Monthly Archives: March 2015

Do you talk to think or think to talk?

Have you ever thought of the way you talk and think? Do you always mean what you are saying? Have you ever caught yourself realizing that this or that particular thing didn’t sound the way you wanted it to?

Time passing by, I notice that many of us are offended by their friends, colleagues or just acquaintances because of the way they express their thoughts. I would understand if it was connected to criticizing, but unfortunately not always. This once more reminds us that having good communicational skills is vital. It is even seen straight after the argument when you start to apologize and say that it wasn’t exactly the thing you intended to say. I am always contemplating over the preventions of such circumstances, trying to understand the possible reasons for this to happen. The general assumption I have made was that everything depends on the circumstances, situations and the conditions you in; But the article (fastcompany, 2006), I accidentally stumbled, was a kind of a frame to sort the diversified ideas I had.

According to this article, there are two types of people, the ones who talk-to-think and the ones who think-to-talk. Talk-to-thinkers express their minds out loud all the time and they are willing to understand the things by talking to others or by hearing their opinions and views. This type of people may construct their thoughts while talking; they clear their minds by getting rid of every single detail they have there. Whereas, think-to-talkers first construct their thoughts carefully and only then speak. Though it takes time, and usually it happens that the person they are talking looses interest or gets impatient and even angry while waiting for an answer.

Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t assume that all people can fall under one of the descriptions given above. Some people may contain both of the characteristics, some neither; some might be of a category of “think-to-thinkers” or “talk-to-talkers” 🙂  Anyway, in this blog my intention was to make you feel the difference between your thoughts and words.

Inclusion and its benefits

Every child deserves quality education that meets basic learning needs and enriches lives and to be welcomed, valued and become a successful constituent of a society.

There are a lot of misunderstandings, disputes and disagreements in defining inclusive education and the advantages of its successful implementation.

Initially, inclusive education was seen as an opposition to the discrimination of disabled, and then, after some time developed to the process of elimination of inequalities (Loreman, Forlin, Chambers, Sharma, & Deppeler, 2014). And eventually, the definition given by the UNICEF, the most widely used in the world, states that inclusion is the process of ensuring an equal access to education for all regardless learners’ abilities, socio-economic status, gender, race, culture, and so on (UNICEF, 2013). Inclusive education is “high quality education for all rather than special education for some” (Agbenyeva & Sharma, 2014, p. 116). It is also interpreted as an act towards removing barriers to participation in education. Removal of barriers starts when school staff stops to see differences in students with special needs as challenges. Diversity in the classroom creates a numbers of opportunities for teachers to learn new skills to involve all students in education, what makes an implementation successful.

Some key features of successful inclusion of students with special educational needs into the mainstream schools, which were emphasized by Westwood (as cited in Knight, 1999), are: increase of positive approach of main stakeholders towards students with disabilities (a); guarantee of collaboration among principal, teachers and other professionals (b); provision of relevant professional development for teachers (c); negotiate with parents (d), and adaptation of curricula and teaching methods to suit students’ needs (e).

Some studies on the outcomes of inclusive education (Hollowood, Salisbury, Rainforth, & Palombaro, 1995; Sharpe, York, & Knight, 1994; Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis, & Goetz, 1994; Wolery, Werts, Caldwell, & Snyder, 1994) showed its positive impact on children with disabilities in such dimensions as academic achievements and socialization. Students with severe disabilities do not cause disruptions to classroom learning time for students with and without disabilities and the decline in the academic or behavioral performance of students without disabilities on standardized tests or report cards. Students with disabilities spend more time engaged in learning than in special settings, because Individualized Educational Plans for students with disabilities are of higher quality than in special classes and target specific academic skills.

D’Alonzo, Giordano, and Vanleeuwen (1997) indicated positive results of inclusion with respect to social skill acquisition and the acceptance of students with disabilities in regular education environments. Students with disabilities demon­strated more social gains than those in segregated settings and experi­enced greater social acceptance and more opportunities for interactions not associ­ated with their level of functioning. High school students report that their relationships with students with dis­abilities resulted in more positive atti­tudes, increased response to the needs of others, and increased appreciation for diversity.

