I was honoured to receive an invitation from the Government of Kazakhstan to visit your country last week and join in the official celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the President’s Bolashak Scholarship Programme. It was particularly special for me to be the only representative of a foreign government invited to speak at the celebrations, highlighting the UK’s role as a leading partner for Kazakhstan in education. I am proud that the UK is the number one destination of study for Bolashak scholars, with more than 4,000 of the 10,000 young people from Kazakhstan awarded Bolashak scholarships, so far, choosing to come to the UK.
Kazakhstan has set out an ambitious national education programme for 2011 to 2020, with clear goals for the internationalisation of its education system at all levels, as a major contributor to the longer – term goals of the country’s 2050 strategy. Your government has set an admirable target that 20 per cent of the population will speak English by 2020. The UK government and UK education sector is committed to supporting Kazakhstan’s education goals through greater partnership and cooperation between our two countries.
Our relationship has been growing steadily over the last few years. The successful partnerships that Nazarbayev University has established with the University College of London and the University of Cambridge, and the active work of the British Council in Kazakhstan since 1994 are real evidence of this.
When the British Prime Minister visited Kazakhstan earlier this year, he identified education as a key area for cooperation between our countries. Along with science and innovation, education is an important strand of the new Intergovernmental Commission launched in October 2013 which will build on our economic cooperation.
During my visit to Astana, I was struck by the enthusiasm of your young people to grow their skills and experience through international study and cooperation, so as to contribute to Kazakhstan’s future development. I am delighted that so many of them wish to come to the UK for this. We know that the bonds and relationships developed during international study can last a lifetime, and that such people-to-people connections are what underpin the most successful political and economic links between nations.
I was interested also to hear, during my visit, about your Government’s plans for EXPO 2017 and the 2017 Winter Universiade. The UK is willing to share our own experience of planning and delivering such large-scale world events, particularly following the huge success of the London 2012 Olympics.
The author is Member of Parliament and Minister of State for Universities and Science of the United Kingdom.