Tag Archives: language policy

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.

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.