Well, oil be ... Kazakhs turn to the British for overhaul tips

Irena Barker

Temperatures in winter can drop to -45 degrees Celsius, its democracy is in its early days and its leader names almost everything after himself.

Despite these drawbacks, British teachers have answered a call from Kazakhstan's president Nursultan Nazarbayev for support in overhauling the country's entire education system.

British teachers are already heading to the landlocked country to work in the first seven of a new network of 20 elite government grammars, set up using wealth generated by large gas and oil reserves. Experienced teachers are being targeted to teach their subjects while mentoring Kazakh teachers and helping to develop the curriculum. About 20 British teachers started work there last September, but the figure is expected to rise to 80 a year from August.

The authorities hope that they will be lured by attractive packages including free accommodation, two free flights a year and wages of between $4,000 and $5,000 (pound;2,550- pound;3,192) a month.

President Nazarbayev - who has named the new Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools after himself - is hoping that the British influence will help to move the education system away from old-fashioned Soviet teaching techniques and towards a modern curriculum taught in Kazakh, Russian and English.

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), the international arm of exam board OCR, was contracted last year to advise and support the government on the development of the curriculum.

As part of a related teacher training project, the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Education is developing in-service training programmes for Kazakh teacher trainers, with the aim of introducing more critical thinking, interactive teaching and learning and the use of assessment.

Pupils at the new intellectual schools will be expected to progress to Kazakhstan's new university, the imaginatively named Nazarbayev University, set up in partnership with University College London.

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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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