Nazarbayev University
Graduate School of Education

Graduate School of Education

Improvement of Secondary Education Curriculum of Kazakhstan in the Context of Modern Reforms

Improvement of Secondary Education Curriculum of Kazakhstan in the Context of Modern Reforms

Improvement of Secondary Education Curriculum of Kazakhstan in the Context of Modern Reforms

Status: completed, 2014-2016

Research Team

Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education

Aimzhan Iztayeva
Assel Kambatyrova
Aidar Khoroshash
Dr. Kairat Kurakbayev (Co-Principal Investigator)
Aizhan Omarbekova
Dr. Aida Sagintayeva
Dr. Duishon Shamatov
Gulmira Smanova
Dr. Daniel Torrano

University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

Dr. David Bridges (Research Director)
Dr. Simon Brownhill
Dr. David Frost (Principal Investigator)
Dr. Olena Fimyar
Michael Fordham
Dr. Ros McLellan
Dr. Fay Turner
Dr. Elaine Wilson
Dr. Liz Winter
Dr. Natallia Yakavets
Mike Younger

Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools:

Nazipa Ayubayeva
Dr. Makpal Dzhadrina
Aigul Kazzhanova
Nazira Tuleuova
Madina Tynybayeva
Aigul Yessengaliyeva.

Project Introduction

“Improvement of Secondary Education Curriculum of Kazakhstan in the Context of Modern Reforms” is the continuation of the study implemented in strategic collaboration and close cooperation between local researchers of the Graduate School of Education and international colleagues of the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. The main goal of this international study is to explore how the current secondary education system changes with undergoing school reforms and define what conditions and support are needed for the continuity in the system development. In this three-year study we have taken a number of central themes to do with curriculum and educational reform and pursued these mainly at school level but also in Rayon and Oblast Offices in the Orleu Centres and Pedagogic Institutes and, where appropriate in the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan and official government documentation. These themes include:

  • Curriculum ‘Translation’ (the development of educational innovations in secondary schools)
  • Structure of school assessment
  • Teacher professional identity
  • School leadership in a changing educational environment
  • School autonomy
  • School leavers’ transfer to higher education

Project Methods

The study has opted for a qualitative research design. The interviews were intended to explore the following research questions:

  • How and why individuals chose to become board members;
  • How senior administrators and board members understand their roles;
  • People’s perceptions regarding the work of the board–how it is structured and what dynamics influence its work;
  • What changes individuals believed were necessary to further improve the work of these relatively new governance bodies.

As an exploratory study, the intention was not to gain a comprehensive perspective on the experiences of senior administrators and board members across the entire higher education system. Consistent with effective practices in qualitative research, its purpose was to surface the range of complex issues facing these bodies as they strive to understand and enact their role. The research team was able to speak with representatives from the senior administration (either the rector or a vice rector) and a member of the board from four of the five institutions in the study—a total of fifteen individuals. The disparate stakeholders interviewed for the study offered a range of perspectives on the work of the board.

Major Findings

The main findings of the study are reflected in the main themes coordinated by the project-based thematic teams. The annual reports of the Project can be downloaded through these links:

  • Download here a short version of the 2014 report.
  • Download here a short version of the 2015 report.
  • Download here an executive summary of  the 2016 report.


Bridges, D., Kurakbayev, K., & Kambatyrova, A. (2015). Interpreting the International and Intranational “Translation” of Educational Policy and Practice: A Case of Opportunism, Serendipity, and Bricolage. In International Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research (pp. 1499-1512). Springer Netherlands.

Fimyar, O., & Kurakbayev, K. (2016). ‘Soviet’ in teachers’ memories and professional beliefs in Kazakhstan: points for reflection for reformers, international consultants and practitioners. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29 (1), 86-103. DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2015.1017850

Kazzhanova, A. & Kurakbayev, K. (2015) Развитие инноваций в системе среднего образования Казахстана: на примере новых подходов к организации учебного процесса в Назарбаев Интеллектуальных школах. [Development of Innovations in the System of Secondary Education in Kazakhstan: new approaches to the teaching-and-learning process at Nazarbayev Intellectual School]. “Methodologist Journal”, 9, pp. 11-16.

Kurakbayev, K. & Omarbekova, A. (2015) Advancement of the National System of Students’ Knowledge Assessment in the Context of a Criteria-based Assessment. Journal of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Educational Series.

Yakavets, N. (2017). Negotiating the principles and practice of school leadership: The Kazakhstan experience. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 45(3), 445-465.

Yakavets, N., Frost, D., & Khoroshash, A. (2017). School leadership and capacity building in Kazakhstan. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 20(3), 345-370.

Yakavets, N., Bridges, D., & Shamatov, D. (2017). On constructs and the construction of teachers’ professional knowledge in a post-Soviet context. Journal of Education for Teaching, 43(5), 594-615.

Yakavets, N. (2016). Societal culture and the changing role of school principals in the post-Soviet era: The case of Kazakhstan. Journal of Educational Administration, 54(6), 683-702.

Yakavets, N. (2014). Reforming society through education for gifted children: the case of Kazakhstan. Research Papers in Education, 29(5), 513-533.

Zhadrina, M. & Kurakbayev, K. (2014) Содержание школьного образования в Казахстане: новые перспективы. [School Curriculum in Kazakhstan: new perspectives]. Journal of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Education Series. 3 (43), pp. 14-23.