Overview of Education System
In accordance with the constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the state guarantees free secondary education (Grades 1 to 11 or 12) in public schools for all of its citizens.1 The main principles of state educational policy are the equal right of all citizens to education of good quality and access to education at all levels, considering the intellectual development and psychophysiological and individual characteristics of every student.2
The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan implements unified state educational policy, facilitates cross-sector coordination, and develops and implements state education and science programs.3 Public education institutions are financed from the state budget in accordance with state legislation.
The education system in the Republic of Kazakhstan is based on the principles of consistency and continuity and includes the following levels of education:
- Preschool nursery and preschool education—Preschool nursery serves children up to age 6 or 7, and is carried out at home or (from age 1 to school age) in preschool institutions. Preschool education is organized for children from age 5 as preparation for primary school. Preschool education is mandatory and is provided at home, by preschool organizations, or in preschool classes of secondary schools, lyceums, and gymnasiums. Preschool education provided by public organizations is free of charge.
- Primary education (Grades 1 to 4)—This level is provided in primary schools, lower secondary schools that include the primary level, and secondary schools that include all three levels of education. The goals of primary education are the following: form children’s personalities; develop their individual abilities; instill a positive attitude toward education; develop strong literacy, numeracy, and language skills; encourage self-realization; and teach behaviors that will help children master subsequent education programs in basic secondary school.
- Basic secondary education (Grades 5 to 9)—This level focuses on helping students master the foundations of science systems, develop interpersonal and interethnic communication skills, form a personal identity, and acquire vocational guidance.
- General secondary education (Grades 10 to 11 or 12), technical, and professional education—This level focuses on subject content and vocational orientation. Programs are developed on the basis of differentiated instruction, integration, and vocational guidance and include specialized education in mathematics, natural science, and the humanities.
- Post-secondary education
- Higher education
- Postgraduate education
In accordance with the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Education, the content of primary, basic secondary, and general secondary education is determined by general education and academic programs, which are based on the State Mandatory Standards of Education.4 These standards regulate syllabi, maximum academic load, and level of preparation of students.
Special academic programs for gifted individuals are being developed to facilitate the full development of their potential, and have been implemented in 115 specialized schools for gifted children, lyceums, and gymnasiums.5
In 2014, there were 7,567 general secondary education organizations operating in the Republic of Kazakhstan, of which 7,222 were public and 109 were private schools. Kazakhstan is a country with a large territory. In all of its small settlements, the operation of small schools is guaranteed. The number of small schools in Kazakhstan is 3,268 (45.2 percent of all secondary schools).
Additionally, 20 Nazarbayev intellectual schools have been established. These schools implement two educational models for students with high intellectual abilities: the Integrated Education Program with a scientific-mathematical focus and the International Baccalaureate program.6
Languages of Instruction
There are approximately 130 ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. Kazakhs comprise 66 percent of the population; Russians comprise 21 percent; and Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Uighurs, Tatars, Germans, Koreans, Azerbaijanis, Belorussians, Turks, Dungans, Poles, Kurds, Chechens, Tajiks, Bashkirs, and other nationalities comprise 13 percent.7
The official language of Kazakhstan is Kazakh. Nevertheless, both the Kazakh and Russian languages are used officially by state agencies and local governments. English is used in international contexts.
Language policy in education organizations complies with the constitution and state legislation on languages.8 Parents have the freedom to choose the language in which their children are educated. In Kazakhstan, education is provided by 3,777 schools in Kazakh, by 1,262 schools in Russian, by 2,495 schools in both Kazakh and Russian, and by 33 schools in other languages (e.g., Uzbek, Uighur, Tajik).
A network of schools is being developed in Kazakhstan that offers scientific-mathematical modules in English, and thus provide trilingual education. At present, there are 110 such schools, including Nazarbayev intellectual schools.