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Higher Education

The development of higher education in Soviet Kazakhstan was a part of the general policy of the Soviet Union to promote the cultural enlightenment among the wide masses of population. Before 1917, the Kazakh territory had no institutions of higher learning. However, 50 years later, the Republic had 44 four-, five-, or six-year universities and institutes. They include Kazakh State University, Kurmangazy Kazakh State Conservatory, 19 teacher training institutes, 5 medical, and 10 politechnical institutes with total number of 415,000 students. Kazakhstan had the highest percentage of students per 1,000 people among all Central Asian republics. The higher education enjoyed the high status among the young people because it was one of the few paths to well-paid jobs, social prestige, and prosperity at the level of standards attained in the country.

In Soviet times, higher education was free. It was viewed as a professional activity requiring full time dedication on the part of students. To help students materially, the government developed a program for their support. On a monthly basis, students were provided with an allowance, the size of which depended upon their financial status and academic achievements. However, the students who flunked the final exams at the end of the semester, or came from the families with high incomes, were disqualified from receiving an allowance. The universities also awarded some money as remuneration for outstanding achievements in learning. The Union of Higher Education Workers financially supported the students from the families with low incomes. The principle of free education ensured that students did not have to buy textbooks or any instructional materials: there were enough of them in the libraries of the institutions of higher learning or in public libraries. All university facilities were available at no charge. Therefore, because of such generous support, very few students had to seek jobs for extra financial resources during their years of study.

In Soviet times, the admission to the universities was highly competitive, since the country pursued the goal of providing higher education to the few who were academically motivated or capable. Based on the results of the entry exams, universities and institutes selected about 25 percent of all the applicants. Although the USSR Constitution proclaimed equality for all in education, special preference in the admission process was given to the members of the Komsomol (Young Communist League) and to the Communist Party members who were viewed as active social participants in the life of the community.

As the country embarked on the capitalist economy in 1991, higher education continued to be a high priority among young people. The number of institutions and the number of students in them grew even bigger. The dynamics of this growth was remarkable. Despite the growth of the number of the universities and the enrollment, the number of students per 10,000 population decreased from 165 in 1970 to 157 in 1998 due to the faster growth of population during the previous 30 years.

The transformation of the country from socialist toward a capitalist free-market society compelled the society to substantially reconceptualize the notion of public education as being completely free. The size of the allowance shrank to a size that could support students only for a few days. Some institutions started charging admission fees that put the academically talented, but financially poor, in situations of inequality with regard to the rich. It increased competitiveness among the economically challenged for the fewer places available, deprived them of equal educational opportunities, and raised social stress. The fees for some instructional materials, retaking examinations, and other services became common in public universities. Some institutions had to change their public status in order to survive. For example, in 1997 four state technical higher educational institutions were transformed into private institutions.

The reform of higher education in the 1990s followed the provisions of the constitution which allowed the establishment of the private institutions. Their number skyrocketed from 0 to 106 in the years of 1990 through 1999. Educational institutions, such as universities acquired a good reputation, but they were very costly for an average citizen earning the equivalent of US$42 a month. The process of obtaining a license for opening a private institution does not always strictly follow the guidelines set by the government, and the absence of independent accrediting institutions make it difficult to verify the quality of curriculum offered.

The cardinal changes took place in the field of curriculum. They involved the reduction of the ideological burden of the past and the elimination of the mandatory study by all students in such core courses as History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Scientific Communism, and Scientific Atheism. The new market economy in the country also necessitated the introduction of new majors and the development of new courses for them, mainly in the fields of management, marketing, and investment.

In Soviet Kazakhstan every graduate was guaranteed a job upon graduation both by the KazSSR and the USSR governments. The new state experienced high levels of unemployment, 12.3 percent in 2001, and it had to abandon the former function as a job provider. Instead, it gave an order and some money to the state-owned universities to prepare a certain amount of specialists for the needs of the state structures. It also provided financial assistance to 58,600 students or 24 percent of all the total contingent, with full compensation of money after graduation.

The teaching faculty makes up 21,834 people, and among them are 1,191 Doctors of Science and 7,529 Candidates of Science. They are prepared in the educational or research institutions in the three-year aspirantura (doctoral programs). The curriculum of these programs requires more independent work under the supervision of an experienced scholar than the course work in the form of lectures and seminars. After the graduates defend a dissertation, they are granted the scholarly degree of the Candidate of Science in specific areas. Up to 10 percent of those who continue to research extensively and publish, may choose to write another dissertation for the degree of the Doctor of Science in specific areas. The difference in salaries of doctors and candidates is substantial.

The reform of higher education targeted the restructuring of the system in order to bring it closer to the one that exists in many countries of the world. In the past, most institutions of higher learning had a status of an institute with a five-year program. In the 1990s, they were converted into universities and academies with the four-year baccalaureate and one or two-year graduate master's programs.

As an independent country, Kazakhstan established new ties and cooperation with the world's institutions of higher learning. In 1998, a total of 3,598 international students from 43 countries studied in Kazakhstani universities.

Studying abroad for Kazakhstani people is sponsored by various programs organized by the state, religious, and international organizations, such as the British Council, and the American Council of Teachers of Russian. Upon independence, many countries, especially Islamic ones, advanced into the Kazakhstani educational system to promote their culture and influence by opening religious schools and establishing joint institutions; one example is Kh.A.Yassavi Kazakh-Turkish University. The Republic's universities also signed agreements on student exchanges with their partners in other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the former Soviet republics.

Starting in 1995, the Republic has been putting in practice President Nazarbaev's instruction to allocate a 10 percent quota to facilitate admission of representatives of small minorities to higher educational institutions. It resulted in a dramatic rise in their share among students, which equaled this index with the level of national minorities within the overall statistics of the Republic's population.

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceKazakhstan - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education