All posts by farihandro

Equal opportunities for all of the university admissions

Doesn’t the phrase “equal opportunities” sound so appealing especially for disadvantaged sectors of society? Meaning well, leading world universities offer equal opportunities for all students despite their backgrounds and sometimes “equality” can be opposed to “fairness” in university admissions. Providing equal opportunities for students does not guarantee that they will be fairly selected while dividing available places between students of different backgrounds to make sure the places are equally distributed can deprive students from better schools of opportunities. 


A recent article on university admissions talks about the matter of “equal opportunities”  in Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK. These universities are known to be one of the best universities in the world with the brightest students. Admission process and criteria are also way above other regular universities so not anyone can pass, and normally those who pass already have necessary credentials. Of course, universities who accept students from best schools may be criticised for being biased and discriminative against disadvantaged students. In order to have an equal proportion of students from different backgrounds, the universities start accepting students who more or less qualify to study to give hope to people that there is “fairness” in the society and all of us have “equal opportunities”. A business dictionary defines equal opportunities as “principle of non-discrimination which emphasizes that opportunities in education, employment, advancement, benefits and resource distribution, and other areas should be freely available to all citizens irrespective of their age, race, sex, religion, political association, ethnic origin, or any other individual or group characteristic unrelated to ability, performance, and qualification” (Ramsey, 2017). The emphasis here is at the word opportunities, it means that universities have to give a fair chance to all the application despite their backgrounds, both educational and financial, but when choosing the ones who truly deserve to study there all aspects except for skills should be put aside. The article states that in selecting applicants it is “better to look individually, to pool information about bright youngsters who have been attracted to (or encouraged towards) widening-access schemes (this by the way is a genuinely simple and great idea) and to spend time on individuals, rather than on algorithms” (Ramsey, 2017). It seems to be a good strategy, and though it is much work universities need capable students so they should not neglect any way to find jewels.

A good intention of universities to provide equal opportunities for all students is commendable, but the process of selection should be fair. Still, it is difficult to define what is “fair” to students who are not at fault for having fewer credentials than other more advantaged students. Taking away opportunities from students form better schools in order to give places to less advantaged students is not the best example of “fairness”. What do you think? How to make sure that students have equal opportunities and fair selection?


Ramsey, C. (2017, November 2). University admissions: ‘equal opportunity’ should not mean punishing pupils from good schools. Retrieved from

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Let’s not make the world speak the same language. Fight for diversity!

Diversity of languages is not some sort of a negative outcome of past mistakes, but rather it is a blessing for the humanity.


This episode of Freakonomics Radio talks about a “modern-day Tower of Babel” which refers to the problems we have due to the existence of a variety of languages. Linguistic diversity here is viewed through different lenses: as a curse and as a blessing.

Some important people, from professors of established institutions to a director of a respective school talked about this astonishing phenomenon. 7000 languages are reported to exist in present times, but some of the speakers expressed concern that by the next century half of these languages are going to be extinct. The main reason for that was said to be the English language, which hegemony is spreading like a wild fire. Is it a bad thing? Taking into account that there are tons of money spent on translation of documents into different languages we might conclude that financially it would be better to have one standard language common for all. Probably, this was a main reason for creating an artificial language Esperanto and it was a failure. Linguistic diversity, if not financially, but cognitively could be very useful. In this regard, the speakers in this podcast expressed opinion that speaking more than one language has certain benefits: delay Alzheimer, shape thinking, enhance memory etc. Although, these advantages are questionable I choose to believe it. Why not?

A lot of ideas were expressed in this podcast, mostly I heard how inconvenient the linguistic diversity is. Speaking the same language may help to eradicate certain problems, but every language is unique in its own way and there is no way we can choose one among many to be spoken by the whole world.

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Research: before and after

I never imagined myself being called a young researcher by various professors just because I am a Master’s student. I almost believe it sometimes, which is quite interesting considering the fact that I’ve never thought I would become one someday.  There is a long way ahead of me, but when I recall my life prior entering GSE, I see that I have already learned a lot throughout the last year.

