SUPER really is going global. We have been working with Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS) over the past year as consultants on Action Research (AR) to help them with a key part of their educational reform process. This work culminated in us co-presenting the work we have been doing with NIS teachers at their annual conference in Astana a couple of weeks ago. But first some background on what we are doing and why we are doing this.
The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is determined to reform education to ensure young people receive an education that will equip them to deal with the challenges and changes of working life in the twenty first century, particularly in the context of a rapidly developing economy which has aspirations to be one of the top fifty countries by 2030. The country has a rich Soviet legacy and abundant natural resources but has turned Westwards to learn from best practice around the world in many different sectors, including education, so that their aspirations can be realised and they can be a world player in a global context.
In education, the President has set up two autonomous organisations as test-beds for development. At school level, NIS is responsible for running 20 selective and well-resourced schools to try out new pedagogical, curricular and assessment approaches and this organisation will have responsibility for rolling out these new programmes to the rest of the educational system in due course. The oldest NIS school recently celebrated its third birthday and the 20th NIS school is due to open by the end of this academic year, but the roll-out programme is already underway. Everything happens very fast in Kazakhstan! Nazarbayev University (NU) is the other institution that has been established to provide new opportunities at Higher Education Level. Both NIS and NU are working with a number of international partners to bring new ideas to Kazakhstan and Cambridge University, through Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and the Faculty of Education is a key partner.
At the 2012 SUPER Conference some of you may have met Nazipa Ayubayeva, who is Deputy Director of NIS. She had been doing her MPhil at the time under Colleen McLaughlin’s supervision, focusing on teacher collaboration. She visited several SUPER schools to get a sense of how collaboration in our network might differ from what she had seen in schools in Kazakhstan. So impressed was she with what we were doing and the impact she perceived our work to have at a whole school level as well as on individual teachers, that she invited us to work with NIS to help them develop teachers as professionals through taking an enquiry approach.
A one-year project was set up and launched when a group of 30 people from NIS (teachers, SLT, managers from NIS) came to Cambridge last October to learn about action research and enquiry-based approaches to teacher learning. They visited a number of SUPER schools and we planned the first of two cycles of AR in the 8 NIS schools represented (the only ones open at the time). They decided to set up similar structures and roles that we have in SUPER – hence we now have TRCs in Kazakhstan. (photo)
Since then there have been a number of workshops in Kazakhstan over the year involving members of the SUPER network (Jennie Richards from Sharnbrook, Jenny Rankine and Kate Evans from Bottisham, Jan Schofield from Biddenham / Faculty and Ros McLellan from the Faculty) and we have been thrilled to see how much our colleagues in Kazakhstan have engaged with and run with the ideas we have discussed with them. We have also learned so much from them, as well as picking up a smattering of Kazakh and Russian, and enjoying some marvellous hospitality (although if you find yourself in the middle of a Kazakh feast I would pass on the fermented mare’s milk).
Our work was put on public display at the recent NIS annual conference, which showcases NIS work not only within the organisation but also to policy-makers, educationalists within Kazakhstan and the international community more generally and was attended by around 300 people. Given the central role of NIS to educational reform, this was a high-stakes event and we were all nervous about the reception our work would receive. Two researchers from Sussex University have been monitoring our work and were also presenting their findings at the event to add to our stress levels. However, the event really couldn’t have gone better from our perspective.
We jointly planned the presentation slots with the teachers who had been working with us. We provided an outline of the work and our NIS TRC colleagues then provided an overview of the main findings from the two cycles of research over the year. Delegates were then invited to look at the posters representing each project undertaken with some framing questions in mind – in some schools teachers had worked in two or three groups but in others as many as 16 individual projects had been carried out. We were very proud to display the posters the SUPER network had produced for our 2013 Annual Conference alongside their work. This generated a lot of interest and excitement in our work and lead to a lively plenary. (photos). The monitoring evaluation was also very positive. Additionally Kate Evans talked about implications of a SUPER approach for leadership, which was well attended.
Although we thought we would only be working with them for one year, NIS has now decided to continue working with us for at least another year to help them embed the approach within their schools, to help our 8 original NIS schools as they share and lead AR with the new NIS schools they are partnered with, which are opening this year, and finally in helping them to deal with the mammoth task of rolling out such an approach to the rest of the school system in Kazakhstan. This is a daunting journey for them but has also been an exciting journey for us, which we are delighted to share. It is also a great vote of confidence in SUPER and what we stand for.
See http://conference.nis.edu.kz/november2013/index.php/demo/83-abstracts?start=5 for more about the NIS conference
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