LONDON – The results of Kazakhstan-Switzerland academic exchanges are conclusive and beneficial for both countries. We want to further develop them in research, doctoral, and postdoctoral training, said Abdeljalil Akkari, an international expert, in an interview with The Astana Times. He is a professor and the director of the research group on international and comparative education at the University of Geneva, a regular consultant for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and an associate expert at the International Bureau of Education (IBE-UNESCO).
As a visiting professor at the Almaty-based Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU), Akkari has been to Kazakhstan three times – in 2018, 2019, and 2020 within academic exchanges with KazNU to develop joint research projects and hold educational seminars. His research interests are centered on intercultural education, teacher training, and reforms of education systems in a comparative and international perspective.
“Academic exchange programs allow us to develop academic and intercultural skills. The cooperation between Kazakhstan and Switzerland is focused on internationalization of curriculum, research, and mobility. I hope we will also be able to get a big project funded by the European Union or other organizations,” said the professor.
Comparing Kazakh and Swiss education systems, he noted that “Kazakhstan and Switzerland are facing common challenges, including multilingualism, interculturality, employability, and the impact of digitalization.”
“In more than 30 years, the university system of Kazakhstan has undergone many changes, including internationalization and development of private universities. There are conditions for improving the quality of higher education like a good level of infrastructure, the commitment of stakeholders and the government of Kazakhstan. The country has increased its support for higher educational institutions and international mobility of professors and students,” said Akkari.
“I think there are also challenges to be met, for example, the funding of higher education, the lack of equity, the development of research, and the significance of strengthening research policies and scientific production,” he added.
Speaking about the importance of research capacity, Akkari said that “the development of scientific production of Kazakh universities is a long-term task because it requires a lot of human and financial resources.”
“It is ultimately about changing the mindset of Kazakh academics so that research and publication become natural activities and not just tied to the institutional requirements of universities. I believe that more innovations are needed in research and teaching,” said Akkari.
He also mentioned the well-developed internationalization of the Swiss higher education system, referring to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject 2023 and the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2019.
“The QS thirteenth edition has identified the world’s best university offerings for 54 academic disciplines. A total of 32 Swiss university programs are among the top ten in the world for their respective disciplines,” he noted.
“On the one hand, we see that the best universities are concentrated in the United States, in the United Kingdom, and in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The ranking of Chinese universities is improving rapidly. On the other hand, when we relate these university rankings to the size of the country, interesting facts appear. For example, the higher education system in Switzerland, which is less known at the international level, is described as excellent,” he said.
The best higher education system, in his opinion, is “the one that contributes the most to the socio-economic development and prosperity of a country.”
“It is a system accessible to all social categories and especially the most disadvantaged. It is also a system that equips graduates with the skills needed in the 21st century and allows them to access a qualifying job. In short, the best university is the one that creates useful knowledge for society and humanity,” said Akkari.