Historical aspects of higher education in the Republic of Kazakhstan

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

Kyzykeyeva Almagul, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Oskolkova Anna, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

The system of Higher Education in Kazakhstan began to develop only in the Soviet period due to the absence of necessary amount of professorial staff, economic decline and slow rise of school education. All these factors detained the process of higher school organization up to the end of the 1920’s. Before this the experts of higher education were trained basically in Moscow, Leningrad, and Tashkent.

At the beginning of the XX century Kazakhstan education and pedagogical science began an intensive development. A new generation of enlighteners developing materialistic views of the predecessors and brining new ideas to the theory of education emerged in the society.

The Soviet Power brought a great number of economic and social reforms to Kazakhstan. The literacy campaign was approved and instead of old schools a new comprehensive school for all layers of population was introduced. Specialized professional, vocational, and high schools were founded.

The first significant period in the system of higher education was 1928-1940. In 1926 the Kazakh Department was founded at Tashkent Pedagogical Institute. In 1928 it was transferred to Alma-Ata and converted into Kazakh State University. Two years later it was renamed into Kazakh Pedagogical Institute.

In 1935 it was named after Abay Kunanbayev (now it is the Kazakh National Pedagogical Institute). Since that period some new institutes and universities were opened gradually – the Zooveterinarny Institute (Alma-Ata, 1929), the Agricultural Institute (1930), the Technical Institute (Alma-Ata, 1934), and the Kazakh State University after S. Kirov (now it is the Kazakh State University after Al-Farabi). In 1931 the first Medical Institute was founded. Pedagogical institutes were opened in Uralsk, Aktyubinsk, Petropavlovsk, and Kustanay. The system of correspondence education began to develop in 1930’s.

One more important period in the system of higher education was 1936 – 1938. The decisions regulating the order of entering high schools were adopted in 1936. In 1938 the first postgraduate program was founded at the Kazakh State University.

But in the 1930’s high schools of Kazakhstan, despite of high rates of their development, did not satisfy the needs of national economy for the specialists as many of them were at the initial stage of their development. Among the students and professorial staff the number of representatives of native population grew slowly. In 1936 there were only 8 Kazakhs among 42 teachers of the Kazakh State University. The problems of higher education were aggravated with Stalin reprisals that took away the lives of outstanding scientists and teachers [1].

The second period is 1941-1945 – the Great Patriotic War. The scientific potential of Kazakhstan grew much. First of all, it was connected with the fact that the evacuated scientists and scientific institutes stayed in the republic. During the war Candidate’s degrees and Doctor’s degree were given to 130 teachers of high schools and seven new institutes of the Kazakhstan Department of the USSR Academy of Sciences were organized. The Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages (1943), the Shymkent Institute of Construction Materials Technology (1943), the Conservatory (1944), and the Female Pedagogical Institute (1944) were founded in Alma-Ata. After the war, the Karaganda Medical Institute (1950), the Semipalatinsk Zooveterinary Institute (1951), and the Karaganda Technical Institute (1953) appeared. The research done by pedagogical staff was completed due to evacuated and subjected to repression scientists and teachers. The number of students grew from 10.4 thousand in 1941 up to 15.1 thousand in 1945.

The third period we might denote is 1946-1963. The largest event after the war was the foundation of the Kazakhstan Academy of Sciences (June 1, 1946). The members of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan were the outstanding scientists of the period. The first president was K.I. Satpaev. However, in the first post-war years in all branches of the national economy there was observed a sharp shortage of qualified personnel. In the 1950’s other 13 institutes were founded [2].

During the post-war period the most vulnerable point in the system of higher education was a lack of educational and material resources. For a long time there was a lack of educational rooms, dorms, textbooks, scholarship funds, school desks, chairs, bedside-tables, and bedding. In the educational institutions teachers and students used morally and physically out-of-date equipment, devices, mechanisms, and means of training.

The quality of the professorial staff did not meet the requirements of the time. In 1960 only 99 people, or 2.2 % of regular teachers of high school had a rank of professor or a doctor's degree. Only 921 people were senior lecturers, teachers with candidate’s degree or 20.3 % of all staff of high schools. The situation changed slowly. By the 1990’s more than half of the professorial personnel of high schools did not have academic statuses and degrees. The amount of teachers with the Doctor’s degree and the Professor’s degree did not exceed 2% of an average number of high school teachers. In six higher educational institutions there were no teachers with Doctor’s degree at all [3].

In 1959 the state committee was formed to centralize higher education management. Then it was transformed into the Ministry of Higher Education of Kazakhstan.

