Category Archives: Uncategorized

Creating an Academic Community

Image result for social constructivismSocial constructivism tells us that knowledge is created through social discourse–communication, sharing ideas, and discussion–in a community.  I want to take a minute to show you what I think that means at NUGSE.

Students at NUGSE are creating knowledge together.

NUGSE three covers

From the theses that are currently being added to the NU Repository, to the student run journal NUGSE Research in Education currently working on its fourth issue, to this blog, with 738 original posts–it is clear that we have something worth saying and that we have the means to say it well. NUWG’s most read posts:

“Kazakhstan plans switch to Latin alphabet” by @nazguln, 1,258 views
“Education-job mismatch among graduates. Thesis topic” by @sholpannur, 802 views


“The deficiency of the trilingual education reform in Kazakhstan” by @yessenova, 502 views
Image result for code switching
 “Translanguaging vs. Code-switching” by @maira1291, this month’s most visited post, with 79 new views

Students at NUGSE are collaborating in and out of the classroom.

Students work together in many ways. In the classroom, they complete group projects, solve problems in class discussions, and debate important ideas in education today. Outside the classroom, the interaction continues in course discussions on moodle and here. Just to give you some statistics: Blog alltime stats

Students at NUGSE are connected to a vast network of international scholars, educators, and students.

Blog views all
Website views, 2015-2017

It is important to realize that you are not only connected to your peers, but also to many international readers who want to learn about what is going on in Central Asian education. We have readers from all over the world; our students have been noticed in other blogs; and researchers in the US have written in asking for the contact information of our journal article authors.

An academic community requires active participants who are willing to speak up, step out of their comfort bubble, and share their work with the world. This community is clearly alive and well, and ready to continue growing.

With that in mind, welcome to the Nazarbayev University Writers Guild!

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

Deconstruction of the post with the same title: 

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

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

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

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


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


“How to learn any language in six months?” – Chris Lonsdale (deconstruction)

Linguist, a psychologist and educator Chris Lonsdale in his TED speech persuades the audience that it is possible to acquire any language in 6 months. His talk would not be as engaging and straightforward if he did not use experiences and examples from his personal life connecting with the well-known inventions in the human development.  He points out that many barriers which hinder us in learning new language are due to limits that take place in our lives as social dislocation, wars and all sorts of things going on.

The thought provoking question at the beginning of his speech was a kind of technique to catch the audience attention followed by his personal question “How to speed up the learning?” made them even get involved in the topic. In order to assure that normal adults can learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively, he employs his own experience of learning the Chinese language, which is considered to be stereotypically one of the difficult languages in the world.  So this example enabled his speech to obtain more convincing, promising and exciting tone. He also indicated how it is important to observe people who are able to do it and situation where it is working and then determine the principles and utilize them.  To support his claim he includes the examples from history of human progress, which are common and diverse. It was even impressive when he showed the drawing that he learnt in five days. That urged the audience that they also can repeat his achievement if they are focused on something and for that they do not need talent and immersion per se. The principles and actions he stated are systematically connected and concise which make them easy to be remembered.

He impressed me with his strong persuasive presentation and topic which is relevant and popular nowadays since the world is becoming multilingual. And more and more people strive to be plurilingual due to its benefits. More importantly, this video might be valuable for teachers who are willing to learn English, but were afraid to make a first step. The principles and actions suggested by Chris Lonsdale seem truly feasible and effective as they emanated from his personal experience, observation and research.



Wade Davis: Cultures at the far edge of the world (deconstruction)

Within the framework of the Ted Talks program anthropologist and journalist of National Geographic Wade Davis explains what “ethnosphere” is, tells about disappearing cultures and languages ​​and demystifies why this process is a disaster for all mankind.

According to scientists, humanity exists about 200,000 years, while the familiar industrial world was created only 300 years ago. Undoubtedly, the real progress in the history of mankind is connected with these last three centuries: significant scientific achievements, advancement of high technology and virtual reality. In this sense, it seems obvious that the Western culture is superior to all others, and the assimilation of other cultures is an undeniable fact and reality. However, according to Wade Davis our epoch will go down in the history of mankind not with its scientific and technological breakthroughs, but with the biological and cultural diversity of the planet – the ethnosphere. He states that the ethnosphere is the richness of humankind, which teaches us that it is possible to exist differently, to think differently and to orientate differently on the Earth.

