenty or more students can be a stressful experience. When you are teaching one-on-one, all of the concentration surrounds that student.
  • You see your fruits. A tutor can out all his or her energy to one student, instead of a whole class. An enormous pleasure brings seeing how your student grows and develops.

Besides these, there are some cons with tutoring as main profession:

  • Seasonal feature. Time during school breaks is the most demanded for tutoring. In other words, your work depends on seasons.
  • Unpaid word load. In comparison with schoolteachers, tutors have akin responsibilities such as preparing a lessons plan and materials for a lesson.
  • No insurance and pension. As you work on yourself, there is no possibility for insurance and pension.
  • No career development. There are no opportunities for making a tutoring a career unless you have enough money to open your own company with tutoring services.

By considering pros and cons of tutoring, as in any profession there are black and white patterns existing in tutoring. It is up to a person to decide if he or she wants pursue it as a major work.

References:

Tezpro.kz (2014, May). Preimushestva i riski v rabote repetitora [Advantages and risks in tutoring]. Retrieved from http://tezpro.kz/article/preimuschestva-i-riski-v-rabote-repetitora-p114

EFFECTS OF CULTURE ON CHOICES WE MAKE

Cultural backgrounds of people vary according to different values, beliefs, norms, and expectations, which influence behavior, judgments, and decisions people make.

Decisions and choices may vary even at eating. For instance, a Muslim will not eat pork, because pork is prohibited in Islam. Not only depending on religion, history, and other values, but cultures are distinguished as collectivistic and individualistic as well.

Please, look at the picture below for no more than five seconds. Then try to describe what you saw aloud without looking at the picture.

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    Image credit: www.annabellaweddings.com

If your description was only about big fish, you are more individualistic. However, if you described the picture in general, as a whole picture, then you are a member of collectivistic culture (Iyengar, 2010, p. 53)

European countries are known as individualist ones; one of the best examples is the USA (Iyengar, 2010, pp. 45-46). Asian countries are collectivistic, for instance Japan (Iyengar, 2010, pp. 45-46). According to Iyengar (2010), habits of choosing are developed in children from their early childhood (p.45). For instance, when we go to a store with our children, provided that we let them make their own choices what kind of chocolate to buy, we practise individualistic culture approach. However, at the same time we need to explain the differences between different types of chocolate. If a member of a collectivistic culture goes to the same store with his or her child, the process will be very different. He or she will tend to explain which chocolate is better and which is better to buy.

According to the research done by Mark Lepper, an adviser of Sheena Iyengar, individualistic culture representatives tend to think faster and make their choices immediately, whereas representatives of collectivistic culture are slow and unsure while making choices (Iyengar, 2010, p. 48). The experiment was done on Anglo American and Asian American children (children of Chinese, Japanese immigrants mostly). Anglo American children, who are individualistic, made their choices themselves and were three times faster than Asian American children. Asian American children were active and motivated only when they were told that their mothers think that it is the best decision, or that their mother would like them to choose this or that item (Iyengar, 2010, pp. 47-49), because for collectivistic societies relationship of them and their families is a part of their identities.

These qualities influence people’s behavior for their whole life. For instance, individualists often want to be different from others and promote themselves, whereas collectivists think of benefits for the workplace in general (Iyengar, 2010, p.60). However, where there is a plus, there is a minus. Both cultures have drawbacks as well, “the first can encourage selfishness, while the second can lead to stagnation” (Iyengar, 2010, p. 60). So, having some of each quality would be the best alternative. Many companies try to build up such employees who have both qualities, but, unfortunately, they are still quite unsuccessful with that.

Finally, what about you? What qualities do you see in yourself – more individualistic or more collectivistic? How could we train both qualities in ourselves?

Reference:

Iyengar, S. (2010). In the Eye of the Beholder. In The art of choosing. New York: Twelve.

Iyengar, S. (2010). Mine, Yours, and Ours. In The art of choosing. New York: Twelve.

Higher education: on credit and for a long time

Recently, a senator from Kazakhstan, B.Aytimova urged young Kazakh students to live and study by making use of credit. Aytimova used as an example the model showing how it has benefited students engaging in this practice in other countries. However, she did not take into account living costs and average finances of recent graduates and their parents in Kazakhstan. It makes one wonder if it is an applicable lifestyle for young citizens of Kazakhstan. Therefore, it would be valuable to evaluate the experience of those in the USA students loan system and its consequences for students from Kazakhstan dealing with similar conditions.

Many American students study at colleges and universities on credit. It is the norm in American society. However, the recent economic crisis made their parents and children to think: Is it worth it to study at college or university on credit if there is no guarantee that you might find a job after graduation.The same situation is occurring in Kazakhstani society. Many middle class parents and students can not afford to pay for higher education. However, they are forced into this practice in order to cover the tuition. The payment for higher education is constantly rising. Before entering every applicant makes a contract where it is written that the administration of the university has the right to increase the tuition for 10 -20% or more each year. It happens because of inflation of local currency. It means that Kazakh students have to make larger and larger payment each year, so their loans increase too. Many students can not go against the system because they signed contracts. If they do not accept these requirements they will not be accepted. After graduation many Kazakh students can not find jobs in occupations of their choice as young Americans can not find jobs either. Therefore, many students do part-time jobs which is not in the field of study. It is easier to get student loan in the USA than in Kazakhstan. You have to collect a lot of documents to prove that you are worth it to get a loan in Kazakhstan.