Inclusion refers to a type of classroom where regular education and special education students are taught in the same room. This type of classroom setting provides opportunities to socialize and to become productive members of society, creates a positive school environment, provides additional support for all students, and gives them the ability to maximize their potential in preparation for an independent life.

References:

Agbenyega, J. S., & Sharma, U. (2014). Leading inclusive education: Measuring ‘effective’ leadership for inclusive education through a Bourdieuian lens. In C. Forlin 7 T. Loreman (Eds.), Measuring Inclusive Education (pp. 115-132). Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.

D’Alonzo, B. J., Giordano, G., & Vanleeuwen, D. M. (1998). Perceptions by teachers about the benefits and liabilities of inclusion. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth42(1), 4-11.

Hollowood, T. M., Salisbury, C. L., Rainforth, B., & Palombaro, M. M. (1995). Use of instructional time in classrooms serving students with and without severe disabilities. Exceptional children. 61, 242-253

Hunt, P., Farron-Davis, F., Beckstead, S., Curtis, D., & Goetz, L. (1994). Evaluating the effects of placement of students with severe disabilities in general education versus special classes. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities19(3), 200-214.

Knight, B. A. (1999). Towards inclusion of students with special educational needs in the regular classroom. Support for learning14(1), 3-7.

Loreman, T., Forlin, C., Chambers, D., Sharma, U., & Deppeler, J. (2014). Conceptualising and measuring inclusive education. In C. Forlin 7 T. Loreman (Eds.), Measuring Inclusive Education (pp. 3-17). Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.

Sharpe, M. N., York, J. L., & Knight, J. (1994). Effects of inclusion on the academic performance of classmates without disabilities a preliminary study.Remedial and Special Education15(5), 281-287.

UNICEF. (2013). The State of the World’s Children: Children with Disabilities. Retrieved from

http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SWCR2013_ENG_Lo_res_24_Apr_2013.pdf

Wolery, M., Werts, M. G., Snyder, E. D., & Caldwell, N. K. (1994). Efficacy of constant time delay implemented by peer tutors in general education classrooms. Journal of Behavioral Education4(4), 415-436.

The role of parental activism in inclusive education

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Nowadays the development of inclusive education in Kazakhstan is shouldered on the number of stakeholders including Ministry of Education, NGOs, school authorities, curriculum planners, training institutes, and entrepreneurs, teachers, parents and communities. Nonetheless, it is necessary to point out, that parents, teachers and communities are those who play the most important role in promotion of inclusion (UNESCO, 2008; UNICEF, 2012). Especially in Kazakh society parents and family play crucial role in their children education development as well as in decision making (OECD, 2014). As it is showed in the title, present post is about the role of parents in the development of inclusive education. I decided to choose this topic because I believe that parents are the powerful advocates for their children. They are able to influence positively on the quality of educational service, demanding the fulfillment of obligations of other stakeholders. Besides, parents are able to monitor the outcomes of the education policies, identifying its strength and weaknesses.

It is obvious feature of the policy implementation process that stakeholders usually split into two contrary sides: against and for. Bridges (2014) states that some stakeholders accept inclusion and defend the needs of inclusion, however, there are also those who argue against their view and suggest that segregation is more appropriate way to serve children with disabilities (Bridges, 2014). Parents of healthy children considered to be those who usually against inclusion, who think their children’s performances could drop in the case of inclusion. School administrators with the soviet time experience also do not support the idea of inclusion (Markova and Sultanalieva, 2013). The opposite side is taken by parents of children with disabilities who advocate their children right to education. They do believe that inclusion is beneficial for all children in the class as it claimed by UNICEF, inclusion leads to a greater social cohesion, it teaches normal children to be tolerant and welcoming and give opportunity to children with disabilities to socialize and take an active role in life (UNICEF, 2012).

The study of UNICEF (2013) revealed that 36 % of involved parents were familiar with the concept of inclusive education, 36 % are not acquainted with this term, 24 %  have heard something about it and the rest 4 % had difficulties to answer (UNICEF, 2013). Nevertheless, the facts that less then half of parents who were aware of inclusive education, their role in promotion could be essential. Parents in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and society could contribute to the development of policies for disability and create positive atmosphere for practice of inclusion and children’s rights protection (Bridges, 2014). In fact, that parents of children with disabilities are tend to be more familiar with particular disability than some medical professionals gives them avenues to provide a special trainings and professional development for other parent and professionals. Furthermore, they even can give advices on for state policies and give feedback on its effectiveness (Markova and Sultanalieva, 2013).

