Category Archives: Inclusive Education

Order with consequences



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In the podcast Is This Working? different teachers, educators, parents talk about discipline at school and ask very simple but important questions: what is the reasonable level of discipline? Why do we need kids to unpack their bookbags silently? Is all this discipline for a child or for a teacher? And the most important one: What are the consequences of the punishment for discipline violation?

The podcast starts with the question what teachers would do if a boy does not want to take his hat off during the class. And different approaches to discipline are discussed in its three acts with different storylines. Some stories argue that keeping discipline does not prepare children for a real life because staying quiet and obedient is not always a good way to achieve something in life. Other persuade that not punishment but conversations about the offenses work better as children learn to think about their emotions, emotions of others and collaborate in the society and this is exactly what they need in future. These are all wonderful questions, suggestions, ideas to check and prove by research. What I want to share is another phenomenon that I have found in this podcast which answers the question What are the consequences of the punishment for discipline violation?



I learned about the “discipline policies that push students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates—a phenomenon known as the “school-to-prison pipeline“. Moreover, starting from early age black and Latino students are punished more harshly than their white peers and this excessive punishment makes it more likely for them to get in prison once they become adults.   There was a data from College Station at Texas A&M which documented all the suspensions in 2000-2002:

 “And they determined that African American and Hispanic students were twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white peers for their first offense. When they looked at African American boys in Texas, 83% were suspended at least once. And usually, they were suspended a lot more than once. That includes anything a school calls suspension.

And what kind of infractions were they getting suspended for? Most of the time, these were not for big things, like hitting a teacher or bringing a weapon to school. They were for things like disrespect, insubordination, willful defiance, the kind of incident that often begins when an angry kid won’t take his hat off”

What do you think about this data? This is the result of the attitude they get at school. They are punished seriously even for minor mistakes. I immediately recalled the blog written by chsherbakov that I read recently about the intrinsic bias against Black schoolers which is seen even in the language of documents framing desegregation.

What I want to say is the issue of keeping discipline in the classroom can be controversial but there is another dimension of the problem which we should take into consideration. There is an attitude which starting from the very early age creates a special mindset, special environment and changes the future of many little kids. This attitude makes them feel bad and unwelcome in the society. This attitude puts them into the conflict with the school, with their parents, with the law. This makes them look for people who would value them no matter what and, unfortunately, very often these people are not the best examples to follow.




My thesis topic “Teachers’ competencies in inclusive education at International School of Astana: concerns, challenges and recommendations”


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Choosing the topic of the thesis is not an easy task. I remember when our Vice Dean, Jason Sparks, said a joke about our theses that they would be as our second husbands, since we would fall asleep and wake up in the morning thinking about it. This is what I am feeling now and especially felt when I was choosing the thesis topic.  Being confused, I decided to consult with my colleague who had graduated master degree at NU. So, with the help of hers I decided to investigate teachers’ competencies in the sphere of inclusive education at the school I work now.

The research site has several students with special educational needs. One of them is my student who has an infantile cerebral palsy that does not allow him to write as quickly as other regular students and it usually inhibits the educational process. While collaborative planning with the teachers of his other subjects or with my co-teachers, I have realized that there is a limited knowledge about differentiating the instructions and using multiple means of representation, and more than that, some teachers feel pity towards students with the impairments and try to raise them the marks or, due to lack of knowledge, the student is remained without attention. However, one of the core values of teachers’ competence regarding inclusive education is “supporting all learners, promoting the academic and social learning of all learners” (Forlin, 2012, p.205). Concerning about the fact that teachers are probably not well prepared for inclusive education, the current paper is going to be very timely, especially for International School in Astana, as there is no particular research conducted. This study is significant for all teachers who teach students with special educational needs, as identifying problematic side, the ways of solving the problem can be identified and suggested. So, this study is going to evaluate and identify the concerns of teachers and provide possible recommendations to overtake them.