To focus on the problems of the ethnosphere, Davis provided some statistics that over the past few decades the number of languages ​​in the world has decreased by half. In this regard, he defines language as the cultural heritage of every nation. In addition to this, talking about the diversity of cultures and the changes that are taking place today in the world, he offers his listeners to go on a journey through the ethnosphere – to make a short excursion into ethnography to understand how great the loss is due to the constant disappearance of ancient cultures. He provides dozens of examples that make us think that perhaps the western myth of prosperity and progress is not the greatest achievement for those who live on our planet. For instance, he claims that when the population of a large panda or Amur tiger is threatened with extinction, people begin to support all campaigns to conserve these species, since it affects population diversity and, consequently, successful evolution of the biosphere. However, despite the fact that the reduction of cultures is no less a tragedy, it does not cause us such feelings and impulses. Meanwhile, he states that the civilization is the sum of the cultures existing on Earth: kogi cultivars, voodoo rituals and European traditions are equally important. Accordingly, the extinction of cultures leads to the loss of diversity. 

Overall, the speech of Wade Davis on the importance of cultural diversity is a window to another world, the world of the etnosphere, which is, unfortunately, being neglected. Personally, I totally support his views on the significance and challenges of the ethnosphere, however, I am against on the idea of placing prioritization on the ethnosphere towards the biosphere. In my point of view, both of the issues need equal attention.

The research legacy of MA 1 in the spring semester


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This post is dedicated to all students of MA in Multilingual education program who have studied hard this semester to share their knowledge, express their thoughts and advance their language skills through the blog writing. Their blogs merit special attention.

Why are they so important?

They are scholarly but personal.

                                     They concern education and life.

                                                  They demonstrate our accomplishments and future plans.

While reading each post I could see the variety of interests and perspectives of each author. Easy calculations:  thanks to 27 students we have got 189 masterpieces about anything in the world (but mostly about education, of course). They write with passion and joy; address sensitive, controversial and ambiguous topics; add their voice and style to each work. With this post I would like to give credits to all the authors of this semester who opened my eyes to a variety of existing problems and possible solutions; who shared their stories, analyzed speeches and discourses; who searched for engaging pictures and videos; who invented ingenious titles and experimented with design; who did their best to add to the scope of knowledge of other people. Welcome to the temple of knowledge built by amazing students of MA in Multilingual education!

The diversity of topics covered is just incredible. It is impossible to mention all of the blogs in one writing but I would like to synthesize some of them to show how much we can change in the educational system in terms of curriculum, classroom environment, and teaching approach if we just start working together and transmit knowledge and experience to others.

A lot of discussions were raised about the learning environment and creating comfortable conditions for students. As sashaxxxx mentioned, emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in students’ learning that is why the issues of appropriate class size (uaxi), studying hours (bayanassylbek), and discipline maintenance (chsherbakov) should be considered. The need of school uniform (farihandro) is not always justified when it comes to sustaining the emotional well-being of students but including animals (alinatatiyeva) into the learning process is definitely an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety. It was all about the form but looking at the content of education MA students also suggested some ideas how to improve it.

The curriculum should be renewed to include the development of skills for learners’ future life and keep them mentally strong. Aigulizat and gulzhaina13 emphasized on the positive influence of arts and music on the children’s well-being and argued for the increase of the time devoted to these disciplines in school. Also, as Kazakhstan is multilingual and multicultural country, we can benefit from it using the method of tandem learning (ariyavvv) as well as showing the importance of intercultural competence (danasan13) in the modern world. This could be done by organizing special Multilingual clubs (assema001) which allow to explore other cultures not only in theory but in real communication. Arai4ona and khakimkenzhetayev addressed the reading habits of learners and gave their recommendations both on how to read effectively and use this skill in the classroom to learn through the story-telling. Even such topic as the total spread of fast food was not left without attention. Makha09 shared Japan’s experience of including food education in the school curriculum and its positive outcomes.  Some of these initiatives could be really helpful for children’s development and additional research would induce the Ministry of Education and Science to consider them.

