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Advantages and Risks of Introducing the “Multilingual and Multicultural Education” Program in Kyrgyzstan

«Multilingual education makes it possible to simultaneously master the state and official languages, along with one of the foreign ones. It also creates social cohesion, enhances the culture of interethnic communication, and all this in total strengthens interethnic relations,» notes Kanzada Zayirbekova, a participant of the CABAR.asia School of Analytics, in her article.


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Since 2012, the process of introducing the “Multilingual and Multicultural Education” program in state educational institutions has been actively engaged in Kyrgyzstan. The main essence of a multilingual education program is to provide an opportunity to receive education in one’s native language and at the same time master the state, official language and another foreign language.

In 2015, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic shared the first successes of introducing “Multilingual and multicultural education”, that – working groups of trainers were created to train and consult teachers, pilot universities were created and teaching materials were developed that will be tested in pilot schools.

Between 2015 and 2017, the pilot schools of multilingual education were doubled.[1] In this regard, in 2017, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic issued an order “On the expansion of pilot educational institutions under the program of multilingual education” from 56 to 82 educational organizations, due to the increased interest of parents in creating multilingual classes and schools.[2]

Despite the positive results of “Multilingual and multicultural education” introduction, the main point was not taken into account – the shortage of staff with degree in pedagogy and their insufficient language skills in teaching subjects in two or more languages. This raises the question: “How the process of introducing multilingual education in the schools of Kyrgyzstan is being held? How to increase the level of language training among teachers? Is there any real prospect for a multilingual program in the future? ”

The introduction of multilingual education in schools can provide an opportunity for children from vulnerable groups to receive quality education. Photo: azattyk.org

Background. Attempts to create a multilingual education

The first attempt to introduce multilingual education in Kyrgyzstan was made by the Swiss non-governmental organization CIMERA in 2003-2004, and then by the Til Dil Association, but the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic did not support the initiative for further dissemination.[3]

The June events, which occurred in 2010 in the south of Kyrgyzstan, had a great influence on the restart of education. The tragic events have shown that it is necessary to strengthen social cohesion and to increase the level of interethnic cultural communication through education.

In 2011, the multicultural education sector of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, with the support of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, introduced “Multilingual and Multicultural Education” in ten schools of the country.

In 2012, a pilot project concluded a memorandum of long-term cooperation between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic and the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, in order to further expand the number of such schools.[4]

Statutory and regulatory enactments

According to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the state language in the Kyrgyz Republic is – Kyrgyz language, and the official language is Russian. The Kyrgyz Republic guarantees the representatives of all ethnic groups that make up the people of Kyrgyzstan the right to preserve their native language and create conditions for its study and development. Thus, Kyrgyzstan is one of the countries where bilingualism is officially laid down and legislative protection of linguistic diversity is provided.[5]

The Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Education” stipulates that the state creates conditions for the education of every citizen, from pre-school education institutions to basic education, in the state, official and foreign languages. (Art. 6)[6]

The Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the state language” states that the Kyrgyz Republic guarantees the representatives of all nationalities that make up the people of Kyrgyzstan, the preservation of their native language, the creation of conditions for its study and development.[7]

In 2008, the first legal framework for a multilingual education program was developed – the Concept of “Multilingual and Multicultural Education”. After that, a number of propositions were adopted on the implementation of multilingual education in the Kyrgyz Republic:

  • In 2012, the Proposition “On the strategic directions of the development of the education system in the Kyrgyz Republic”.[8]
  • In 2016, the Proposition of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the introduction of multilingual education for 2017-2030”.[9]

Creation of pilot schools and multilingual classes

In 2012, the first pilot steps began with ten different schools that introduced new subject standards and academic and methodological complexes. Subsequently, training in kindergartens had begun, where partial language immersion in practical subjects, such as Fine Arts, physical education and music were used.[10]

The results of the introduction of multilingual education in Kyrgyzstan 2012-2017

Source: Билим АКИpress Подробнее http://bilim.akipress.org/ru/news:1417210/?f=cp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2013, a significant part of interested schools for a multilingual education program increased, the immediate reason is the abolition of ORT (general educational test) in the Uzbek language. In the same year, classes with Kyrgyz and Russian languages ​​were opened in 23 schools with an Uzbek language of instruction in the Kara-Suu district of Osh oblast, and also in three schools with an Uzbek language of instruction in the Aravan region of Osh oblast.[11]

In particular, the secondary schools involved in the multilingual education program, in addition to their native language, were choosing Kyrgyz and Russian language for instruction. It was due to expansion and strengthening of the state language positions, on the one hand, and in the growth of prestige of schools with the Russian language of instruction, on the other.