At present time parents of children with disabilities in Kazakhstan become more aware of their role and small, but very vital initiatives have been already done by them towards promotion of inclusive education (Rouse and Lapham, 2013).  Many of the parents of children with disabilities organize their own non governmental organizations.

Opening of the new inclusive school and preschool institutions such as school №13 in Petropavlovsk, School- Gymnasium №65 in Astana, schools № 49 and №116 in Almaty,  and the various NGOs, which are dealing with the right of people with disabilities, including Ashyk Alem  Association, ARDI association, DARA foundation and other, are the outcomes of parental activism and dedication to development of inclusive education. Parental activism is vital for the promotion of inclusion in Kazakhstan, since it demonstrates how a small group of people can contribute to the development of global trend in education, delivering the voice of children with disabilities to the policy makers.

References

Bridges, D.(2014). Educational reforms and internationalization: The case of school reform in Kazakhstan. UK: London, Cambridge Press.

Markova M., Sultanalieva D. (2013). Parent activism in Kazakhstan: the promotion of autistic children’s educational rights by the Ashyk Alem foundation. The Journal of Social Policy study, 11(4), pp. 483-498.

Rouse, M. and Lapham, K. (2013). The long road to inclusion. The Journal of Social Policy study, 11(4), pp. 439-454.

OECD (2014). Reviews of national policies for education: Secondary education in Kazakhstan. Paris: OECD.

UNESCO (2008). Guidelines for inclusion: ensuring access to education for all.  France: Paris. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from the www.unescodoc.unesco.org

UNICEF (2012). The right of children with disabilities to education.  Switzerland: Geneva. UNICEF. Retrieved from the official cite www.unicef.org

UNICEF (2013). The Report on Sociological Study of Public Opinion on Creation of Inclusive Environment for Children with Disabilities and Maintains Prevention of   Infants Abandonment.  Astana: Research Institute “Public Opinion”.

The Bologna Process in Kazakhstan

http://vpaa.ku.edu.tr/sites/vpaa.ku.edu.tr/files/photos/VPAA-Web-Photos/bologna_process_site.jpg

Internationalization, according to OECD (2007) has been defined as “a process that prepares a community for successful participation in an increasingly interdependent world” (p. 141) what means that it is an answer to the globalization. Integration processes, taking place in the modern world in all spheres of human activity, undoubtedly affected education sector. In response to the challenges of the global knowledge-based economy a universal academic system appeared. The development of Kazakhstan society is an organic part of the process of the gradual transition of human civilization to a new stage of its development.

As Kazakhstan joined European higher education area, it started to implement multilevel professional development of personnel, educational credit system, quality management and ranking of the institution. There is an increasing number of scholarships, outcomes, strengthening material and implementing a program of double diploma.

At present, the double diploma program is implemented by 37 HEIs. The involvement of visiting professors and researchers is currently gaining strength. In 2011, over 1 500 professors visited and gave lectures and seminars in 27 HEIs of Kazakhstan with all costs covered by the hosting side.

Nowadays, there is an increased competition to attract foreign students in the world. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, in the universities of the country today study more than 10,000 foreigners which is 1.5% of the total number of students (Oralova, 2012).

Important factor in the international integration of higher education is a part of Kazakhstani universities in the EU project TEMPUS program and Erasmus Mundus. As a result of effective cooperation a wide range of leaders, teachers and students have access to European education, European university management and European culture.

The country is investing in the ‘Bolashak’ scholarship program through which talented young people are fully supported to study abroad in leading institutions. In total abroad in various programs are taught over 28 000 young people, including over 3 000 within the frame of the ‘Bolashak’ program, in more than 20 countries (TEMPUS, 2012).