However, it is not only the work of the Ministry to raise healthy and intelligent children. As educators (and parents) we should not restrict our children too much (asselt) because of our fears for their physical and mental health but should teach them that mistakes and failures (asselshmidt) are opportunities for further improvement. We should help them to become responsible, independent individuals who are able to plan their time, cope with deadlines (ayanairis), and choose what disciplines (maira1291) they want to study more. Also, it is necessary to develop a variety of soft skills (aidana17) for their future life such as “social skills, communication, higher-order thinking, self-control and self-concept”. Supporting children we support our future but the teachers’ problems should not be neglected in the process of change.

Many works were devoted to teaching practice and teachers training. Gulnarbakytzhanova created some steps that will help them to learn three languages as part of their preparation to the implementation of trilingual reform. The question of educators’ professionalism (lenerakezlevli), and its connection to teacher-student relationship (akalya77) especially with introverted children (sharapat812) became an important part of students’ discussions. In addition to that, yasawi859 and soothsayer presented innovative approaches of teaching with the use of modern technology such as IPADs and video essays.

In conclusion, I agree with aigerimkazhigalieva who writes about blogs as an effective way to improve language skills and express one’s thoughts. Personally, I enjoyed writing them very much. But I enjoyed reading my groupmates’ works even more. So I want to thank you all for the tremendous work you have done and ask you one question: if we consider all these points raised above, will our educational system become the best example of success in education?

P.S. My answer is that maybe it is too much, I do not know. What I know is that if young researchers choose to put their efforts into the search of the solutions for the better world, they will definitely find them.

Erlan Sagadiyev @ TEDxAlmaty on language education: A deconstruction

Erlan Sagadiyev, the current Minister of Education and Science, is a highly controversial figure in Kazakhstan’s politics.  Most of the heat around him is generated by the Kazakh nationalists who accuse him of systematic efforts to kill the Kazakh language, one of these efforts being the trilingual education policy.  Long before he became a minister, in 2013, Mr. Sagadiyev gave a TEDx talk in Almaty on language in education.  In this talk, he attempted to justify the trilingual policy, whose great challenges would befall him only three years later.  While at first sight Sagadiyev’s argument seems logical and persuasive, a closer look at his main claims reveals several flaws.  These flaws, I believe, are at the heart of the nationalists’ discontent with the policy, and the Minister’s weakness in defending it. Continue reading Erlan Sagadiyev @ TEDxAlmaty on language education: A deconstruction

Is form the new substance?

I have been thinking recently of the importance of packaging.  You go to the supermarket to buy, say, a detergent.  You look at the great variety of products in colourful boxes and, accordingly, the wide range of prices, and think: this is just a detergent, why make so many different kinds?  But on a closer inspection you find out that it is in fact one and the same product, made by the same company, almost certainly at the same factory in Turkey, with slightly varying smells, but sold under different brands, in highly distinctive packages, and for wildly diverging prices.  So what am I buying here?  The box with a brand name?  Continue reading Is form the new substance?

The perils of neoliberalism in education


  “Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of life from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world… Businessmen are the symbol of a free society – the symbol of America.”

Ayn Rand, a novelist, playwright, philosopher, and a “founding mother” of neoliberalism


Are you sure, Ayn? Is this misogynist, racist, and insatiably greedy “dude” really the symbol of freedom who will save your country from totalitarianism?

Continue reading The perils of neoliberalism in education

Elastic time: How to gain control over your free time? / Laura Vanderkam (Deconstruction)

I am not the most disciplined, organized person on the earth (despite what my personal statement may say), and if you are anything like me, chances are you are struggling to manage your time effectively. In her 12-minute-presentation, the mother of three small children and a time-management expert, Laura Vanderkam helps us look at time from a new, refreshing perspective. In this video, we see a successful way of delivering your presentation by sharing a common experience with the audience (being late), telling short stories from other people’s lives, offering strategies to deal with a situation and using simple numbers in an effective way.

