All posts by Abdul_Azim

Public intellectuals & the future of information, Erica Stone (Deconstruction)

In her TED talk, Erica Stone raises the issue of public access to academic researches that are done due to public money but distributed privately. She suggests that the research papers should be freely available to the public not only in its original version, but also it should be “translated” into the language that is understandable to masses. This process, according to the speaker, can be accomplished through republication of research papers in open-access journals and in popular media.
Stone critically explains the current research publication systems. According to her, once scholars write and peer review an academic paper on the research findings (that is done due to public or private money), they publish it in academic journals. Then, for-profit companies resell it to universities and libraries through journals as well as database subscriptions (e.g. we can access to those databases because NU library purchased subscriptions). Stone highlights this moment saying: “if the public is funding academics’ research, but then we have to pay again to access the results, it’s like we’re paying for it twice”. Although it might sound very simplistic explanation, indeed, it is a reasonable argument. What is the point of public funding if it is not freely available to the public at the end? So, there should be a payback process, as the speaker says, instead of feeding a monster.
Although this issue tends to be solved through some open-access databases such as Google Scholar, the speaker claims that simply giving the research report cannot be complete access to the public. She suggests that research results should be translated into popular language through mass media so people could understand and implement it in a real life. Also, according to the speaker, this would allow to people to recognize university’s identity based on researches that they conducted rather than only knowing them by degree programs or football teams that they have. Though I agree that most research reports are unavailable to the public in terms of clarity (easily understandable) and popularity, I assume that very important researches that really matter get spread anyway. On the other hand, again, who knows, maybe there are countless number of useful researches that we are not even aware of or understand.
The speech is convincing and clearly explain what she advocates. She effectively gives examples from her own experiences and statistical information. Up to know, I have read several articles that raise the same issue and suggest almost the same solutions. However, although it highlights only expected outcomes of her claim but not possible negative consequences, this speech is more concrete, much more optimistic and solution-centered rather than empty critiques.

Social media as a university application document

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About a month ago, one of my group mates at NUGSE and I did a presentation on the impact of social media pages to university admissions. The recent scandals around data abuses (Facebook and Cambridge Analytica) reminded and encouraged me to refresh this information in this blog.
Being one of the fresh inventions in human history, the role of social media (SM) is undeniably increasing in all aspects including education. Here in education, it is not only for learning or teaching, but also the SM seems to be convenient tool for university admission committees to recruit students. In 2016, Kaplan Test Prep surveyed 365 universities across the US on how they use candidates’ SM pages; Relying on the conclusions of the study, Kaplan Test Prep suggests students to ‘filter’ the materials before posting. According to the results of the study (Kaplan Test Prep, 2016), 40% of the university admission officers in the US answered that they browse candidates’ SM pages to get information that is not in the application documents. Unsurprisingly, the study shows that Facebook and Twitter are the most popular websites among admission officers. Kaplan also found that almost in 50% of the cases SM pages of candidates were helpful to students’ admission while in cases 42% it had negative influences. The examples of ‘useful’ SM posts were mostly about students’ social projects, personal and academic achievements that they shared online. Controversial opinions, uncareful language use, sharing picture of “brandishing weapons” and others were among the factors that made admissions committees to reject the acceptance offer.

Of course, such researches are valuable, at least to raise our awareness about the issue. But how about the idea of making acceptance decisions (partly) based on one’s SM media page? In my experience, my Facebook friends’ pages hardly tell everything about their personal and academic lives, but they indeed reflect one’s area of involvement and activeness. In other words, people sometimes share the information (whether it is positive or negative) that they might not include in their application documents or tell about in interviews. On the other hand, making conclusions looking at the social network page might be dangerous because sometimes people can accidentally share awkward things that they do not really know or care about. If the candidate is a type of person who do not use SM or publish anything at all , somebody who is surfing the Internet misunderstand it as passiveness. So, this assumption, that everyone shares her or his best moments or the thing that one shares necessarily reflects one’s real life, can lead to misconclusions.

What do you think: should social media page of candidates be considered in university admission process? Would you browse students’ media publications if you were an admission officer of some university?


Schaffer R., (2017, February 10). Kaplan Test Prep Survey: College Admissions Officers Say Social Media Increasingly Affects Applicants’ Chances. Retrieved from:


Atheism 2.0 by Alain de Botton (deconstruction)