According to TEMPUS Report (2012) “special attention is given to external assessment of Kazakh HEIs by national and international accreditation and ranking agencies”. The number of institutions that have passed international accreditation is increasing. The MES is developing a National Register of accreditation bodies, rules and procedures to operate the register. From 2012, accreditations have been carried out by non-commercial accreditation agencies.

The number of international agreements signed by the MES with other countries in the field of education and science is increasing (124 in 2011), as well as the overall number of agreements signed by HEIs (around 8 000).

It is worth mentioning the ‘Nazarbayev University’ which is expected to provide a quality breakthrough in the training of national specialists in the field of engineering and technical sciences and to be a center of innovations and advanced research. Each subdivision (school) has close links with academic partners from top universities around the world. The university hosts top-level professors and researchers from abroad to work as visiting scholars. The university is developing its own research and clinical facilities and potential. Young Kazakhstani people will be able to obtain world class education in their own country.

Today we can talk about the cult of higher education among young people. As evidenced by the results of sociological research (Ruditsa, 2014) among Kazakh students 84.1% believe higher education is strategically important to their lives, 70% are going to continue their education after bachelor, of which one in four is going to do it regardless of the receipt of the state grant.

Kazakhstan needs to be involved into global process of cooperation in order to become developed and successful state, including internationalization in education. If everyone responsible for the reform of Kazakhstan’s education system and its improvement will reject all the doubts and will work hard on this, we can easily become a part of a world full of possibilities.

References:

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2007). Reviews of national policies for education: Higher education in Kazakhstan. Paris: OECD & World Bank.

Oralova, G.S. (2011). Internatsionalizatsiya vysshego obrazovaniya v Kazakhstane: Realizatsiya na sovremennom etape. [Internationalization of higher education in Kazakhstan: realization at the present stage]. Astana: L. N. Gumilev Eurasian National University.

Ruditsa, N. B. (2014). Formirovanie i razvitie vyshego obrazovaniya Respubliki Kazakhstan: Ekskurs v noveishuyu istoriyu [Formation and development of high education in the Republic of Kazakhstan: Excursus of recent history]. Академический Вестник, 2(28), 299-305.

Trans-European Mobility Program for University Studies. (2012). Higher education in Kazakhstan. European Comission.

Inclusive education in Kazakhstan. Personal perspective

Inclusive education remains to be a big confusion to me, both as a student of inclusive education cohort and as a teacher. Assessing it now is a complex task. The perspectives of inclusive education is not considered as a reform only, but also supported by the law on several approaches: education, social defend of the rights and vocational provision. All of them aimed at providing disadvantaged students with least restrictive environment. This do not depend on government only, here participation of non-governmental organizations more or less facilitates the burden. There are many organizations working with people with special needs, up to now almost all of them have been working on their socialization and health care, creating them zones of support, like social clubs of interest and sport activities. I need to assume this in turn helps them socialize and feel less restricted from the society. Even though, the field of education has been hard to attach. However, having reviewed the literature on this issue of Kazakhstan, I understood that from the beginning it is rated as an issue. Respectively, attitudes towards this idea are mostly negative. In the case of Kazakhstan such a relation was inherited from the Soviet Union traditional approach of common belief in the society. People used to avoid meeting people with disabilities in the streets, not mentioning everyday school classes. Having considered such circumstances, as a teacher I can understand the worry of the teachers, defectologists and parents. Teachers are too much concerned about pedagogy, favorable conditions for these exceptional students; this is understandable, because they are not trained at the higher education institutions to meet the requirements of the students with special needs. Then, parents of children with disabilities are afraid to give their children to mainstream schools, because of the low awareness of the benefit for their children and because of the fear of being rejected by the society. What concerns defectologists, they worry about their profession, their status. They are afraid that with the implementation of the inclusive education, the requirement for their profession will deteriorate.

One of the reasons for such a consequence is that people with disabilities have always been marginalized and have always remained unaddressed and unnoticeable. In this respect, I would suggest to promote inclusion in general, with the help of mass media. Promotion will increase public awareness, firstly. Secondly, society will get used to the fact that the world does not contain only healthy people.

The next point I would like to highlight is the promises and numbers. According to the State Program of Education in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 the incredible numbers were given like 70% of schools will be inclusive until 2020. But how realistic is this, is still a big question. On the one hand this is good to have higher aims to try to reach, but on the other hand, it is better to have concrete realistic goals, where you know what to do and where to go.

