In 2012, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the ambitious Kazakhstan 2050 plan to make this Central Asian nation one of the world’s 30 most developed. Much of the plan revolves around the economic activity, but a crucial secondary function is to bolster and expand the country’s education system. Since Kazakhstan 2050 was kicked off, substantial strides have been made regarding making education and schools more accessible and high quality for all citizens. However, there are still barriers in place that prevent girls from utilizing of Kazakhstan’s growing scholastic offerings. In the article below, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kazakhstan are presented.
Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Kazakhstan
- The topic of sex is very taboo in Kazakhstan, and as a result, there is no structure in place to educate young people about safe sex and health. State-level plans across the board offer very little, and the national Ministry of Education supplies nothing at all. Without a syllabus for teachers or schools and a cultural inability to discuss sex, the birth rate for girls ages from 15 to 19 years is 28 per 1,000. This rate coincides with a 20 percent decrease in gross enrollment of girls from lower to upper secondary school, where students are typically from 16 to 18 years old.
- In January 2017, the Ministry of Education passed a decision that all schools, except for universities, would require students to wear uniforms, and that religious garments of any kind would be banned. In schools across the country, substantial portions of female students refused to attend until the ban is lifted. In one school, 73 percent of hijab-wearing students refused to comply. Dissenters maintain the ban is unconstitutional.
- Human Development Indices and Indicators report illustrate problems with education and outcomes in Kazakhstan. The report uses the Gender Development Index that measures inequalities in achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and command over economic resources, which is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. The difference between male and female GNI is more than $11,000 and 12 percent more of the male population participate in the country’s labor force.
- In 2017, the Kazakhstan government invested $56 million in support of female entrepreneurship in order to improve upon the substantial job increase caused by female-owned small and medium enterprises. Additionally, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) kicked off a Women in Business program in 2015, that provides female-owned businesses with designates credit lines.
- Access to primary and secondary school is a constitutional right in Kazakhstan and education is compulsory from 7 to 15 ages, ending before the final two years of secondary school. The last nine years have seen a decline in primary school enrollment, dropping from 90 percent in 2008 to only 86 percent in 2017. However, secondary school enrollment has trended in the opposite direction with net enrollment improving from 90 percent in 2010 to 99.85 percent in 2017.
- While primary and secondary enrollment rates for boys and girls are mostly equal, far more women pursue advanced degrees. Around 64 percent of students pursuing masters degrees and 58 percent of doctoral students are women. Women with advanced degrees most often go into education, health and administrative working fields, while men tend towards technical fields.
- While there is little gender disparity in the national rate for the attendance of primary school, the regional metrics show that girls in certain locations are more likely to miss out on primary education. In East Kazakhstan, the net attendance for boys is 90 percent while girls attendance is only 72 percent.
- The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a comparative study of the learning outcomes of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. Kazakhstan’s results show no significant differences between girls and boys, whereas other participating countries on average see an 11 point difference in mathematics. However, PISA does reveal that rural students tend to lag behind their urban counterparts. To stem this tide the Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science has partnered with the World Bank to kick off the Modernization of Secondary School. The program will last for 17 years and $75 million will be spent on improvement of the quality of education to reduce the gap between rural and urban schools, and to support inclusive education.
- Kazakhstan has entirely closed its gender gap in regards to educational attainment. In September 2018, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Education and Science announced a collaborative plan to bring better education to women in Afghanistan. In collaboration with the EU and the governments of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, the unnamed program allocates $2.3 million for training and educating women.
- A study conducted by the Asian Development Bank found that the overwhelming majority of college and vocational students in STEM fields were men. In order to overcome the antiquated beliefs that push women towards certain jobs and fields, the International Youth Foundation partnered with Chevron to start the Zangar Initiative. This program is meant to stimulate students interests in STEM fields while in primary and secondary school and establishes after-school clubs for students to combine their math and science lessons with engineering design processes to address real-world problems.
Kazakhstan’s aspiration to be one of the world’s most developed nations seems very likely considering the progress the country has made in recent history. By investing in and rethinking the educational system, Kazakhstan shows the importance of education for the country’s future and that, in order for the country to realize its potential, so must its citizens regardless of their gender. Educating women is a must when achieving the status of a prosperous nation.
– Nick Sharek