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Preprimary & Primary Education

There were two preprimary educational types of schools in Kazakh SSR, one of which was nurseries for children from one-and-a-half years of age through three years of age, with a primary goal of providing child care for working parents. The other was kindergartens for children four to six years of age, with two purposes: to provide child care and help children develop intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially for attending a primary school. Preschool institutions were heavily subsidized by the government, or by big enterprises that built kindergartens and nursery homes for their employees. They paid up to 90 percent of all expenses for children. In cases when families had several children (in the 1950s, the Kazakhs had the highest birth-rate of all 15 Soviet republics with 7.4 children per family), the government paid 100 percent of all expenses and gave additional assistance to the family in terms of clothes, money, and summer camps, among other things. In a classless society, children were the only "privileged class," as the Soviet metaphor described the attention to the children's needs and concerns in the country.

In 1966, some 4,143 preschool institutions for 360,167 children operated in the republic. In the 1970s, the number increased to 551,800. Preprimary education in the Soviet Kazakhstan was sometimes criticized for not being able to accommodate all children of working mothers. In some regions, the kindergarten admitted up to 80 percent of preschool children. In others, especially rural areas, less than 50 percent were admitted. One example of the lack of facilities for many children was the Karaganda coal mining company. This company, one of the biggest in the USSR, constructed 85 nurseries and kindergartens for 10,000 children of its employees.

As Kazakhstan embarked on capitalist economy, the state subsidies to the preschool institution dramatically dropped, leaving them to survive on their own. The privatized companies, factories, and plants sharply cut the state's spending on preschooling. As a result, many of these institutions were closed and children had to stay at home with elderly, or with other members of the family.

The private preschool institutions that arose after 1991 are not numerous due to their high cost, and the fact they can be afforded by only wealthy people. As of the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year, the Republic numbered some 1,905 establishments of preschool education attended by 184,500 children.

Primary schools consist of grades one through four. As independent units within the system of education, they function only in remote villages with scarce populations. There were 1,766 primary schools out of total 8,400 schools. Children in rural areas are provided transportation to attend school in a nearby town or city. Since most of the population of the Kazakh Soviet Republic in the first half of the twentieth century was involved in animal husbandry, boarding schools were created across the republic. However, as the industry developed rapidly during and after the World War II, and more people moved to the urban areas, the number of the boarding schools drastically decreased. The overwhelming majority of students receive primary education at the secondary general education school. This educational institution provides mandatory education for children ages 7 to 16, which involves grades 1 through 9. It unites a primary school, a middle school, and a high school. In the 1996-1997 school year, the enrollment at primary education level was 98 percent of the relevant age group.

The primary schools provide students with rigorous instruction in Kazakh and Russian languages, literature, mathematics, the study of nature, arts, music, and physical health. Some schools offer the study of a foreign language in the second grade. Most of the subjects are taught by one teacher who stays with the students through four years of study; this allows for close bonds to be developed with students and parents. Staying in the same building with middle and high school students gives small children an opportunity to learn about expectations at the next levels of their learning. Since most parents work, primary schools, at an additional cost to parents, organize "extended day" groups, turning the other half of the day into an extension of regular lessons during which children do their home work.

The 1990s brought a huge wave of curriculum reform. An intensive process of updating the textbooks and instructional materials for primary classes was launched in accordance with the State Program "New Generation of Textbooks." In 1997, new and updated textbooks for 19 subjects for the first grade of all types of schools were published by the Ministry of Education. By 2000, the Ministry planned to publish textbooks for 24 subjects for the second grade, and for 26 subjects for the third grade, projecting to continue work on accruement of textbooks for the fourth and other grades in the next decade. Annually, about $1.5 billion tenge (Kazakhstani currency) are allotted to the publication of textbooks of a new generation.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceKazakhstan - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education