Overall, I believe in the future of inclusive education and the country. Step by step, time by time everything will be achieved, not at once and not everything.

Challenges of inclusive education implementation in Kazakhstan.

Inclusive education became to be necessary for the modern education not only in Kazakhstan, but in all developing countries. Generally, it is aimed at the elimination of educational and social exclusionary practices, such as diversifying and discriminating by race, social class, language, ethnicity, religion, gender and (dis)ability (Rouse et al., 2014). State Program of Education in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 states inclusive education implementation as one of the priority objectives. Nevertheless, the process of implementation is facing the difficulties caused by various factors in the given context.

There are different opinions on the current state of realization: some claim that nothing has changed, while others are sure that we are moving forward step by step (UNICEF, 2013). On the one hand, the journal articles say that “still there is no one unified understanding of “inclusive education” (Yeliseyeva, 2014). Information from OECD (2009) report contradicts with the statement and estimates that there is no clear governmental vision on the notion. On the other hand, if we take into account the fact that the government has already stepped forward by committing itself into various international initiatives and conventions, the result is more likely to be achieved. Non-governmental organizations also do participate here and play a significant role.

Most professionals working on this sphere, like Suleimenova(2012) and/or Yeliseyeva (2014) describe “inclusive education” as governmental politics, which is aimed at eliminating discrimination and separating children from the generally healthy environment. Nevertheless, the activists look at the issue from different sides, that is why they point out challenges and different aspects which cause them. All in all, taking into consideration their arguments and statements and analyzing them, I came to the decision to classify the issues occurred while inclusive education implementation. For this reason, the illustration of challenges for different stakeholders that were mentioned by different authors was found necessary to present.

Government. What challenges does the government have? First of all, it is assumed by OECD authors that lack of framework and policy to satisfy the needs of inclusive education, and lack of clarity in instructions, as they sometimes appear to be contradictory and inconsistent. Secondly, very little quality control is being done, implementation is highlighted, but its quality still remains unaddressed (OECD, 2009). Next is a contradictory voices in the educational community, as there were some opinions that children with disabilities are better educated in the segregated specialized schools (Rouse et al 2014).

 Society. Poor awareness of the public builds wrong or negative attitudes towards inclusion. There is no clear vision of the notion, so it seems to cause unwillingness to participate in its implementation. For instance, teachers, they are not psychologically ready to have children with disabilities while they hardly cope with the ones who have lower academic achievements. According to the research done by UNICEF (2013) less than a third of the respondents approved the idea, interestingly, Rouse (2014) suggests the same figure. As far as parents are concerned, inclusive education provokes mixed reactions; this idea somehow hesitates those parents whose children do not have any special needs, so they are not willing to have their children studying together with those who are with disabilities. Whereas, along with the parents with kids with disabilities who fight for inclusion, there those ones who do not want to give their children to school, some even hide their children, by not registering them, which also cause some trouble however the exact amount of children cannot be figured out (Rouse, 2014).Defectologists come next, we shouldn’t miss their attitude as well. Who seem to accept the idea also negatively, Rouse (2014) explains the situation by assuming that this is because of threat to their status and need for their specialty. Up to nowadays profession of defectologists were highly needed and were well-paid, however after inclusive education implementation there is a wrong fear that they will not be in need anymore.

Infrastructure. Although, the state program requirements are set for 2015, up to nowadays there is not much done in terms of infrastructure, one of the main reason of which is funding(OECD, 2009), as the international experience revealed that special education in its any form is costy.

One of the most important challenges that was mentioned by many authors is pedagogy (OECD, 2009; Bridges, 2014; Suleimenova,2012; Yeliseyeva, 2012; Yersarina, 2012). Judging by their findings this is a big issue which implies: lack of teacher-training and retraining, specialists to train the teaching staff, pedagogical-psychological support, teaching materials; textbook-language issue; organization matters, like curricular adjusted specially to meet individuals’ needs; methodological issues.

This classification was made to understand the issues of inclusive education implementation from different perspectives. I think that it is useful to have the clear picture of the problems whenever you confront them, so that it would easier to solve afterwards.

