Education in Kazakhstan is increasingly a top priority. Over the past decade the amount of education funding has risen almost 10 fold. In 2011, spending was increased by 25.4%. The Ministry of Finance plans to allocate $7.75 billion to education in 2012-2014, with $2.5 billion of the amount to be spent in 2012. According to the UNDP Sustainable Development and Equity: A Better Future for All report, in 2011 Kazakhstan ranked 68th out of 187 among the countries with a high level of human development potential. Behind Belarus and Russia, 65th and 66th respectively, Kazakhstan holds the third place in the CIS and top place in Central Asia.
The Education Development Program for 2011-2020 was approved by President Nazarbayev in December 2010 and is now under implementation. The program, developed by the Ministry of Education and Science, seeks to expand opportunities to receive quality education that meets international standards for sustainable economic growth. Some of the program’s objectives include improving the financing of the education sector, transitioning to a 12-year education system, and attaining full coverage in pre-school training for the 3-6 year age range. The program also aims to expand e-education to 50% of educational institutions by 2015, and to 90% by 2020. During the Kaznex Invest roadshow in the US in April 2012, Apple also accepted Kazakhstan’s request to use its tablets in mid-educational institutions.
A HEAD START
Launched in 2009, Balapan, Kazakhstan’s nationwide pre-school education provision program, increased the country’s network of early childhood education institutions by 77.2%. According to Ministry of Education and Science data, more than 8,000 pre-school organizations are functioning in Kazakhstan, were attended by about 600,000 children, which marks a 32% increase from when the program first started. UNICEF reports that the coverage rate for the 3-6 and 1-6 age groups are 65.4% and 47.5%, respectively—the highest rate in Central Asia.
There is room for private actors in Kazakhstan’s pre-education system, as the country is working to align the quality of its education system with those of developed nations. Public-contracts concluded under the Balapan program fund a network of private kindergartens, which has already been expanded by 43.8%. According to the Ministry of Education, the number of private kindergartens funded by the national budget will reach 499 in 2012.
Furthermore, under the Balapan program, the construction of pre-schools rose almost three fold. “We have completed the design of a sports complex and two kindergarten schools,” Dastan Urakov, President of MAG, told TBY in an interview. The construction boom in the education system is not limited to pre-schools. The ministry also has plans to build 522 schools across the country within five years.
MAINTAINING HIGH QUALITY
Kazakhstan has in total close to 17,000 educational organizations, each of which must renew their certification every five years. This corresponds to the re-certification of about 3,300 organizations annually. As of April 2012, the Committee for the Control of Education and Science, established under the Ministry of Education, will singlehandedly conduct the certification of universities and schools. This establishment of the Committee marks the creation of a vertically integrated effective system, which will monitor the quality of education delivered in the country.
Another mechanism, which has been in effect to evaluate the quality of education in Kazakhstan, is Unified National Testing (UNT). UNT is an independent state system to assess educational quality by evaluating the skills of senior students in secondary education. The test focuses on general skills in mathematics, the history of Kazakhstan, the Kazakh language, and an elective subject chosen from among natural sciences, geography, literature, international history, and foreign languages. High-school graduates later apply to universities with their UNT score. From its inception in 2004 to 2011, the average score rose from 52.3 to 86.8, a clear indicator of an overall upward trend in the country’s secondary education sector.
Kazakhstan’s efforts to enhance its human capital base are not limited to domestic reforms. Since 1993, the presidential Bolashak scholarship program has sent Kazakhstani students abroad to study in leading universities. In the 2010-2011 academic year, 1,854 scholarship recipients completed their studies abroad, adding to a network of more than 4,000 Bolashak alumni. In 2012, the program opened its doors to professionals. According to the 2011-2015 strategic program, any educational, industrial, or medical institution will have the opportunity to send their employees abroad as a part of the program. Teachers can attend educational institutions, while doctors and workers are eligible to attend world-class hospitals and industrial complexes, respectively. Specialists also need to pass a six-month language training course prior to enrolling in the program. While employers will decide whom to recommend as a scholarship applicant, the Center for International Programs, the state-owned company running the program, will select the recipients after rigorous testing. Scholarship recipients will be required to serve their employers for five years post graduation.
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