Laura builds a strong rapport with the audience by talking about the case when she was ironically late for her own presentation on time-saving, being an expert on time-management herself. Further, she goes on telling a story about the woman with the broken water heater, who surprisingly found time (7 HOURS!) to deal with the problem and its aftermath, despite the fact that at the beginning of the week she claimed not to have any free time. This story has sparked connection with the audience, as it is so relatable. I think we all had an urgent situation, at least once in a life, when you were the victim of some circumstances and it completely changed the way you planned everything beforehand. Speaking of my experience, once I had to finish all of my assignments in advance to attend my sister’s wedding (of course, a way better reason to reallocate your time than a heater problem). And, believe me, if you would ask me whether I could do it in advance or in such a short period of time at the beginning of the semester, I would say no, too. So, it all leads to her next point, that time is highly elastic and most of the time, “I don’t have time really means It is not a priority”. The woman with broken water heater found time to fix the problem, because she only prioritized it in her to-do list. Thus, if we prioritize “the things that deserve to be there”, “we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got”.

Acknowledging that it is not always easy to find “time for what matters”, and even complicated for some people, Laura offers some strategies on how to balance our time commitments.  For that, the speaker suggests to write three categories each Friday afternoon – career, relationships, self- and jot down the things you want to finish by next year and ensure that you have proper investment in each category. Even though these suggestions might sound like a task, the way she delivered this piece of her talk, makes it clear that it is up to the audience to follow her advice or not.

Finally, the speaker presents numbers in an attractive way, so that it doesn’t look like a spreadsheet, but one numerical value embedded into one slide. The numbers (the time that we have to do what we want) come from solving simple math equation like “twenty-four times seven is 168 hours”. So, according to Laura, even if we work 40 hours per week, sleep eight hours per night, we still have 72 hours to spend on things that matter. However, I think this part of her speech could benefit from incorporating food-related time, as she does not consider the amount of time each person spends on eating (for some people food preparation and cooking is a big part of the day).

Overall, her friendly personality and articulate speech throughout the talk makes the presentation more engaging and impactful. I would like to end the deconstruction blog with her outstanding quote that I find to be true: “We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it”.

“Keep your goals to yourself” (deconstruction)

Lose weight. Learn English. Run every morning. Every time when we want to complete any deal, we habitually share our plans with our friends, parents and colleagues. We tell them that we want to accomplish this or that. Sometimes happily acknowledge them, that we have already started something. Then, most of the time, it happens that what we have planned to do did not turn to reality. Why should not we inform anybody about our plans in advance? And why the plans that we did not tell anybody often tend to be achieved?

In the video above an American entrepreneur Derek Sivers shared his view about keeping secret about the goals. The main argument that he proposed is when people tell anybody about their intensions, they are likely to fail.

The speaker supports his view from the psychological perspectives. Whenever the person shares about his plans with people, he states that “their congratulations and their high image of” the person, make people feel that they are already one step closer to accomplishing the plans. However, these sorts of psychological impact of the surrounding can lead to artificial self-satisfaction. As a result, the plans remain as the plans that are suppressed with the imagination of the person as though the plans “are becoming the part of the [person’s] identity”.  In the psychology, this process is called as “social reality”. Therefore, in order to make the goals and plans doable, David suggested keeping the goals only to you.

In order to make his claim more evidentially-based, he stated that this “social reality” became the interest of many researchers. He shared with the results of the research conducted in 2009 by Peter Golwitzer in which the half of the participants shared with the other people about their plans they are going to do, whether others did not tell anything. They were all given 45 minutes to accomplish their plans. When the time ends, the participants who kept their mouth shut, entire 45 minutes devoted to work and said that they need to had a long way to achieve the goal. The other half quieted the experiment in 33 minutes by stating that they have almost close to the goal achievement. Indeed, it was the case when their minds “mistakes talking for doing”. However, I deem the results of one research are insufficient to make this theory truly convincing one. More experiment results is necessary to make the theory more thought-provoking.

Personally, I strongly support this misconception of our mind when we talk about our plans. In fact, when I began to announce all my plans to everybody, these plans tend to fail. I do not know, does it have any coincidence or not with the keeping plans secret, but mostly it happens with me.

By the way, do you have the same situation as me? Do you believe that announcement of your plans and goal hinders them to come true?