My life before getting familiar with the concept of research reminds me of a sci-fi movie. When talking about research I imagined a well-equipped laboratory with doctors in white gowns doing something with colored liquids or mice. Sometimes I would picture spaceships on an a deserted planet trying to get samples of water or anything of this kind. It would be very picturesque and mysterious, but reality hit me hard when I realized that everything starts with hours in front of books, books and books. This is exactly how my life in the shoes of researcher started. It is quite scary at first, uncertainty and lack of confidence made it really hard to start liking what I was doing. Conducting research was not something I would enjoy, but try to quickly overcome and never go back to. However, after experiencing life-changing activities, as participating in a conference, EXPO, going abroad, and now UNICEF module, I am not scared anymore. This year I am trying to get as much as I can from the opportunities GSE provides me, participating everywhere and learning everything.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that no matter what path in life we choose we should never be scared of trying something new. Thanks to my decision of coming here, to GSE, now I am lavished with various opportunities that shape me to become a confident young researcher.

Liberal Arts vs. STEM: The Right Degrees, The Wrong Debate

Deconstruction of the post with the same title: 

This article was posted on the web page of a well-known journal “Forbes” by its staff member Sergei Klebnikov. He discusses the current debate over the appropriateness of Liberal Arts education in comparison with STEM. The main argument that author makes if that there is no right and no wrong. Liberal Arts education and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are both necessary and there is no use of debating over it. I agree with the author’s point that only working in collaboration can these two directions exist without overshadowing one another.

There were many sources, from the words of Barack Obama to the statements of ordinary teachers from small colleges. The author skillfully integrated all of these sources and discussed each of them to support his point. He started with mentioning Barack Obama who claimed that people who choose STEM would earn more that those in Liberal Arts. Also, several public figures and politicians were against liberal arts.  The implication that the debate started because of these words made by the ex-president was proposed: “much of the recent conversation pitting STEM against the liberal arts has arisen out of this current media interest…” (p.1). Then the author questions the appropriateness of this debate referring to various sources and calling this debate a “false dichotomy”. Again, claiming that the debate is wrong.

There is a lack of arguments against Liberal Arts and Stem. I could notice implicit bias in the way the author used sources. The author mostly refers to the sources which discuss what should Liberal Arts do to work effectively in collaboration with STEM. It means that both of them cannot exist without one another, but what if Liberal Arts education is really useless in present time?

In general, I enjoyed reading, and I do think that Liberal Arts is less valuable that STEM these days. It is just people might find Liberal Arts to be elite and high, but STEM to be the for blue-collar workers? What do you think?


Klebnikov, S. (2015).  Liberal art vs. STEM: The right degrees, the wrong debate. Retrived from


Students decide to fire a teacher?! WHAT?!

Let’s talk about decision-making within schools regarding employment termination of teachers. We all know that students can’t decide to fire the teacher but their parents may collectively complain about certain teachers to school administration. School administration is the sole body to decide whether to take disciplinary actions or even fire any staff member. I think students shall take part in decision-making as they are the immediate stakeholders. Apparently, primary and middle schoolers are too young to vote but high schools are fine.


There are always ‘favourite’ and ‘less favourite’ teachers for every student. Reasons may be different: incompetence, dullness, excessive severity and personal dislike (of course!). But can these qualify as the substantial reasons to terminate one’s employment? Let’s see. First, an incompetent teacher is not a teacher. I wonder how each of us defines incompetence, I, personally, view it as excellent knowledge and skills (it shall not be limited to one subject).  Incompetent teachers are easily recognisable but if they are appealing and charismatic they could even pass as excellent teachers in the eyes of students. Here, not dullness but appeal and charisma are what students seek in the teachers. What a dilemma!  Next is excessive severity which includes strictness in the classroom, a ton of homework and pertinacity.  Who would like a teacher who keeps students on the run all the time?! Finally, personal dislike could be the result of all these factors. Everyone has personal preferences that’s why having personal feelings involved is inevitable.