Russian leads as the target language

It is important to note that the Zhetigen School, located in Osh, has chosen the teaching methodology for exact sciences in English. And besides, it is still the only pilot school where subjects are taught in three languages: Kyrgyz, Russian, and English. Subject standards are distinguished by the fact that at the same time computer science, mathematics and chemistry are taught in two languages ​​(English and Kyrgyz), and the remaining subjects are taught in Russian and Kyrgyz.[12]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map of pilot schools in Kyrgyzstan. Photo: https://safe.edu.kg/pilots/

Faculty training in educational institutions

Today in Kyrgyzstan there are 5 pilot universities implementing multilingual education programs – Kyrgyz State University named after Arabaev and the remaining four universities are located in the southern regions of Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, a team of trainers and consultants was formed, consisting of 15 people in two pilot universities of Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyz State University named after Arabaev and OSHSU (Osh State University) for the exchange of experience and methodological consultations with other pilot universities and schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2016, three pilot faculties were opened at the OHPI (Osh Humanitarian Pedagogical Institute), specializing in biology, geography, physical education, and also school and preschool education spheres. Currently, about 500 students are studying in the pilot faculties under the program of multilingual education. Most of the students are ethnic Uzbeks, and Tajiks from remote regions.[13]

In addition, in 2017, BatSU (Batken State University) signed a memorandum of cooperation for the implementation of the “Multilingual and multicultural education” program in schools of the Kyrgyz Republic. A training course for future teachers on a multilingual education program was also launched. It is important to note that out of 78 pilot schools, 18 are located in the Batken region.[14]

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, in 2018, 900 teachers were certified according to the CLIL methodology (integrated teaching of the subject and language), as well as the second language teaching methodology.

Despite the fact that the state is trying to retrain teachers using the CLIL methodology (integrated teaching of subject and language), the qualifications of teachers play a huge role in introducing “Multilingual and multicultural education.” However, advanced training does not mean that teachers can master several languages ​​and use them while teaching their subjects. As noted by the Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic G. Kudaiberdieva, the best method of stimulating teachers is  to increase the salaries of those who teach their subjects in two or more languages.[15]

It must be admitted that there are very few professional teachers who can teach in two or three languages. To solve the problem, the rectors of the universities were given the task – to give graduates and teachers the opportunity to get a second higher education without interruption.[16]

Conclusion and recommendations

Thus, multilingual education differs from the usual traditional system in its positive aspects. The pilot project provides an opportunity to simultaneously master the state and official languages, along with one of the foreign ones. It also creates social cohesion and enhances the culture of interethnic communication, and all this strengthens interethnic relations.

In order to achieve goals of the Ministry of Education and Science and the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, the effective implementation of the program “Multilingual and multicultural education” I offer the following recommendations:

  • It is necessary to strengthen the control of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic over the quality of education in schools, as well as in the preparation of new specialist teachers for the multilingual education program;
  • Conduct continuous monitoring and analysis of the «Multilingual and multicultural education” program implementation results. Indeed, statistical data can determine the positive and negative results of the program for the Kyrgyz educational system;
  • Also, in order to improve the quality of education, it is necessary to pay more attention to teacher training in retraining centers with a long period and an effective methodology;
  • Teachers and educators should be encouraged to teach their subject in a quality manner through a reward system; bonus for additional language, wage supplement, etc.
  • Create innovative conditions in pilot schools for teachers and schoolchildren. For example, electronic textbooks on the integrated learning methodology CLIL (subject-language integrated learning), as well as video channels for improving leadership and communication skills.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.  


[1] On the introduction of multilingual education in the Kyrgyz Republic. November 20, 2017 https://www.slideshare.net/ssuser712af4/ss-82506146

[2] Bilim Akipress “Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic expands piloting programs” 10/15/2017 http://bilim.akipress.org/en/news:1410541/

[3] The Swiss introduce multilingualism in schools and kindergartens in southern Kyrgyzstan. 03/25/2003 https://centrasia.org/newsA.php?st=1061765460

[4] Article “Interethnic Relations in Kyrgyzstan: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as an Instrument for Monitoring Human Rights” Ergeshov Z.ZH

[5] Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. 06/27/2010. http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/202913?cl=ru-ru

[6] Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Education” dated April 30, 2003 No. 92. http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/1216?cl=ru-ru

[7] Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the State Language of the Kyrgyz Republic” dated 04.04.2004 No. 54. http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/1439

[8] Proposition “On strategic directions for the development of the education system in the Kyrgyz Republic” dated 03.23.2012 http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/92984

[9] Proposition of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the introduction of multilingual education for 2017-2030” dated June 30, 2016. http://bilim.akipress.org/en/news:1417210   

[10] The word of Kyrgyzstan “To school for knowledge” 2016, http://slovo.kg/?p=74376

[11] Article “Interethnic Relations in Kyrgyzstan: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as an Instrument for Monitoring Human Rights” Ergeshov Z.ZH

[12] Information provided from a personal interview with Aizhan Abdubapova (teacher of the Zhetigen school in Osh)

[13] Information provided from a personal interview with Gulzady Sagynbaeva (coordinator of the OGPI, trainer for a multilingual program)

[14] UN system of the Kyrgyz Republic “Implementation of the multilingualism program in the BatSU” 05/17/2017 http://kg.one.un.org/content/unct/kyrgyzstan/ru/home/news/kg-news/2017/Batken-university-starts-programme-multilingual-education.html    

[15] Kudaiberdieva: Kyrgyzstan needs multilingual education. 11/07/2018 https://ru.sputnik.kg/Radio/20181107/1041890763/kyrgyzstan-mnogoyazychnoe-obrazovanie.html    

[16] Ibid  

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