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Fostering pluralism in Kazakhstan

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I have written this post in response to Kazakhstan as an example of intercultural hub post by . I intend to shed light on the process of fostering pluralism through history, culture, and education.

Now, after 24 years of gaining independence, Kazakhstan has managed to unite ethnically, culturally and linguistically heterogeneous populations under one umbrella of the citizenship of an ambitious young state. However, one should be realistic: from the international observers’ position, the level of the democracy development in Kazakhstan leaves much to be desired (Freedom House, 2013). But Kazakhstan enjoys relatively sustainable development in comparison with ethnic tensions in other countries. Via reconsideration of the history distorted in the Soviet times and a combination of cultural and general education, Kazakhstan paves the way to pluralism.

The historical literacy, especially for  a multi-ethnic state, can be “the route for reconciliation” (Boutilier, 2012, p. 13). Kazakhstan shifted from using history for indoctrination as it occurred under the Soviet rule,  to acknowledging the failures of the past. Now the Kazakhstani students study the History of Kazakhstan and the World History as  mandatory subjects at all educational institutions. These courses allow students to get an insight on how the civilization evolved in other countries. This awareness fosters open-mindedness and provides opportunities to analyze the events and processes of the past through  a critical lens. National uprisings for independence, equity and human rights receive another reconsideration different from “nationalistic, racist or chauvinistic” as it used to be. The names of the victims of the repression in 1930-1940s, the national heroes, and those historical personalities are resurrected and released from stigmatizing. The justice for, and appreciation of, the individuals  who  contributed to the development of the national unity and consciousness,  have been restored. Therefore, through the learning and reconsideration of history we are to avoid the mistakes of  past experiences.

Mutuality, tolerance, and intercultural literacy, as Boutilier (2012) mentions, can be fostered through the interplay between education and culture. In Kazakhstan, this process commences  in  early childhood education.  In preschool and kindergarten, different cultural activities are organized to celebrate May  1st (the unity of the peoples of Kazakhstan), March 22nd (Nauryz – the Eastern new year), December 31st (New Year), Maslenitsa (an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday).  From the beginning,  children  are exposed to realizing the richness of diversity in Kazakhstan. The Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan, aimed to reinforce the state policy on interethnic dialogue and tolerance, has branches in every region where the locals along with the ethnic minorities can attend cultural centers, heritage/Sunday schools. Pluralism evolves not only by empowering the diasporas, but also by providing the rights  to the mother-tongue education. There are Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Uighur, Korean, German, Ukrainian, and Polish schools, where children pursue education through the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. The moral upbringing at schools, colleges and universities is targeted on building  a civic society where the citizenship is not the privilege of the titular nations but a shared commitment and humanity. Thus, the younger generations grow up being the Kazakhstani citizens without division between Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs.

In  a nutshell, history, education,  and culture gradually establish the ethic of pluralism in Kazakhstan by changing attitudes to the events of the past and by appreciating the linguistic and cultural heritages. Yet, Kazakstani democracy is far from being fully achieved. Notwithstanding pluralism’s evolving character, we can be proud of living peacefully. We are the speakers of different languages – we are followers of different religions. For some people it is a great difference; for us it is the sign of our uniqueness. Uniqueness of peoples, diversity of minds. Education and history, culture and history. They help to inculcate the sense of respect. Respect to diversity.

The deficiency of the trilingual education reform in Kazakhstan


The trilingual education reform in Kazakhstan, so fashionably discussed everywhere, is far from being well-planned. The policy-makers have not taken into consideration the striking discrepancy between urban and rural schools. The quality of education ranges significantly. Thus, this obstacle can be the stumbling block for the reform implementation. Additionally, the top-down approach, frequently used in the government, restricts the policy’s efficacy. Therefore, I proffer several measures to tackle the issues and ameliorate the current “black holes” in the multilingual education reform.

Being a rural school graduate, I know inside out how rural children are disadvantaged of in comparison with the rural peers in terms of qualified teaching staff and resources provision. I absolutely agree with Fimyar (2014) who states that there is “the story of one Kazakhstan, urban, modern, mobile ever changing and rapidly growing. However, there is also another Kazakhstan – rural, remote, traditional and crying out for investment in basic hygiene facilities and infrastructure” (p.177).  If English as a medium of instruction will be introduced in all schools of Kazakhstan, I will be in a deep worry for my numerous cousins growing up in the remote villages of Kazakhstan. Who will guarantee and be responsible for quality of English language teaching at kindergartens and schools when a few number of English teachers is willing to work at ungraded schools for a miserable salary? In this case the equity and effectiveness are out of question. The supplementary private tutoring might redress the issue of poor education gained in rural schools. However, private tutoring (“repetitorstvo”) costs a lot and can be a rare occasion at remote areas. Furthermore, having graduated from school the rural youth also has no equal possibilities for well-paid job in international companies because of the limited English proficiency. Thus, I will advocate the rights of rural children who can be left behind elite schools with high-tuition fees and native speakers of English.

