Category Archives: Thesis Writing

Any posts related to your successes, difficulties, and advice about thesis writing should go here.

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

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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.

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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.

 

References:

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.

My Literature review

We made a quite thoughtful description of our thesis topics last time, explaining reasons to choosing particular problems, identifying purpose, and making precise research questions.  Frankly speaking, the comments made me think a lot whether I am on the right path or not.  Certainly, I will keep revising and editing this part throughout the academic year. Another part, which is a foundation of the whole work is a literature review. The process of searching right sources of topic-related information is a very engaging and time-consuming one.  Though, I have some basic sources, I still try to find more and more valuable literature. I would like to refine the definition on inclusive education, not to deviate from it too much and make it more accurate, specific, to be exact.

I divided my thesis into three main themes: Inclusive Education, Inclusive Teachers’ Competences, and Supplementary Tutoring. Why have I chosen this trajectory? Mostly, because I have been involved in supplementary education sector for many years so far and I want to analyze the issue from this particular perspective.  In order to make reading the thesis smooth and easy –to – follow, I will start with general concepts and gradually specifying the sub-themes I will examine in the paper. For instance, “The latest demands of modernization of education system include integration of children with limited health opportunities in mass mainstream schools. …” is an introduction to the topic, while “Inclusive education is aimed at providing learners with special educational needs (SEN) and preferences with equal opportunities to access educational resources and services…” is a more specific notion. Each theme will have paragraphs, so that we could distinguish sub-themes. “The Background of Private Tutoring”, “Pros and Cons of Private Supplementary Tutoring” are examples of it.  The challenge here is to find enough relevant peer-reviewed literature to support ideas and arguments. Especially, in the Kazakhstani context. However, the topic I am analyzing is a very popular phenomenon abroad and has been started to be actively researched. So, I would like to refer to Bray & Kwo (2014) who identified in their studies that 87% of students chose supplementary tutoring before university exams in the Republic of Korea. According to Silova (2009), “of all the Central Asian countries reviewed, the scope of private tutoring was found to be highest in Kazakhstan (64.8%)” (p. 88). Therefore, we do need to conduct research on this phenomenon and identify any relationship of it with inclusive education, it is probable positive or negative impact, and see to what extent specialists are ready to practice inclusive education in their workplaces.

 

 

 

Working on the literature review section

In this post I would like to share my experience of working on the literature review section. I believe that this process is  fundamental to my research  as it defines the directions in which I will explore teachers’ perceptions and experiences of differentiated instruction.  So, I have been reading a lot on differentiated instruction since I decided to research this approach to teachers’ instructional practices. It has been a focus of attention of many scholars who investigate the problem of contemporary teaching practices to meet the needs of all individual learners. The readings that I have done so far prompted me to identify the following themes: theories and concepts around differentiated instruction, teachers’ understandings and experiences of differentiated instruction, and challenges in implementing differentiated instruction. I am still thinking if strategies that are generally expected to be employed in differentiated instruction should be included into the section about teachers’ practices or outlined as one more theme. Some sources research and discuss the strategies based on the theory of multiple intelligences and constructivist approach as an effective way to address the diversity of learning profiles, while some propose that differentiated instruction do not provide recipes to fit all. Some authors firmly believe and promote the idea that differentiated instruction is not entrenched in dogma. On the contrary, it is a thinking paradigm which endorses multiple contextual approaches to teaching. So, I continue reading in order to get more informed about the existing teaching practices and their methodological underpinnings.

As for challenges, I have not encountered any difficulties in finding relevant sources since there are many scholarly works and studies in my research area. What I found a bit challenging first is that  differentiated instruction highly resonates with many other instructional approaches such as personalization, individualization, Universal Design for learning, backward design and adaptive teaching. And now I think that this is  good  for  me because such similarities give me  more opportunities to point out its conceptual differences.