As a student myself I understand how these factors can cloud one’s vision. But, as a teacher I would not want to get fired just because some students didn’t like me. Especially, it is even more unfair if a particular teacher gets fired because a certain student manipulated the others to vote against that teacher. In this case, we should not allow students to take the lead in deciding whether to fire the teacher or not. But school administration definitely has to take the voices of high schoolers into account.


Should high school students be able to vote to fire teachers? Retrieved from

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Sex education in primary school




A growing number of teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, unhealthy relationship and sexual abuse is the result of unawareness and inaccurate information spread through media and the Internet. Due to the absence of sex education subject in the curricula of many schools, children learn about sexuality from mass media, parents or older friends. And it is difficult to hold control over the content provided online or transmitted through mass media. The subject of sex education (sexuality education) teaches not only about the biology and sexual intercourse but about keeping safe and building healthy relationship. Raising awareness about sexuality from primary school can prevent adolescents from making mistakes and languish in misery. 

A compulsory sex education subject is going to be integrated into all the schools across England starting September 2019 (BBC news, 2017).  BBC news also relays that a representative of organisation Christian Concern, Andrea Williams says: “Children need to be protected, and certainly when they’re [still at primary school], we need to be guarding their innocence” thus disagreeing with the incorporation of sex education into the curriculum (BBC news, 2017). But sex education is not aiming at destroying the innocence of children but conversely at protecting them from harms they may do to themselves out of ignorance. Again, all the information provided at the lessons will be age-appropriate. It means that primary schoolers will not be taught things they cannot comprehend but what they need to know at their age. In an official website of BBC news, it is stated that the focus of the subject in primary school will be on “building healthy relationships and staying healthy”, and secondary school students will be studying “sex as well as relationships”.  In addition, these classes also will cover the issues of sexual abuse and “the dangers of sexting, online pornography and sexual harassment” (BBC news, 2017).  I think that information of sexual minorities, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement and the human rights should also be included in the content of the subject. These measures will raise awareness regarding these matters from a young age and help children to adapt to adult life in the future.

Children grow up mentally as well as physically. And when they notice these changes they have to be informed and prepared. Only with a proper guidance will they be able to avoid making terrible mistakes and mature healthily.



Sellgren, K. (2017, March 1).  Sex education to be compulsory in England’s schools. BBC News. Retrieved from


Language revitalization: the case of Maori speech community


Back in the day, Maori people were a small indigenous tribe living in nature. They had their own lifestyle, culture and language. When Europeans settled down on their island (New Zealand) they brought English with themselves. European settlers started reclaiming the land by building cities and schools. In a while, Maori people had to move to the towns to send their children to the schools where the medium of instruction was English. Little by little, they shifted from speaking Maori to speaking English as there was no demand in their native language. This process of language shift lasted for about a century when people finally realised that they were losing their language and they have to do something.



           Benton (1997) indicated three main reasons for language shift: (1) the speakers are less in number that the other language speakers; (2) they do not have a distinct area of habitation; (3) the language is less prestigious than the other one. These factors were contributing to the decrease in use of Maori language for a long period of time. According to the author, in 1995 about 16% (44000 people) were able to communicate in Maori on a medium or high level, and 63% could understand Maori through listening. In his consequent research, Benton (2015) indicated the number of people who speak Maori well or very well (11%) relying on the survey be Department of Statistics of New Zealand. Due to the limited exposure to the language, it was natural for the speakers to lose their proficiency. The language activists and the families that wanted to revitalise their language started a campaign to bring their language back to live by doing as follows:

