ERG SES C 07, Higher Education
My main research objective is to trace the nature and consequences of the changing processes and patterns of governance in higher education (HE) in Kazakhstan. My aim is to provide a critical analysis and the causal explanation of the processes of educational change in Kazakhstan in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.
The main research question is: What are differences between, relationships of, and consequences of, the forms of HE policy making in these two periods regarding educational policy and practice? In particular:
- What are the different stated purposes of education transformations?
- How effectively can these differences be explained by post-socialism theory?
The central issue of the research study is to understand the purposes and mechanisms of change in HE policy during two historical periods: Soviet and post-Soviet Kazakhstan.
Education in the Soviet Union was organized by means of a centralized government-run system. Education and post-education employment were guaranteed for all citizens of the USSR irrespective of gender, class, and race. Education was crucial to the success and perseverance of the Soviet Union. Educational institutions have undergone structural and ideological changes with each change in leadership though.
There were significant responses to the collapse of the Soviet Union. First, the Kazakhstani government cut public financing for education because of a major economic depression in Kazakhstan. Second, markets emerged for practically everything, including education. Third, a set of Western policy reforms such as the privatization of HE, the decentralization of educational finances and governance, etc. were adopted as a means of achieving swift system transformation. Fourth, the EU’s Bologna Process has been playing an important role in defining the direction of HE reforms and politics in Kazakhstan. An intensive cooperation in education between the EU and Kazakhstan began in 2007 under the European Education Initiative framework of the EU-Central Asia Strategy scheme for 2007-2014. Kazakhstan joined the Bologna Process in 2010, and both sides saw this as an opportunity to pursue their own economic and political interests.
The structures and institutions of HE were and still are subject to great pressure towards a reform, prompted by increased globalisation, internationalisation, and the Bologna Process influencing the higher educational governance patterns of Kazakhstan.
I engage with historical institutionalism and post-socialism theories.
Historical institutionalism focuses on the sequences and synchronization of events, and the stages of political development and change. It also explores the asymmetries of power related to the operation and development of institutions, and the path-dependencies and unintended consequences of historical development (Hall & Taylor, 1996). Generally, the term ‘path-dependence’ refers to the way in which a current set of decisions is bounded by the decisions that were made in the past, including past circumstances which might no longer be relevant. Path-dependence institutions see change occurrence only as result of exogenous factors such as economic crises and wars. Therefore, some historical institutionalists such as Hay & Wincott (1998), and Beland & Cox (2011) use ideas to explain change.
Post-socialism as a theory is not the study of already formed policies and practices like neoliberalism, but rather, the study of a complex set of education phenomena in the early stages of its formation (Silova, 2010). Post-socialism as a theoretical concept is very important because it allows us to understand ongoing educational changes in a global context. In addition, post-socialism theory will be helpful in providing important comparative accounts of educational change in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods in Kazakhstan.
Indeed, the uniqueness of the educational changes in post-Soviet countries – including Kazakhstan – involve a wide range of alternatives, which undermines the linearity of the socialism’s replacement with capitalism in education.
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