It is crucial to identify teachers’ personal assessment of their ability and practical challenges faced by them because it can affect the teachers’ performance and the progress of students with SEN in the classroom (Hammond & Ingalls, 2003; Sideridis & Chandler, 1996; Van Reusen, Shoho, & Barker, 2001). So, the raise of teachers’ awareness and preparedness in terms of inclusive pedagogy is essential in order to meet the needs of community and develop inclusive atmosphere in society, as teachers educate a new generation that build the future of Kazakhstan.


Forlin, C. (2012). Future directions for inclusive teacher education. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis group.

Hammond, H., & Ingalls, L. (2003). Teachers Attitudes toward Inclusion: Survey Results from Elementary School Teachers in Three Southwestern Rural School Districts. Rural Special Education Quarterley, 22(2), 24-30.

Sideridis, G. D., & Chandler, J. P. (1996). Comparison of attitudes of teachers of physical and musical education toward inclusion of children with disabilities. Psychological Reports, 78(3), 768-771.

Van Reusen, A. K., Shoho, A. R., & Barker, K. S. (2001). High School Teacher Attitudes toward Inclusion. The High School Journal, 84(2), 7-17.

Age and foreign language learning

The importance of optimal age in acquiring foreign languages at school is discussed widely among researchers (Lambelet & Berthele, 2015).  Children are considered to be more capable in learning languages than adults, particularly, when they learn the languages on its natural settings and it has a long-term effect. There is a period when the human brain is most sensitive to acquire input and accept a certain language which is called “critical period” (Yule, 2010) and this term is often connected with the age factor. One of the most popular examples to demonstrate critical age is the case of a 13 year old girl, Genie, who was isolated from social communication by her father ” (Yule, 2010). This case has long been interpreted that after a certain period, human being is not able to develop the language (Lambelet &  Berthele  , 2015). As a result, the theory has been criticized due its insufficient findings on emotional, physical, and cognitive factors that affect the language development. According to Lambelet and  Berthele  (2015) the critical period is only a possible factor which affects the age, but other factors related to age discrepancy in language learning should be analyzed as well. In addition, according to Singleton (2003) and other scholars, various investigations on children’s linguistic development do not provide evidence that language competence is impossible after a particular age. However, it was stated that language learning takes place comparably slower in older age, equal to that of children who acquire their mother tongue under convenient conditions (p.7).  All these findings do not seem to provide enough evidence that human linguistic capacity is impossible after a certain period.

“Critical age” is discussed as the plausible impact in children’s acquiring languages, but due to the deficiency of research findings on other factors (emotional, physical, and cognitive factors) it cannot be considered as a good argument. Moreover, data above is less likely to provide reasons why human linguistic capacity cannot function appropriately after a particular age. So these findings suggest that human linguistic capacity is not limited to earlier ages, but can be developed throughout school time.


Lambelet, A. Berthele, R. (2015). Age and foreign language learning in school. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Singleton, D. (2003). Critical period or general age. In Garcia Mayo, M. & Lecumberri, M. (eds.), Age and the Aquisition of English as a Foreign language. Clevedon; Buffalo; Toronto; Sydney; Multilingual Matters, 3-22.

Yule, G. (2010). The Study of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


The world has changed. The way we educate our children should too.


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Just ask yourself: should the education be reshaped? Even though the answer will vary from person to person, it is impossible to respond unless we ask ourselves what kind of world we are going in.

Imagine how the factory looked like in the XIX century and how it looks now. The same for the transport system or the bank. We will see massive changes. The only domain that looks the same as in the XIX century is a school. A class where the children sit in front of the teacher in rows and study the subjects according to the curriculum, which, in its essence, was also created in the XIX century. Obviously, this model is obsolete. But how should it change?

Now we observe and expect that the total number of changes in the world of the near future – technological, political, social – will be so great that we simply cannot understand what we are preparing the current first-graders. Thus, the first thing we have to say to ourselves: guys, we need to prepare a person so that he can react as much as possible to the challenges in a changing world. We are moving towards a period when people will constantly be “scared”. For instance, how should one cope with the news that his/her domain no longer exists, that it was replaced by robots? Or that there have been such political changes that his/her country does not exist anymore. In theory, considering unstable political issues in the global arena, this may happen to many of us when we will suddenly find ourselves nowhere and have to adapt to the changed conditions swiftly.

