Izvestiya of Saratov University.

Sociology. Politology

ISSN 1818-9601 (Print)
ISSN 2541-8998 (Online)

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Длинный путь от Астаны до Болоньи: политика медиа-образования в Казахстане

Mould D. H., University of Ohio, Athens (USA)
Kongurova O. G., Kostanay State University. A. Baytursynova (Kazakhstan)

Kazakhstan is the most prosperous and politically
stable (though not yet democratic) country in
Central Asia, and the government has made education
a priority. Kazakhstan’s economy has been
growing, and revenues from oil, gas and mineral
resources have swelled the government budget. In
2001 Kazakhstan launched a multi-year program
(now extended to 2020) to improve education.
Many universities are stronger and healthier than in
the 1990s, with higher salaries and state funding for
research and development. Standards have been improved
with the introduction of the Unified National
Test, roughly equivalent to the SAT (the standardized
test used for most college admissions in the United
States). As a signatory to the Bologna Process, Kazakhstan
introduced the European Credit Transfer
System (ECTS) which has improved mobility and
flexibility. Between 2004 and 2008 the Ministry of
Education and Science closed about 40 underperforming
universities and branch campuses. In the
1990s, entrepreneurs started opening private universities
to attract upper and middle-class students dissatisfied
with education at state institutions. Some
failed or were closed because they did not meet
minimal standards; from a peak of 123 in 2000, the
number fell to 83 in 2007, but rebounded slightly
to 92 in 2010. Nationwide, about 620,000 students
are enrolled, most at state institutions; about
285,000 (46 per cent) are part-time or distance education
students, completing their requirements by
examination. Over the next few years, enrollment
may decline because of demographic trends; in the
harsh economic times after independence in 1991,
fewer children were born, and this is the cohort now
reaching college age. About one fifth of students are
supported by merit-based state scholarships (which
do not cover living expenses); the rest pay tuition1.
During the global economic crisis, working and
middle-class families found it difficult to pay fortheir children’s education; some private universities,
such as the English-language Kazakhstan Institute
of Management, Economics and Strategic Research
(KIMEP) in Almaty (recently renamed the University
of KIMEP), saw sharp falls in enrollment which
in 2009 led to cuts in teaching staff. State universities
depend primarily on government funding and
tuition, and have struggled to attract private gifts
and research funding. Meanwhile, the government
has targeted several institutions for strategic investment,
including Nazarbayev University in Astana, a
partnership with several U. S. and European institutions,
which offered its first classes (in English)
To help fund the expensive project, the government
diverted money from the successful Boloshak
program which funded overseas undergraduate education
for high-performing students. The university
is designed to create an international education experience
in the middle of the steppe. The court is still
out on whether the investment is a wise one.
Historically, journalism in the Soviet Union
was a subfield of literature so journalism education
was conducted in faculties of philology (language
and literature). Many journalism teachers have degrees
in philology but no academic or professional
experience in media. They can teach theoretical
courses on journalism and society, but struggle with
the practical courses. “Most of our faculty members
are philologists,” said to me Tatyana Dyakova from
Taraz State University. “I am a lecturer in classical
Russian literature, and I would appreciate help from
real journalists”.
As in other countries, the requirements of universities
and the Ministry of Education and Science
for teachers with doctoral degrees and scholarly
research, and the needs of the media industry for
practical skills, are in conflict. Media employers
complain that teachers lack practical experience and
that the curriculum is too theoretical. As Freedman
pointed out in his analysis of journalism education
in Kyrgyzstan: “Their pedagogy includes an orientation
towards lectures rather than field reporting assignments,
towards rote learning of facts rather than
critical thinking, and toward discouragement of students
from actively questioning their instructors”3.
The situation may worsen, with the mandate
from the ministry that teachers publish their research
in “high-impact factor” peer-reviewed journals,
a classification system from Thomson-Reuters
that rates journals based on the number of citations4.
This is a major challenge for faculty, especially in
the humanities and social sciences, including journalism,
who for years have met their own institutions’
more modest research standards by publishing
