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Doctoral Student Awarded Fulbright to Study the Impact of Transitionary Educational Reform in Kazahkstan

Carolyn Kissane, a doctoral candidate in the Comparative Education Program is doing her field work in Kazahkstan, for her dissertation, courtesy of a 1999-2000 Fulbright Full Grant. Transitionary Schooling in a Changing State: A Case Study of Two Primary Schools in Kazakhstan, will be Kissane's study of how instruction and pedagogical practice is changing from the inside out in this newly emerging country.

Kazahkstan, whose official language is Kazakh, a Turkic language, where ethnic Russians still make up 33 percent of the population, is going through a period of transition-a broad sweeping transformation that is occurring in the former Soviet republics with regard to major aspects of state and society.

Accordingly, Kissane believes, "if there are large-scale transitionary developments taking place in the economic, political, and social arenas, then there will be parallel change in schools and teacher pedagogy." She added, "A close examination of school reforms and changes in teacher practice in Kazakhstan may provide evidence of the phenomenon of transitionary educational reform and expand the understanding of what it is and how it has emerged since 1991."

Kissane says that since 1991, the year of Kazakh independence, the educational system has moved from a "command pedagogy," which was centrally controlled and broached little freedom for classroom innovation, to a more decentralized system, which is attempting to make changes in the classroom.

Kissane's fieldwork is, in her words, "a culmination of experiences," that has involved area, language study, and conference presentations in Kazakhstan and Russia as a recipient of a National Security Education Program Graduate Enhancement Fellowship from 1997-1998. While in Kazakhstan conducting her preliminary fieldwork she solidified her dissertation research and discovered "that there is a great gap and lack of understanding in how teachers react to, resist and reconstruct new educational policies into their schools and more specifically, into their own pedagogy."

"As a result of this investigation," Kissane adds, "it will be possible to see how and in what ways, teachers have adopted, modified or opposed elements of top-down post-socialist educational policies and what has been their imprint in this period of transition. This research can reveal why gaps exist between policy talk, policy action, and implementation into pedagogical practice in the classroom."previous page