The problem of the current school is that it was created under the prevailing industrial model of the society of the XIX century. At that time, it was necessary to have a lot of workers who obey the boss, do what they are told, do not go beyond job descriptions and according to the template can perform the prescribed tasks. Preferably highly specialised. And in a world of uncertainty – this is the riskiest thing that you can think of. The school educates discipline, submission, lack of creativity, application of templates. That is directly contradictory to what we are moving to.

So, by being a part of something revolutionary in our country, how do you think how the education and schools, in particular, should be reshaped?

P.S. this blog post is dedicated to my grandfather who used to say that the more schools we have, the brighter future of the country will be. I love you, I remember you, grandpa. Hoping that one day your “dream schools” come true…

Is it possible not to overload yourself, but CREATE? Calling for MOTIVATION!


Photo credit to @uaxi

  Wake up, warm up.
  Take a mirror, ‘show up’.
  Breathe in, breathe out.
  You will have a great start!

The poems credit in this blog post to Ayana Mukuzhanova

Have you ever thought that you are overwhelmed with all your assignments and writing thesis? Do you wake up and go to sleep with the only thought: “I must do it!” ? You would better say “I want to do it!”. Now I would like to tell you one important sentence. You are not the only one, YOU CAN DO IT! Is it easy to say? Yes, it is. Is it easy to do? (Silence). By writing this post, which is far from academic writing, I would like to support all education professionals who are struggling to write their thesis and papers. I know, this time will probably hit you one day. I am not an expert to give recommendations, but I am a Master student, who could share some pieces of advice and speak from my own experience.

  Great start, heads up!
  Simply have a try out.
  You are making it up,
  And get rid of that doubt.

Firstly, try to see positive moments in your study, follow your OWN progress, and look back. Do you see the changes? This should MOTIVATE you and bring a positive wave into your studying. Do not try to compare your progress with the progress of another person. You are unique, you are different, and you are great!

  You have done, well done!
  Now let’s visit the town.
  Take some time to relax,
  You deserve to break ice.

Secondly, find your hobby. Do not tell that you do not have time for it. You have. Instead of procrastinating by doing nothing, with your hobby you will not procrastinate anymore, you will get a CREATIVE and relaxing product. For me, it is writing various poems. In this way, you will not be overloaded by studying.

  I love my thesis,
  My thesis loves me.
  Let’s create a big deal
  To support the ideal.

Thirdly, you should remember that a substantial amount of people all around the world write thesis papers, and they did this! Think of it as “It is just another paper” (Montgomery, 2017). You should understand how much you are interested in the topic of your thesis. The principle: The more…, the better. The more you are interested in it, the more you will get a joy. After you add your voice on a particular topic, you will get into this field, and become the part of it.

  Time passes by,
  Sometimes I don’t mind.
  If I had another chance,
  I would think of this twice.

Next point to share with you is time value. Do not think of the result and end of the process. Otherwise, you will miss the precious time and all the positive moments which you will never face the second time. In the case of academic writing, write everything step by step. Do not write for the sake of writing, do your best, and you will be okay.

  Never think of some feedback,
  Like it is a huge mistake.
  It is just a third hand
  That will help you till the end.

The last, but not the least piece of advice is to look at feedback that you get from your Professors as a great help, and not a punishment. At first, it was difficult for me to accept some feedback, and I got upset. Now I understand that I am in the process of getting knowledge, and I will learn my whole life. There will always be feedback, both positive and negative. The only think is to LEARN from them.

To conclude, I would like to thank my MA NUGSE id2016 group mates. You are fantastic! All of you will do their best to overcome some difficulties and take out of it only POSITIVE outcomes. I hope that this post would support you and all education professionals.

Learning languages for the sake of…?


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The episode of the podcast “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?” was dedicated to the issues of learning foreign languages in terms of psychological and economic (ROI)  pros and cons. It was clear that the creator did not try to persuade us, because he just had been asking diverse questions upon this topic from experts in psychology and economics to inform the listeners about this issue. It is a very tough question to discuss. By listening to and taking some notes of the experts’ viewpoints, voices of children, I also would like to add some ideas of my own.