All stakeholders involved in language policies in education in Kazakhstan should realize that “we all “do” language planning” (de Jong, 2011, p.120). Not only policy makers, but also teachers are responsible for creating a model of multilingual education. I assert that de Jong (2011) is quite right when claiming that “language policy involves more than the passage of a formal law or regulation” (p.120). Only in a close cooperation of parents, media, policy-makers, classroom practitioners,  and NGOs the aim of fostering trilingualism within the broad field of multilingual Kazakhstan can be achieved. No matter how many hours a child spends on languages acquisition in school settings if he or she does not use the languages in the daily routine outside of a classroom. The assistance matters. Therefore, active parents’ involvement, support of teachers, promotion of multilingual competence should be included in a toolkit for an ambitious and long-term multilingual education reform in Kazakhstan.

The direction towards multilingualism, recently appeared on the formal agenda, requires some measures to be taken. Thus, I dare to propose several actions to ameliorate the policy implementation. First, to conduct more empirical research in this field. To illustrate with, the action research with the participation of teachers, parents and students could provide more useful data rather than descriptive reports of the principals of the educational institutions. Second, to include adults foreign language education to the multilingual education reform because life-long-learning is also one of the components of enhancing the human capital.  Third, to attract Kazakhstani language specialists to the creation the national textbooks and methodological materials that will uncover the cultural and linguistic fund of ethnically diverse population of Kazakhstan. Also, to provide the textbooks with the glossary of terms in Kazakh, Russian,  and English. Fourth, to draw upon the international practices of introducing multilingual education  in order to anticipate the unforeseen agenda that have already been detected;  construct wiser and more well-planned language policy in education.

In brief, the language planning in Kazakhstani education seems to be ill-planned. The course for trilingualism does not count the rural school students who suffer from low quality of education. The hackneyed top-down approach needs to be erased; a number of actions must be taken in order to make the trilingual reform more feasible.


de Jong, E. J. (2011). Foundations for multilingualism in education: From principles to practice. Philadelphia: Caslon                            Publishing

Fimyar, O. (2014). “Soviet, “Kazakh” and “World-class in the contemporary construction of Educational Understanding and                practice in Kazakhstan.  In D. Bridges (Ed.). Educational reform and Internationalisation. The case of School                          Reform in Kazakhstan. (pp.177-195). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Business Backs Education

business backs education

If you want to hire the highly-qualified employees – invest in education, says the Mayor of London. Recently Boris Johnson has announced his support for Business Backs Education campaign. The former president of the USA, Bill Clinton and his allies launched this campaign at the Global Education & Skills Forum in March 2014. The aim of this global initiative is to motivate the enterprises to invest “20 % of their global corporate social responsibility spending for education by 2020”, according to UNESCO.  This call for commitment is twofold one; supportive for states, beneficial for business.

It is high time to turn people’s attention to 58 million of children out of school. Born in the extreme poverty, the children are marginalized by having no opportunity to attend schools. This forms the ground for the spread of criminal behavior amongst the youngsters. For the governments it implies an unstable socioeconomic situation; for the enterprises it results in the loss of the potential skillful workforce and customers. Who will pay taxes? Who will develop breakthrough projects? Who will buy the products and services? Economic Policy Institute in the USA asserts that the well-educated workforce brings more productivity, creativity and innovations. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, postulates that business has great impact on education: from policy-formulations to definition of the skills and competences a graduate should acquire to be competitive on labor market. Indeed, many companies complain on the mismatch of the graduates’ theoretical and practical training and the real job requirements. Via collaboration of business and educators the progress in human resources development can be achieved. Bill Clinton echoes this proposition by claiming that each dollar invested in education gives back 53 dollars from the first day of a person’s working life”. As for the states’ prosperity, educated citizens are more likely to boost the national economy, pay taxes, form the middle-income class and augment the quality of life standards. Social stability and prosperity, productivity and knowledge-based economy, future consumers and clients – these are the positive corollaries of business-education union, the advantages the investments.

