The Republic of Kazakhstan enjoys a 97 percent literacy rate, which is higher than in developing countries such as India, Peru, and Morocco. The system of education in the country consists of: preschool education, general secondary education, out-of-school training and education, family education, secondary vocational training, secondary technical education, higher education, post-higher education, and the development of professional competence and in-service training.
The mandatory general education for young people, ages 7 through 16, is provided by various institutions. Before independence, the biggest number of students attended 8,027 primary and secondary schools. In 2000, the number of schools and students slightly decreased due to the overall decrease in population. The primary school includes grades 1 through 4; the secondary stage consists of grades 5 through 9 and high school includes grades 10 and 11. It is a common practice that all three stages function under one administration and are located in the same building. Primary schools exist mainly in very remote rural areas with a low density of population.
At the end of the 1980s, an alternative type of general education institution received a revival—gymnasiums and lyceums. A small number of them functioned in the area even before 1917. The gymnasiums had a very rigorous classic curriculum that prepared students for higher education, while the lyceums emphasized math and science. However, after 1917, the Soviet government abolished both institutions and installed a unified system of school education that tried to blend both trends. The experiment lasted for several decades and proved that the unified secondary education did not meet the needs and interests of diverse student population, and for that reason it came under public criticism in the 1980s. In 2000, the system embraced 31 gymnasiums and 96 lyceums.
The network of general secondary education establishments also incorporates 244 secondary specialized schools which, in addition to the general education curriculum, offer the in-depth study of some subjects, foreign language being the most common one. In addition, there are 40 common type children's homes with a contingent of 5,006 children; 43 family type children's homes with 126 children; 22 boarding schools for orphaned children and children deprived of parental care; 48 seasonal boarding schools of common type attended by 15,647 children of migrant workers; 249 all-year round boarding schools with 8,250 children; 32 boarding schools for 4,853 mentally and physically handicapped children; and 1 boarding school for 93 children with severe behavioral problems. Along with the day-time general education schools, there are 62 night schools, 31 full-tuition by-correspondence schools, and 21 training centers for adults who received no certificate from a secondary high school.
Equal educational opportunities for boys and girls was a major goal of the Soviet Union, and remains as such in independent Kazakhstan. Historically, before 1917, education of girls was organized within families to teach girls to accept the traditional women's roles as wives, mothers, and cooks. In 1920 and 1921, only 1,900 ethnic Kazakh girls attended schools. In the years 1966 to 1976, this number rose to 424,759 and, in 1999, the number rose to more than 1 million. All schools are coeducational.
School education is offered in 21 languages. Out of the total number, 3,291 schools use Kazakh, 2,406 use Russian, 2,138 are bilingual and use both Russian and Kazakh; 77 Uzbek; 13 Uighur, 16 Tajik, Ukrainian, and German; 86 schools use other languages. As for higher education, 77,000 students are taught in Kazakh and 177,000 in Russian. Since science and engineering were started in Kazakhstan by Russian scholars. Russian language is used more in the politechnical, technological, and scientific schools of higher learning. In some majors, teaching is conducted in Uzbek, English, or German languages.
The school year starts on the first of September and lasts for 210 days, excluding weekends, holidays, and breaks. The grading system is based on a scale from one to five, with five being the highest. The lessons last for 45 minutes with a 10-minute break between them and one 20-minute snack break. There are usually four to five lessons a day in the primary schools, and five to six lessons in the high schools. Homework requiring several hours of study is common. Since admission to universities is highly competitive, many parents hire tutors for their high school children, thus turning the other half of the day, and often weekends, into a second school.
The government pursues the policy of giving assistance to parents through the Parents' Universities and the Knowledge Universities. These provide consultations, lectures, and films on educational issues.
The educational policies, facilities, and efforts created a substantial educated human capital in the twentieth century that has helped make Kazakhstan more industrialized than other former Soviet republics in Central Asia. However, educational institutions are mainly concentrated in big cities and towns, creating a cultural gap between rural and urban population.
Private Education: During the Soviet years, Kazakhstan had no private educational institutions; they all belonged to, and were run by, the government. The constitution provided guarantees to individuals, public organizations, and churches to open private educational institutions. The growth of non-state educational institutions in the 1990s was substantial. The number of non-state general education secondary schools went from zero in 1991 to 199 in 1999. The enrollment of students increased from zero in 1991 to 16,400 in 1999.
While the number of schools increased in the second half of the 1990s, the enrollment of students decreased. The private initiative was on the rise and many new entrepreneurs wanted to open schools; however, the quality of teaching in state-owned schools remained better. The public and the parents who experienced enthusiasm about private education at the beginning of the 1990s became disappointed about the low quality of instruction. The entrepreneurs were more interested in the number of students and less in the quality of teaching. The parents started withdrawing their children from private schools and sent them back to public schools. The picture was different in non-state vocational secondary schools. In 1991, there were no non-state vocational secondary schools, as compared to 99 in 1999. The enrollment of students increased from zero in 1991 to 33,000 in 1999.
As the desire of many young people to get to work earlier to make money as capitalist incentives became stronger, attendance in vocational schools became significantly higher. This is also because of the desire of some parents for their children to be financially independent in the wake of growing poverty.
The growth of non-state institutions of higher learning was on a constant rise in the country from zero in 1991 to 106 in 1999. Kazakhstan's Association of Educational Institutions was established in 1996 in order to develop nongovernmental sector of education, to improve the quality and range of services, and to democratize and ensure wholesome competition. In 2000, the Association included 71 private universities and 45 colleges. It actively participated in developing the legal base for the institutions of different levels. This was extremely important because the development of the private educational sector was accompanied by a number of serious violations. There exists a corrupt policy of double standards in licensing and certification that undermines the principle of fair competition. It leads to unreasonable suspension and withdrawal of licenses from some educational institutions and granting them to those who do not meet the requirements.
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