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Irsaliev S.A.

President of Information-Analytical Center JSC of the MES of the RK


In the message «Kazakhstan's way - 2050: The common goal, interests and future» the head of the government noted that OECD indicators were the basic points of our way toward 30 developed states of the planet and set the task to introduce a range of OECD principles and standards.                                                  

Kazakhstan's system of education makes significant steps toward OECD standards. In cooperation with this organization 8 studies are carried out on all levels of education in order to compare it with the best world practice and to design priorities of their development.

Focus of the first study in 2012-2013 was Kazakhstan's system of school education.

Such typical studies were conducted in Great Britain, Norway, Turkey, Brazil, Denmark, the Russian Federation, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, South Africa and others.

More than 90 indicators of Kazakhstan's school education for the last 20 years have been analyzed.   Wide field studies have been done by experts of the Ministry of Education and Science and OECD in Karaganda, South Kazakhstan and Almaty oblasts and Astana city. 250 meetings have been held with managers of regional education, administration and teaching staff of educational organizations of all levels, parents, students, international and nongovernmental organizations.

The results of studies consider significant achievements of Kazakhstan's school. All of them take place thank for initiatives and direct instructions of the Head of State.

First. Developed unique system of talented children identification and support called «Daryn». It includes organization of Kazakhstan's best students participation in the most prestigious international intellectual contests. Only for the last 15 years a number of award winners increased from 30 to 1249, i.e. 42 times. Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS) for gifted children have been established.

Second. The vertical of education quality control has been created. It enables to control independently at places and to adjust requirements for all schools regardless of the region.

Third.Developed and successfully applied as part of the NIS system of criteria-based assessment. This kind of assessment is the most objective and must be distributed in all schools of Kazakhstan. Assessment of students' achievement must correspond pre-known, clearly described criteria that enable to adjust individual learning of every student.  A degree of students' skills development such as knowledge and comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of knowledge is assessed.

In criteria-based assessment students are judged on how well they perform. A criterion has a brief description of the type of activities expected from a student in order to achieve certain results and a scheme of grading where clearly indicated a number of points for every question and explanation why it was graded in a certain way. 

Fourth. In 2012 Five year National plan on development of pupils' functional literacy  has been developed. Its implementation will promote improvement of PISA results and development of pupils' skills to apply gained knowledge in life.

Fifth. An innovative system of teachers' professional development has been created jointly with Cambridge University and Center of Excellence of NIS. Now more than 31 000 teachers have significantly increased their capacity: mastered the latest technology and methods of teaching while their salary was increased. Efficiency of this measure is a subject for reserach.

At the same time OECD experts have defined areas that require especial attention and further update.

1.A high degree of quality differntiation of school education.As a result formed a large gap between the best and lagging schools. For example, this year difference in the UNT scores between the best and worst region has been more than 30 points or 24%. And the gap between the best and worst schools was 75,6 points or 60% (from 116,9 to 41,3 points). It is unacceptable in the unitary state. Graduates of weakly efficient schools will be able to obtain further qualitative education,  provide a normal level of life and, finally,  contribute to economy of state.

A low level of quality of educational services is observed in rural SSS. There are problems concerning identification and timely adjustment of children that suffer difficulties i learning.

The world practice says that the most effective systems of education are in those countries that succeeded to achieve a minimum of gap between the best and lagging schools.  For example, in OECD countries the difference in academic achievements in Math makes up from 7% to 24%. These countries focus on early detection and support of weak students and low effective schools.  They moved from school division for strong and other students to schools with the unique equally high standards.

OECD experts ask: «If gifted children are intended to contribute to economic future and prosperity of Kazakhstan, then how many of  such talented pupils are there in the state»? In PISA study none of Kazakhstani 15-year old pupils achieved the highest sixth level of assessment. In other words none could demonstrate one's own skills to independently think, analyze and put forward one's own hypotheses.  And 0,4% of study participants have achieved the 5th level. Almost half (48%) of participants showed the lowest first level of completing elementary tasks. With these figures it is impossible to lay a foundation for a sustainable economic future of the country.

To compare, 55,4% of 15-year old Shanghai students and 40% of Korean pupils have achieved the 5th level and above in Math. Kazakhstan's indicator on this subject is 0,9%.

9,8% of Japanese students and 11,3% of Finlnish students showed the lowest level in Reading. In Kazakhstan it was scored as 57,1%.

2. Congestion of school curriculum. Experts noted that the content of education did not meet the modern requirements: a large number of subjects; removal of subjects after the 7th grade that are important for development of imagination, creativity and teamwork skills;excessive emphasis on theory but not practical application.

Unbalanced time allotted for teaching of Science and Math. Thus, in Finland a total number of study hours per week at average is 30 (in Kazakhstan it is from 33 to 36 hours).  At average across OECD countries 214 minutes are alloted for Math and 202 minutes -for Science per week (in Kazakhstan - 174 and 290 minutes correspondingly).

Curriculum of high school has a scientific orientation. It makes difficult to comprehend it by students with low academic performance. They have to spend almost all school time on lessons where they are not strong and which may provide them with limited practical benefit.

Orientation of the education content on acquisition of knowledge but not its application in life will lead to a low level of functional literacy that proves results of PISA study.

3. Too long study week and too long summer vacation.6 -day working week is not enough for rest and personal life of school children and teachers and makes learning tiring for everyone. In most OECD countries 5-day study week is practiced.