Time is the second challenge for young Americans as well as their counterparts in Kazakhstan. When American students graduate from college or university they become debtors automatically. It means they have to work and spend their best time of life on refunding. The trend is they pay off their student loans to banks approximately at the age of 33 or even as late as at 41. Kazakhstani students also struggle with this problem. Many of them will be free of debt at 30 or possible later. It depends on how lucky they are to find well-paid jobs. Hence, Kazakh and American youth work hard and spend their youthfulness refinancing their debts. It is not life.

The most crucial point in this issue is the sum of student’s loan. It can be different. American students have debts which are on average $30000 after graduation. Today it is challenging for American youth to find job. Therefore, many of them decide to continue their education. Hence, they take credit for education again. They expect that a master’s degree might increase their chances to find well-paid jobs. As a result, they have even more debts then they had. The similar situation is occurring in Kazakhstan.

Higher education is crucial for students to become professionals in favorite occupations. It gives opportunity to become who they want to be. Taking student loan is an instrument for achieving this goal. Therefore, student loan must be accessible for loan and repaying of debt.

Prison education in Kazakhstan

Currently, secondary education is free and accessible for all individuals in Kazakhstan. All children have equal rights to get high quality education which satisfies their needs. 3974 students studying in Kazakhstani prison educational institutions. However, there is no reference to prison education in Kazakhstan in state’s educational programs. The issue of prison education is not in great demand among Kazakhstani researchers. A few devote their articles and research papers on this topic. In order to demonstrate that education is accessible for all it must be related to convicts, too. In the following, the general information about prison education in Kazakhstan and the importance of qualitative education for prisoners will be highlighted.

According to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, all citizens are guaranteed free secondary education in state educational establishments. Secondary education is considered obligatory for all. Consequently, all people are to get equal access to education notwithstanding where they are. Nowadays, the number of educational institutions in prisons is 55. There are 5 secondary schools, 34 evening schools, 11 vocational training centers and its 5 affiliate branches. These educational institutions provide underage prisoners with primary, secondary and upper secondary education. In addition to this, convicts can learn skills to prepare them for 50 of the most in demand jobs while they are in these correctional institutions. 889 students study in prison schools with Kazakh language of instruction while 3085 convicts study in Russian medium schools. In comparison with ordinary schools, Russian medium schools are dominant in prisons. The prison schools accept convicts who do not have primary and secondary education. The convicts under 30 can apply for prison education. The exception to this rule is that convicts who are in for life are deprived of this right, but they have the right for self-education. While they are studying it is not allowed to distract the prisoners by having them work overtime. Additionally, it is forbidden to transfer convict to another prison during schooling. These rules protect convicts’ rights for studying. Moreover, it gives them opportunity to study without hindrance and to finish school. By having the chance to study in prison, convicts can become literate citizens.

Prison education plays a key role in adaptation and rehabilitation for all convicts. Most young people who become convicts are uneducated and unemployed. Illiteracy and unemployment are the main reasons for committing crimes among young people. Therefore, prison education combats illiteracy among prisoners and gets them prepared for the labor market. As it was mentioned above, convicts can get vocational education and other professions which are in demand in the labor market (http://oral-maslihat.kz/novosti/novosti/article/sostojanie-ugolovno-ispolnitelnoi-sistemy.html). After completion of their education, convicts are able to work in the prison. The education they received and work experience in prison enable prisoners to apply for jobs in the public sector. Thus, they become more confident in themselves after their release. Education is crucial for successful rehabilitation of convicts.

According to Tursynbek Omurzakov, a Kazakhstani politician, the government expends 16000 tenge per convict’s maintenance per diem. In Kazakhstani prisons there were approximately 49 000 convicts in 2013, so the government expended 262 billion tenge on convicts’ maintenance. It is cheaper and more beneficial for the government to educate the convicts and provide them with jobs rather than provide for unproductive living in prisons. Therefore, qualitative prison education can decrease the number of convicts and the state’s expenditure on them. Educated ex-convicts can become respectable citizens of the state. They can benefit the country and its population.

All men are equal before the law. All men are equal to get education. There should not be any discrimination. Educators and policymakers should take into account prison education when they develop new educational programs. No person should be left behind. It does not matter who you are, especially, when it relates to quality of education.

FAIRY TALE ABOUT FREE EDUCATION IN KAZAKHSTAN

All of us are accustomed to believing that secondary education is free and accessible for all. But, is it really free as we have been thinking? Certainly, at a legislative level we all are right because the Law on Education dictates that “the state provides citizens with free pre-school, primary, middle and secondary education”. Kazakhstani government provides all public schools with funding. However, most parents are familiar with “school fees” or “school funds” which are not indicated as obligatory in main legislative documents about education. The paying of school fee is a widespread practice which few parents take seriously and dare to talk about in public. In order to understand the origin of the issue of school fees, it is important to explain the motives of school administration to demand money and parents’ reluctance to pay.

