Transformations of higher education in the Republic of Kazakhstan

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011

Author: Sarsembayeva Gulnar, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

Education is a purposeful process of upbringing for the interests of an individual, society and state. It consists of students participating at all educational levels. Under current market economy the level of secondary and special education is determined by the demands of production, science engineering and social relations.

Any society in any country is rarely satisfied with its system of education. Even in the Soviet period there were a lot of talks about the crisis in education. At the same time nowadays the topic of the crisis is relevant in Kazakhstani society. Today we try to adopt the system of foreign education. The transition from the controlled economy to the market economy resulted in changing priorities in education. Are there new satisfactory models of secondary and higher education suitable for Kazakhstan? What can we adopt from the western economy to reform our educational system? What kind of training is reasonable to be applied to our higher educational institutions? How should the society raise the brainpower of Kazakhstan? What is the role of universities in that process?

Is it possible to answer these questions and find a model of an ideal school? Initially, we should try to find out if there is the ideal of education and what is the model of an educated person? The world is not integrated anymore; therefore, there hardly exists a single approach. But we do not divide countries in ‘more developed’ or ‘less developed’. We single out the countries to imitate and, as a result we can outline a certain model of an educated person of the modern developed society.

If we really want to become a part of the civilization we call ‘the developed world’ (by that we mean modern Western Europe and North America), we have to think it over how to make our society similar to the western one. The entrance of Kazakhstan to the Bologna process gives real advantages for Kazakhstani higher educational institutions and students. They are the following: bringing of educational programs and syllabi into accordance with the European standards; recognition of the country’s qualifications and academic degrees; ensuring academic mobility of teachers and students; recognition of the educational credits of Kazakhstani students at foreign universities; implementing two-diploma education program; recognition of Kazakhstani diplomas in European Union; the right of graduates being employed in any country-participant of the Bologna process.

Kazakhstan has taken a considerable step forward adopting a three-stage model of higher education: Bachelor – Master – Ph.D. Despite of that, we have not been able to manage reaching full similarity with the western educational system.

Let us consider the educational system of several Western European countries and American educational system.

One of the specifics of the US educational system is the absence of government-controlled system of education as each state has the right to determine its structure independently. Academic degrees awarded after the completion of full course are Bachelors, Masters and PhD. The list of degrees is not regulated by US legislation. Colleges and universities independently determine the list of the qualifications and the requirements for those qualifications. Accrediting associations influence degrees’ titles, as well as labor market and academic society. As a rule, American universities are presented in a form of campuses with academic offices, laboratories, libraries, dormitories, teachers’ housing, coffee shops and dining halls, sports and cultural facilities.

Associate degree includes 2 years of training in the community colleges after graduating from secondary school.

Bachelor’s degree requires 4 years of instruction at universities after graduating from secondary school. A university graduate is to pass an assigned number of credits and to pass all exams.

Master’s degree includes 1 or 2 years of instruction in the corresponding major (Music, Business Administration, Technology, Pedagogy, etc.) at universities after receiving Bachelor’s degree. A Master student has to write a final thesis and defend it. Thus, the student demonstrates his/her ability to gather, analyze and summarize the material. This often requires knowledge of foreign languages.

Doctoral degree (PhD) requires 5-7 years of research after graduating from Bachelor’s school and often implies having a Master’s degree.

The level of education for different degrees is also different. For instance, for getting a degree in nursing, accounting, engineering and architecting it is enough to have Bachelor’s degree. But being a doctor, a dentist or a lawyer requires Master’s degree or PhD.

An academic year consists of 2 or 3 semesters and lasts for about 9 months (from September till May or June). The basis of instruction is lectures being read to large groups of students (sometimes up to a thousand students). Each student has his/her own syllabus renewed with the help of an adviser two times a year. Students are able to choose their academic courses themselves. Students do not take notes of the lectures as instructors give them printed copies. At the end of each semester students take exams. The expulsion of students takes place very seldom as students are allowed to retake exams several times.

The specific features of educational system in England are strict discipline, classical ways of teaching, well-organized educational process and all-round program of students’ preparation for business and social life.

In England and Wales receiving Bachelor’s degree requires 4 years of instruction, in Scotland it takes 4 years. In case of receiving Bachelor's degree, it is required to take Sandwich courses. As a result, the total term increases correspondingly. Some universities suggest a degree in specific areas such as Arts and Design, but this requires taking a basic course before 3 years of instruction on the major.

An academic course finishing with awarding Bachelor’s degree in such degrees as Medicine, Dentistry and Architecture takes up to 7 years of instruction.

There are several kinds of Bachelor’s Degree in Great Britain. Their names depend on major. There are four main degrees: ВA (Bachelor of Arts), BSC (Bachelor of Science), BENG (Bachelor of Engineering), and LLB (Bachelor of Law). There is also Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Dentistry. Bachelor’s degree is awarded after 3 or 4 years of instruction at a full-time department. British Bachelor’s degree is recognized all over the world providing graduates with opportunities for a successful carrier in any country. Bachelor’s Degree is the first level of higher education in Great Britain. The next level is Master’s Degree.

Postgraduate Courses begin after Bachelor’s degree and suggest Master’s Degree and Ph.D.

There are two types of Master’s programs: research programs and advanced training programs. As a rule, Master program consists of lecture courses, seminars, exams and a diploma project. After passing the exams and defending the project students are awarded with Master’s degree. Research Master’s degree is called М.Phil (Master of Philosophy). The given degree is received after 1 or 2 years of independent research work under the guidance of a supervisor.

