Soviet Kazakhstan arrived at its independence day with a widely developed system of preschool, primary, and secondary education that put the republic among the ranks of developed nations of the world. The citizens of the republic enjoyed free and universal education. The higher education institutions provided the country's economy with highly qualified specialists. The nonformal educational institutions provided additional opportunities for well-rounded development. The KazSSR Academy of Sciences enjoyed a high reputation in international scholarly circles. Since 1991, Kazakhstan has experienced a decade-long transition from being a part of the USSR to an independent state, from socialist planned economy to a free-market one, from Communist politico-ideological system to democracy and pluralism, from a centralized administration to a relatively democratic system with the diversity of educational institutions, policies, and curriculum and freedom of choice of venues in education. However, the country has taken only initial steps on this road and will continue to stay in a transitional state for a long time to come, since changes of such magnitude do not occur rapidly. The precipitous fall in production, the disruption of the monetary system, the break of industrial ties, and the high rate of inflation in the 1990s caused a sharp decline in the standards of living for the population. It is also responsible for a lot of problems in all spheres of education in the country.
The major challenge lies with poor financial resources. Many educational institutions do not have enough financial resources to maintain education at high standards. The equipment in language laboratories, scientific laboratories, and computer classrooms are outdated in many cases. While school administrators and teachers gained more freedom to be creative in their offices and classrooms, many of them quit their jobs because they are not paid salary on a regular basis, or the growth of salary does not match the rate of inflation. The capitalist economy returned Kazakhstan to where it was in 1917 in terms of sharp social stratification and division, inequality, and injustice. The opportunities for free education were diminished. The rural schools, whose budget depends mostly on the national government, suffered more than the city schools. Furthermore, bribery has flourished from kindergartens all the way through the universities, especially prestigious ones.
In the 1990s, the government of Kazakhstan launched several bold reforms on all levels of education with promising prospects. However, the 1998 economic crisis in Asia and Russia had negative consequences for the country and reduced the Republic's chances for quick recovery and development. Kazakhstan needs to address its problems to make the results of reform tangible.
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