Foreign and Kazakh professors discuss challenges of academic integrity

ASTANA – KAZGUU University’s (Kazakh Humanities and Law Institute) Higher School of Economics hosted the second international scientific conference May 19-20 titled “Academic Integrity and University Governance.”6

Representatives of the Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science, professors and researchers from universities and major academic centres in the United States, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, Russia and Kazakhstan took part in the event.

The conference was aimed at a comprehensive discussion of academic integrity challenges in Kazakhstan to develop and adopt rules for student, teacher and administrative personnel conduct in the academic environment.

Opening the session, KAZGUU University Rector Talgat Narikbayev urged participants to openly share opinions and offer ideas.

“Our schools and universities are not only educational institutions. Young people that are studying there are the country’s future. The latter depends on how children are perceiving this world now. The future of Kazakhstan is described by things and values that universities and schools show children. Particularly, we are talking about integrity and deceit. Our educational institutions are a time machine that show us the future. Unfortunately, we do not conduct enough work in this area, so the current conference is aimed at paying attention to this existing problem, because this problem is extremely important for our country,” he said.

The basic assumption of social constructivism in education is that knowledge is socially constructed and for being effective, the process of learning needs to be meaningful and active, said Alisher Faizullaev, a professor in the Department of Practical Diplomacy and Director of the Negotiation Laboratory at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“The construction of knowledge takes place in social interaction among learners and the teacher mostly acts as a facilitator and mediator rather than an authoritative instructor and giver of knowledge. Through interaction – debates, simulations, role playing, games and other social activities, – learners create a so-called knowledge community which provides a stimulating environment for the meaningful and active learning process,” he said.

“A constructivist approach to education helps to integrate teaching, learning and research. The integration of teaching, learning and research promotes academic integrity. There is no place for plagiarism in an effective knowledge community, because the genuine motivation for knowledge is stronger than the motivation of cheating. Joint construction of knowledge embodies an innovative activity,” he added.

Appreciating individual differences and respecting the personalities of students and teachers are essential for ensuring a constructivist atmosphere in the school or university as a larger knowledge community, noted Faizullaev.

Luk Van Langenhove, research professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Warwick (U.K.), spoke about the challenges of achieving academic excellence in a turbulent world. Geopolitical changes that are altering the world order, technological revolutions that strengthen globalisation and global problems that need deep understanding of the current atmosphere and what can be done force universities around the world to reinvent themselves, he noted.

“Universities should think strategically about their brand. Not just a few Latin words and a fancy logo, but a real culture that shapes the way you behave and communicate, inspiring a desire to participate. The university brand should also be able to explain itself in terms of what it is not, by making clear choices about what it will or will not do or say. For instance, in the steps towards research excellence, it is important to set priorities and invest in certain areas, as it is impossible to be the absolute top in everything,” said Van Langenhove.

Conference participants also discussed a wide range of topical issues related to the internal and external functions of university top management, administering the academic process and forming a culture of professional scientific research.

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