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Increasing state order for teacher training, new format for taking Unified National Test, licensing of universities — Askhat Aimagambetov on activities of Ministry of Education and Science

Thursday, 08 April 2021, 19:11:59

Today, the Central Communications Service held a press conference on the current activities of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Answering a question from journalists about getting vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, the head of the Ministry of Education said that he received the vaccine back in 2020.

“I belong to the category of people who are vaccinated every year. Whether it's the flu vaccine. Last year I had to get 3 vaccines at once — the domestic vaccine, after that I also received the flu vaccine and pneumococcus vaccine. I believe that the vaccine is the greatest invention of mankind,” Aimagambetov noted.

The minister also said that by now about 17% of the total number of vaccinated are teachers.

Speaking about the state order for the training of teachers, Minister Aimagambetov stressed that the state order has increased not only for the training of teachers of the Russian language, but also for the training of primary school teachers, defectologists.

“We see the need for personnel. The state educational order itself is formed on the basis of need. That is, if we see that today we do not have enough teachers of the Russian language, primary school, physics, English or defectologists, respectively, we allocate more grants,” he said.

The head of the department also added that the lack of teachers of Russian and English is noted in certain regions of the republic. To resolve this issue, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan has increased the number of allocated places for training these personnel several times.

During the press conference, the question of the upcoming Unified National Testing was voiced. Kazakhstani school graduates and their parents are worried about the format of the Unified National Test in the current conditions. To this, the head of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan replied that the testing format itself has not undergone any changes, only the procedure for its implementation has changed.

“If before there was a paper UNT, that is, when the children came, they were given paper questionnaires and they had to fill in circles. Children wasted a lot of time on this, and there were also questions about academic integrity. Now, starting this year, we are switching to electronic UNT,” he said.

And the minister sees a number of advantages in this. So, incl. The unified national testing will be carried out within 3 months.

Another change affected the number of attempts to pass the UNT. Now the graduate will have 2 attempts, while independently deciding which of the final points will be used for further admission to educational institutions.

Several tasks are solved here at once:

  • the absence of a congestion of students during testing during a pandemic;
  • reduction of great emotional intensity;
  • removing the question of academic integrity;
  • saving time;
  • convenience of passing the UNT for the graduates themselves.

The minister answered in sufficient detail the question about the closure and revocation of licenses from universities.

“There was a corresponding instruction from the Head of State on issues related to improving the quality of higher education, including through the mechanisms for revoking licenses from universities that do not provide the proper quality of the educational process, educational services,” Aimagambetov said.

It is clear that the owners of educational institutions are trying to prove their case.

More than 66 thousand students studied at the already closed universities. According to the minister, all of them have been transferred to other universities. Those who studied on the grant kept them. For those who studied on a paid basis, in most cases, the cost of training is preserved, and somewhere the cost of training is reduced. Not one student was left out of training. And on a grant, and on credit transfer, continuation of their educational programs. Of course, the closure of universities is not a panacea. In addition to the revocation of the general license, work is underway on certain educational programs and areas of training. There are areas of training that are not specialized. Some universities do not have sufficient resources, material and technical base, teachers in order to provide quality education in this particular area of ​​training.

“In such cases, we do not completely revoke the general license, but the license for a certain area of ​​training. At present, we have taken away more than 143 licenses in the field of training from 37 universities,” Aimagambetov said.

For example, if last year 86 universities trained teachers, now they are being trained by a little more than 60 universities. Not all 86 universities had sufficient resources of material, technical, human capital, a sufficient base for the training of teachers. The same can be said about the training of specialists in the IT sphere, the training of medical workers. In a word, work is underway to train personnel only in those areas in which they can provide quality education.

As the minister noted, the process of revoking licenses is a detailed regulated process. Only those universities that are at risk are included in the checklist. It is according to a special risk assessment system that a list for verification is formed. An order is given to eliminate violations. The process is long enough for bona fide universities to eliminate mistakes and shortcomings. The ministry does not divide universities into private and state ones, and during inspections does not focus on the results of all kinds of ratings. Poor education can be found in any university. We cannot wait for the market to regulate the situation with the quality of education itself. Systemic measures are being taken, including the issue of certification. But most universities, according to the minister, provide very competitive educational services of high quality.