First of all, we should examine on what reasons teaching staff and administration of schools claim and demand money. The most common reasons are

  1. farewell ceremony of commissions,
  2. purchase of school inventory,
  3. maintenance of school,
  4. school meals,
  5. school books,
  6. school celebrations and productions,
  7. presents for teachers and principals and even household goods.

They can collect money from parents weekly, monthly, or annually. The amount of money can vary. It depends on what they ask for. Also, there are some exceptions to the mentioned above. For instance, there were a couple of extraordinary cases which happened in Oskemen and Aktobe. Parents were forced to collect money for SECURITY and VIDEO SURVEILLANCE. It is definitely an illegal act to collect money for such reasons!  According to the Law on Education, parents are not obligated to pay for these things which have just been mentioned. All of these must be free of charge for school students and their parents.

To find a guilty or responsible person for these illegal deeds is a pretty difficult job. It seems clear to all concerned that the teaching staff and school administration are guilty for demanding money. Notwithstanding their supposed guilt, they are also victims of this situation just as the parents are. Every year schools get certain amounts of money from the local budget which does not cover all of the schools’ needs. Hence, they have to ask for financial support from parents. As a last resort, they have to pay themselves. As you know, teachers get low salaries. Can you imagine how they suffer from it? It is a common practice for the principals to force teaching staff to demand money from school children. Teachers write some notes about school needs in the students’ school diaries or call parents. Moreover, the principal and teachers can invite parents to a school meeting where they announce about the school’s needs. Consequently, parents know about unpredictable expenditures.

Almost every mother and father in Kazakhstan know that sometimes it is better to pay than to ask for what and why they are paying. It is a widespread practice that parents give money to their children who give it to teachers. The motive for paying money is very simple: they do not want to make their children’s lives worse in school. Parents do not want to see their children treated as black sheep. School students can be threatened by expulsion from school or can get bad marks on final exams (UNT) thus the parents get badly affected as well. Indeed, parents are afraid of all the factors mentioned above. If parents cannot allocate finances from the family budgets students can be humiliated by teachers and principals in class or in public. In many cases parents pay without asking any questions. Deputy Kamal Burhanov states that 76% of parents gave money several times, 26% did regularly and 47% had experienced with this issue.

There is a hotline “150” set up which can help children to overcome these problems. This line concerns problems relating to financial demands. The worst thing about this situation is that children are so powerless. Even though it is officially forbidden in Kazakhstani schools, it still occurs. I hope that this issue can be solved. As the Law on Education stresses every child has the right to free education.

The Problem of Guns

School is supposed to be the safest place for children. It is the place for education, upbringing of young generation and for students’ development. Children are the most innocent human beings. It is very to sad to realize that the school can become the danger place for children. When children take guns and kill their classmates and teachers in the safest of places. Gun violence among is a new phenomenon of the 21st century. The following outline, general characteristics of young shooters and origin of gun violence in schools will be discussed.

One of the most popular motives for shooting in school is to take revenge. Many of these young shooters are victims of every day bullying. They suffer from inaction and indifference of classmates, teaching staff and school administration to bullying and humiliation that they experience. Future school shooters are not popular at schools nor do they perform very well. Loneliness is their internal friend or other victims of bullying might become their friends. Every day at school is a challenge and torture for them. They are a targets for humiliating jokes and gossip from their peers and even from their teachers. The jokes as not innocent as we are accustomed to think. This gossip and jokes hurt and humiliate human dignity of victims. These future offenders are usually humiliated for many years. As a result, their rage may snap suddenly. Some of them just commit suicide in order to stop all this torture. Other students may decide to solve their problems by shooting others. In most cases, they do not see any other possible way to tackle their problems. Unfortunately, a teaching staff and school administration seemed to ignore most of bullying cases. They may think that bullying and humiliating are childishness. Many parents only attach importance to bullying and humiliation if their children come home beaten, sad and depressed. They may think that they are just signs of adolescence.

One of the most fearful stories of teenager terrorism happened in Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado state in 1999. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 school students and a teacher in their school. They were also victims of bullying and humiliation. After that they committed suicide. Most school shooters prefer to die with their victims rather than to be arrested.

There are other motives for this kind of crime. There are a number of reasons such as infighting among local gangs, rejected love or unhappy love, revenge againts teaching staff or school administration. For instance, Jaylen Fryberg shot 4 students and himself. One of the victims had love affair with his ex-girlfriend. Before committing homicide he texted a message to his ex-girlfriend.

According to News21, approximately 28000 school children and teenagers were shot from 2003 to 2014.The number demonstrates that the violence among teenagers is huge issue. It is still a subject of much debates. Another factor in children killing is the easy access to firearms. Most of American families have guns in their houses. It is very easy to buy guns in America. Hence, most children have access to guns.

A lot of measures are being taken to prevent shooting in schools. Teachers and school administration are being taught to tackle such problems. However, it is an illness of all society. Parents in cooperation with school teachers and administration should work on this problem. All of them should be attentive to children and their problems.