This campaign can be borrowed and promoted in Kazakhstani settings. Taking into consideration that the institutional support of the enterprises here is far to be robust, the government can decrease the taxes for the companies who invest in education. The government can reduce the state control. Or simply furnish these companies with requests for tenders. Thus, the entrepreneurs will understand that it is not a burden, but also a great instrumental value. For instance, having financially supported a university or college, a civil construction company obtains a state request for reconstruction of a school building. Thus, the government and the enterprise enjoy the collaboration fruitful for education, a nation and business.

Instead of blaming schools and universities for incompetent graduates the companies have better to take active role. Business Backs Education, this global initiative, can diminish the inequality and foster knowledge-based-economies. Investment in education is not a social expenditure, but a great step toward global prosperity. If a child illiteracy, resources provision and business-education tandem are achieved, the motto “education for all” will really make sense for both sides.

Release pupils from homework…

Father Helping Son with Homework

I do remember my schooldays when I relentlessly tried to complete all home assignments  because the teachers evaluated commitment to studies with the amount of the tasks done. The parents also “contributed” by not allowing playing until the work done.  So, I did not want to be labelled as a “dull and lazy student” who neglected the exercises assigned. That was in my experience of studying at school in 2000s. Time passes way, but nothing changes. I cannot stand noticing my almost infant cousins’ fears and pains concerned with homework. Having spent almost the half of the day at school, they, sick and tired of lessons, rush home to complete all exercises. They can misunderstand the new topic; they may feel exhausted. It does not matter – they have to do it at any expense. And I strongly believe that this overload is not a key to high academic performance. And I am not alone. The OECD states that, the empirical research justifies that, and some classroom practitioners mention that homework is not so effective.

“People [ask], ‘Doesn’t doing more homework mean getting better scores?’ The answer quite simply is no” – says Professor Gerald Le Tendre at Pennsylvania State University (“Homework”, n.d., p. 2).  This misconception of the “divine” power of homework has deeply penetrated into people’s mind. It cajoles the educators to give students a profusion of the tasks. Allegedly, homework polishes till perfection pupils’ skills, reinforces their learning abilities, and helps to memorize the subtle details. However, the empirical study by Cooper, Robinson, Civey, and Patall (2006) demolishes this myth. The correlation between time spend on homework and academic performance is subtle; minimal for primary school, moderate for middle (Cooper et al., 2006). As for high school, excessive homework has a detrimental effect: it impedes progress (Cooper et al., 2006). A large – scale international inquiry by Baker and Tendre (2006) reveals that the highest TIMMS performers come from Denmark, Japan and the Czech Republic where students enjoy a minimum of home assignments. In contrast, the overloaded Thai, Iran and Greek students are on the bottom of the TIMMS ranking (Baker & Tendre, 2006). The morale is: do not expect children to outperform the counterparts by mechanical completing the exercises. Quality of education matters. Not quantity.

Homework and social disintegration… This may strike as a “surprise” (in a negative connotation), but the studies demonstrate that students from socially vulnerable families do not cope with homework (Rønning, 2011). The educational attainment of a child directly hinges upon what assistance he or she gets when doing homework, especially elementary students (Rønning, 2011). He compares the academic performance of low socio-economic status (hereinafter SES) students and pupils from high-income families. For socially advantaged students homework brings comprehension and practice of the new material; for low SES pupils it is a limited opportunity to cope with tasks without appropriate parental involvement ((Rønning, 2011). The OECD (2014) provides the following explanation:

“advantaged students are more likely than disadvantaged students to have an appropriate      place to study at home and engaged parents who can convey positive messages about schooling   and the importance of doing what is required by teachers, including regularly completing assigned homework” ( p. 4).  It is difficult to disagree with the authoritative organization such as the OECD with arguments based on the PISA results. The reality is that the children from the early age are marginalized owing to the absence of support and facilities to do homework.

Some teachers have already abandoned assigning homework. John Spencer (n.d.), an American schoolteacher, postulates that he swims against the tide: this practice is not in tune with the U.S ideology of schooling. According to Spencer, students had better to spend time on extracurricular activities: sports, hobbies, etc. Thus, students don’t get bored; don’t lose aspiration to learn – parents feel comfortable and confident. Spencer offers several alternatives to homework: (a) to organize workshops for parents who want their offspring to complete exercises; (b) to support the individual work of students who strive for more commitment; (c) turn schooling into more engaging and creative activity ( learn history by attending museums). Similarly, the head teacher of Tiffin School (one of the top schools in the United Kingdom) realizes the inefficiency of homework and reduces “homework to a maximum of 40 minutes per night” (“Is it time”, 2013). Thus, if even the conservative British educators abolish homework, why cannot we reconsider homework and make it less time-consuming?