  • Recognition of Māori as an official language was the first step in revitalising the language. 
  • Maori Language Commission has also been established to consult the government.
  • Maori has been included into the curriculum in primary and secondary schools as a subject. Later, pre-schools with Maori medium of instruction have also been established. By 2013, about 22000 children were receiving half of their subjects in the Maori language.
  • A special day of Maori language and Maori language week (Benton, 2015).
  • The linguistic landscape of New Zealand has also been changed. Gradually, all the signs at public places started appearing in two languages.
  • New Zealand Maori Council and language activists managed to open a Maori television channel in 2008 where the programs were partially in the Maori language.maori-language-week

          Ministry of Education developed a curriculum of “full immersion” which could be afforded only by a few schools as it constituted a larger part of a national budget (Benton, 2015). Additionally, the teachers in such schools were also Maori learners who did not have a capacity to teach children to be fluent in Maori. All of this is the result of the efforts by language activists and all Maori people who pushed the government to help them. Additionally, in order to overcome the barrier, parents and teachers started visiting language courses and conversing with each other. Gradually, some families started talking Maori at home. Maori speakers visit TED talks in order to spread the awareness of Maori language and encourage people to speak it. Despite all the hardships, Maori speech community is one of the few communities who managed to revitalise and maintain their language. And it is just a beginning.  

What do you think could be applied to the language situation in Kazakhstan? Which of the steps above could be helpful to revitalize the minority languages in our country?


Benton, R. (1997). The Maori language: Dying or reviving?. New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Wellington, NZ: East West Center

Benton, R. (2015). Perfecting the partnership: Revitalizing the Maori language in New Zealand education and society 1987-2014. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 28(2), 99-112.


Inclusive Education in Kazakhstan: threat and opportunity

     Inclusive education is a broad concept for an inclusion of ALL children in one classroom. ‘ALL’ refers to children with (1) disabilities (both mental and physical), (2) gifted, (3) inept, (4) socially vulnerable, (5) immigrants, (6) special needs, (7) different religion, (8) different race or ethnicity, (9) and those who belong to other minority or minoritized groups. Inclusive education strives for eradicating discrimination and preconceptions toward particular groups in the society (Centre for Studies and Inclusive Education (CSIE), 1997). Kazakhstan is one of many countries which are trying to implement a policy of inclusive education. Inclusive education may impose a great deal of danger to an unprepared country, for that reason it is difficult to say whether it is time for the country to spread inclusive education throughout Kazakhstan.

     The Kazakhstani government is doing too many things simultaneously. Trilingual policy, new standards of learning (as in NU or NIS) and even inclusive education. Of course, they may complement each other if done properly and at the proper time. Here are the possible threats that inclusive education imposes on children and society:

  • A child thrown into a classroom with children different from him could be discriminated;
  • Physical and mental violence might take place;
  • A child could become an outcast;
  • Some children might lose motivation to study when in one class with gifted ones;
  • Children who does not know the language of instruction well could have troubles with performance etc.

      These threats are only one side of the coin as the things could take a totally different direction. Children may become aware of children with special needs and may learn to accept them the way they are. The latter could be able to be integrated into a society, build confidence and lead a social life. To make this happen, the following must be done:

  • Whole new curricula must not only be created but concern ALL children with different needs (not only special ones);
  • Teachers must be specially trained, not for 2 weeks, but for years;
  • Inclusive education has to start from kindergarten where teachers will teach children with special needs to become a part of the society and other children to accept them;
  • A special campaign of making society aware of inclusion should start its work;
  • Government shall work with parents to make them understand how to take care of children with special needs and integrate them into the society and much more.

       At the end of the day, inclusive education remains to be a very sensitive and risky. There is little to no empirical research on the situation of inclusive education in Kazakhstan. For that reason, it seems to be done abruptly. Kazakhstan needs time to prepare a program of overcoming the threats of inclusive education.

I would like to know if any of you have come across any empirical research on inclusive education in Kazakhstan? If you did, please let me know.



Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE). (1997). Inclusive education a framework for change. National and international perspectives. Bristol, UK: CSIE

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A freedom of expression to children!


