After reading a thought-provoking blog post “Issues relating to minority languages”, I decided to raise this issue in the panel discussion that we had previous semester. I agree with some points of Nazguln and this time I would like to add information which is supported by a study and my personal position concerning this theme. Looking at the issue of minority languages in Kazakhstani educational system, I always see an iceberg, where the hidden part stands for minority languages and cultures, whereas the visible part is for the majority ones. Minority ethnicities struggle to maintain their languages and cultures, but we should think over some suggestions to solve this problem.
According to Information-Analytic Center in Kazakhstan (2015), there were 33 schools with minority languages (such as Uzbek, Uyghur, and Tajik) as mediums of instruction. Small numbers of schools provide courses on other minority languages as German, Korean, Ukrainian, and etc. Language centers and Sunday schools are another ways for people to maintain their languages and cultures. For instance, my friends go to a center called “Druzhba” in Kostanay in order to learn, improve, and maintain their native languages. However, students of minority ethnicities learn Kazakh, Russian, English languages at school 5-6 days a week, and have to go additionally to a Sunday school or centers; it is an overwhelming situation for them. Taking into account schools with minority languages as mediums of instruction, we can say that students graduating from these schools probably would have troubles in socializing, entering universities of Kazakhstan, and finding a job. In the future, this situation might lead whether to migration from Kazakhstan or disappearance of a diversity of languages and cultures in Kazakhstan.
How could this situation be changed? In the blog post “Issues relating to minority languages”, it was written that the attention from the government should be paid towards textbooks. Textbooks which include an equal proportion of all cultures would lead to a reformation of curricula. However, talking about the integration of all minority languages and cultures in the curriculum would be difficult enough. Since Kazakhstan is considered to be multinational and multicultural country, consisting of over 130 ethnicities, this action is close to an impossible one. One of the main difficulties here is the understanding of what culture to teach. The research that we should mention here “The treatment of culture in the foreign language curriculum and analysis of national curriculum documents” by Evgenia Lavrentyeva and Lilly Orland (2015) in 14 countries and, the schools in Egypt, Croatia, and Finland under culture in curriculum understand their own culture and identity, not other cultures. Thus, the comprehension of over 130 existing ethnicities in Kazakhstan should be gone through the exercises in the books slightly. It would be better to start from little things moving forward. For example, while reading the text in one of the books, the names and pictures representing diverse nationalities could appear.
The question of minority languages in a multilingual/multinational/multicultural country is very tough. It is definitely significant to keep not only Kazakh, Russian, English languages and cultures, but to add other nations living in Kazakhstan into the educational context to create a multicultural environment in Kazakhstani educational system. What would you suggest?
Lavrenteva, E. & Orland-Barak, L. (2015). The treatment of culture in the foreign language curriculum: an analysis of national curriculum documents. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47 (5), 653-684. DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2015.1056233