Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country. It stretches across two continents and is equivalent to the size of Western Europe. 

Organising and delivering professional development for vocational teachers across such a large space is challenging. The Vocational Education Centre, however, is using a cascade approach to training to do just this. 

Sanzhar Tatibekov, the Vocational Education Centre’s chief trainer, and Aliya Bekisheva, the centre’s chief manager, have written about the project for us.

In the context of globalisation and industrialisation, improvements in specialist training and retraining in all economic sectors are one of the main tasks of Kazakhstan’s government policy. Intense economic processes have created a high demand for specialists with up to date qualifications and skills. 

The development of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Kazakhstan is undoubtedly one way to promote economic and social growth and it plays a key part in meeting individual interests and labour market needs.

One of the key objectives of the State Programme for the Development of Education and Science in Kazakhstan for 2016-2019 is to provide the TVET system with highly qualified staff. Through regular training, retraining and professional development, including internships, teaching staff will acquire the necessary competencies.

In 2014, a training centre was set up at Holding Kasipkor, which was reorganised into the Vocational Education Centre in 2016. 

The centre’s purpose is to provide professional development opportunities for TVET teachers, prepare teachers for new standards and requirements, and share its experience with all colleges in the country.

Its objectives are to:

  1. devise and arrange professional development courses for TVET teachers and managers in Kazakhstan to international standards
  2. implement an innovative multitier professional development model for TVET teachers and managers in Kazakhstan
  3. provide guidance and methodologies to support the introduction of new educational programmes developed by the Holding Kasipkor
  4. monitor and evaluate the efficiency of courses devised for TVET teachers and managers
  5. create and regularly update a database of TVET teachers in Kazakhstan who have received professional development at the Holding.

To this end, the Vocational Education Centre fulfils annual state assignments to promote professional development of TVET teachers and managers. Between 2012 and 2016, over 4,000 specialists took professional development courses as part of the programme. The lists of trainees are prepared by the centre in cooperation with regional educational departments.

Professional development and training are offered under modular educational programmes aimed at developing new competencies and new occupations at TVET institutions.

Where courses do not require trainees’ presence at foreign institutions, professional development and training are offered at the centre and Holding Kasipkor’s partnering colleges. Training involves foreign and Kazakh experts, external trainers and the programme’s own teachers and trainers who have passed special professional development courses.

In 2016, for example, the centre arranged a 72-hour professional development course for TVET teachers and managers under the programme entitled A Technical and Vocational Education Teacher for a New Generation.

The course comprised the following modules:

  1. a new paradigm and strategy for TVET development
  2. legal, programmatic and methodological  support to TVET development
  3. functional ICT competency
  4. fundamentals of professional teaching and psychology
  5. new approaches to planning and arranging courses at TVET institutions.

The methods and contents of the courses implemented by the centre are based on a competency approach to stepwise training programmes and modular professional development courses. The centre believes in, and helps create, an integrated, interactive and practice-oriented approach to teaching. It also encourages teachers and institutions to evaluate the quality of their teaching and its outcomes, and develop systems for selecting students using eligibility criteria.

Because of the size of the country’s territory and its large distances between cities and towns, the centre uses a cascade approach to training. External trainers provide professional development courses throughout the country. The centre has established a special commission whose members determine the criteria the external trainers must comply with.

At present, 282 TVET teachers have the status of external trainers. This status allows them to conduct professional development courses in regions to share advanced teaching experiences within the TVET system.

Therefore, the centre is solving two tasks in parallel: it trains TVET teachers and managers and prepares its own external trainers. The teachers and managers who have passed the centre’s courses share the experience and knowledge they have acquired in Kazakhstan and abroad with other stakeholders.

In addition to the arrangement of professional development courses, the Vocational Education Centre monitors and evaluates their efficiency. To ensure transparency and an unbiased outcome, the centre involves independent staff assessment experts who review the efficiency of professional development courses with quantitative and qualitative tools. Monitoring and efficiency analysis and evaluation help the centre to understand what aspects of education are the most efficient and useful for trainees, what needs to be improved, to what extent trainees make use of the knowledge and skills they acquire at the courses in their practice, and what themes are in the highest demand with trainees. The results of monitoring and efficiency analysis and evaluation are good indicators of the quality of the centre’s work.

The centre has also formed a working group to develop a new multitier professional development and retraining model for TVET teachers. It is intended to motivate TVET teachers for continuous development and lifelong learning.  

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Leader of the Nation, said that, “Knowledge and professional skills are the key benchmarks in today’s education, professional development and retraining.” To modernise the TVET system, it is necessary to ensure continuous professional growth of TVET teachers by providing them with regular training, retraining and professional development so that they can acquire necessary professional competencies.

The Vocational Education Centre has necessary potential and resources to consider itself an outstanding and important institution. We are confident that Holding Kasipkor will help to implement the state TVET development policies and strategies in an efficient manner.