Factors that determine teachers’ status in Kazakhstan

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UERA Council member, Iryna Kushnir, worked with Danaaiym Tlekkyzy and Aizhan Medetbek from Nazarbayev Intellectual School (NIS) in the city of Pavlodar (Kazakhstan) on a small-scale research project. The project aimed to explore how the status of secondary school teachers is measured in Kazakhstan. The need for conducting this research was largely induced by a gap in the findings in the 2013 report on the Global Teachers’ Status Index[1] which excluded Kazakhstan from the list of countries that were investigated. This collaborative study supplements the findings in the report with qualitative data from 2017 which stems from 7 semi-structured interviews with teachers and students at one of the schools in Kazakhstan.

One of the reasons for the generalisability potential of the data is the focus of the interview questions on teachers’ status in Kazakhstan overall. The data suggest that the main determinants of teachers’ status in Kazakhstan are: payment scale and overall societal attitude towards the teaching profession. Less important but still influential determinants are: students’ behavior in class and the availability of non-cash rewards for teachers from the government. Below is a brief account of each of the factors.

Payment scale

Payment serves as the most significant factor in evaluating the status of a Kazakh teacher by students and teachers themselves. The following quote from an interview with a teacher exemplifies the prevailing opinion of all the respondents, “The main point nowadays is payment”. Moreover, teachers’ knowledge of English mediates the level of payment they receive in Kazakhstan, regardless of the subject they teach, according to the recent decree of the Ministry of Education.

Overall societal attitude towards teaching profession

Societal attitude  is another very prominent factor. It concerns different perspectives, including those of students, parents, teachers themselves, and representatives of other professions. For instance, a student claims: “ The attitude of parents and society towards profession is the factor”. The more positive the attitude, shared by different groups of the population, the higher the status. However, the attitude of the groups that are immediately related to secondary schooling, such as students and parents, counts the most. 

Behaviour of students

Behavior of students in class determines teachers’ status less than the above mentioned factors. It does play a role in reflecting students’ interest to be involved in the learning process, as planned and facilitated by teachers. Although students’ behavior may also reflect the level of respect students have towards a particular teacher, it does not necessarily translate into their attitude towards the profession in general.

Non-cash rewards from the government

It is common for teachers in Kazakhstan to receive governmental awards, for example, in the form of accommodation. These types of gifts are earned through work of educators that achieved the status ‘The Teacher of the Year’ or for preparing students for winning international school competitions. These awards are available for the minority of teachers. Hence, they do not significantly impact  the overall status of the teacher in the country, although the generosity of awards reflects the the hard work teachers do.

This list of factors complements the findings in the Global Teachers’ Status Index report. There are many similarities between the findings of the report and the study on Kazakhstan. Here is the list of the main factors from the report that investigated the same issues in other countries: the profile of teacher respect, teaching as a sought-after profession, a contextual understanding of teachers’ social status, and views on students’ respect for teachers. The difference is in the structure and level of importance of the factors. This study on Kazakhstan also invites teachers of other countries to reflect on how they can measure their status as teachers and learn about a variety of factors they may consider for that.

 

[1] Report ‘The Global Teachers’ Status Index’. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.varkeyfoundation.org/sites/default/files/documents/2013GlobalTeacherStatusIndex.pdf (accessed December 1, 2017)