articles in university-produced books. They lack
both English academic writing skills and training in
Western research methods. The ministry requires
faculties and departments to have a specified number
of teachers with graduate degrees; those that do
not will lose their state accreditation. Most working
journalists have only a bachelor’s degree, so the rule
often prevents departments from hiring them. Even
without it, attracting practitioners is a financial challenge;
journalism in Central Asia is not a well-paid
profession, but teachers’ pay is even lower. At many
universities, working journalists can do no more
than give a few pro bono guest presentations, and
supervise interns.
The trend is worrying, because enrollment in
Kazakh-language journalism tracks (most universities
offer two tracks, in Russian and Kazakh) is
increasing. Even Kazakh academics admit that the
educational and professional standards of Kazakhlanguage
journalism teachers are lower than their
Russian-language counterparts, and so departments
face a difficult dilemma: Russian-language teaching
capacity may be adequate, but there are fewer students
to teach; more students want to work in Kazakh-
language journalism, but there are not enough
qualified teachers.
Many graduates do not end up working in
journalism because Kazakhstan’s media sector, although
it has expanded, especially in online news,
does not create enough jobs for the annual output of
graduates. Some had always planned to work in the
better-paying fields of public relations and corporate
communication, but many others have to find work
in non-media fields. The trend towards Englishlanguage
instruction also has consequences. Several
universities offer what they call “international journalism”
programs, which include instruction in foreign
languages (usually English) and more courses
in international relations and economics than in the
traditional curriculum. In principle, this is an advantage
because students can do Internet research and
interviews in English, thus broadening their range
of sources. However, it does not help them much
in a job market dominated by Kazakh and Russianlanguage
The over-supply of journalism graduates was
the pretext for a controversial proposal in 2011 by
Education and Science Minister Bakhytzhan Zhumagulov
to close all the journalism departments at regional
state universities, and offer journalism at only
two institutions – Kazakh National University (KazNU)
in Almaty and Eurasian National University
(ENU) in Astana. KazNU is the traditional leader
in journalism education in Kazakhstan; it has been
educating journalists since 1934, and, in collaboration
with the ministry, plans the national curriculum.
Although there was broad agreement that weak departments
with few students should close, the plan
was opposed by almost all regional university rectors
who correctly sensed that Zhumagulov had a
political agenda. Centralizing journalism education
in Astana and Almaty would help the authorities to
make sure that teachers and students toed the government
line and would draw on a steady streamof graduates for jobs in government and corporate
communication. The plan would also have reduced
the number of students because many cannot afford
education in the two most expensive cities in Kazakhstan.
Those who can are unlikely to return to
regional cities to take lower-paying jobs. University
rectors argued that, given the size of the country and
the large number of regional centers, it was more
cost-effective to educate journalists at their home
According to a 2008 survey by Nemecek et
al., 20 universities in Kazakhstan offered journalism
education, most within faculties of philology.
At least two departments (at Aktobe and Kokshetau)
have since been closed by the ministry because
they did not meet the quota for faculty with graduate
degrees. Five are at private institutions, all in Almaty;
the state institutions are in Almaty (KazNU)
and Astana (ENU) and the following regional cities:
Atyrau, Karaganda, Kostanay, Kyzylorda, Pavlodar,
Petropavlovsk, Semey, Taraz, Ust-Kamenogorsk
and Zhezkazgan5. The strongest, with large enrollments,
are at Karaganda, the fourth-largest city in
the country in the northern industrial belt, Kostanay,
Pavlodar, Semey and Ust-Kamenogorsk. Surprisingly,
there is no journalism department in Shymkent,
the third-largest city and the major center in
southern Kazakhstan.
All universities follow the ministry-mandated
national journalism curriculum, which is designed
by the journalism faculty at KazNU. It consists of
general education courses, core journalism courses,
sequence courses, an internship and final exams. In
principle, students can select one of six sequences:
periodical press, television journalism, radio journalism,
international journalism, mass media management
and marketing, and Internet journalism. In
practice, most departments at regional universities
offer no more than two or three sequences; not only