Looking at the title, you probably thought that this is a sequel of (often) controversial religion versus atheism debates. But when you watch the video thoroughly, you understand that it is much more different and worth discussion. In this Ted talk philosopher Alain de Botton suggests his upgraded version of atheistic philosophy: atheism 2.0. According to him, atheism 2.0 stands from ‘stealing’ useful elements from religions and at the same time being consistent to atheistic principles. He claims that atheism should go to the next steps and this philosophy should directly begin from “of course there is no God” phrase rather than debating existence of God. He gives examples of six aspects that ‘secular world’ could learn from religions: education, time arrangement, oratory, physical sermons, art and institutionalisation. While some of his examples are individual matters such as experiencing ‘spiritual moments without belief’, others aspects might carry social implications.
He suggests that modern education institutions should not be limited with teaching ‘information’ or ‘data’, but they also should help people with ‘morality, guidance and consolation’, like churches and mosques do. Also, he argues that universities should return from lectures (he defines it as ‘secular mode of delivery’ that gives ‘a bit of information) to sermon traditions (religious mode) where one can teach how to live. At the first glance, this very attractive opinion seems very objective and beneficial. However, how proper would it be if a public university is preaching morality or the way of living that one or some professors decided to be right? I think such so called ‘secular sermons’ would create a tremendous ‘opportunities’ for brainwashers to imbue any dogmatic ideology to their students. Time arrangement, oratory, physical sermons and art are indeed aspects that most religions embraced in a more natural way and this might be a lesson for modern secular world. Of course, one looking from religious perspective could argue its realization because de Botton excludes believing in the doctrine while religions usually develop them for worshiping purposes. Once it has relatively less social impacts when it is not used to promote dogmatic minds, here, de Boton’s version is undeniably personal choice to practice it or not.
In my opinion, word choice of the speaker in the video reflects his biased opinion. In the beginning of his talk, he prefers the word ‘stealing from religion’  for the benefits of secular world rather than saying ‘learning from religion’ or ‘religion could contribute’ to the whole society. He uncarefully uses the phrase ‘secular world’ without any explanation. Though the word secular obviously means being independent from religion or from any other supernatural beliefs, it does not necessarily mean ‘no religion’ or ‘only atheistic views’. Rather, in my opinion, the secularism and /or ‘secular world’ is usually understood as having multiple religions and non-religions without their influence on political powers. So, he views ‘modern secular world’ as a property of only secular people. Similar proposition is given in the his example of how people ‘replaced religion by culture’. Though he explains it as his personal conclusion from historical facts, he probably would not be able to prove it because religion (and atheism as well) is a part of culture rather than a different concept.
Despite my critical analyzes above, I agree to his central message of pluralism and open-mindness. The speaker’s bias shows how his focus is intended to only one audience. More in-depth explanation of how he views the idea in practice, more objective word choice and focusing on the benefits of the whole society rather than one group would make the message much stronger and fruitful.

Bring STEAM not STEM


Картинки по запросу STEM STEAM

Contemporary developments in science and technology are making educationalists to rethink the school curricula in radically new ways. One of the latest outcomes of this change is STEM education, that stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Inside STEM education, further improvements created the new models of it; the most common of them are STEAM and STREAM, the letter “a” stands for an art while the latter one includes “r” for robotics as well. Despite any further additions such as robotics, I believe that art must be one of the equally essential aspects of STEM education in Kazakhstan as well because it is crucial for improving students’ creativity and thinking skills.
Many education professionals, as well as entrepreneurs, are emphasizing the importance art and creativity in education in a modern rapid changing world. Recently, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, lecturing in World economic forum said that in the future most of the jobs will be taken away by robots that cause a sharp decrease in human employment but only arts and human creativity will remain that make human exceptional. According to him, today’s education systems must maintain much more effort on art and creativity. Interestingly, this is the same message that well-known educationalists such as Ken Robinson were challenging the world since the early 2000s. As far as the central purpose of the STEM is to teach applying theoretical knowledge in (life) practical use, integrating art into this subject would increase the creativity in it.
Traditional STEM education programs profoundly accentuate on analytical thinking skills, which is very important, but building “real life” projects require creative thinking skills and “business values” as well (Land, 2013). In fact, most of the inventions are the outcomes of the successful intersection of two sciences. For example, due to the computational linguistics (or mathematical linguistics) today we have human-tech interactive devices from “OK, Google” apps to self-driving cars. Similarly, the combination of arts with STEM education programs constitutes “unique sets of skills” where students improve both divergent and convergent thinking skills (Land, 2013). As a result, such diversification generates abilities that fill the gaps between human emotions and the problems with artificial products such as robots.
STEM (including STEAM) is new phenomena in Kazakhstan though some model schools are implementing it step by step. However, the discussion of launching STEM education in Kazakhstan is in process among officials. So, the probability of seeing STEM classes in Kazakhstani education organizations in near future is high. Thus, like we try to buy the latest version of the device, I think we should bring STEAM (with arts) not just STEM education when we reform our education system.
What is your opinion on this topic? Should we implement STEAM form or STEM? Or would including art into this program cause confusion?


Digital Image [n.d.]. Retrieved from

Land, H. M., (2013). Full STEAM ahead: The benefits of integrating the arts into STEM. Procedia Computer Science. 20. 547-552.

Principles or the ready models: which is better to borrow?

