Trilingual Education Touted as Right Way Forward

ASTANA – On April 4, Kazakh Humanities and Law University (KazHLU) in Astana held a roundtable discussion on the theme “Multilingualism in the educational environment: problems and prospects” with the participation of Swedish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Manne Wangborg, Spanish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Don Manuel Larrotcha Prada, Provost of Nazarbayev University Simon Jones, Head of the Educational Department of Nazarbayev Intellectual School Gareth Stamp, Head of NCOC Dr. Fethi Chebil, the faculty of KazHLU and students from Kazakhstan’s universities.

In their reports, participants highlighted the main problems related to the theme of the forum. In particular, Head of the English Language Department of KazHLU Anar Ibraeva noted that university teachers annually try to upgrade their qualifications by participating in different international trainings.

“In 2012, teachers from our department were awarded the Bolashak Presidential Scholarship. However, in spite of many positive steps taken in the past several years by KazHLU, there are still issues regarding the development of that process, such as a lack of highly qualified and experienced teachers and inadequate equipment and resources with regards to technology,” Ibraeva said. Swedish Ambassador Manne Wangborg offered the assistance of their employees in the provision of English language courses and trainings. He is very positive about the language policy in Kazakhstan.

“Language is a very delicate issue where prejudice, mismanagement and misconceptions can easily translate into discrimination… That is why the president was wise in his address to balance this idea of promoting the Kazakh language with the notion that measures must also be taken to ensure that Russian (and English) are also taught and learnt in Kazakhstan. The president said that a three-language policy should be encouraged on a state level, advising people to treat Russian in the same careful way they treat Kazakh. This is the right approach to multilingualism,” the ambassador said.

The roundtable participants noted that this year the first steps towards the introduction of a new model of education in universities have been taken, including reforms in education standards and opening special departments with education provided in three languages. It should be noted that the multi-language education programme implemented in Kazakhstan is a unique and, unlike its Western analogies, implies a parallel and simultaneous training in three languages.

“An effective higher education system is a core element of a successful society and economy. This talk demonstrates how Nazarbayev University, established with a mission to be the premier regional research institution, is addressing these challenges, and how the ‘triple-helix’ of education, research and innovation is being combined in a way which is of an international standard yet firmly rooted in the needs of the Kazakh people and the aspirations of the nation,” Jones said.

Head of the Educational Department of Nazarbayev Intellectual School Gareth Stamp is convinced of the correctness of the development course of Kazakhstan’s language policy.

“The forthcoming Expo [EXPO 2017] will put the focus of the world on Kazakhstan, its credentials as a global player and its ability to deliver change. Maybe the 2017 expo will be the first indicator of the journey to 2050 [Strategy Kazakhstan 2050]. It is estimated that there will be five million visitors to Astana and the country – that is equivalent to a country population growth of around nearly 30 percent.”

Students actively participated in the discussions. They said that knowing more than one language will not only let them learn the culture of other nations, but also show them the rich culture of their own people.

“The knowledge of at least three languages is a requirement of times,” fourth-year student at Kainar University (Semey) Sandugash Yelyubayeva said. “The advantages of implementing multilingual education are personal enrichment, improvement of communication skills, the opportunity to be educated in prestigious universities in Europe, winning the respect of other nations, the ability to integrate into the global economy, preparation of highly skilled and competitive personnel.”

“The roundtable has helped to find common ground to solve problems in the introduction of multi-language education. It is essential that events like this are organised more frequently, on a broader level. I think that Kazakhstan has chosen the right strategy. Today in Kazakhstan, I see small children who are already fluent in three languages. They learn English as early in the nursery and so for them it isn’t a process of education but a very natural way of expression. I think that in 10 to 15 years, when these children grow up, our goal will be achieved,” Professor at KazHLU Naomi Sidaway Sollindger told The Astana Times.

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