In Great Britain a majority of Doctoral or PhD programs are mostly research ones. There are neither lectures nor seminars. A scientific adviser provides a student with the topic of the research and all necessary requirements (place, equipment and materials necessary for the research). The completion of research program requires 2 or 3 years. By the end of the program a student has to demonstrate and publish the results of his/her research in official summaries, scientific or specialized journals and to write Doctor’s thesis. Doctor’s degree is awarded after successful defense of the thesis.

Higher education in France is available only after receiving a Bachelor’s degree. Most of higher educational institutions (universities and high schools) in France are under the authority of Ministry of Education. High schools are more prestigious and it is more difficult to get in them. It is possible only after 2-3 years of study at preliminary courses.

Higher education in France is divided into 3 cycles. The first cycle implies 2 years of instruction (students study fundamental courses and several optional subjects on majors). After the completion of the first cycle students are given the diploma of general higher education, DEUG - Diplome d’etudes universitaires generals. The second cycle also suggests 2 years of instruction (students receive special education). After the completion of the first year students take Licentiate exam. After the completion of the second year students defend their diploma project and receive Master’s degree. The third cycle of higher education includes 1 year of instruction, after which students receive the diploma of higher special education, DESS - Diplome d’etudes superieures spesialisees (it gives the right to practice the profession) or the diploma of higher advanced education, DEA - Diplome d’etudes approfondies (it gives the right to take a post-graduate course).

The modern system of higher education in Germany considerably differs from the system of higher education in Kazakhstan. The principle of academic freedom is proclaimed in Germany. According to it, all higher educational institutions and all students are provided with freedom regarding management and study, respectively. There is no a strict compulsory system of education. Much depends on students' independence, responsibility, and self-discipline. A German student does not attend classes together with the course-mates, but according to the major and the program chosen makes up his/her own syllabus and organizes his/her study to meet rather high requirements of the major.

The system of higher education of the Federative Republic of Germany includes different types of educational institutions that are able to meet the needs of all students.

‘Hochschule’ is a humanitarian institution. ‘Fachhochschule’ is a university of applied sciences or a high special school. The peculiarity of ‘Fachhochschule’ is a close link between theory and practice. All ‘Fachhochschule’ programs include two compulsory practical semesters. Besides, each apprenticeship is shorter (usually 8 semesters). ‘Fachhochschule’ trains high-skilled specialists for such areas as Engineering, Business Administration, Design, and Social Sciences. After the completion of the course students get the Diploma. Thus, ‘Fachhochschule’ attracts students with a shorter track to their further career. Statistics data shows that a quarter of all students get into ‘Fachhochschule’ university.

‘Universitaet’ is larger than ‘Hochschule’ or ‘Fachhochschule’. The number of departments and courses is large too. It is up to 400. Students do their scientific work, fundamental and applied researches. ‘Universitaet’ trains the specialists in Medicine, Natural Sciences, Technical Sciences, Humanitarian Sciences, Jurisprudence, Theology, Economics, Sociology and Agrarian Sciences. A wide range of department courses provides students with inter-disciplinary education. ‘Universitaet’ provides students with the following degrees: Diplom, Magister, Doktor. The academic title of an associate professor or professor is ‘Habilitationrecht’. Furthermore, he is awarded with a certificate giving the right to lecture at a university level.

‘Technische Universitaet’ is a technical university. Students research different scientific areas of science such as Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics, Electrical Engineering, Material Science, etc. Academic degrees are similar to those of ‘Universitaet’.

There are also a number of specialized higher educational institutions such as pedagogical schools, theological schools, art schools, music schools, cinematography schools, etc. The apprenticeship depends on the type of the educational institution and the degree it provides with.

According to the framework ‘Law on Higher School’, the standard apprenticeship (‘Regelstudienzeit’) i.e. the period when a student can take a full academic course and take the first final exam for qualification which includes 9 semesters. Another standard can be used only in special cases. For instance, to get Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor or Bakkalaureusgrad) the standard apprenticeship includes 3 or 4 years. After that a student can take the second final exam for Master’s degree (Master or Magistergrad). In this case the standard apprenticeship includes from 1 to 4 years. The standard apprenticeship for ‘Fachhochschule’ with getting the diploma (Diplom FH) includes 4 years. In order to prepare for Doctor’s thesis defense, a student has to study additionally 2 or 5 years more. Due to the fact that study at university is connected with research work, a lot of students increase the standard apprenticeship.

Nowadays the system of Kazakhstan education faces a number of difficulties. It is not only the system of education that needs to be changed. At the same time, students should change their attitude towards academic freedom. The understanding of independent study should be imparted since childhood.

It is impossible to change the education system in a short period of time as there are gaps between the levels of secondary and higher education. There are also gaps between the levels of higher education and the system of science which now has to retrain specialists and increase their professional level.

Speaking of education crisis it is helpful to understand the necessity of drastic changes of the forms, methods and content of education. It is necessary to form the diversity of educational systems including teaching Philosophy and Scientific Manpower Training.


1. Novosselova L.A. Autonomous institutions./ Corporations and enterprises: Collected articles/ Managing editor M.A. Rozhkova – M. Statut 2007. – p.168-196

2. Higher education reformations in Kazakhstan and Bologna process: information materials for practice, Almaty 2009, p. 120

3. Education in the end of XX century (workshop materials)


Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011

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