Khrushchev’s ideas of approximation of intellectual and physical work and the strengthening of connection between school and industry led to a radical reform of education at the end of the 50’s and the beginning of the 60’s. In 1958 the law that was duplicated in 1959 with the republican Law “About Strengthening of Connection of School and Life” was passed. According to the Law the compulsory eight-year education was brought in instead of the seven-year and ten-year education. After that the graduates were obliged to work at factories or in agriculture for three years, combining work and study or to study at polytechnic schools. Entering high schools then was caused by the industrial experience, instead of theoretical preparation of applicants [4]. In Kazakhstan the transition to the new system was completed in 1962-1963.

The reform caused ambiguous consequences. The turnover of staff in industry increased. The prestige of higher education fell; scientists and intelligence worked on physical, unproductive works to the detriment of their professional work.

In 1964-1990 some positions of the reform were reconsidered, and the compulsory ten-year education was introduced, new curricula and plans started to be developed, and in 1970 the charter of an average comprehensive school was affirmed. Three steps of education - initial (up to 3 classes), eight-year and comprehensive ones (10 years) were brought in. The graduates of the eight-year schools could continue education in the ten-year school or technical training colleges and comprehensive special educational institutions, and then had the right to get into high school.

The following years the system of higher education developed gradually. In 1975 the Alma-Ata Energetic Institute began training the specialists to meet the demands of the republican industry and municipal economy. In 1976 first students entered the Alma-Ata Institute of Railway Engineering. In the following years several other institutions were founded.

Main changes were basically observed in the number of students. In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s 27 institutions of higher education were opened, i.e. almost as many as for the previous period. The number of specialties also increased. In 1986, 550 thousand students of more than 200 specialties were trained in 55 high schools and 246 technical schools.

The scales of changes were well visible on the comparative background: in total for two years (1978-1979) the number of graduates from high schools and technical schools was equal to the number of students graduated within the 50’s.

The forth period is 1991-1994. The acceptance of the Law on languages and corresponding articles of the Constitution marked the revival of national education. Schools and university departments with the state language of instruction appeared. After 1991 the private education establishments - schools and higher education institutions appeared. The leading higher educational institutions - the Kazakh National University after Al-Farabi, the Almaty State University after Abay, the Kazakh Polytechnical Institute and others - opened new departments necessary for the professional training of experts, capable to undertake a responsible task in carrying out independent domestic and foreign policies of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The International Kazakh-Turkish University after H.A. Jassavi in Turkistan, the Institute of Culture in Uralsk, and other establishments of higher education enrolled their first students.

The international connections of the system of national education extended those years. In 1991 over 1000 Kazakhstani pupils, students and post-graduate students continued their education abroad. The structure and subjects of scientific researches of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan was harmonized with new requirements. New scientific research institutes were organized. The network of Branch Academies of Sciences got extended. Engineering and Agricultural Academies of the Republic of Kazakhstan began to work. For award of scientific degrees and assignment of academic statuses, quality assurance of dissertational works the Supreme Certifying Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan was founded.

At the same time the negative moments were also observed: the financing of science and education was cut down, and owing to economic difficulties social vulnerability of teachers amplified.

The legislative and normative legal base of higher education of the independent Republic of Kazakhstan developed at that time. The primary goals of that period were the creation of a network of higher education institutions and the updating of specialties of higher education to maintain the sufficient independence of the republic in professional training, the satisfactions of needs of market economy, areas and regions. The accepted measures found the legislative fastening in the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “About Higher Education” (1993). In 1994 the State Standard of Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan was authorized. For the first time it defined the introduction of multilevel structure of higher education in the country, academic degrees of bachelors and masters.

The fifth period is 1995 – 1998. The Kazakhstan system of higher education was modernized. The given stage was characterized by:

- The conceptual definition of the development of the system of higher education that found its reflection in the Concept of the State Policy in the field of education, authorized by the National Council on State policy at the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan on August, 4, 1995,

- The acceptance of new normative legal statuses regulating the activities of higher educational institutions.

- The first educational standards on 310 specialties of higher education were accepted (1995-1997).

- The private sector of education was actively developing.

The sixth period is 1999-2000. The principles of entering higher educational institutions changed dramatically. The transition to experts’ preparation with higher education was carried out on the basis of the state educational order. Since 1999 a new model of a student's contingent formation was introduced by giving the applicants state educational grants and state educational credits on a competitive basis.

The basic tendency of the development of higher education was the refusal of the state monopoly for education, the cancellations of the rigid centralized management in the field of education and the strict regulation of the activity of higher education institutions. As a result the private sector of higher education started to develop under the law of a competition on equal terms. The state higher educational institutions received the right to carry out the enrollment and training of students on a paid basis.

The most important point was the work on the recognition of the Kazakhstan documents abroad and similar foreign documents in the Republic of Kazakhstan. That was promoted by the signing on April 11, 1997 the ratification and the statement by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan № 202-13 RК of December 13, 1997 the Lisbon Convention on the recognition of the qualifications regarding higher education.