To my mind, one of the most meaningful works that I draw upon in my thesis is written by McTighe and Brown (2005) under the title “Differentiated Instruction and Educational Standards: Is Détente Possible?” The article discusses the challenges faced by teachers in their daily practices under the pressure of rigorous curriculum and assessment standards. It also considers backward planning which is based on the constructivist approach of meaning making. This planning design sends lots of implications for differentiated teaching.

Concluding, I want to say that I still have questions and in order to answer them I keep reading and simultaneously I keep integrating the new ideas and findings into my paper. I would like to wish my peers the best of success in writng their papers and meeting the deadlines!

Writing a literature review

Writing a literature review is one of the most challenging parts of a project because it is necessary to chose out all the information that exists on a given topic the one which is the most relevant to my project. After finding and reading all these sources, it is also important to present them in a coherent and logical way so that the reader would understand the background and actuality of the theme which I study, as well as why this theme is worth of studying. Organization of the main ideas plays an important role here. After reading a number of sources I decided to structure my paper in the following way. First of all, I would like to begin my literature review from defining main notions and terms which I use in it. So, I start from explaining what dyslexia is, what are its main symptoms, characteristics and causes. Then I move on to presenting the bigger picture about it, in particular, to what extent it is wide spread in the world. After that I narrow my focus to Kazakhstan. Due to the reason that it is extremely difficult to find material on dyscalculia among Kazakhstani population I provide an overview of attitudes and strategies concerning inclusive education in general in our country. I end my literature review with looking at  how others countries deal with student who suffer from it, what are the special programs for these students and what place students with dyscalculia have in inclusive education settings.
The main challenges in finding resources were about finding information in Kazakhstan. Also, there is not enough data on effectiveness of some programs, as many of them have been launched quite recently.
Now I am in the middle of the process. I found all my main sources, but I did not write much about situation in Kazakhstan and I need to revise the part about programs used in other countries because I constantly keep finding some new material.
The texts which I would like to share with you are “Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Mathematics: A practical guide” and “Dyscalculia: From Brain to Education” by Brian Butterworth, Sashank Varma and  Diana Laurillard.

The first one provides a detailed and very clear overview of dyscalculia as well as some useful strategies about how to deal with students who suffer from it. In particular, this book provides detailed guidelines on how to deal with various Math topics, for example, fractions, operations with numbers and so on. Also it constantly emphasizes importance of raising awareness about dyscalculia among the teachers. The second text provides a useful insight about the causes of dyscalculia from the neural perspective, in particular what changes happen in the brain of a child with dyscalculia. It also provides details on how special software, such as Number Race and Graphogame Maths can be used to help such students.

References:

Butterworth, Varma and Laurillard. (2011). “Dyscalculia: From Brain to Education” by Brian Scienc”, 332, 1049-1053.

Henderson, A. (2014). Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Mathematics: A practical guide. London: Routlege.

Writing Literature Review

Currently, I am at a stage when the thesis proposal is written and being revised and edited. I feel confident about this stage as I have a clear understanding of what changes I would like to make in the current draft. I would like to enrich my literature review with more background information on the development of inclusive education policy in Kazakhstan in general as well as with specific examples how this process is perceived as top-down. In this post, I would like to share how I organized my main themes in the literature review and chose a couple of influential texts to cite.

My main themes in the thesis are inclusive education, civil activism, and grassroots movement. This choice might be explained by my background in political science, which creates a certain lens through which I examine inclusive education reform. In organizing my themes, I move from general to specific. For example, I start with explaining common views on policy formation in Kazakhstan in general saying “It is a common discourse in Kazakhstan that policy-making and reform are top-down processes…” and move to inclusive education specifically later “…scholarly work on inclusive education in Kazakhstan often starts with listing international and national agendas…” This is a smooth way to guide my audience to a specific research question raised in the thesis.

I organize the literature review in paragraphs, each having one major idea explained. For example, the first paragraph is dedicated to ways how civil society contributes to education reform, and the next paragraphs give specific cases one by one. This is done to draw the attention of the reader to specific ideas, separating them into topics or categories. However, it is important to glue these ideas by transitions such as “another example is…” or “an example from the higher education is…”, displaying the connection between the elements of the literature review.

