All posts by Darina

Kazakhstan as an example of intercultural hub

Due to the multicultural nature of Kazakhstani society, this country can be one of the examples of successful policy in the question of uniting ethnically diversified population. Undoubtedly, in order to promote stable economic growth and friendly atmosphere, it is important to provide respect and to take into consideration representatives of all nationalities residing in the country for creating intercultural dialogue. But what is exactly done in Kazakhstan in order to promote the idea of intercultural friendship?

One of the steps toward uniting people was the introduction of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan as a political body of representatives underpinned by the Law. One of the main functions of this organization is to support and develop cultural centers, newspapers, and theaters in all regions. Another step is educating respectful relationship to the diversified nature of Kazakhstani population in family and educational institutions. In the latter, there are subjects like Study of the World and Sociology and events devoted to national holidays. In addition, there is the Day of Unity of Kazakhstani People celebrated on the 1st of May by the parade, presentation of cuisine, and concert. As for the linguistic involvement, there are language minority schools, where Kazakh, Russian, and English languages are represented as compulsory subjects, because higher education is available only in Kazakh, Russian, and English only.

This means that in spite of the fact that it is difficult to include language minorities in social and political life of the country, the experience of our country shows that still it is possible. As the cultural balance is difficult to be kept, it is also preferable to provide more researches in order to study changes in the society.

Do you have any more examples of intercultural involvement in Kazakhstan? Do you know anyone who gains or suffers because of their nationality in Kazakhstan?

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Considering teacher in-service training in Kazakhstan

As a person who has a two-year experience of working as a language teacher in a private language school, which also offers services in teacher training, including preparation and organization of Cambridge ESOL Exam TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test), I have witnessed the complex process of teacher professional development. During my work experience, the company would mentor the teaching staff to provide the quality of education by conducting regular teaching sessions, peer observations, interviews of students and teaching staff. Additionally, our language teachers like me were constantly being prepared for Cambridge ESOL Exams. These events made me feel more confident in the classroom, showed that creativity is “the best friend” of a teacher, and provided collaborative work with my colleagues. Fortunately, I started my teaching career exactly in that language school, as now I am excited about the idea to translate the experience of this private school to mainstream schools throughout the country.

Having analyzed the teacher in-service professional development reform in Kazakhstan, I see that the process has started with rather small number of teachers. I support the idea of the efficacy of the projects like Centre of Excellence; and as far as I understand, there is an opportunity for those teachers who have undertaken this program to share their experiences with their colleagues at their schools.

My concern about the new model of teacher professional development is the length of the course. The basic level of the program lasts for three months, but teachers’ professional development is a time-consuming process. Thus, attempts to provide all teachers of the country with in-service training for a short period of time might negatively affect the quality (Tam & Cheng, 2007). A set of teachers’ beliefs has a great impact on choosing a certain style and approach of teaching in the classroom. As Pajares (1992, as cited in Pshenova & Batyrbayeva, n.d) argues, it is pivotal “to work on the beliefs, moral principles of teachers in order to help them turn toward new ideas” and become active users of the chosen approach. At the same time, I could suggest that person’s beliefs cannot be developed into new ideas in a couple of months, but teachers should be trained on the regular basis during the whole teaching practice.

Another point to mention is unclear situation in preparation of multilingual teachers. The process of multilingual education is supposed to be a long-term process. However, not all of the current professional development centres offer the programs that can provide a teacher with linguistic skills in addition to methodology. This means that nowadays language potential of teachers is a point of their own concern and is treated as a personal desire of self-development, rather than an aspect at the republican scale.

As a master student, I can state that the area of teacher professional development in Kazakhstan is devoid of the research in the perception and attitudes of Kazakhstani teachers towards in-service training. This gap can be fulfilled by providing a set of qualitative inquiries to see real causes of teachers’ unawareness of modern teaching techniques and to work out the program aimed at preparation of academic staff that meets the requirements of the State Program.

In this sense, the sufficient education policy can happen only when the levels of educating process (from policy makers to teachers) start working in the dialogue. In this conversation, it is pivotal for the top to clarify what exactly they want to change, reason these reformations, and get the honest (!) response from practitioners, who, in their turn, are expected to share their opinions and ideas. As a result, the processes of reform planning and implementation would be actively negotiated by the stakeholders and controlled and assessed by the policy makers in order to improve the quality of changes.

References:

Tam, W. & Cheng Y. (2007). Teacher education and professional development for sustainable school effectiveness. In T.Townsend (Ed.), International handbook of school effectiveness and improvement (pp.751-766). Springer.

Pshenova, T.N., Batyrbayeva, N.K. (n.d.) Professionalnoye razvitiye sovremennogo uchitelya v sisteme nepreryvnogo pedagogicheskogo obrazovaniya. Retrieved from http://centre.ipksko.kz/index.php/kz/izdeu-sheshim-t-zhiribe?id=55.