As for foreign universities, it is good, as the minister noted, that leading foreign universities are entering our market. In Almaty, for example, one of the private universities works with the University of Arizona.

“It is necessary to attract new modern educational programs to Kazakhstan. But all this should be done within the framework of the legislation,” the minister emphasized.

When asked about vaccination, the minister noted that today the third phase of trials of the domestic vaccine is underway. The vaccine development process is proceeding strictly within the approved schedule.

“We plan that the documents will be submitted at the end of April. There is a certain period of time when volunteers must come and donate blood and other tests. These analyzes are processed. Further, the documents will be submitted to the authorized body so that this vaccine can be used in humans in the clinic. The whole process is going according to plan,” Aimagambetov said.

In general, the development of the vaccine and the fact that it has reached the third phase is a huge victory, the minister said.

“This is the heroism of our scientists. This shows the potential that we have in the field of science in terms of biological safety. In fact, our institute employs world-class scientists who have extensive experience in the preparation of vaccines. We are now supporting this institute. As you know, we have more than one vaccine. In this case, if we talk about the vaccine produced by the institute, then here all the procedures and processes are going according to the schedule. There are no problematic questions. Now biological control is being completed, further work on shipment will be carried out, and so on. In general, all this work is going on. We assume that by the end of April this year we will submit the documents, and the relevant ministry will already make a decision. We need to be patient,” Aimagambetov explained.

According to the minister, scientists are working around the clock.

“Our scientists generally work on five platforms. With regard to the vector vaccine, we have reached preclinical trials. A ‘live’ vaccine is also being prepared, a subunit one, for which we are waiting for permission to conduct clinical trials. Our scientists are working in all directions: they are planning to develop vaccines for animals, and are also working on the study of British, South African strains of coronavirus in the laboratory. These strains have been identified, they are conducting research, so the work is in full swing,” said Aimagambetov.

As the minister noted, world practice shows that following the results of two phases of clinical trials, vaccines were allowed for use. There were also facts when, at 50% of the third clinical phase, the vaccine was also allowed for use.

In accordance with regulatory documents, 50% of the third phase (development of the Kazakh vaccine) is completed in April. This provides a legal opportunity for the vaccine to be administered.

“Our vaccine has a slightly different technology, it is an inactivated vaccine. Where the virus is inactivated, social clearing is added, relevant and we believe that it has a number of advantages, our vaccine is very high in protein, genetic material. When we now see a situation with an increase in various strains, mutations, when the structure of the virus changes, it is the advantage of our vaccine, where the whole virus is, it is more resistant to mutation of strains, our scientists believe,” Aimagambetov noted.

When asked about the increase in the salaries of the teaching staff of universities, the minister noted that now there are a lot of all kinds of useful and necessary changes in the higher education system. This is an expansion of academic freedom, an increase in grants, changes in the UNT. But at the same time, according to the minister, teachers always have three big problems. Until they are resolved, all reforms will not be effective.

The first problem is the overload of all kinds of documentation and papers. This applies not only to teachers of secondary education, but also to higher education. The second problem is overload. Teachers do not have time for science and quality preparation for classes. And the third question is the size of wages.

“Last year, at a meeting of the National Council of Public Trust, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev gave us clear instructions on increasing teachers' salaries. And we are solving these issues systematically,” Aimagambetov stressed.

In 2019, wages were increased by 20%. In 2020 — by another 20%. But if the base rate is low, then this 20% is a small amount. Therefore, the ministry decided to determine the minimum rate for teachers at 200 thousand tenge, for professors — at 300 thousand tenge. In addition, in parallel with this, so that teachers do not increase the load along with the salary, the ministry set the maximum load ceiling at 680 hours. The ministry is systematically introducing these important changes into the education system.

Conversations are held with the heads of private universities so that they also raise the salaries of the teaching staff.

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