For the purpose of my research to explore civil activism in inclusive education, it is important to provide evidence on bottom-up movement as well as on the state-driven top-down policies, because these two represent different approaches to policymaking. Therefore, I start the proposal citing Kassymova, D., Knox, C. and Mashan, M. (2008) who argue in their article that Kazakhstani government prescribes policies, and the citizens only execute. This view becomes a foundation of my thesis questions, which doubt such vision of policy initiatives and aim to discover how civil society actually contributes to inclusive education reform. Therefore, another work that I cite is chosen specifically to provide an example of this bottom-up activism. This work is produced by Kauffman and Popova (2013) and reveals a case of a school in Petropavlovsk city, where inclusive education has been practiced even before such policy was designed on a state level. These two works that I have cited are important to provide two different views on policy formation around inclusive education and to justify the need to fill the gap in how much we know of civil activism and movement for inclusion.

My challenge remains to find enough resources about Kazakhstan, especially speaking of such specific topics as parental activism and advocacy for the rights of children with disabilities. There is a limited selection of articles and authors who study inclusive education in Kazakhstan, although the number is growing constantly. However, a lack of certain resources is a finding of itself, so I turn this into a benefit by establishing one more cause of my thesis motivation, which is to fill the gap in the literature.

References:

Kauffman, N. & Popova, L. (2013). A path to inclusive education in Pertopavlovsk, Kazakhstan. The Journal of Social Policy Studies, 11:4, 501-516.

Kassymova, D., Knox, C. & Mashan, M. (2008). Public Management Reforms in Kazakhstan. Public Management Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe. Slovakia: NISPAcee Press, 151-172.

Blog post 2

Writing literature review has been always challenging for me. It is time consuming as I start reading many sources according to my topic and do lots of note taking and planning. The most difficult thing in writing is staying on a track and trying to synthesize the sources instead of summarizing. However, on the other hand, literature review is the most interesting part of a research where I usually come up with new ideas and get inspiration further. So, how am I organizing my main themes of literature review?

I divided literature review into 5 sections starting with the introduction part with the significance of the topic and explanation why “my claims matter” (from They say/I say). In the next part I compared findings of more than two studies which I ideally agreed with and reflected on them. In the third part I gave the explanation to the experimental results of the studies. Further, more studies have been analyzed which were of category less or least agreement. Finally, in conclusion I tried to summarize the state knowledge and introduced the gaps in existing researches.

Finding resources was the most difficult part about my topic. There are plenty of studies which prove the importance and positive effect of music therapy with autistic children abroad. However, I have not found any sources about it in Kazakhstan. Fortunately, I have an access to some centers for children with ASD and get information from their practice. That is why I am a bit late with the overall process of writing my thesis as I am still looking for more sources and information related to Kazakhstan, particularly, Astana.

Here, I would like to emphasize on a couple of significant studies influenced my work. One of them is Kate Simpson and Deb Keen’s work “Music Interventions for Children with Autism: Narrative Review of the Literature”. Their paper I read several times and found out many useful facts about the role of music for special children. Particularly, this study contains the summary of articles aiming to prove the use of music with autistic children. Another study that I often look at is done by Barnes and Geoffrey Prescott, “Moments of Meeting: Difficulties and Developments in Shared Attention, Interaction, and Communication with Children with Autism during Two Years of Music Therapy in a Public Preschool Class”. I work with preschool children and that is why I was very interested in the action research study and want to check here in Astana the role of music as an intervention with autism and discover the same results as the authors of this research found.