The presented information by Boaz Keysar, Albert Saiz, Bryan Caplan was supported by researches. Each of them gave a particular argument supporting it by introducing to us evidence and examples. For instance, Albert Saiz conducted a study with 9000 graduates in the USA. He highlighted that there is a low financial return if graduates know the second language. The speaker states that “If you speak the second language, you get only 2% more wage premium”, it is compared to Turkey, Russia, Israel contexts, where knowing English as a foreign language gives an opportunity to get a salary from 10 to 20% more. I think that there is similar tendency in Kazakhstan as well. People who know English would get a chance to be employed to a well-paid and prestigious job. Adding to this point, the proficiency in the Kazakh language is also essential while getting a job.

Many psychological insights about bilingual people were mentioned by another interviewee. I would like to describe only one of them. Boaz Keysar suggests that learners are ready to take risks and think of dilemmas in a foreign language frequently. From my own experience, I support this point. It may be because of the mentality, but I am not adapted to take risks in the Kazakh or Russian languages. For instance, I would never be as honest and brave as while speaking English; and I cannot elaborate on the reasons for now. While listening, I have heard the voices of children talking about the benefits of learning a foreign language. It was shocking for me that many of them, in the beginning of the episode, told about the prestige. I consider it as ‘worrying moment’, because they think of only material benefits. On the other side, they mentioned the opportunity of communicating with people all around the world. Thus, I found the balance, and the ‘worrying moment’ subsided. Overall, these constructive talks gave me food for thoughts.

I got to know a lot of new information, and I would do a further research on this topic. I would definitely recommend listening to this episode to everyone, because it discloses the topic of being bilingual from diverse perspectives. Find some time to listen to the podcast, it is worth it. If you listen to this episode, what will you agree and argue with most?

How is your backbone?

After very positive posts of my peers about their literature review sections of the thesis, I had second thoughts of writing about my own as it is still a very weak one. But anyway, my thesis paper is a unique story, which has its own ups and downs and will hopefully have a happy end. So, let me tell you my story called “Teachers’ experiences in supporting students from orphanages studying in mainstream classrooms”.

If we consider a thesis paper as a human organism, we shall understand that every part of it is like an organ, which has its own functions. Their significance cannot be denied and should be accordingly valued. From this perspective I find the literature review part as a backbone. It is like a core particle that holds other parts together. If it is weak or crooked, then the whole body probably will not be strong.

The backbone of my organism for now looks very weak. First of all, it is only approximately 800 words. Quantity is not as important as quality they say. However, for literature review at this point I find it too little. Secondly, my main challenge is to find relevant data. There is a lot of information about institutionalized children, orphans, and their challenges at these institutions, however it is hard to find information on their inclusion process into mainstream schools. It looks as if this practice is very rare worldwide or there has not been so much research on it. In addition, investigations of the impact of institutional care do not usually include the education process. Mostly psychological and health aspects are mentioned. Of course there is a connection, but I am still on the way to make this connection in relevance to my topic.

For now I have divided my literature review section into 2 parts: the impact of institutional care and condition of orphans in Kazakhstan. In both parts I use general to specific method of writing. For example, in the first part I start saying that there have been a lot of research into this topic. Next, I explain aspects that were considered in these investigations, such as age and conditions of institutions. And then I gradually move to revealing the outcomes of those researches, explaining specific impacts of institutional care that were found out. I tell about these impacts one by one dividing them into separate paragraphs.

Throughout my thesis paper I have often mentioned two sources: ”The risk of harm to young children in institutional care” by Browne K. and “Community based care for separated children” by Tolfree D. Both papers contain results of thorough researches on the effects studying and living in an institution can have on children’s state of health and mind. Also both authors are members of the world’s independent children rights’ organization “Save the Children”. This Alliance brings together organizations and individuals concerned about children without adequate parental care. Its mission is to facilitate active information exchange and collaboration on these issues and advocate for technically sound policy and programmatic action on global, regional, and national levels. Sounds very convincing.