References:

Rouse, M., Yakavets, N., & Kulakhmetova, A. (2014). Towards inclusive education: Swimming against the tide of educational reform. In D. Bridges (Ed.), Educational reforms and internationalization: The case of school reform in Kazakhstan (pp.196-216). Cambridge: Cambridge university press

UNICEF. (2013). Study about public opinion on building inclusive society for children with disabilities and maintenance prevention of infants’ abandonment. Astana.

Yeliseyeva, I. G. (2014). О практической реализации инклюзивного образования в Казахстане. Открытая школа, 1(132).

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2009). Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan; Students with Special Needs and Those with Disabilities. Paris: OECD.

Suleymenova, R. A. (2012). Методологические подходы к развитию инклюзивного образования в Республике Казахстан. Открытая школа, 7(118).

Yersarina, A. M. (2012). Развитие инклюзивного образования в Республике Казахстан. Открытая школа, 1(112).

Do the specialties provided by vocational education and training (VET) for people with special needs correspond to the requirements of the labor market (LM)

Young adults are considered to be independent, when they can take care of themselves and start living separate from their parents. This usually takes place when they go to large cities to study or in search of a job, insofar as one of the constituents of the quality life is being employed. Adolescents go into adult life in pursuit of self realization through trying new things, new experiences and new opportunities. Is it the same for the young adults with disabilities? If your answer to this question is positive, then you are far from the truth. Unfortunately, not everyone can take this opportunity.

When a person has a limited ability and a limited opportunity it is twice harder to function independently. In most developed countries, the second limitation is made less restrictive, by fitting the jobs to the people with special needs – VET works in cooperation with LM. The situation, however, may be completely opposite in different countries.

In Kazakhstan employers are most likely to hire a person with higher qualifications, or can only offer people with special needs the low-paying and low-skilled jobs, such as a janitor, cleaner, watchman etc (Kazizova & Pritvorova, 2013). Moreover, consistent findings show that young adults with special needs scarcely participate in tertiary educational institutions (Polidano & Mavromaras, 2010). However, in case of having VET qualifications the graduates suffer from discrepancy of their specialties with LM demands (Polidano & Mavromaras, 2010). Due to the political, social and economical changes LM requirements are constantly altering too. This explains why graduates cannot find jobs according to the specialties they are prepared for. To be more specific, there are VET colleges, which offer such specialties as a tailor, designer, hairdresser and massage therapist for young adults with vision impairment, hearing loss and deaf-mute only. People with other mental or physical disabilities have little option but accept living in a society where they have possibilities neither for education nor for later occupation.

One more reason for reluctance of LM to employ VET graduates with disabilities is the lack of accurate information on productivity of such individuals in suffice. Ideally, practical methods, including probation periods, training before and after hiring, adapting the job content should be organized to address this problem. Nevertheless, these activities cost much for employers and demand serious commitment from both employers and employees (Polidano & Mavromaras, 2010).

Therefore, it would be useful for VET to work in collaboration with LM in order to know what professions are in demand and affordable for students with special needs. In the modern society, such professions as a salesperson, businessman, IT specialist, self-employed, accountant, translator, teacher or writer should be made suitable for people with disabilities. As far as, providing people with special needs with quality life is a final goal of social inclusion.

References:

Polidano, C., & Mavromaras, K. (2010). The Role of Vocational Education and Training in the Labour Market Outcomes of People with Disabilities. A National Vocational Education and Training Research and Evaluation Program Report. National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd. PO Box 8288, Stational Arcade, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

Pritvorova, T., & Gazizova, G. (2013). Vocational rehabilitation of    the disabled in Kazakhstan: Problems and theirs Solutions. Middle East Journal of Scientific Research, 15(4), 546-55.

Kazakhstan plans switch to Latin alphabet

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Kazakhstan is preparing to officially start using Latin alphabet, instead of Cyrillic, which linguists say is becoming more obscure. The President N. Nazarbayev in his address to the people of Kazakhstan “Strategy Kazakhstan-2050” said that switching alphabets would provide an impulse for the modernization of the Kazakh language. The President set the deadline where transition will take over a 12-to-15-year period.