From ENU to NU: My Academic Shock Experience

It is going to be an emotional post perhaps, but I definitely need to pour my heart out to someone. I have been asked several times lately “what do you feel about studying at Nazarbayev University?” and normally my answer is “I am very happy to study here”. It’s true, but who can realize what lies behind this simple answer? I will tell you, guys, that behind this answer lies a year of shock, difficulties and internal struggle. And you know why? This is because the university, where I got my bachelor’s degree, had a totally different system of education, other principles, and even different worldview. It has taken me the whole year just to adapt to a new environment and get used to the new rules and requirements of NU. No, I am not against the Eurasian National University, but all the things that I have experienced here at NU last year prove again that universities like ENU do not provide a sufficient academic knowledge and do not develop academic skills. And let me explain why I think so.

Let’s start with the scariest thing I heard here in the first day I came: PLAGIARISM. I am very happy that it is not a scary word anymore, but it was. And I was surprised that the thing that was so absolutely normal and usual in my previous university has a name and is actually forbidden. No one had ever told me that it was bad. I had to accept it and fortunately, I’ve done it well, because my content and my own unique style of writing have turned out to be more important than just copy pasting someone’s ideas and thoughts. Thank you, NU.

Another thing that had been putting a lot of pressure on me, two things to be more precise, was READING ACADEMIC ARTICLES and WRITING ESSAYS. CONSTANTLY. Stop, stop, stop, let me just take a breath. I mean, are you serious? These articles are so mind-blowing, where do you get them? No one has ever told me that such kind of literature even exists! And these essays (oh my goodness, in ENGLISH). Who in this world cares what an ordinary person like me thinks or writes? Or, why didn’t we write essays at ENU?  What? 500 words? Is it possible?

Yes, these were my thoughts a year ago. And, thank God, I don’t think that way any longer. Reading articles has become an everyday routine that gives me not only a new piece of information but introduces me to the theories, concepts and conceptual frames that I can possibly use in my future research (MY RESEARCH. I can’t believe it). As for writing essays, do you have one more? Great. I’ll write it.

And RESEARCH is another new thing that I have encountered at NU. No comments here.

Finally, APA STYLE. This is what I have been struggling a lot with because even in this blog you can see that I am more a freestyle writer than the one who writes in a perfect academic way. Following certain rules in writing and always making sure that your essay is well-organized, clearly developed, accurately cited, has references and so on and so forth, were not my thing and it had taken me months to realize the importance of APA style formatting. But now, I am actually in love with it. I can see a huge progress and development in my writing style, mostly because of Mr. Montgomery’s lessons.  Thank you, professor.

Honestly, these four points I have mentioned are just the beginning, and they definitely have been the hardest things that I’ve experienced here. But who can imagine how happy I am to study at this wonderful university and face all those difficulties? I am happy indeed because it means that I can become a real researcher, a real educator, a real professional. It means I deserve all these things. We all deserve. That’s why we are here. At Nazarbayev University. Thank you, NU.

My path in the educational research field

Everything comes with practice, but your favourite research topics will always be with you. I believe that a researcher will do his/her best when he/she is keen on the field he/she is conducting a research in. It is not about the perspective, it is about the will. I have a story to tell about my favourite research topic and favourite research author.

The interest in the field of intercultural issues started from Kostanay State Pedagogical Institute. My capstone project was connected with this topic as well. I got to know a lot of nuances with the help of my supervisor – Professor Kudritskaya. In Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education I decided to broaden the scope of my knowledge, and write a thesis that would be closely linked to my academic interests. My thesis supervisor Dr. Ajodhia-Andrews suggested me to look at the topic of Critical Multicultural Education. Once I started to read articles written by James A. Bank, who is an expert in this field, I understood that it is what I would like to research in Kazakhstan. From that time James A. Bank immediately became one of my favourite research authors.

httpfaculty.washington.edujbankslongbio.htm

Now I am, as an emerging researcher, in particular interested in educational themes related to (critical) multicultural issues. That is why one of my favourite research authors is James A. Bank, who published a substantial amount of books/articles in this field. Visiting Nazarbayev University library is, first of all, visiting the bookshelf with books representing issues in (critical) multicultural education field. The books/articles written by James A. Bank are my favourites. They disclose this theme from the very basics (introduction into this field) continuing with issues, perspectives, views of different authors, and empirical studies. (Critical) Multicultural education is not only about cultures, but, firstly, about diversity and equity of education. James A. Bank emphasizes that everyone has a right to be fully represented in educational process, no matter what ethnicity, race, and culture you are. He also suggests curriculum and teaching strategies for educational institutions. The scholar is widely honoured, and it is a great honour for me to continue the discussion in the field of (critical) multicultural education by conducting the research in Kazakhstani context.