Overall, I find writing literature review part very difficult in terms of finding relevant resources and having time for reading, summarizing and writing it. But I hope to eventually “have it right”!

Organization of a literature review section

To date, I have almost finished writing a literature review part of my thesis proposal, but, of course, it may need revising and editing. After reading a number of materials, in my thesis work, I have made a lot of changes with respect to which direction I should go in, and what I need to concentrate while writing the literature review. In my previous blog post, I wrote that teacher-centred learning, which makes students be oppressed, was/is practised in education systems of post-Soviet countries. However, having read various articles on teaching, I came to a conclusion that this style of teaching dominates in other countries as well, such as Turkey, Indonesia, and Qatar. Therefore, it can be wrong to state that such a way of teaching and learning exists only in post-Soviet contexts. Instead, I wrote that ‘teacher-centered learning’ continues to be used in many parts of the world.

Now, I would like to demonstrate how I organized my major themes in the literature review part, and some influential phrases or texts used to cite. My major theme relates to the training pre-service teachers receive in pedagogical universities. In order to smoothly go to that specific topic, I decided to begin my literature review with providing some general data on teaching quality as ‘one of the important school variables influencing student achievement’ (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as cited in Silova, 2009). That is, I write about the necessity of using appropriate teaching methods/pedagogies which develop learners’ skills/talents, empower them for social change, and create an inclusive environment in classrooms/schools in order for every learner to feel accepted.

In the following paragraphs, I gradually turn to discussing on teaching methods utilized to train pre-service teachers in pedagogical universities in both western and post-soviet contexts. For that purpose, for example, I cite the studies of Iveta Silova (2009, 2010) who clearly illustrates the current state of teacher preparation processes in post-Soviet countries. Afterwards, I proceed with discussing specifically three theories of teaching and learning such as behaviourism, constructivist and critical pedagogical approach. To do this, I use research works of Kasey R. Larson (critical pedagogy), Kablan and Kaya (constructivist teaching) amongst others. I believe that these materials will assist me to better understand and analyze what teaching methods teachers at pedagogical universities of the country employ to teach pre-service teachers, and what pedagogies they teach pre-service teachers.

One of the challenges in my research project is a shortage of relevant and reliable data on teacher training in pedagogical universities in Kazakhstan. The country needs to pay much more attention to developing research studies as these may contribute to the improvement of an education system. I hope my research study will be a useful resource for other researchers.

P.S. Dear colleagues, if you have any suggestions/recommendations regarding the organization of my literature review, please, let me know.  Your opinion is important to me, as I am still working on it.



Silova, I. (2009). The crisis of the post-soviet teaching profession in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Research in Comparative and International Education, 4, 4.

Silova, I., Moyer, A., Webster, C. & McAllister, S. (2010). Re-conceptualizing professional development of teacher educators in post-Soviet Latvia. Professional development in education, 36:1-2, 357-371, doi: 10.1080/19412550903457596

Kablan, Z. & Kaya, S. (2014). Preservice teachers’ constructivist teaching scores based on their learning styles. Australian Journal of teachers education, 39, 12.

For every researcher, help

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-20 at 18.19.48

The week 18-22 of September I was lucky to take part in the first in Europe and Central Asia cognitive testing of the module on inclusive education developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Washington Group. Students of Nazarbayev University completed training on conducting interviews and tested the module on functional features of development and disability of children. Apart from gaining a huge experience in interviewing people and summarizing the results, we discovered a lot about UNICEF’s activities and programs in Kazakhstan. I want to share some knowledge and sources that will probably be useful for other young researchers.

UNICEF works across 190 countries protecting the rights of children, providing them with opportunities to study, and improving standards of living. The activities vary from country to country depending on the context of the country and living conditions. UNICEF supports children who fall a victim to violence, natural disasters, migrant crises or terroristic acts. In Kazakhstan, UNICEF is mostly involved in actions for the protection of children’s rights and research about children’s wellbeing.