A word on reforming teacher status

Currently, a teaching profession is unlikely to be prestigious among Kazakhstani population; however, teacher’s status is seen as one of the factors influencing the main purpose of education for stable economic growth (MES, 2010; MES, 2011). In this reason, the started process of reformation of educators’ status (MES, 2010) has appeared up to date. In this article I will display my understanding of this reform by drawing out its main objectives and reviewing the most significant changes that have already been implemented, revealing and solving possible concerns, and defining its practical importance for the future development of Kazakhstani education system.

In the frame of the reform, pre- and in-service preparation of teaching staff is provided by redressing curricula for pedagogical institutions and organizing professional development centers supervised by foreign trainers and NIS instructors. In order to motivate educators and school directors, there is a competitive principle of selecting trainees and a different approach to calculating salary based on the results of students’ academic performance (MES, 2010).

Bridges and Sagintayeva (2014) state that “the school is experiencing a transition to a new paradigm of learner-centered approaches” (p.xxviii). This means that a teacher is a supervisor to direct students in the process of acquiring and applying knowledge, but not an announcer of instructions on what to learn. In their action plan research, McLaughlin, McLellan, Fordham, Chandler-Grevatt, and Daubney (2014) stress that Kazakhstani teachers urgently need to be more open to learning themselves and work collaboratively. The issue to consider is that teachers tend to see their colleagues as rivals to compete, rather than peers to share the experiences. Another aspect of teachers’ unwillingness to collaborate is illustrated in the situation that experienced faculty are reluctant to changes, while novices are suffering from the lack of practice and are usually suppressed by the authority of the superior ones.

To sum up, the image of a teacher from the societal perspective will remain underestimated until one realizes own vital role in community life and starts self-development process. On the other hand, policy makers ought to provide mainstream school teachers with necessary conditions for adjusting and evolving their educating techniques. This can be realized by providing a set of qualitative studies within listening to and analyzing educators’ stories (Shamatov, 2013) to see real causes of teachers’ unawareness of modern teaching techniques. When the most problematic spheres are determined, the effective in-service program aimed at professional preparation of academic staff that meets the requirements of the State Program can be designed.

In the process of reforming Kazakhstan education, it is a school teacher who is an active implementer of changes in the schooling process. Consequently, it is fair to admit that any educational reform will be applied to reality only by a teacher whose mission is to educate competitive labor force for the prosperity of the country.

References

Bridges, D. & Sagintayeva, A. Introduction. In D. Bridges (Ed.), Education Reform and Internationalisation: The case of Kazakhstan (pp.xxii-xxxii). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McLaughlin, C., McLellan, R., Fordham, M., Chandler-Grevatt, A., & Daubney, A. (2014). The role of the teacher in educational reform in Kazakhstan: Teacher enquiry as a vehicle for change. In D. Bridges (Ed.), Education Reform and Internationalisation: The case of Kazakhstan (pp.239-262). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ministry of Education and Science. (2010). State program of education development of Kazakhstan for 2010-2020. Retrieved from http://www.akorda.kz/.

Ministry of Education and Science. (2011). The Strategic Plan of the Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science for 2011-2015. Retrieved from http://www.primeminister.kz/

Shamatov, D. (2013). Everyday realities of a young teacher in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan: The case of a History teacher from a rural school. In P. Akcali & C.E. Demir (Eds.), Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan: Political and social challenges (pp. 1-23). London, UK: Routledge.

Is university that helpful in acquiring teaching profession?

It was really difficult to me to decide which job to choose, but once I decided to become a teacher, I entered university and expected professors to teach me how to teach*. Further I will provide an insight on my experience as a university graduate and novice teacher.

After my university study, I decided that I am more interested in teaching at private language school rather than state one, simply because I supposed that students are already motivated to study. However, the reality turned out to be far from my expectations and now I can argue that children should be constantly motivated and interested in language learning (some people might have come to this earlier) and it doesn’t matter whether they go to state or private school. What surprised and pleased me about my work experience is that we had weekly two-hour teaching sessions where senior teachers organized workshops on how to use certain teaching techniques. After every session I thought: “That’s what they should have taught us to do at university!

During the study we had several opportunities to teach school children each year except the first one. After this practice we had to write reports on what we did and how interesting it was, but, in fact, I didn’t feel that I was really ready to teach. I mean we presented some grammar topics and exercises, but there wasn’t any systematic attempt to make English lessons interesting to children rather than complete the task and get a grade. Having read piles of scholarly literature on methodology of teaching foreign languages and written a diploma work, I didn’t feel skillful enough to engage students in language learning. Luckily, my boss appeared to be brave enough to let me start teaching career.

That was my story of beginning teaching career. I understand that my university teachers couldn’t have given everything I needed as a specialist, but I think I would have benefited as a teacher, if there had been more practical advisory work during my study. Now I feel that I have just started being a teacher; I am really into this profession and the ways I can develop teaching skills.

What about you? I will be really happy if you share your early experience in teaching and describe how your university knowledge matched it.

*here I apologize for tautology