As a student of multilingual education at NUGSE, I read various texts on the current practices of the subject. Usually, readings followed by classroom activities where we discuss the appropriate experiences of ME for Kazakhstani context. Here, I would like to share my views on the ways of properly appropriating international experiences to our context.

Brief definitions of approaches
Three major approaches of implementing multilingual education (CLIL, CBI, Immersion programs) are widely used throughout the world, especially in the west. First, the common approach (or at least, that is being implemented) in Kazakhstan is CLIL (Content Integrated Language Learning). Initially, it was introduced in Europe, now implemented in 216 forms in different countries (Grin, as cited in Coyle, 2007). Generally, CLIL is “dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language (Coyle, as cited in Cenoz, Genesee & Gorter, 2013). In other words, CLIL aims to include the content (subjects such as science, history) and the language in the same curricula. The second, which is also widely discussed among educational professionals in Kazakhstan, is immersion education (often referred as Canadian immersion programs). The immersion education is an approach that provides bilingual education ‘exposing’ learners to second/foreign language as a medium of instruction classrooms to promote additive bilingualism (Swain and Johnson, as cited in de Mejia, 2012). First introduced in Canada in 1960s, now it is also one of the widely used approaches in different forms depending on students’ age and the amount of the second language content. One more important approach is Content-Based Instruction, defined as “an umbrella term referring to instructional approaches that make a dual, though not necessarily equal, commitment to language and content-learning objectives” (Stoller, 2008). Some define it as an integration of the subject and the language (Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 1989). Interestingly, the history of CBI goes back to the Canadian immersion programs that is mentioned above.

Deeply analyzing all three approaches (immersion, CLIL, CBI) I concluded that the principles and the aims are almost the same. Actually, Cenoz (2015) studying CBI and CLIL concludes that these two approaches do not possess pedagogical differences except few ‘accidental proprieties’. However, she adds that the implementation of both (CLIL and CBI) approaches are quite different depending on the context, which does not necessarily differentiate them from each other. The reason is that even the same approach can be contextualized differently. Also, Cummins (2009) refers dual language education and two-way immersion as the same approach. In addition, Genesee and Lindholm-Leary (2013) believe that immersion programs, CLIL, CBI, or other dual language education models in North America are merely different which is pedagogically unimportant. They highlight that the common feature of CBI, CLIL as well as immersion education is that they “use non-language content as a vehicle for promoting L2 proficiency” (p.5). It can be assumed that using different terms for the similar if not the same approaches due to geographical contexts. For example, the ‘shelter’ instruction referred as the type of CBI in the US (Brinton & Swan, 2017), but it is considered one approach of the immersion program in Canada (de Mejia, 2012).
What I conclude, all three approaches above are seen as the examples of successful models among Kazakhstani stakeholders. However, as mentioned, every country has its own interpretation of the approaches depending its context. Additionally, the same method is implemented in different labels just because they were in separate countries, or conversely, in some cases, theoretically different approaches are referred with the same label in practice. Therefore, the countries that we are educationally “following” use given approaches (CLIL, CBI, immersion) as a framework, where you can borrow only main principles and develop further interpretations.

So, what should we do?
In my opinion, considering the diversity of Kazakhstani context from western countries, we should also be focusing on the only wider principles and aims rather than ready “successful” models. It is no longer argumentative that blindly (or even intentionally) copied models may not work because of the differences in contexts. Kazakhstan’s linguistic context is quite diverse, with three languages from different language families. Additionally, some of the approaches (or types of approaches) are mostly designed for bilingual purposes, which necessitates more studies to examine their validity in our trilingual context. Although there is no officially required or suggested approach, stakeholders are actively promoting (or copying) some “ready” approaches, sometimes without any empirical studies on its effects. Therefore, I think that basic principles must be the central concern of the educational stakeholders, the rest of guides should be based on study results that are done specifically in Kazakhstan.
Should we have our own models of implementing ME approaches (CLIL, CB, immersion etc.) based on international principles? Or is it sometimes acceptable just to copy certain approaches? What do you think?


Brinton, D., Snow, M., & Wesche, M. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. New York, NY: Newbury House.

Cenoz, J. Genesee, F. & Gorter, D. (2013) Critical Analysis of CLIL: taking stock and looking forward. Applied Linguistics (First Published Online July 2013)

Coyle, D. (2007). Content and Language Integrated Learning: Towards a Connected Research Agenda for CLIL Pedagogies. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10(5), 543–562.

Cummins, J. (2009) Bilingual and Immersion Programs, in The Handbook of Language Teaching (eds M. H. Long and C. J. Doughty), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford

de Mejía, A. (2012). Immersion education: En route to multilingualism. In M. Martin-Jones, A. Blackledge, & A. Creese (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of multilingualism (pp. 199-213). London: Routledge

Genesee, F. & Lindholm-Leary, K. (2013). Two case studies of content-based language education. Journal of Immersion & Content-Based Language Education 1(1), 3-33.