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Kazakhstan Education

the dream of better education

By Mihaylo Milovanovitch
Rapporteur and Team Leader for the OECD Review of Secondary Education in Kazakhstan

Everybody dreams of good things sometimes, of things one wants to do, be, or have. Countries can dream too: of economic prosperity, of peace, of a visa-free travel regime or of a quick way out of a recession…

Kazakhstan dreams of better education. The State Programme for Education Development 2011-2020 notes that by 2020 the country will be highly educated, with a smart economy and highly qualified labour force. The young state has many other dreams, but they all depend on this one dream coming true.

The leadership of the country seems determined and its vision for the future of national education is more than just a wish. It is a comprehensive strategy for a full overhaul of the education sector and its transformation into a carrier of hope for economic, political and socio-cultural prosperity. The price tag of this commendable undertaking is commensurately high. Between 2005 and 2012 spending on education has increased six-fold, by some USD 3.2 billion (PPP).

The Government of Kazakhstan invited the OECD to document to what level the authorities are “walking the talk” with respect to their ambitious plans and assess whether education reforms are on the right track. The first of several OECD education policy reviews undertaken in response was released this January. The review takes a close look at the strengths and weaknesses of secondary education bearing in mind the profound changes ahead and discusses equity, assessment and quality of learning outcomes, policies for teachers and principals, education financing, and vocational education and training.

If education reforms were a train, operating it would require an engine to push (or pull) the carriages, tracks that point in the right direction, patience in the steep sections where the train slows down, firmness where it speeds up too much and, yes, high initial investment.

The OECD review took more than 12 months of careful work and a fruitful, in-depth dialogue with the country. It concludes that Kazakhstan is achieving remarkable progress in putting together a new, state-of-the-art reform “engine” and setting it on the right reform “track”. The evidence suggests, however, that the engine is much faster and stronger than the (outdated) “carriages” it is meant to pull.

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