Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Well, Oil Be ... Kazakhs Turn to Brits for Overhaul Tips: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Well, Oil Be ... Kazakhs Turn to Brits for Overhaul Tips: News

Article excerpt

Despot president wants help to modernise education system.

Temperatures in winter can drop to -45 degrees Celsius, its dubious democracy is fledgling at best and its authoritarian leader names almost everything after himself.

Despite these drawbacks, British teachers have answered a call from Kazakhstan's president Nursultan Nazarbayev for support in overhauling the country's entire education system. Indeed, the huge central Asian nation is hoping to attract a wave of Britons to work in its schools.

British teachers are already heading to the landlocked country to work in the first seven of a new network of 20 elite government grammars, set up using wealth generated by large gas and oil reserves. Experienced teachers are being targeted to teach their subjects while mentoring Kazakh teachers and helping to develop the curriculum. About 20 British teachers started work there last September, but the figure is expected to rise to 80 a year from August.

The authorities hope that they will be lured by attractive packages including free accommodation, two free flights a year and wages of between $4,000 and $5,000 a month.

President Nazarbayev - who has named the new Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools after himself - is hoping that the British influence will help to move the education system away from old-fashioned Soviet teaching techniques and towards a modern curriculum taught in Kazakh, Russian and English.

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), the international arm of exam board OCR, was contracted last year to advise and support the government on the development of the curriculum. As part of a related teacher training project, the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Education is developing in-service training programmes for Kazakh teacher trainers, with the aim of introducing more critical thinking, interactive teaching and learning and the use of assessment.

"The Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools are creating, with our support since 2011, a trilingual education system which combines the best traditions of Kazakh and world education systems," said a CIE spokeswoman.

Pupils at the new intellectual schools will be expected to progress to Kazakhstan's new university, the imaginatively named Nazarbayev University, set up in partnership with University College London.

The news comes after British independent boarding school Haileybury raised the profile of Kazakhstan by opening its first overseas branch in the city of Almaty in 2008. …

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