The is a good source of publications and research studies on children’s living and studying conditions in Kazakhstan. One of the latest publications is “The statistical yearbook “Children of Kazakhstan” (available in 3 languages) which was published in June 2017 on a joint initiative of the Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Representative Office of UNICEF in Kazakhstan. This yearbook contains all the statistical data about children in the Republic of Kazakhstan and includes such sections as Demographic Characteristics, Health and Healthy Lifestyle, Education, Leisure for Children, Social Protection of Children, Employment of Youth. Many others publications present reports on UNICEF activities in Kazakhstan and data analysis across different regions of the country.

Also, you can watch a series of simple and entertaining videos with the results of UNICEF’s studies (ex. Results of the study “Violence against children in the family” Results of the MICS – Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Kazakhstan).

I hope these resources will be useful for those who write about children’s education and their position in the society of Kazakhstan.

P.S. Do not forget to evaluate critically all the information you use in your research!

How I work on Literature review part

Literature review is a very important part of any research as it establishes the context of any research, connects it to the existing knowledge, and therefore shows the depth of a research paper. In this post, I would like to talk about my personal process of working on literature review part.

Let me start with reminding the topic of my thesis project which is “Examining inclusive education policies and infrastructure in schools of Astana”. The scope of my study will include mainstream schools as well as inclusive schools where I will investigate inclusive education policies, their nature, content and common patterns. Another goal of my research project would be to reveal how well schools in Astana are equipped to maintain inclusive education.

Overall, I feel confident about the content of my literature review, that is to say, what subtopics to include and how to organize them. Now, the draft of my literature review is on the stage of general editing process where I work on connecting ideas and sentences to make them more cohesive, and on improving an overall structure of the draft.

Following the targets of my research work, I considered to divide the literature review part into two major sections. First section touches upon the issues of inclusive policies, specifically, I talk about the importance of inclusive policies, how policy relates to practice and creating inclusive schools, and research done about inclusive school policies in other parts of the world. Second section is more brief, and includes the role of infrastructure and how effective inclusive schools look like in terms of physical resources.

The process of finding relevant resources might seem the most challenging when writing literature review. At least for me, it was difficult to find exactly what I needed when I finally reached the point when I was confident I would never find anything. However, it appeared to be so only in the beginning, and as the process went on, I could not stop from saving one more “useful” article. So, how did I manage to do that? Firstly, I changed usual searching systems to our library’s electronic resources. Secondly, I always start from broader topics. Considering my topic, I might start from searching just an “inclusive policy” or “inclusive infrastructure”. Thirdly, I narrowed my key words eliminating articles and prepositions. For example, instead of searching “the importance of inclusive school policies” it is better just to write “inclusive policies importance”. Finally, I tried to use various combinations of word phrases meaning the same thing. Sometimes new relevant articles appeared when I searched “role inclusive policy” instead of “importance inclusive policy” or “inclusion school building” instead of “inclusive school infrastructure”.

Next step after I had enough materials was to read, summarize, analyze, evaluate and synthesize all the sources to come to certain conclusions and make your own suggestions. Here, I usually create a simple table where I briefly write all the information about each article: name, author/s, date, aim of research paper, methodology, results in bullet points. This kind of summary of each article in a table is more convenient for me to structure my ideas, to analyze, look through the information and compare between sources rather than making a summary as a text.

To conclude, I would like to share few examples of research works which highly influenced my own research project. This is the work of Garrick Duhaney where he makes a deep analysis of the content of inclusive policies of 50 state educational agencies in the USA. Apart from this, the paper talks about a policy itself as a tool in changing a system, its importance and drawbacks. I also appreciate the work of Mcallister and Hadjri who highlighted the role of a school infrastructure when placing children with special educational needs into mainstream settings. I also liked that the authors indicated four-stage approach for an adequate evaluation of an environment for better inclusion.


Garrick Duhaney, L. M. (1999). A content analysis of state education agencies’ policies/position statements on inclusion. Remedial and Special Education20(6), 367-378.

McAllister, K., & Hadjri, K. (2013). Inclusion and the special educational needs (SEN) resource base in mainstream schools: physical factors to maximise effectiveness. Support for Learning28(2), 57-65.