What do the Kazakhstani rural school leaders, teachers, students, and parents understand by the quality of education? What opportunities, resources, and support are available to these rural schools for achieving their aspired quality of education? What issues and challenges do these rural schools face in achieving the perceived quality of education? What possible solutions can be found to the issues hindering the quality of education in these schools?
To explore these questions, a mixed methods study is being conducted in purposefully selected mainstream rural schools in Kazakhstan. This study employs a modified version of the UNICEF’s Quality of Education Framework: the quality of learners, curriculum/content, processes, environments, and outcomes (UNICEF, 2000) to explore the research questions.
Starting from 2018, the Nazarbayev University Graduate Schools of Education (NUGSE) professors, together with research assistants conducted a three-year-long research study, funded by the Nazarbayev University’s Faculty Development Competitive Grant. This study will be completed by December this year.
“Students from rural schools in many countries worldwide have far fewer resources than their urban counterparts and receive far less national attention. Comparing urban counterparts with students of rural schools, the latter are less likely to enroll in higher education institutions immediately after graduation. This disadvantages communities that often are struggling to attract and retain talent”, – comments Dr. Mir Afzal Tajik, Associate professor at NUGSE.
The purpose of the study is to examine the quality of education provided in rural schools across Kazakhstan, to contribute to developing a contextually relevant, culturally sensitive, and sustainable approach to improving the quality of education in rural schools.
According to NUGSE professors Dr. Mir Afzal Tajik – Principal Investigator and Dr. Duishon Shamatov – the Co-Principal Investigator, this could be achieved if the voices and experiences of key stakeholders such as principals, vice-principals, teachers, students, parents, and school education officials from the Ministry of Education and Science and regions in Kazakhstan were taken into account.
Data related to school facilities, students’ backgrounds and educational expectations, teacher characteristics, parental involvement and expectations, new curriculum implementation and availability of technology were collected using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Specifically, the study intends to explore key stakeholders’ understanding and aspirations of quality of education; identify issues and challenges rural schools face in achieving their aspired quality of education; and suggest possible solutions to the problems being faced and ways to improve the quality of education in rural schools in Kazakhstan.
The mixed-methods approach employed in this study has both a quantitative survey and qualitative individual interviews and focus group discussions. The quantitative survey is used to obtain data from a large number of teachers from rural schools and qualitative interviews are used to obtain in-depth, rich and descriptive data from a relatively smaller sample. The research assistants who have so far contributed to this project include, Darina Sadvakassova, Moldir Ablayeva, Bakhyt Zhumatay, Gulden Suyundikova, Lyudmila Fillipova, Alyona Kaus and Symbat Mazhikov.
Preliminary findings of the study have already been disseminated through presentations in two international conferences, each in Bangkok, Thailand (2018) and Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan (2019). It is noteworthy that the results of the study may be beneficial to educational policymakers, school leaders and practitioners to address some of the critical issues hindering, as well as opportunities available for, provision and quality of education in rural schools in Kazakhstan. The study will provide a set of recommendations, based on the empirical data collected from the key stakeholders for enhancing provision and quality of education in rural schools.