3-month summer vacation is not conditoned.  That's why experts recommend to prolong winter vacations that may significantly save public funds spent on increased heating of schools in cold time. Besides, too long summer holidays lead to the fact that children forget the material and in the first term they spend too much time on its revision. As a whole experts recommend to make an academic year more balanced and even in terms of terms and holidays.

4. Imperfect system of educational achievements assessment. There is no criteria-based assessment, which is used in most OECD countries. Five-mark grading system and in fact three-mark grading system is still used at schools. Experts pointed out that there is no "1" mark in the registers and mark "2" is seen extremely rarely. With this approach, the results of two pupils from different schools, having the same marks, are often not comparable.

The lack of testing systems, which could be characterized as "standardized", except for UNT, EALA that do not cover all learners.

UNT format requires revision. It does not allow to fully see learners' level of knowledge and skills. This is a test of "high price", on which depends the confirmation of past results as well as learner's future. Therefore, passing of this examination negatively affects the emotional background of all its participants. In addition, a one-day testing in five subjects creates a serious overload for the learners. UNT affects teachers' and learners' priorities. Teachers focus their attention on pupils with high academic performance at the expense of less successful graduates. They can not pass the test because they were not so well prepared. In relation to these graduates there is a view that they are incapable and not smart enough. This can increase social disparity even more.

It is necessary to introduce a test at the end of each school level which can play a very important role in the early detection of at-risk and potentially slow learners.

5. Low status of teaching profession. Low wages, especially at the initial stage. In 2013, educators were paid only 62% out of average salary in the country. The rates system (18 hours per week), used in remuneration system, low teachers' salaries and low normative load may become a reason that teacher will work part-time. Teachers and learners suffer from this. Teachers are forced to seek alternative sources of income or to take additional load (up to the maximum number of hours). Learners feel lack of additional and extra-curricular work on subjects.

All this allows to attract the best applicants to the teaching professions and the top contenders for teachers' position in schools.

World experience shows that in countries with the most successful education systems the teaching profession is very prestigious. For example, Finland is one of the most successful countries according to PISA study, it could raise the social status of teachers to the level of such professions as medicine and law.

6. Low level of investments in education. The GDP share allocated to education in Kazakhstan is much less than international and regional averages. In 2011, this share amounted to 3.1% of GDP, and in 2011 - 3.6%. The average share of GDP that OECD countries allocated to the institutions of public education in 2009 was much more than 5.4%. Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Korea, New Zealand and the United States allocated more than 7%.

There is an urgent need to improve school infrastructure. In the 2013-14 academic year, 2.4% of schools were alert and 1.5% of schools had lessons in 3 shifts.

Ministry of Education and Science has already begun work in these areas, including the framework of the State Program for  Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011 - 2020 years (hereinafter - SPED). SPED includes measures and indicators by means of achievement of which the above mentioned problems will be solved.

The Plan of education priority development trends for the years 2014-2016 is elaborated. The plan stipulates the transition to 12-year education, improvement of school infrastructure and the gradual elimination of three-shift and emergency schools, raising the status of teaching profession and others.

Modern requirements to the education system dictate the need to propel all the schools to the same highest level. NIS system is our reference point.

To ensure equal access to quality education by 2020 it is planned to create 16 resource centers (up to date 89 of such schools are created) and transport organization for 100% of learners.

One of the main SPED directions is the transition to 12-year education. In this regard the applied researches in scientific and methodological documentation to the 12-year learning model are conducted. SCES projects of 12-year education are revised. Part of textbooks and teaching materials, as well as criteria-based assessment system is developed. Piloting of 12-year education is carried out in 104 schools.

The issue of changing the school calendar towards an equal duration of terms and holidays, the transition to a 5-day school week still requires much discussion and decision-making.

It is planned to further develop the UNT with extensive use of computer-based testing and general abilities test.

Raising the status of teaching profession is also one of the main SPED directions. Teachers' qualification is increasing within the framework of a new generation three-level courses on the basis of Orleu and Centers of excellence at NIS. Teachers who have passed these courses get increments from 30% to 100%. During 2012-2013, three-level courses of the new generation covered 22 773 teachers.

Since 2009, the program "With diploma to the village" is being implemented. It may involve both university graduates and young professionals, who are going to work and live in the village for at least 5 years. Participants of this program get a one-time payment of the first installation grant in the amount of 70 MCI, a budgetary credit for the acquisition and construction of housing for 15 years with the interest rate of 0.01% in the amount of 1,500 MCI. Teachers working in the rural areas are getting additional payments of 25%.

State budget expenditures on education in 2012 amounted to 1,311,993 mln. KZT, that is for 311 708 mln. KZT more than in 2011. The share of expences on education in 2012 out of GDP was 4.1%. Increasing expenditures from the state budget for all levels of education is noted.

In 2012, the share of expences invested in the construction and repair of schools in Kazakhstan was higher about twice than in Korea and Australia, and three times higher than in OECD countries at average. It was 29.2% out of total expenditures on education.

The above mentioned system measures are complemented with the recommendations of OECD experts, which need to be comprehended and, if necessary, implemented.

Public support is a success of any reform. Especially in education, where all the population is directly interested in its improving. Therefore, information-analytical center of MES, which was the coordinator of joint project with the OECD in the field of education, invites all interested parties to actively participate in the discussion of issues raised.

We will be grateful to everyone who will respond and place their feedback on our website - in the guestbook.