One can read this piece of writing and claim that no one has invented the best tool of practicing knowledge gained. Another may think we should change our position and go straight to the child suffering from home tasks overload. Critique and abolishment, reconsideration and reduction, assistance and support – these are the reactions to the by – effects of homework. My address may be optional, but students’ despair is not. To believe or not to believe – is not a question… Whoever (a teacher, a parent, an adult, a brother, a sister) you may be, but give a hand to a pupil to cope with homework.


Baker, D.P., & LeTendre, G.K. (2005). National Difference, Global Similarities: World , Culture and the Future of Schooling. Stanford University Press.

Cooper, H., Robinson, J.C., Civey, J., & Patall, E.A. (2006). Does homework improve academic  achievement: A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76, 1-62.

Homework: you can make a difference. (n.d.) [excerpt from the end the race companion book]. Retrieved from

Is it time we banished homework? (2013, April 14). The Independent. Retrieved from

OECD. (2014). Does homework perpetuate inequities in education?  PISA in Focus, 2014/12  (46), 1-4. Retrieved from

Rønning, M. (2011). Who benefits from homework assignments? Economics of Education Review, 30(2011), 55-64.

Spencer, J.(n.d.).Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives) [web log comment]. Retrieved from

A specialized school for LBGT students in Manchester: segregation or protection?


The contemporary British educational system, notorious for its conservatism and traditional approaches, now is witnessing drastic reconsideration of the LGBT students’ schooling. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The article recently published in the Guardian  informs that in three years time Manchester will be hosting a school for 40 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (Hill, 2015). Amelia Lee, the Strategic director for LGBT Youth North West, states that “the school will have a gentle, supportive atmosphere. Its curriculum will be closely tailored to each child’s needs and incorporate academic work with youth-work techniques, such as building self-esteem and functional skills by working in the charity’s cafe or community garden.” (Hill, 2015). Then she postulates that the overarching rationale behind is protecting LGBT students from bullying, discrimination and providing equal access to education (Hill, 2015). “This is about saving lives”, dramatically claims the director (Hill, 2015).  As we can elicit from the article, the tragic case, when a 14-year-old female student in Manchester committed suicide due to the fear of being blamed by parents for non-traditional sexual orientation, made community to think of changing attitudes toward LBGT students.

Now this topic is a field of tensed debates whether the society needs this school or no. Another article in the Daily Telegraph under the title “Bullied gay children don’t need a ghetto” is more skeptical. Clements (January, 2015) asserts that the creation of schools for gay children will not prevent these children from homophobic bullying and violence. He employs an eloquent metaphor of “ghetto” (“an area of a city, especially a very poor area, where people of a particular race or religion live closely together and apart from other people; a part of society or group that is in some way divided from the main part”, Oxford Online Dictionary). So, this school in his understanding will place gay children in segregation from the mainstream schools and ordinary pupils.

Analyzing the responses of the readers to these two articles, we can distinguish several contrasting views. Some individuals believe that the LGBT students have better to be enrolled in the mainstream schools to consolidate with ordinary students. Thereby tolerance, sense of understanding, mutual respect, and acceptance of diversity will be fostered among schoolboys and schoolgirls. In this case, the academy for gay children will switch from the temple of knowledge to the place of segregation. Conversely, some readers suppose that lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgenders should not be given a privileged position and they should handle with homophobia solely. As gay children will grow older, the pressure also will augment: reprobation at workplace, at university etc.., assume the opponents. The climax of their commentaries is a proposition that compartmentalization will put the lives of the gay children at perils. The extremists, zealous homophobes and other fanatics will easily find a school and try to eradicate them, according to the commentaries left. However, these controversial discourses coincide in one point: bullying is a salient feature amongst youngsters and it yells for serious preventive measures to be taken.

Increasing diversity includes not only customary language, cultural or racial differences, but also homogeneous vs heterogeneous sexual identities. To some extent it can be horrifying, shameful or disgusting to acknowledge that innocent childhood/adolescence can be adversely affected by despair of balancing between sexual orientation and gender identity. My traditional upbringing does not allow me to treat this phenomenon neutrally; however, I strongly believe that every human being has rights to be a part of society even being not “like us”. How can we speak of equity if such children fear of attending schools? Homosexual relationships should not be encouraged or promoted but TOLERANCE should be. Who knows why some feel same-gender attraction while others engage in opposite-gender relationships? Suppose that there is no clear answer yet. If the LGBT students feel comfortable and get necessary educational and psychological assistance at specialized schools, come that may. Thus, a noble motto “education for all” will turn into “all for education” in case of the LGBT students. And it will make a difference.


