Modernizing education in Eurasia

Cito has been supporting educational assessment in Kazakhstan for more than five years and progress is already visible. The Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan are admired by experts in other Eurasian countries as an example of successful modernization of education. One of these countries is Kyrgyzstan,where Cito International was recently invited by the National Testing Centre. 

A visit to Kyrgyzstan’s new Minister of Education 

Experts from the National Testing Centre (NTC) made several study visits to Cito between 2012 and 2015, and I had the pleasure of being involved in these meetings. Now it was time to pay them a visit in their own country, in the context of national assessments and tests.

After a stop in Astana, Kazakhstan, my colleague and language-testing expert Mrs Esther van Loo and I landed at a very foggy and grey Manas Airport near the capital Bishkek. Luckily this ‘unclear’ first acquaintance with the Kyrgyz Republic was not at all symbolic of the rest of our visit.

Impressed by Kyrgyztest

In the days that followed we learned a lot about Kyrgyztest, the national exams and the new curriculum for secondary education. Given the limited financial means and fairly outdated office facilities, we were impressed to see how NTC has already achieved high levels of professionalism in its development of tests to assess students’ mastery of reading, writing, listening and speaking in Kyrgyz as a non-mother tongue language. NTC management and staff are keen to develop their assessment methods and we are pleased that they have shown interest in ways that Cito could support innovations in Kyrgyzstan. These include modernizing the national school leaving exams in secondary education and receiving international accreditation for the Kyrgyz language test.

Special request by Minister of Education

A special meeting was organized with the recently appointed Minister of Education and Science, Ms Gulmira Kudaiberdieva. Our small Cito delegation was probably her first western visit since she took up office. In addition to the topics we had already discussed with the staff of NTC, the Minister asked that special attention be paid to the system of university entrance exams in Kyrgyzstan. She made clear that she sees good reasons for some changes and innovations, and a stronger role for NTC. Cito agreed to take this request into account and elaborate it further with NTC experts.

Exchange of cultures

Cooperation between NTC and Cito got off to a good start thanks to the warm and open hospitality of our hosts. In typical Kyrgyz tradition – possibly with some past Russian influences – we were wined and dined in some very special locations in the evenings, ranging from a traditional ‘stone’ yurt building, and an Uzbek-style Oriental restaurant to a more European-style restaurant with live dj and a huge dance floor. Arrangements are now being made for a visit of the Minister of Education and a management delegation to Cito in Arnhem. We expect to host this Kyrgyz delegation in the near future in 2017.

- Nico Dieteren -