Do we need elective courses in schools?

 I remember this moment very well being in a counselor’s office and her telling me that I was allowed to take two elective courses during semester. I doubtfully looked at her thinking what “electives” were. After a while, I understood that most American high schools offer electives apart from required courses.

Most western countries offer elective courses in high schools. These courses allow students to feel motivated and engaged as they chose them based on their interest. I had never heard about elective courses till my student exchange years in the USA. This feeling of choice is still in my mind. It is believed that electives should be chosen according to your interest as well as your strengths. Students do feel differently in elective courses comparing to required subjects. The reason is that no one distates you what to take. Elective courses drags you into this unique environment where all your ideas and thoughts stick into one, which form your personality.

But what about our schools in Kazakhstan? Not many of them offer electives. A typical student of Kazakhstani high school goes through required subjects, in the end asking herself or himself a question: “Who do I want to be in future?”. Several studies show that students choose their major according to elective courses they took during their high school years. This is exactly what I did when I chose my degree. The question of offering electives has been widely discussed ever since the topic of 12 year system appeared in Kazakhstani educational sphere. This is a good opportunity for Kazakhstani schools to step into a new level of education. In addition, I believe electives would be an essential part to include in our system of education due to two reasons: personal interest followed by motivation and career choice.

To conclude, I would say that every career choice or free time activity is mostly followed by personal interest. However, this personal interest should be developed from earlier days, as stated above, from school years as this period of time will push for an effective and responsible decision making process regarding your future.


7 thoughts on “Do we need elective courses in schools?

  1. Dear Maira,

    Thank you sharing your opinion and raising this important issue.
    Personally, I find this topic vital because giving students freedom of choice provokes and stimulates independency. Moreover, it encourages students to think “out of the box” and go one step further from simply following prescribed schedule. Therefore, it teaches students the ability to make decisions which is paramount in the adulthood. Further, as you’ve mentioned, it gives them chance to choose what they like and, thus, approximate them to their career choice.
    However, first, we need to change our educational system and diversify the program so there is something to elect from.

    Kind regards,



  2. Dear maira1291,

    I believe the question you are raising here is crucial due to its uniqueness in the field of education in Kazakhstani context. If you remember one of our guest lectors from NIS managing department has mentioned about some sort of electives in high school there. And if I’m not mistaken it was something like you can choose 2 out of 3 or 4, the thing I remember is you have limited options. And the thing I struggle what real elective course is?! Is it something which should inspire you and motivate or just fill your credits?! As far I know we do have electives here in NUGSE as well, and I again question myself are they electives or the subjects to fill the credits.. So, when we even have uncertainty in international level university, what can we say about school level of education… It seems like you are proficient about electives, so could you please clarify to me my doubts. By the way, your post was really interesting to read)


    1. Dear Uaxi,

      Electives are special courses you can choose from the list. You can fill and earn credits by choosing them. However, I would say, that different schools have their own system of choosing electives. In some schools, however, the department or councellor chooses the particular elective course which does not leave you with a sense of choice. Therefore, I think that the system of organizing elective courses more in a successful way depends on the school management and accountability process.


  3. Dear Maira1291,
    It was good of you to raise the issue of elective courses at secondary school level and being more concrete about K-12. I agree that it is important for students to be engaged in their favourite field of subject at school and spend time with real inspiration and enthusiasm sharing with other peers. As you might know, Art and Music subjects are not a priority subjects in the present school curriculum in Kazakhstan in comparison with hard sciences. However, some countries experiment teaching Maths in combination with Art for students’ better understanding and performance. What do you think about this combination? Could it possibly be called elective courses in secondary school programs?


    1. Dear Asselt,

      This combination of subjects sounds unusual, but in the same time interesting. Different schools perform in a different way. The same thing can be said about the system of elective courses. The list of courses may vary. Math and Art can be included in the list of secondary school programs for those who are interested in both of these areas. Again, this is a matter of individualism.

      Thank you!


  4. Strong and unique post, Maira! (4.5/5) Your topic is quite relevant, as KZ schools are starting to shift toward the more individualized programs like you mentioned. There are two things that I would recommend for this post:

    1) I found myself wanting to know more about the specific ideas you presented. For example, “Not many of them offer electives,” and “several studies show…” leave me wanting links or references to the examples. How many KZ schools offer electives? Why have they changed, but it hasn’t been a nationwide change? Which studies are you talking about? Your peers and I would love to read about them!

    2) Proofreading:
    I _____ never heard about elective courses till my student exchange years in ___ USA.
    “Who ___ I want to be in future?”

    Your future posts will benefit from added details and references to outside sources (if you mention outside sources, that is), as well as a quick proofread before publishing (feel free to edit those sentences I pointed out).

    Liked by 1 person

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