Cambridge Online Dictionary. (n.d). English definition of “ghetto”. Retrieved from

Clements, P. (2015, January 16). Bullied gay children don’t need a ghetto. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved from

Hill, A. (2015, January 16). School for LGBT pupils planned for Manchester. The Guardian. Retrieved from

A Businessman and a school leader: the new concept of school leadership in the USA

Preface: aliyamustafina1‘ s post on educational leadership has inspired me to investigate this topic and find out what other concepts of the educational leadership exist. This is my first endeavor of writing on the subject different from my area of expertise…Therefore, in this blog I will set an twofold aim: to inform the readers and seek for assistance in answering the questions I have encountered.

The crisis in educational leadership ranges from defining the features of a leader to a country-specific issues. To illustrate this, the United States of America are streaked by a question whether the leaders from non-educational backgrounds are eligible to be school principals and superintendents. The Broad Academy (2003), a venture philanthropist organisation, claims that American public schools face a dilemma: despite the profusion of certified educators schools lack leaders. The mission of the Broad Academy is to train “passionate, proven leaders dedicated to transforming school systems so every student receives a world-class public education” (Broad Center, 2014).

The Broad Academy’s concept of leadership entails that goal-oriented approach from business entities and enterprises should be used. School leaders in this sense should act like CEO (Chief Executive Officer) to run a business of learning and schooling. Therefore, the Broad Academy suggests to change the requirements and to allow leaders from other fields enter the competition and govern the public educational institutions.

According to  the strategy of the Broad Academy (2003), the duties of the educational leaders involve “intervening in faltering schools, mediating between school and state, collaborating with business, civic, and municipal leaders, engaging in complex labor relations, making tough decisions about priorities, finding resources, and selecting first-rate leaders for every school in the system” (p.18). Thus, in the Broad Center’s understanding, decisiveness, business acumen, and diplomatic skills are the features of an eminent leader in education.

Having presented the vision of the leadership in the USA, I came up with the question: “To what extent can a highly-qualified experienced entrepreneur be a successful school leader”? For now I cannot formulate the answer because educational leadership is a field I am to discover yet. Perhaps, the fact that the Broad Center was established by the billionaire, who made his fortune as an entrepreneur, shaped the vision of the leadership proposed by this Center. Maybe the market-driven economy of the Western world affects the trends in education in the US…. Maybe the concept of the school leader as the CEO will not work for Kazakhstan? Who knows?


Broad Center (2014). Academy at glance. Retrieved from

Broad Foundation & Thomas B. Fordham Institute. (2003). Better leaders for America’s
schools: A manifesto. Retrieved from

1,2, 3 … and identity loss ?

When sitting on the bench in the Atrium I talked to a professor visiting a  NU GSE seminar. It has happened that this stranger also deals with second language acquisition. Being interested in my major which is Multilingual Education, the professor kept asking me what were the benefits of proficiency in several languages. I replied in a positive way trying to convey all advantages of multilingualism, however, the interlocutor was sceptic on the real reasons of this new trend in education.

Suddenly he asked me if I knew Koreans and Japanese. ” Yes , I do. They are “Asian tigers” and leaders in high-tech”- I aswered  in a confident way. “It is true but you are far from understanding the mentality of these two nations”- said the professor. After that my level of  self-esteem decreased below the level of the Dead sea.

“The Koreans and the Japanese are mostly monolingual and by doing so they preserve own cultural and linguistic heritage”-told me the professor. “But English is the language of global economy, science and diplomacy”  – I tried to argue. “No, it is only the state that forces the citizens to master equally Kazakh, Russian and English. The authorities take into consideration only the few aspects without touching phychological and mental issues. For instance, how can an individual think efficiently in three languages? Does  it mean that we should have three mini-brains in one? The language and culture are interconnected, thus, being trilingual requires being “tricultural“. How to set up the boundaries between own national roots and languages spoken?”- kept on debating the professor.

Finally, he asserted that “the majority of the youth wants to be multilingual; due to the diversity they become cosmopolitants and deliberately or no, lose own national identity and underestimate the richness of the Kazakh language”.

After the dialogue my mind was full of controversial opinions. Even at 1:25 am, after 12 hours passed, I still think of today happenstance conversation. Will English as a lingua franca impede our emerging revitalisation of Kazakh? The Kazakh Language like a phoenix raises after being neglected in the Soviet time. Thus, trying to chase English we should also support Kazakh and do not leave it behind.

I cannot say that I fully agree or disagree with  that professor’s attitudes but I believe that is a specific issue. No one can control our neurolinguistic processes taking place in a brain. But I assume that everyone should be cautious when dealing with this issue, especially in Kazakhstani multicultural settings.