In Kazakhstan, the teaching profession is undergoing a significant surge in importance and respect, reflecting a broader acknowledgment of the pivotal role educators play in shaping the nation's future. Beyond imparting academic knowledge, teachers are now recognized as key contributors to the holistic development of the younger generation, encompassing both education and upbringing.
The emphasis on instilling values, critical thinking, and essential life skills underscores the profound impact teachers have on nurturing responsible and well-rounded citizens. As society increasingly values the crucial role educators play in guiding the next generation, the teaching profession in Kazakhstan is gaining newfound appreciation and esteem, underscoring its pivotal role in shaping the country's evolving educational landscape.
QazMonitor has examined three practical measures taken in Kazakhstan to enhance the prestige of a teacher's job.
Firstly, the most apparent measure to stimulate the influx of young talented professionals into the job is the increase in wages and the establishment of a transparent and fair salary scale based on a teacher’s qualification. Since January 1, the Ministry of Education reported a substantial 25% rise in wages for kindergarten teachers, school teachers, college teachers, methodologists, and teachers of vocational education organizations. It's important to note that salaries among education workers have been growing by 25% annually since 2020, with the most recent increase doubling compared to figures at the beginning of the period.
"Thanks to the President's support, teachers' salaries increase annually. In addition, additional payments have been established, which are also growing. These include additional payments for qualification category, master's degree, teaching subjects in English, checking notebooks, classroom management, working in the conditions of updated content, and mentoring," said Minister of Education Gani Beisembayev.
This measure is one of the many contributing to the restoration of the profession's prestige. As of March 2023, more than 394 thousand teachers worked in the education system (in 2020 - 366,666), including over 75 thousand men (in 2020, there were 69,386). Salaries of teachers are calculated depending on the level of education, availability of qualifications, length of service, teaching load, master's degree diploma, and other additional payments.
The second measure, which directly affects a teacher’s everyday life and the quality of lessons given, is a reasonable decline in workload. The weekly workload for teachers has decreased from 18 hours to 16 hours per week. This is probably a much-needed measure, considering that a regular secondary school teacher needs hours to prepare lesson plans, check homework assignments, and, quite frequently, plan extracurricular activities and education projects for their students. This two-hour decline works well not only as a short-term stress relief measure but will be effective in the long run, allowing teachers to dedicate more time to student assessment and professional development.
The third development is the introduction of qualification categories for teachers, directly linked to their professional development and career paths. While the categories depend on the type of educational organization, a simplified gradation or levels is as follows: teacher, teacher-moderator, teacher-expert, teacher-researcher, and teacher-master. The categories correspond to work experience, professional skills, and the success of the teacher’s students (for example, prizes won in Olympiads and competitions). In many cases, teachers in Kazakhstan must take special complex tests to verify their category. To stimulate the influx of talented teachers into the sphere, graduates of the Bolashak program, for example, are assigned the qualification category "teacher-moderator" without going through the category assignment procedure.
Additionally, measures are taken to attract applicants to enter pedagogical specialties in higher education institutions in the country. According to the results of last year, the number of applicants, holders of the "Altyn Belgi" (Gold Medal) for pedagogical specialties has increased twofold. The requirements for admission to pedagogical specialties have been strengthened by increasing the threshold score for admission to higher education institutions in pedagogical specialties up to 75 points. In addition, students receive a stipend of more than 58 thousand tenge, for other specialties - about 37 thousand tenge," - as reported by the Committee.
Given Kazakhstan's focus on ensuring that schoolchildren master foreign languages at a decent level from an early age, foreign language teachers can reach a higher category by obtaining certificates in the CLIL methodology, as well as by passing specialized language proficiency exams such as IELTS, TOEFL, DELF, and Goethe Zertifikat. The language proficiency requirements are quite high, ensuring quality control. For example, for a teacher-moderator candidate teaching English as a foreign language, a score of 6.5 Band on IELTS or a TOEFL score of 60-65 points is required.
In conclusion, the teaching profession in Kazakhstan is experiencing a remarkable resurgence in significance and esteem, as educators are increasingly recognized for their pivotal role in shaping the nation's future. Beyond the conventional imparting of academic knowledge, teachers are now acknowledged as vital contributors to the holistic development of the younger generation, encompassing both education and upbringing. This positive shift is underscored by the emphasis on instilling values, critical thinking, and essential life skills, showcasing the profound impact teachers have on nurturing responsible and well-rounded citizens. The government's proactive measures, including a substantial increase in wages, a reasonable decline in workload, and the introduction of qualification categories for professional development, have contributed significantly to restoring the prestige of the teaching profession.