Ministry of Education and Science examine the experiences of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which have all changed to Latin letters since 1991 after the Soviet collapse. The ministry’s proposed action plan is based primarily on the model used in Uzbekistan. It calls for a six-step program, outlining cost estimates for retraining the country’s workforce to read Latin script, and changing signs on streets and public buildings. The overall cost of switching is estimated at $300 million. However, some experts believe the final cost could be much higher (Bartlett, 2007).

This plan stirred many disputes and arguments. Similar to languages spoken in other Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Kazakh is a Turkic language. For centuries, the language was written in Arabic script and, for a brief time, Latin. After Kazakhstan became an official part of the Soviet Union, the language was written in Cyrillic, which makes up the Russian alphabet. Along with the usual arguments for alphabet change, in particular promoting the country’s integration into the global economy, officials have argued that a Latin alphabet could help Kazakhstan develop a more cohesive national identity. Switching the Kazakh alphabet to Latin means for Kazakhs changing the Soviet identity (which still largely dominates the national consciousness) to Kazakh identity. Cyrillic alphabet facilitated and facilitates the orientation of the Kazakh national consciousness towards the Russian language and Russian culture. As a result, Kazakh identity as such remains largely undefined. On this level, moving to Latin will make it possible to form a clearer national identity for Kazakhs (Lillis, 2013).

The move has inspired much discussion, with supporters excited about attaining a new level of national development and about the prospect of convergence with international information websites and with new technologies. Opponents, though, fret about preserving the uniqueness of the language and Kazakhstan’s cultural legacy.

About 70% of countries use the Latin alphabet, making it an essential part of communicating with the world, especially in terms of global science and education. The switch to Latin is unlikely to be a problem for the younger generation. Many school children already study foreign languages, such as English and German, and are thus familiar with Latin letters. However, older members of society may need to be targeted in order to ensure that they do not get left behind in the changeover.

Reference

Bartlett, P. (2007). Kazakhstan: moving forward with plan to replace Cyrillic with Latin alphabet. Retrieved from: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav090407.shtml

Lillis, J. (2013). Kazakhstan: the ABCs of the alphabet debate. Retrieved from: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/66778

Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050”. Retrieved from: http://www.akorda.kz/en

MY SNOWBALL OF LANGUAGES

Our being able to speak different languages is becoming more and more indispensable for the time being as it presents boundless opportunities for study, career and job.  More importantly, in my opinion, it expands our way of thinking, allowing us to see things from different angles. For me, language is something more than a set of rules and grammar; it is originality and uniqueness of one nation. In my personal view, speaking someone’s language is like touching to its culture and history. Being guided by this consideration, I always learn language in close connection with its culture. At present time, I know Kazakh, Russian, English, French and Korean.

I grew up in Kostanay which located in the northern part of Kazakhstan, in place where Russian prevailed over Kazakh due to the geographical location and historical background, thus making Russian the dominant language for formal and informal purposes. Generally, Russian migration to our country in the Soviet time and even before has yielded interesting outcomes today. Many people, predominantly in the northern parts, mix Russian and Kazakh while speaking.  Difficulties to speak in a clear mother language led to adding some Russian words and endings to the Kazakh words. Now this Kazakh-Russian code-switching phenomenon is called shala-kazakh. To cite an example, zvonday kerek, meaning I need to call, was created from Russian word zvonit(call) and adopted for Kazakh by adding ending -day.  Another popular word is atashka, meaning grandfather, was formed by Russian ending –shka(from dedushka, babushka) to Kazakh word ata. In my case, it is atashka, who played a pivotal role in my acquisition of the Kazakh language, he spoke with me solely in Kazakh while at school and with my parents I communicated in Russian. However, my conversations with atashka and lessons on Kazakh which I took at school appeared insufficient, thus turning me in a person with different levels of knowledge in my languages.

In fifth grade, when the time to learn foreign languages came, we were given an opportunity to choose between English and German. I chose English. My predilection for learning English started before even going to school. At the age of 5-6, while watching clips, I was mesmerized by the beautiful sound of English. Incomprehension of what singers sang piqued my profound interest in this language. Learning it at school, I was confused by articles a, a/the, because there are none in Kazakh or Russian, but in general it seemed English had the same sentence structure as Russian, which made my learning process easier.