The Agreement on the Mutual Recognition and the Equivalence of documents on education, scientific degrees and ranks was signed on November 24, 1998 between the Governments of Belarus, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of Kazakhstan. The given agreement was deposited in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and came into force on October 1, 1998.

According to the Report signed by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Moscow State University after M. Lomonosov, the Kazakhstan Department of the Moscow State University was founded in Kazakhstan. The Russian-Kazakh Modern Humanitarian University (nowadays the Kazakh-Russian University) was founded in Karaganda.

The international connections of the system of higher education extended. Many students began to participate in study abroad programs:

- international educational exchanges;

- receiving grants of the Governments of foreign states and the international organizations;

- receiving an international grant "Bolashak";

The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan began to take part in carrying out the programs of international organizations such as UNESCO, ACTR/ACCELS, Peace Corps, Information Service of USA (USIS), SOROS Foundation, the American Council on the International Researches (IREX), the British Council in Kazakhstan, the German Service of Academic Exchanges (DААD), the National Center of School and University Programs of France (CNOUS), and the Bureau on Linguistic and Pedagogical Cooperation of the Embassy of France in Kazakhstan.

Carrying out all these tasks was possible through a strong normative legal basis; and with this purpose the new Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “About Education” was accepted in June, 1999. Education was proclaimed the priority area of the state policy which was fixed by the guarantees including legal and economic obligations of the state. The Law in the corresponding articles differentiated the competence and the responsibility of central, local representatives in the area of education within the framework of the established competence. Special attention was given to the question of perfection of higher education to improve the quality of experts’ preparation,.

The recent seventh period starts in 2001. So, in 2001 according to the International Qualifier of Education Systems a new Qualifier of Preparation Directions and Specialities of Higher Education was developed and passed. According to the new Qualifier the work on the development of the state standards of education was started. The main difference of the new state standards was in the fact that 70% of total amount of an academic load made the state component, and 30% academic hours were conducted by high schools. It raised the academic freedom and mobility of high schools and allowed taking into account the features of the demand of labor market of a certain region in the corresponding experts. The state standards of higher education are now obligatory for all higher education institutions regardless of patterns of ownership, their types and kinds.

The unified state standard on blocks of social humanitarian and natural science disciplines in the structure of educational professional programs was developed and issued. It was passed with the purpose of carrying out the uniform ideology and humanization of the system of higher education. Such unification allowed providing the academic mobility of students and adaptability to manufacture of the educational process.

The decrease in quality of experts’ preparation, especially in private high schools, the State Accreditation of high schools was introduced - the recognition (the confirmation by the state for the next term) by the status of the organization of education) [5].

In the following years the bases for transition of the system of professional training on the world standard “bachelor - master model” were incorporated. A complete three-stage model of a professional training (Bachelor – Master – Doctor), based on the credit system of training was created. High schools were given a significant academic freedom. The scientific research used in training became more active. In addition to that, academic mobility increased.

A new model of a student's contingent formation by means of carrying out complex or uniform national testing and giving state educational grants and state educational credits on a competitive basis to the most prepared youth was adopted.

Instead of traditional system of educational process organization the credit system of training which stimulated the active independent work of students was adopted. It provided with electing an individual educational trajectory, mobility, the big degree of academic freedom of students and post-graduates; promoted the recognition of documents on education in the world educational space.

The system of the independent external estimation of educational achievements took root: the unified national testing (UNT) and the intermediate state control (ISC).

The creation of conditions for accreditation preparation of professional educational programs of high schools according to the requirements of the leading foreign accreditation agencies was carried out.

The amount of higher educational institutions, the contingent of students, and the state educational order increased.

The main positive moment in Kazakhstan for the years of its development is the preservation of society unity, as the objective result of constructive cooperation of people included in different kinds of the organizations [6].

The higher education of Kazakhstan at the present stage is characterized by:

- the continuous structure of education supposing the realization of the opportunity of life-long learning,

- the modernization on the basis of national traditions and world tendencies in the sphere of education,

- the equality of access to all steps,

- the unity of its elements and requirements,

- the continuity of all steps of education.

In area of the higher school the priority directions now are:

- the improvement of the quality of higher education,

- the development of scientific researches,

- the perfection of the educational technologies,

- the formation of the system of additional higher education.


1. History of Kazakhstan from the ancient times: Essay. - Almaty, 1993

2. Kahn G.V. The history of Kazakhstan (University textbook). – Almaty: Almatykitap, 2005

3. Kuzembaiuly A., Abil Е., History of the Republic of Kazakhtan. – Almaty, 1998

4. Piskunov А.I. History of education and pedagogics. - Moscow, 2001

5. National report on education development of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Board of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

6. State program for education development in the Republic of Kazakhstan during 2005-2010.

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

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