The implementation of school uniform policy is directed at solving a number of problems at schools: poor performance, attendance, violence and bullying. A socioeconomic gap is the main reason for bullying at schools and it affects the performance of students (Lopez, 2003). The school uniform, as the name says, unites all the students regardless of financial situation and other attributes which make them different. However, children are not willing to wear it because it restricts their freedom of expression and choice.

The proponents, Baumann & Krskova (2016) support the policy stating that school uniform will help to improve performance as children will not be focusing on the clothes they wear but on studying. Conversely, the opponents of the policy believe that it might affect the identity and freedom of choice of children (Bigger, 2006). Every individual has a right to choose what to wear and how to wear.Taking into account different age of children, is it possible to say for sure that they know what is right for them and what is not? Mark Vopat (2010) says that it is not right to force students to wear a school uniform but it is not applicable to children under the age of 14 (Grade 8). He says that younger children lack an ability to differentiate between mere expression and substantive expression. In terms of clothing, it implies that they do not know what their true style is when they are younger. Before they reach an appropriate age all the decisions regarding their “school style” is made either by parents or school.

   question-mark-guys-duoIs it right?


Wearing a school uniform may give a feeling of belonging to those who were different. However, being different might be considered to be a virtue rather that a flaw by some. It is hard to tell if children are right to demand a freedom to express themselves wearing what they want. I personally think that children must not be forced to wear a school uniform probably it is better to suggest alternatives like allowing children to wear what they want but with some alteration. For instance, restricting to wear particular things that might be harmful to students and the environment in any way or may contain an inappropriate message. To what extent do you agree?




Baumann, C. & Krskova, H. (2016). School discipline, school uniforms and academic performance. International Journal of Educational Management, 30(6),1003 – 1029.

Lopez, R. (2003). The long beach unified school district uniform initiative. A prevention-intervention strategy for urban schools. The Journal of Negro Education, 72(4), 396-405.

Vopat M. C., (2010).  Mandatory school uniforms and freedom of expression. Ethics and education, 5(3), 203-215. doi: 10.1080/17449642.2010.519139

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“But to get respect you have to give it”- The freedom writers

A line above is the most memorable quote from the movie called The freedom writers. Has anyone heard of it before? If not, then I’d highly recommend reading a book or watching a movie. It is based on actual events that happened in the lives of The Freedom Writers of Woodrow Wilson High School in the USA.  I’ve watched the film only and I’d like to share my own thoughts on it.

A new teacher arrived at a school notorious for its bad reputation. Erin Gruwell, a young English teacher, decided to work at this school albeit she had all the specs and qualifications to work at a much more prestigious institution. Why? Could it be that she wanted to help the students get better and save them from the downfall? Or it was the way of testing herself and her skills? Nevertheless, she managed to achieve both. Surely, it was frustrating for a young teacher who never had an experience of working with students not only unwilling to study but aggressive and somehow dangerous. Simple teaching approach of delivering material and assigning homework did not work on them. They kept ignoring her, missing classes and getting in troubles. The turning point happened when she finally gave up on traditional ways of teaching and found a way to get through to them.  She started telling a story they never heard of. The story which was so sad, a story they could relate to. Erin realised that her students have so much to tell but nobody to listen, and right at that moment, an idea came to her mind. Writing. She suggested a way which could help them, but it was students who grabbed the chance and changed own lives. They walked all the way through high school together, grew to love literature and writing and most importantly they learnt of a way to make themselves better.

This sentimental post is dedicated to all the teachers who want to grow as individuals and professionals.  I do not know what makes a perfect teacher but a person able to change the lives of people for the best is one to deserve respect. If you had to be in her shoes, what would you do? Do you think you would have enough courage not to give up?


The Freedom Writers (1999).The freedom writers diary: How a teacher and 150 teens used writing to change themselves and the world around them. New York: Broadway Books.

DeVito, D., Shamberg, M. & Sher, S. (Producers) & LaGravenese, R. (Director). (2007). Freedom writers. [Motion picture].The United States:  MTV Films.