The Soviet Union had many advantageous traits in the most important sectors, but the one of the most distinguished was the system of education. Accessibility and literacy were on a very high level which resulted in a well-educated nation. Moreover, there was an assumption that Soviet students were aware of almost everything in the context of general education; however, there were certain drawbacks, such as overload of the curriculum with scientific subjects and teaching only factual information, instead of developing skills of critical thinking and problem solving. So, how we should refer to this form of education? Is it a curse or blessing?
To understand the importance of the attention paid to gifted education, first of all, the term “giftedness” should be considered. The fact that one human being can be better than the other in terms of intellectual capabilities is undisputable. Even thousands of years ago Plato provoked to provide intellectually gifted individuals with “specific education” (as cited in Yakavets, 2013). The first mentions about the definition of “giftedness” starts with Terman who gave the birth to a term of “intelligence quotient” (IQ) and defined giftedness as a tremendous IQ. Still, there are a plethora of interpretations related to gifts and talents, indeed almost most of them refer to students’ precocity regarding high grades in school.
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in a shift toward a market economy and reorientation of many policies and reforms. This period was also overlapped with increasing globalisation process. One of the major requirements in the process of globalization was a modernization of the educational system (Stewart, 1998). Extant changes affected not only methodological parts of education but also a modification of educational content. Currently, Kazakhstani educational system is undergoing a transition from traditional (Soviet) to competence oriented (global) education built on the expansion of the students’ strengths to adjust the gained knowledge, capabilities, experience, and proficiency of innovative actions and valuable skills to deal with problems in different conditions (Bekishev, 2013).
Overall, education policy in Kazakhstan attaches high priority to “gifted children” (OECD, 2014). It is emphasized through allocating more funds, rewards, and overall attention to government plans and policies that acknowledge the importance of helping gifted and talented students to develop their gifts. Schools for gifted children also have better buildings and facilities. As the OECD report (2014) states:
“One of the objectives of the national education policy is to identify and provide guidance and support to gifted children to facilitate the development of well-educated, competitive, and creative personalities. The network of special educational organizations for gifted children in Kazakhstan has been expanded to create better conditions and opportunities for uncovering and developing children’s abilities and fulfilling their potential” (p.71).
Considering the fact that talented and gifted children stand for moving force in the developmental period of the country, several activities were held by policymakers in educational sphere in order to identify, educate, and “upbring” aforesaid children in various domains and different levels (Bekishev, 2013). It is obvious that highly intellectual people are the essential capital of any country which aims to be in leading positions in the international arena. Presidential Decree on State and Development of Schools for Gifted Children (1996) was the crowning point in the act of working with gifted and talented youth in Kazakhstan. The main goal of this document was to outline a sound strategy for identifying and supporting talented and gifted children. The next step towards developing education for gifted children was the adoption of State Program on the support of Gifted Youth in 1998. In the view of an implementation of this program “Daryn” Republican Scientific Practical Center was introduced. It was aimed at monitoring and developing system for gifted children. In the direction of making education a powerful mechanism in developing human capital, and in further improving competitiveness, concentrate on science and technology, and an essential aspect has been the formation of elite institutions for talented and gifted children, namely the Nazarbayev University (NU) and Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS) (Yakavets, 2013). Also, worth noting the incredible interest of parents who are interested not only in identifying the distinctive abilities of their children but also in their maintaining and further development.
From the very beginning of the independent era, Kazakhstan is trying to find its own path in the globalised competitive economy. By the progressive education system, Kazakhstan will build a highly educated nation, competing in all aspects with the most developed countries. So, do all students really gifted? If not, do we have to divide them and treat differently? If yes, do we need to follow the model of Finland which refuses any kind of division as described in these posts? (1, 2, 3, 4) What are your thoughts?
Bekishev, K. (2013). Trends in development of the educational system in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Russian Journal of General Chemistry, 83(3), 594–603.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). (2014). The Well-being of Nations: The Role of Human and Social Capital. Paris: OECD.
Stewart, T., Intellectual Capital: Business Bestseller, Minsk: Paradoks, 1998.
Yakavets, N. (2013). Reforming society through education for gifted children: the case of Kazakhstan. Research Papers in Education, 29(5), 513–533.
photo credits to https://www.pinterest.com/pin/430938258064316738/