To conclude, I would like to highlight that it is significant to have a role model for each emerging researcher. I found my favourite research author, and I am going to learn more from his works. Also, I would like to thank my supervisors and professors for putting me on the right track, because now I know my path in the research field.

 

References

Photo credit: http://faculty.washington.edu/jbanks/longbio.htm

My thesis topic

My thesis topic is ‘Teaching methods used in pedagogical universities in Kazakhstan’.

The role of a teacher in the successful implementation of inclusive education is essential, as he should possess necessary knowledge and skills to be competent to work with a great diversity of students in the class. However, a level of preparation of teachers to meet diverse learners remains low in Kazakhstan. Since I completed my bachelor’s degree in a pedagogical university in Kazakhstan, I am aware of the quality of training (pre-service) teachers in the country to a certain extent.

During my studies for bachelor’s I realized that in educational systems of many post-soviet countries, there is still ‘Soviet’ understanding of teaching and learning (Burkhalter & Shegebayev, 2010), when teachers have the sole authority in the classroom and ‘transmit knowledge from their mind to students’ mind’ (Kumaravadivelu, as cited in Mahmoodarabi & Khodabakhsh, 2015). However, learners participate passively in the learning process, that is, they just ‘receive, memorize and repeat information’ (Romanowski & Amatullah, 2016). This way of teaching and learning is perceived as banking method which makes students be oppressed because they are required to acquire knowledge rather than construct their own knowledge (Freire as cited in Romanowski & Amatullah, 2016). This tendency relates to neoliberal educational reforms in Kazakhstan, where schools put much emphasis on passing standardized tests based upon curriculum standards to ensure accountability. That narrow pedagogical approach that focuses on memorization give a priority to students with ‘good’ memories and provides a disadvantage to those students who require a more varied approach to understanding key concepts (Yakavets, 2013). But I believe that it is necessary for teachers to concentrate on student empowerment and to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, reflective and communicative that are vital for the 21st-century citizens. This approach will be more inclusive and no one child with his different abilities will be left behind.

So, the purpose of my study is to investigate the pedagogy teachers employ to educate pre-service teachers in pedagogical universities in Kazakhstan. In order to appropriately analyze the research findings, in my thesis, I will explore different theories of teaching such as constructivist, behaviourist and critical pedagogy amongst others and look at studies involving pre-service teachers from a western perspective and then from post-soviet contexts. It is important to remember that the training pre-service teachers receive determines the way they teach their students and as a result have an impact on the skills their students develop. I believe that my work will bring a number of benefits to me as a future leader in inclusive education, teachers, researchers, and policy makers to understand the existing problems around the preparation of teachers in pedagogical universities and to find appropriate solutions to them.

References:

Burkhalter, N. & Shegebayev, M. (2010). The Critical Thinking Movement in Kazakhstan: a progress report. Research in Comparative and International Education, Vol 5, № 4.

Mahmoodarabi,  & Khodabakhsh,  (2015). Critical Pedagogy: EFL Teachers’ Views, Experience and Academic Degrees. English Language Teaching; Vol. 8, No. 6.

Romanowski, M. & Amatullah, T. (2016). Applying Concepts of Critical Pedagogy to  Qatar’s Educational Reform.

Yakavets, N. (2013). Education for Economic Competitiveness: Kazakhstan moving from a post-soviet to a Neoliberal Agenda. European educational research association.