More interesting in my language background is learning German for one year (9-10 grade) at the German cultural center, and French for three years at university. The process of acquiring these languages made me fully involved because I started to draw parallel between these languages and observe many similarities, as, for example, the structure of to be– it is- es ist- il est (in English, German, French respectively); the same ending –tion or cognates met in my readings facilitated the process of learning. Alongside with that, every time I met cognates or similar grammar structures helped me to reinforce my knowledge in three languages. Since then, I believe the language learning process is like a snowball: the more languages you learn, the easier this process becomes.

As I mentioned above about my passion for English, my interest in the next language-Korean was ignited in the same way. Being invigorated by watching Korean movies and listening to music, I began learning Korean almost 5 years ago.

Looking at language experience, I can say that language is not a separate thing; it has firm bonds with culture. After learning three languages, the whole picture of language acquisition appeared in my mind as a rolling snowball.

English mania: the Trojan horse or ungrounded worry?

Having been worried about omnipresence of English, Mahatma Gandhi once said: “To give millions a knowledge of English is to enslave them”. However, not only Gandhi had concerns about the pervasive influence of English. Since many spheres (education, research, business, etc.) are rapidly expanding their scope beyond the geographical, social and racial boundaries, the question whether English could become a ‘gatekeeper’, especially in the field of education, fuels hot debates among researchers and educators.

Along with Gandhi, Phillipson (1992) in his book argued that English is a form of linguistic imperialism, saying that “the dominance of English is asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstruction of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages” (p. 47). Cooke (1988) underpins his idea, metaphorically referring English to the Trojan horse. It could be understood in two different ways. First, the comparison with historical event: the Trojan soldiers initially welcomed huge wooden horse, but, then it turned out to be an utter defeat. In modern version, it could imply a Trojan virus, where hidden programs can destroy all the data. Drawing parallel with English, it could mean the same: English may be welcomed initially in a country but then cause concern as it dominates the native language(s) and cultures. To cite an example, the elite stratum of Pakistan not only sends their children exclusively to English medium schools, but tries to speak English at home. Moreover, Mustafa (2012) in her article underscores that educated Pakistani people “have glorified the English language to the extent that all logic has been put aside”.

However, it is vital to mention, that there are many dissenters to Phillipson’s (1992) and Cooke’s (1988) views.  For example, Widdowson (1998) has cogently argued that “there is a fundamental contradiction in the idea that the language of itself exerts hegemonic control: namely that if this were the case, you would never be able to challenge such control” (p. 398). House (2003) also questions the assumption that English as a lingua franca (ELF) is a hindrance or even a threat to multilingualism by presenting two notions- ‘language for communication’ and ‘language for identification’. To put it in simple words, she claims that ELF should be considered as a ‘language for communication’ as it has the instrumental value, meaning people who do not share L1 could use English for communication. However, “in using ELF, speakers are unlikely to conceive of it as a ‘language for identification’: it is local languages, and particularly an individual L1(s), which are likely to be main determinants of identity” (House, 2003, p. 560).

Kazakhstan, where trilingual policy is currently being implemented, pays substantial attention to English. More and more Kazakhstani youngsters take fancy to learn English. More and more schools teach English from the first grade. Hence, should we be concerned that English one day will become Trojan horse in Kazakhstan?  Could it take the position of the official language in Kazakhstan?  Do you agree that English is becoming a ‘killer language’?

References:

Cooke, D.  (1988). ‘Ties that constrict: English as a Trojan horse’, In A. Cumming, A. Gagne & J. Dawson (eds), Awarenesses: Proceeding of the 1987 TESL Ontario Conference, Toronto, TESL Ontario, 56-62.

House, J. (2003). English as a lingua franca: A threat to multilingualism? Journal of Sociolinguistics, 7 (4), 556-578.

Mustafa, Z. (2012). Pakistan ruined by language myth. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jan/10/pakistan-language-crisis

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Widdowson, Henry G. (1998). “EIL: squaring the Circles. A Reply.” World Englishes 17(3), 397-401.