Nazarbayev University
Graduate School of Education

Graduate School of Education

Research news


New Findings on English language teachers and young children’s experiences during COVID-19 in Kazakhstan

NUGSE professors Anas Hajar published two papers in prestigious journals: 'Emergency remote English language teaching and learning: Voices of primary school students and teachers in Kazakhstan', 'Review of Education' and 'Young children’s perceptions of emergency online English learning during the Covid-19 pandemic: evidence from Kazakhstan', 'Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching'
An interview about this articles with Dr Anas Hajar is available below. 

Emergency remote English language teaching and learning: Voices of primary school students and teachers in Kazakhstan. Review of Education

Young children’s perceptions of emergency online English learning during the Covid-19 pandemic: evidence from Kazakhstan. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching

What about the rationale for your study?

Most studies on emergency remote teaching and learning (ERT&L) have relied on data collected from teachers and parents. Less research on ERT&L has explored the perspectives of university students, and even less is known about children and young people's personal experiences and reflections, especially when they learn additional languages. This qualitative research study has, to an extent, addressed this lacuna by capturing the perceptions of a group of primary school students (aged 10–11) and their female English teachers on their own experiences of emergency online English language teaching and learning. The data were collected from four mainstream schools in Kazakhstan, using online individual interviews and students’ drawings. This triangulation of qualitative methods gave the young people a variety of opportunities to express their perceptions of ERT&L verbally and visually and enhanced the validity of the study findings.

What about the main findings of your study?

The study found that many young people perceived themselves as reflexive and reflective agents being motivated not only to learn but also to take responsibility for managing their language learning process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, most teachers demonstrated a growing sense of agency in learning to use other online platforms in their classes by themselves or with the assistance of colleagues from their or other schools, because they did not receive proper training on how to use online platforms (e.g., Zoom and Google Meet). The study showed that the private tutoring market has expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since many parents had difficulty keeping track of the academic progress of their children. Further, there was a lack of direct communication between teachers and students’ parents, and several students found their teachers’ English language activities largely teacher-centred and irrelevant to their real lives. Two teachers—who were the oldest in this study—pointed out that school closures had created additional work for them that negatively impacted on their well-being and quality of life.

What about the implications of your study for educational researchers and policymakers?

 This study demonstrates how the use of drawing as a participatory research method helped children realise their agency and express their varied perceptions of ERT&L. However, researchers need to evaluate the appropriateness and ethical concerns when using child participatory research methods (e.g., focus groups, drawings, children-led photography, and puppetry) in their empirical studies. To clarify, some children, especially older ones, may regard the drawing activity as ‘babyish’ or judgmental of their drawing skills. This study can be also a call to researchers to conduct additional research to further understand the nature and effectiveness of fee-charging private tutoring during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to private tutoring expansion, especially online, which is likely to continue. Further, it is essential that policymakers in Kazakhstan and elsewhere provide school teachers with proper and continuous training on how to use online platforms and encourage them to evaluate the effectiveness of their use. The wellbeing issue of working women including female teachers needs to be given more consideration by creating support systems.