03 SES 09 A, Comparative Curriculum Studies
The National Secondary Education System in Kazakhstan has been reforming significantly since in 2008 the president N.Nazarbayev declared to establish 20 Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (further NIS). The NIS was set to be a platform for piloting reforms in national secondary education. The first NIS opened its doors in 2008, and now all 20 NIS have been established and are serving throughout the country. The NIS mission is to develop a school system that would include best overseas and Kazakhstani traditions and moreover, to meet international standards. With this regard, it is remarkable that NIS Grade 12 Certificate has been recently recognised by UK NARIC (National Recognition Information Centre) as comparable to GCE A level Standard and by NUFFIC (the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education) as equivalent to Dutch VWO diploma (extended general adult education). The NIS Grade 12 certificate is awarded upon completion of the NIS Program, a two-year integrated math and science programme developed in collaboration with Cambridge Assessment International Education.
Science curriculum evaluation and innovation have been major topics of various researches. One of the notable works on curriculum evaluation were carried out by A.Lewy in 1977. Kurnaz and Çepni (2012) focus on Physics curriculum evaluation in the context of educational reforms in Turkey. There are also some publications which include a comparative analysis of multiple national curricula (Akker, 2018 & Birgili, Mesutoglu, 2018).
Many national education reforms have their uniqueness due to the domestic context and different input values. However, there is a scarce of academic papers related to Kazakh secondary education reforms in English. Not to mention science curriculum development with regard to those reforms. Apparently, the NIS Program curriculum has been published lately and has not been a topic for academic research yet. Accordingly, the study considers the NIS Program and Cambridge International Education (further CIE) A level Physics curricula on a comparative basis. CIE A level curricula have been used for more than 40 years as a standard in international secondary education. It is also noteworthy to mention that both programs require that students sit on the examination to assess the curriculum completion. In the research, the NIS Program Physics curriculum is reviewed under a magnifying glass and contrasted to a giant like CIE A level. The study also addresses whether can Kazakh students obtain a similar skill set and knowledge base as those who have completed CIE A level.
The two curricula that named above were considered under the cross-study in the connection to the following items: 1) topics coverage; 2) alignment of learning objectives to SMART criteria; 3) skills that the curriculum demands. The first item compares qualitatively and quantitatively the topics of General Physics that are covered in the curricula. In the second item, the learning objectives of the curricula are examined whether they match SMART criteria or not. The study evaluated the learning objectives of both curricula on how they match to 'Specific', 'Measurable', 'Achievable', 'Relevant' and 'Time-bound' criteria. The skills that the curriculum requires were collected from the descriptions for them and also from the responses of students and teachers that are involved in learning or teaching in the environment of the curricula. This part of the study considers math skills, problem-solving, skills required for practicals and language skills like writing and reading. The necessary data was gathered from open web sources and from the interviews of profoundly relevant people involved in the context of the study.
A quick overview of the curricula shows major similarities between them. This fact is expected since the NIS Program was designed in collaboration with Cambridge Assessment International Education. The additional evidence for the similarity is the that the teachers who deliver NIS Program use CIE A level resources. Meanwhile, the detailed cross-study illustrates remarkable differences in topics, learning objectives, and skills demanded from students. The research reveals that the NIS Program Physics curriculum covers major Physics chapters that are also represented in CIE A level curriculum. Nonetheless, there are important differences in sections like Thermal Physics, Mechanics and Electricity. These findings also confirm the declared mission of NIS. The NIS Program still has the pre-reform Kazakh and Soviet Physics curriculum legacy and combines it with the best of what we meet in the West. With regard to the learning objectives, the study reveals that some NIS Program objectives are not compatible with SMART criteria. The findings here can be valuable for science curriculum developers. The full article will also give detailed information about the skills that the curriculum demands from the involved students. These conclusions again support one of the aims of the curriculum as it requires from students the ability to describe the phenomena and give real-life applications of them as in western programs. Additionally, NIS Program curriculum expects that students are able to work with complex algebraic expressions and physics formulas as in traditional pre-reform Kazakh schools. As for language skills, both of the curricula are designed for non-native speakers of English. However, both of them demand a good command of written English language each in different contexts.
1. Handbook of Curriculum Evaluation. A Lewy - 1977 - ERIC 2. The practice of curriculum evaluation. A Lewy - Curriculum Theory Network, 1973 - Taylor & Francis 3. An Evaluation of Changes to the Turkish High School Physics Curriculum. MA Kurnaz, S Çepni - International Education Studies, 2012 - ERIC 4. International A/AS Level Physics. C Mee, M Crundell, B Arnold, W Brown - 2008 - Hodder Murray 5. Cambridge International AS and A Level Physics 2nd ed. by Mike Crundell (Author), Geoff Goodwin (Author), Chris Mee (Author), Wendy Brown (Author), Brian Arnold (Author). 6. Cambridge International AS and A Level Physics Coursebook. by David Sang (Author), Graham Jones (Author), Gurinder Chadha (Author), Richard Woodside (Author) 7. Физика. Учебник. Туякбаев С, Насохова Ш, Кронгарт Б, Кем В, Зайганова В.
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