The Condition of Higher Education in Kazakhstan

Higher education in Kazakhstan is comprised of higher secondary school, vocational training, and university education. Students enter higher education at 16 years of age. Depending on the course and the track chosen, they can remain in higher education for another 2 to 6 years.

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Whether general or vocational, higher secondary education is provided free of charge, as it is included in the budget allocated to education by the government. University education is partly funded by the government, although private universities charge full tuition fees.

Higher education facilities in Kazakhstan

There are approximately 150 universities and higher education institutes spread throughout the country, although the capital, Almaty, has the highest concentration of facilities and also the most varied choice of subjects. Some of the most renowned universities include:

- Kazakhstan's National University, the oldest public university in Kazakhstan

- The Kazakh-American University, based in Almaty. This university was the first in the country to provide higher education based in the American educational model. All courses are taught in English and there are degrees available in technical subjects, the humanities, and economics. The university also offers an MBA programme and year abroad options

- The Eurasian National University in Astana, which offers Bacherlors, Masters, and PhD degrees and that is known for being a pioneer of academic mobility in Kazakhstan

- The University of Central Asia, an educational joint venture between Kazakhstan,Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The use of new technologies in education in Kazakhstan

For many years, higher education in Kazakhstan mirrored the educational model of the former Soviet Union, to which it belonged for more than seventy years. This model was characterised by a high degree of specialisation and the rigidity of the curriculum.

Once Kazakhstan became an independent nation, some of the country's educational facilities began to look towards the West and tried to import some aspects of their educational model. These include the use of new technologies like the Internet, which are slowly being introduced in higher education institutions. As of 2008, 97 per cent of university students had to pay in order to access the Internet in-campus, so 1 in 2 students interviewed claimed to use the Internet only very rarely. Basic equipment like computers and printers is generally outdated, especially at public universities.

Future areas for improvement in Kazakhstan's higher education system

A 2007 report by the World Bank pointed out at Kazakhstan's high degree of specialisation as one of the country's main strengths. However, research facilities have suffered from a lack of funding for several years, so further investment in research and development is essential to improve the quality of education within the country.

Currently, the majority of university courses on offer are five-year degrees. These could be shortened and the number of contact hours be reduced in order to be more in line with international educational models. The implementation of a credit-based system similar to that used in Western countries is another area of opportunity. Similarly, part-time degrees are still a rarity in Kazakhstan. Adopting this mode of study could facilitate the inclusion of a wider student base into the higher education system.

Plans for future development of the higher education system in Kazakhstan also require the widespread adoption of the English language as a vehicle for instruction. The attraction and retention of a higher number of highly qualified lecturers and researchers from other countries could also help bring the educational standards closer to international requirements.

The last area of opportunity concerns the higher education curriculum, which could be fine-tuned in order to reflect more accurately the needs of the labour market.

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