This month, Vocational Education Exchange magazine is reflecting on inspiring work from around the world. 

In Kazakhstan, Kostanay Construction College has been celebrating the design and implementation of a new multilingual programme. The programme was developed to equip students with technical language skills during their vocational training, to improve their competitiveness as graduates in a globalised labour market. Galiya Sultanova, the Deputy Head of Kostanay Construction College, has kindly written about the project for us.

A recent government analysis suggested that 70 per cent of Kazakh companies consider poor education an obstacle to business development. Among the concerns was lack of knowledge of foreign languages including technical English.  

Multilingual learning was first implemented in schools and universities in Kazakhstan in 2008. However, in the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system, this has only just commenced. To overcome this challenge, Kostanay Construction College began a plan to teach students three languages as part of its courses: Kazakh, Russian and English. Particular focus would be given to technical and profession-oriented language learning to enhance the competitiveness of its graduates. 

Designing the programme

For two years staff at the college studied the theoretical foundations of multilingual learning and evaluated the resources available. The biggest challenge was the absence of teachers of specialist subjects with knowledge of English. To deal with this, a multilingual learning programme requiring an interdisciplinary approach to the education process was developed and approved.  

Teaching the programme 

Since September 2015, the college has been working under this programme on an experimental basis. During the first year the college conducted a range of activities designed to raise students’ motivation to study foreign languages. The college arranged meetings for students with well known people of different nationalities who were fluent in Kazakh, and with representatives of language centres. The college also organised language contests and competitions.  

The academic year was completed with two big events that allowed students to experience language immersion. All college students spoke English during classes and breaks. Students of the experimental group conducted phonetic warm-ups in English classes as well as treasure hunts. The college also organised a roundtable discussion, inviting employees of the local language centres and a prominent English teacher from California, USA, to discuss the question, ‘Why is it necessary and important to study foreign languages?’ 

The college also introduced a fan club for those who love the English language, and offers advanced Kazakh and English classes. A multilingual education group has been created in the college’s social network. 

Evaluating the programme

In order to evaluate the success of the programme, the college monitored activities during the academic year, including:

Students’ interest in the implementation of the experiment, the level of parents’ satisfaction with the development of individual abilities of students, and the level of teachers' satisfaction with the conditions created for the execution of the experiment  

  • Students' level of knowledge of languages   
  • The quality of teaching and educational materials. 

Based on the results of the evaluation, the college completed a second analysis defining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The college has decided to expand the programme. This academic year, the college will offer students subjects such as economics, information technology and history in a variety of languages. 

This experiment in trilingual education in the college is a significant step towards the implementation of the State Programme for Language Development and Functioning in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020, including the development of the core competencies: knowledge of three languages, Eurasian multiculturalism, communication and technical skills. 

In accordance with the objectives set by the President of Kazakhstan in the State Programme for Development of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2016-2019, the State Programme for Languages Development and Functioning for 2011-2020 and the Trinity of Languages cultural programme, by 2020 all the citizens of Kazakhstan must master Kazakh, 95 per cent Russian and 25 per cent English. The college hopes that the TVET system will play a key role in the implementation of these programmes benefiting people and society as a whole.