Issue on selecting school by the language of instruction

Recently,  one well-known citizen of Kazakhstan visited Astana and conducted a press-conference. One young women asked him question: “Dear, Mister X, I have a little daughter and she has to attend school next year. Now, we are thinking about to what school send her – Russian or Kazakh”? I had time no time to digest what she meant, when the most-respected person said “Actually, my child is little now, but when she will grow up I think to send her to English school”. At this moment I realized that they talked about the language of instruction. Further comments led to think, that if you have no money to the elite English-spoken school, better to send your child to the school or class with the Russian language of instruction. Keep calm! I was boiled over too. I thought, this is pure discrimination! But… Some statistics prove these parents’ claims according the poor performance of students who attend schools with the Kazakh language of instruction.

Namely, Kazakhstan participates in international comparative studies TIMSS and PISA. By reporting on a wide range of topics and subject matters, the studies contribute to a deep understanding of educational processes within individual countries, and across a broad international context. Kazakhstan’s participation in studies was the step that aimed on identifying the level and improving the functional literacy of students. Functional literacy is a factor contributing to people’s participation in social, cultural, political and economic activity. It is also the ability to think creatively and find standard solutions, the ability to choose a professional way, to be able to use information and communication technologies in various spheres of life, as well as life-long learning (OECD, 2013).

Notwithstanding the general growth of the performance in 2012, Kazakhstan’s education system still faces the issue on functional illiteracy of students. Additionally to the low achievements of Kazakhstan in general, the issue on achievements discrepancy between students with Kazakh and Russian language of instruction, where students in classes with Kazakh language of instruction performed worse than those who study in Russian language environment.

There are some regions, where the students with Kazakh language of instruction showed very strong achievements. However, by analyzing all data of studies, which were conducted four times in Kazakhstan, all results according the language of instruction are same – students with Kazakh language of instruction underperformed the students with Russian language of instruction.

This issue may be emphasized as the one of the biggest question for educational authorities and for me personally. There are many former teachers in Master’s program and it will be great to “listen” your opinions according this problem. Does this performance discrepancy truly exists?


OECD. (2013). PISA 2012 results in Focus. OECD Publishing.

NCEQA. (2010). Natsionalnyi otchet po itogam mezhdunarodnogo issledovaniya PISA-2009 in Kazakhstan (National report on results of international study PISA-2009 in Kazakhstan). . Astana: Editorial and publishing service of NCEQA.

NCESA. (2013). Osnovnye resultaty mezhdunarodnogo issledovaniya PISA-2012 (Main results of international study PISA-2012). . Astana: Editorial-and-publishing service of NCESA.

IEA. (2012). TIMSS 2011 International Results in Mathematics.

IEA. (2012). TIMSS 2011 International Results in Science.


One thought on “Issue on selecting school by the language of instruction

  1. Your post reminded me how my parents and relatives were struggling to make a decision on the language of instruction. Now my younger sister study at school with Russian language of instruction because my parents worried not about the language but the quality of education, which supports the claim presented in your post. My other relatives preferred to send their children to Kazakh schools arguing that now children should be taught in Kazakh. However, in my point of view language of instruction does not guarantee or worsen quality education. There are too many other factors influencing the quality: professionalism of teachers, students’ own abilities and attitudes, parent support, etc. I taught students from both Russian and Kazakh speaking grades and I could not see the difference between them, I could see the difference only between individual students regardless their language of instruction.


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