14 SES 12 A, Networked Systems, Schools & Communities to Improve Education of Disadvantaged Students
Kazakhstan secondary education experiences law quality of education in ungraded schools. Children of mixed ages are taught in one classroom. Buildings are often inappropriate for studying. It should be mentioned that 56.5% of the total amount of schools are ungraded. The Ministry of Education and Science introduced the Ungraded Schools Development Concept in Kazakhstan for 2010-2020. The main goal of the Concept is to create conditions for students of ungraded schools to get quality education for further socialization, successful professional orientation, and self-development (Государственная программа развития образования РК [ГПРО], 2010).
The core problem the Ungraded Schools Development Concept was designed to address is poor quality of education in ungraded schools. There are distinguished several causes of the problem.
The first cause is absence of regulatory base for ungraded schools functioning. In the beginning of 1990s due to the economic decline а large number of people began to move from villages to cities and abroad “in search of better life”. It led to sharp decrease of secondary school students and teachers in rural areas. Consequently, the number of ungraded schools in Kazakhstan critically increased. No proper syllabus, curriculum, and any methodological recommendations were designed for ungraded schools. The existing regulatory base at that time did not meet the needs of ungraded schools and did not consider their peculiarities as well.
The second cause is lack of teaching staff and absence of appropriate pre-service and in-serviceteacher preparation for ungraded school. In ungraded schools teachers have to conduct lessons at radically different subjects and mixed age groups. However, teachers are not trained to work in such conditions. Low salary, absence of social bonuses result in low motivation of teachers. These drawbacks lead to critical deficiency and low level of preparation of teaching staff.
The third cause is poor material and technical conditions of ungraded schools. Due to improper state budgeting and financing most of ungraded schools today are located in inappropriate buildings. Most schools do not have school canteens, gyms, libraries. Very few schools are equipped with Biology, Science and Physics laboratories. Schools are not provided with access to Internet. Thus, students of ungraded schools have fewer opportunities to get quality education.
In order to provide the regulatory base the following initiatives were suggested. First, the policy-makers initiated consideration of ungraded schools development issues in the Development Program of Education till 2020. Second, the Concept suggested amendments in the Law of Education relating to students quantity in ungraded schools. Third, establishment of the Mandated State Regulations had to manage operating of ungraded schools. Next, the Rules of Psychological Support at secondary schools were introduced. The fifth initiative addressed regulation of teachers’ certification in ungraded schools. Introduction of the varied curriculum was aimed at development of students’ individual skills.
Another group of initiatives addressed the cause of teaching staff deficiency and preparation. Firstly, it was suggested to prepare school teachers with dual specialization in VET and HE institutions. Secondly, opening of the Republic Development Center on the base of the National Education Academy was initiated. This Center would provide scientific, methodological, and teacher training support. The policy-makers pointed at necessity of teachers’ payment system reconsideration, solving their social issues at the local budget level.
The following initiatives may solve the issue of technical conditions of ungraded schools. First of all, allocation of more funding for ungraded school facilities improvement (equipped laboratories, library, canteens, gyms) and supporting schools (“oporniye” schools) construction is provided at the local level. Moreover, transportation of ungraded schools students to supporting schools is taken into consideration. Finally, access to Internet is suggested to be provided in all ungraded schools.
Observing ungraded schools and learners performance allows to identify a number of factors, barriers that hamper their successful execution, collecting data, analyzing them and introducing changes into the practice. The method of qualitative research is the most flexible and versatile. The qualitative method is extremely useful when the subject is too complex to get just the basic answer “yes” or “no”. Such method is much easier to plan and execute. The method ensures that in any case the obtained data are useful. Qualitative research methods do not depend on the sample sizes: and researchers can get significant results, even with a small group of the sample. In addition, qualitative methods allow, in contrast to the quantitative, reveal inner motives and motivations of people (Creswell, 2010). The qualitative research will be used to generate ideas and possible conclusions that can be used to formulate realistic and testable hypotheses. The qualitative data analysis will be conducted using content analysis techniques. The inductive analysis will be implemented into the experiment: first, observations (documents analyses, interviews) will be carried out, and then core patterns will be identified. Questionnaires - this method provides good data for analyzing the strengths of solutions addressing the issues of ungraded schools, to find out what support those schools and teachers need from decision-makers, school leaders, psychologists, colleagues, the pedagogical community, and helps to find out with what difficulties during the AR teachers face there. The tentative hypothesis will be formed, and the thorough analysis will be conducted. Purposeful typical sampling will be the best suitable approach in testing the formed hypotheses. Interviews is another additional method, allowing expanding the data on the issue under study. SWOT analysis is a method of introduction of changes in practice, evaluating internal and external factors that influence the performance of ungraded schools and their issues, it helps to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the solutions, find opportunities and threats for further research. Comparative analysis - this method will allow one to compare data on the level at which the ungraded schools were located before and after interference. Synthesis - this method will make it possible to generalize the data obtained and to combine the results of the research into a unified whole and draw conclusions.
As a result of the Concept implementation several intended outcomes are planned to be achieved. Firstly, the legal framework for ungraded schools functioning will be developed. It will include Teachers Certification Rules, Variative Curriculum, Rules for Psychological Service, and Mandated State Regulations for ungraded schools. Secondly, high-qualified teaching staff will be provided. Integrated programs in VET and Higher education for pre-service teachers preparing will be developed. In-service teacher training programs, methodological seminars will be conducted at the local, regional, and national levels. Moreover, the Republic Center for ungraded schools development will be functioning on the base of the Altynsarin National Educational Academy. Besides, the system of ungraded schools teachers’ monetary motivation will be reconsidered. Thirdly, material and technical state of ungraded schools will improve. Sufficient funding for supporting schools construction will be allocated. By 2015 160 supporting schools were built all around the country (ГПРО, 2010). All ungraded schools will have buses to deliver students to supporting schools. Moreover, they will be equipped with science laboratories, libraries, canteens, and gyms. School-kindergarten, school-mini-centers educational units will be founded in all regional centers. Unified information network via broadband Internet facilities will be functioning in all ungraded schools. Some expected outcomes were achieved in adopting the regulatory base. First, the issues of ungraded schools development were included in the Development Program of Education till 2020. Second, the Ungraded Schools Mandated Regulations were approved in 2013 (Приказ министра образования и науки РK №375, 2013). Third, the Rules for Psychological Service in secondary schools were introduced (Приказ министра образования и науки РК №528, 2011). Thus, operating of ungraded schools has been supported at the legislative level.
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