Kazakhstan to Ratify Tokyo Convention to Enhance Higher Education Integration in Asia-Pacific

ASTANA – Kazakhstan aims to ratify the Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education, commonly called the Tokyo Convention. The initiative aims to enhance cross-border mobility, recognize higher education qualifications, and integrate into the educational framework of the Asia-Pacific Region. 

Yerzhan Irgebaev, Deputy Director of the Higher Education Development National Center. Photo credit: enic-kazakhstan.edu.kz.

In an interview with The Astana Times, Yerzhan Irgebaev, Deputy Director  of the Higher Education Development National Center, discussed the convention’s primary attributes and benefits. 

Irgebaev believes that education has become a central element in the nation’s economic and social progression. It plays an essential role in cultivating qualified individuals capable of driving innovation and promoting advancements in science and culture. The recognition of foreign degrees is seen as one of the vital components to support the cross-border movement of students and proficient professionals.

“Creating a universal legal framework to regulate the recognition of academic qualifications that transcend national boundaries is a significant and pertinent endeavor in higher education and international knowledge exchange. It addresses the challenge of degree recognition, promotes student and scholar mobility, elevates education quality, and fosters global cooperation,” he said.

Irgebaev stressed that clear and coordinated legal documents build trust among countries and educational institutions while facilitating a seamless transition between education systems.

“The ratification of the Tokyo Convention opens up a new market in Southeast Asian countries for the Kazakh higher education export by establishing a legal mechanism for the mutual recognition of educational documents and qualifications. This step contributes to achieving one of the key indicators of the Development Concept of Higher Education and Science for 2023-2029, which targets an international student representation of up to 10% of the total student body by 2029. In the first half of 2023, Kazakhstan hosted 27,756 international students, accounting for 4.4% of the student population,” he said.

Starting in 2019, the country initiated the Scholarship Program for Foreign Citizens, aimed at attracting international students by offering 550 scholarships every year. Statistical figures for the 2023-2024 academic year show a growing interest in education at Kazakh universities. 

Out of 6,024 applications, 317 came from representatives of the Asia-Pacific Region. China, with 218 applications, and Indonesia, with 104, stood out as the primary sources. Students from Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Japan also expressed significant interest in studying in Kazakhstan.

Irgebaev noted that the ratification will raise awareness among citizens of the Asia-Pacific Region about Kazakhstan’s education system, institutions, educational programs, the national system of higher education qualifications, and the diploma and certificate issuance process. This interaction will enhance mutual understanding and trust between countries and foster cross-cultural knowledge exchange and experience.

He noted that the commitments under the Tokyo Convention align closely with Kazakhstan’s obligations under the Lisbon Convention, and no changes to domestic legislation are required for its implementation.

He also mentioned that the state body is considering ratifying the Global Convention, enabling Kazakhstan to participate in a global cooperative system and expanding the conditions for qualification recognition.

Irgebaev highlighted the unique nature of the document, pointing out that it sets forth universal principles for academic degree recognition on a global scale, as opposed to merely a regional one. Notably, it champions the recognition of qualifications held by refugees, even in the absence of documentary evidence. The document’s pioneering features also encompass provisions for the acknowledgment of prior learning, cross-border education, and unconventional learning methods, including online and hybrid approaches.

In his view, implementing recognition principles within the framework of these conventions will reduce unnecessary recognition barriers, making it easier for individuals who have acquired education abroad to pursue further studies or professional careers. It will positively contribute to greater overall accessibility of higher education services.

“Expanded cooperation at the regional and international levels will boost interest in higher education and stimulate increased investments in the advancement of higher education and research,” said Irgebaev. 

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