Although choosing the methodology should depend on the nature of the research question itself, certain preferences still exist among policy-makers and practitioners. For example, most of our professors at NUGSE constantly highlight how revealing and valuable the qualitative research is. However, when I had conversations with people in the Ministry of Education, Analytical Center, or with the administration of NU, they strongly suggested focusing on quantitative methodology. When choosing methods for my own thesis, I, therefore, took into consideration a potential audience, but let us discuss these different approaches further before moving on to my thesis.
It is justified that decision-makers such as the ministry or administration often trust quantitative research more, favoring the generalizability. When it comes to policy formation in such a unitary and centralized state as Kazakhstan, its outcomes influence all regions. For example, the state curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education is taught not only in Astana but also in villages in the South, in lyceums or gymnasiums for gifted children and in ungraded schools in remote areas.Therefore, there is a need for generalizability and accountability for the majority expected from the research influencing this decision-making process. It is possible to argue whether such nature of a political system in a country as large and as disperse as Kazakhstan is effective, but the current state of affairs dictates the priorities. A priority now is quantitative research.
Moving away from large-scale activities such as policy-making in the Ministry to small-scale matters such as improving the situation in a particular classroom, the type of investigations needed change significantly. Many practitioners may worry much more about qualitative inquiries that can shed the light on individual cases, perceptions, and in-depth explanations. For example, if a child is not accepted by peers, a school staff member would want to interview these children, asking “why”, “how exactly”, “for what reasons”, or “so what”. These questions would be very hard to be answered via quantitative instruments because they call for a story, not a numerical value. There are multiple cases when a qualitative approach is much more beneficial for the purpose of the research.
In general, this debate between two types of methodological approaches could be well balanced out by the mix method, only if it serves the research objective in general. For my topic on how activists in inclusive education movement contribute to the reform, I am specifically looking for the stories. Therefore, I favored qualitative methodology. This choice informs my audience on what information I find more valuable. It is not the number of people advocating for inclusive education that I try to find, neither it is the correlation between variables, it is about the stories people have to share, even if there would only be two study participants killing the hope for generalizability, I would still want to document their contribution and use it to empower those who can join the movement as well.