After a heated discussion of this topic in the Professor Egea’s class, The Plurilingual Individual, I decided to share my thoughts on this issue.
From my understanding, pluralism is a complex process which includes fairness, respect, and equity toward diversity; a set of decisions made in direction to pluralism. It does not have an endpoint or a limit (Boutilier, 2012).
Pluralism considerably depends on the government’s policy and trajectory toward the minority languages and cultures, which is one of the factors that drives some countries either to pluralism or conflicts (Boutilier, 2012). In Kazakhstan the president, who is an undisputed leader of the country, highly supports the diversity. A new trilingual language policy has been recently initiated by the president, whose goal is to master three languages – Kazakh, Russian, and English. Furthermore, the presidential language policy concerning multilingualism and pluralism prevents the interethnic conflicts.
In terms of economic factors that affect pluralism, I would definitely agree with the fact that poverty can impede pluralism through political and social isolation. If we compare Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, there are considerable differences in their economic development. Although we share the common history of being former Soviet Republics, and were faced with the same problem of self-determination after the collapse of the Soviet Union, further development showed significant differences. The Kazakhstan’s economy began to grow due to the abundant natural resources, especially oil reserves, whereas the Kyrgyzstan’s economy did not experience such growth. From my perspective, poverty coupled with other factors led to interethnic conflicts in Kyrgyzstan.
I would also like to mention another pluralism driver – education and culture. As Boutilier (2012) argues, “education is a route to intercultural literacy and communication as well as sustainable human development” (p. 12). In the case of Kazakhstan, multiculturalism is a norm. However, officially there are only Kazakh-speaking and Russian-speaking groups in all public educational institutions. A small number of schools, such as Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS) practice trilingual education with Kazakh, Russian, and English languages of instruction. Trilingual education requires trilingual teachers, which is a current problem that necessitates changes in the curricula of teacher education programs.
In a nutshell, pluralism can be achieved by any country, but as was mentioned above, it is an infinite and complex process that requires not only the support of the country, but also the willingness of the society to respect other cultures and ethnicities residing in the same country. It is hoped that our Kazakhstani society is headed in the direction of pluralism, where all these pluralism drivers play a pivotal role.
Boutilier, B. (2012). Defining Pluralism. Pluralism Papers, 1