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PRIMARY LEVEL OF EDUCATION: COURSE FOR FORMING FUNCTIONAL LITERACY AMONG YOUNGER STUDENTS

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Almagul Kultumanova

Director of the National Center for

Educational Statistics and Evaluation MES

UN Development Programme in the Human Development Programme in 2013 drew world countries attention to the following thesis - "even more than years of schooling, quality of education is a key factor in expanding human capabilities". Traditionally, experts in evaluating effectiveness of state education policy implementation identify through monitoring three key factors affecting education quality.

Firstly. Education content - state standards and curricula respectively, textbooks, and methodological complexes.

Secondly. Conditions created for successful learning, as well as pedagogical corps of the country. Since quality of the system can not be higher than quality of teachers working in it.

And thirdly, learning achievements of learners. The bearer of the quality of received education is a graduate of a kindergarten, school, college, or university.

One of the most well recognized by the world teacher community international examinations of learners of 15 years old PISA of OECD determines the competitiveness of education systems through assessing professional development and competence levels of a person motivated to learn. The most developed world countries, including OECD countries, take part in this project. A share of these countries accounts for 80% of the world economy.

Strong professional «personnel reserve» of various economy and social policy sectors includes students who are already demonstrating high level of skills in solving wide range of problems. We get an answer to a very important question – how well will the students be able to extrapolate their knowledge in the future. This is a unique tool for testing the ability to reproduce obtained knowledge in future which today is the main criterion in quality education provision.

The results from participating in the project allow to get not only objective evidence, but also to realisticly assess achievements and problems of schooling. PISA 2012 results in comparison with PISA 2009 showed better levels of mathematical and science literacy among 15-year old students. Improvement in solving problems for mathematical literacy was 27 points and science competence amounted to 25 points. At the same time our students are still behind their foreign peers in core competences – in skills of interpreting and analyzing information, predicting certain processes, work with chart data and presenting reasoned answers. Yes, we are proud to say that our children can give comprehensive enough answers to  What? Where? When? questions At the same time  they have difficulties to present detailed explanations to the questions Why? How? Why?

Korea, Finland, China, Singapore and Japan 15-year old learners are demonstrating the highest sixth level of functional literacy in all three fields of research (learner's ability to interpret in detail, accurately and deeply a text as a whole, as well as each information unit, understand author's idea by comparing different points of view, express their own point of view with proper reasoning).

Every result is a cause and effect of planned objectives and tasks. One of the most important missions of international research in learners' functional literacy is thorough expert analysis of education content's "richness" - starting from conceptual objectives stated in the standards and curricula, and ending with contextual social and economic factors affecting the success of student learning in participating countries.

The pedagogical community of participating countries having the information about the level of learner achievements identifies the directions for maximum improvement of learning outcomes. At the same time the criteria of successful learning - skills in expressing ideas clearly, giving answers with supporting arguments, working in a group and team, first of all, are formed at primary school level. Junior students tend to feel responsibility and friendship, they want to know more and get detailed answers to Why? questions. This very potential of primary school acting as the foundation of further education predetermines children's ability to study successfully.

New concept model of primary education content of the State education standard, developed by Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools AEO jointly with  Altynsarin National Education Academy of MES RK, is being widely discussed among the pedagogic community of the country and will allow to thoroughly review national curricula and improve textbook and teaching material complex content. The project of a framework document of primary education expands the target tasks – "development of search, analysis, and interpretation of information skills respectively to age capabilities as basis for effective organization of individual work and team work". This, in its turn, assumes update of pedagogical methods and forms of upbringing, teaching and development.

Kazakhstani students' experience of participating in international studies convinces us once again in the need for developing criteria for "school portfolio of competences" established and approved by the teacher community. The «system of primary education goals, presented in the form of expected outcomes", which was put forward in SCSE project, is in tune with conceptual methodological theses of the leading international comparative studies on schooling quality such as PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLSS. Profound analysis of international encyclopedias of such researches indicates the need for introduction of necessary mechanisms and tools for "growing" competences already at the primary stage of secondary education.

Each mentor of younger students is interested in his students' academic success at the other education levels and their ability to turn the learnt competences into useful life skills. Introduction of criteria-based assessment "of success of learning activity of an individual student and academic performance of a class as a whole" will allow teachers to conduct in time not only correcting, but also, which is very important, preventive and predicting pedagogical measures to eliminate possible failures in the learning process. At the same time the set standards should be comparable and realistic for a student, as well as for a teacher. And, first of all, it is important to ensure that the Kazakhstani teacher would experience no difficulties here. Because professional qualification of a teacher is determined by the results of such work. The results achieved by students should be undoubtedly evaluated on the basis of the developed criteria for "particular learning discipline, grades", which correspond to, first of all, student and his parents expectations, so of the society and the state.

When environment changes beyond recognition, one can not change the system. Time is dictating new requirements to education sphere. Transformations in the global world do not let the school stay the same today. Our generation already works in 3D format – an enormous mass and new format of information processing, automation of labour and production, etc. Only education system which shapes high level of core competences can respond to inquiries of time. Other goals can not be achieved in the framework of the former education environment and traditional methods and content.

The reform of primary education is not revolutionary, but logical and evolutionary process. In general, updating the content of education for younger students will also allow to successfully position our country regarding the "quality of primary education" indicator in the Global Competitiveness Ranking of world countries annually presented by the World Economic forum. Implementation of "education for improving the quality of personal development of a learner" principle, suggested by the developers of the new concept document, will become the main step in transition from traditional school with a focus on receiving a sum of knowledge, to the education system, the graduates of which will find their place in life and make invaluable contribution to the progress of our country.