do they lack qualified teachers, but they cannot afford
to offer sequence classes for a handful of students.
They are also limited in their ability to offer
electives. Unlike U. S. and European universities,
where students take courses in departments outside
their major, most courses (including general education
courses) are taught within the department,
so the students are learning history and philosophy
from journalism (or philology) teachers. This is
primarily a function of the group system, in which
students take most (if not all) their coursework
with the same group of fellow students throughout
their college career. This is a serious structural
limitation: not only are students taught by a small
group of teachers, but they interact on a daily basis
with the same group of peers. The group system
provides a comfortable, supportive environment,
but limits students’ exposure to other teachers and
Students in Kazakhstan, as in other former Soviet
republics, spend on average about twice as long
in class each week as their counterparts in North
America or Europe. For each credit hour, a student
has 45 hours of class time. This is divided between
lectures and supervised and unsupervised practice.
A typical three-hour class requires 135 hours. The
bottom line is that if a student takes the standard
12 credit hours in a 15-week semester, s/he will be
in class an average of 36 hours per week (a total of
540 hours for the semester). This emphasis on classroom
time has several consequences (apart from a
six-day week, including Saturdays). Most significantly,
it leaves little or no time for outside workreading,
papers, projects or, for journalism students,
researching and writing stories. In other words, it
does not provide the opportunity for the independent
research and critical thinking that is viewed as
critical in Western journalism education. Almost
all work has to be done in class, often without the
help of books or computers; by contrast, in North
America and Europe, many students are expected to
work an average of two hours outside class for each
hour of class time. It is almost impossible to assign
homework without placing a heavy burden on students.
As Shafer and Freedman note in their analysis
of journalism education in Uzbekistan, “[I] nstruction
generally follows the top-down model that most
of the faculty had been educated under. Tests usually
ask for facts and statistics, not analysis. Students are
not assigned research papers or presentations”6. Assessment
is based on what is covered in class, not
on other course resources. Although some teachers
administer written exams, many prefer the устный
экзамен, the oral examination given at the end of
the semester. Teachers are in class as many hours
as the students; even if the students wrote articles
or papers, they would not have time to grade them.
In 2008, Nemecek et al. surveyed 85 journalism
educators in Kazakhstan. More than half said
they planned to leave teaching because of inadequate
salaries. Only a few reported that they kept up on
methods of research and scholarship. However, they
“registered strong support for journalism education,”
saying that journalists should be educated at a journalism
school. Most said they taught the difference between
news and opinion, and about journalists’ rights
and ethics. On curriculum, “they supported teaching
journalism skills in a converging media environment,
requiring student internships and updating the curriculum
to include new media. Yet they strongly agreed
or agreed teaching national history and culture should
be required, and students should be trained to report
the country’s accomplishments”7.
Kazakhstan has made a technical conversion to
the ECTS system required by the Bologna Process
and has ambitions “to make Kazakhstani degrees
recognizable in the world”8. What it has not done
– and cannot do, unless it reforms the curriculum,
group system and classroom hours requirement –
is to measure education not by time spent in class,but by competencies. Under the Bologna Process,
a series of general competencies for undergraduate
education has been developed. Despite claims
by successive education ministers that Kazakhstan
has adopted “a competence based model”9, learning
continues to be measured by hours in class, lectures
delivered and rote repetition of material. Bologna’s
general competencies are supplemented by disciplinary
competencies – the knowledge, skills and values
that students are expected to achieve by the time
they graduate. This is accomplished through the socalled
“tuning process”, in which competencies for a
discipline are specified. Journalism has not yet gone
through the tuning process. However, there are several
models that could be followed. In June 2006, the
European Journalism Training Association (EJTA),
meeting in Estonia, issued the Tartu Declaration. It
describes the role, rights and social responsibilities
of journalists, then lists 10 basic competencies. On
graduation, students should be able to:
1) reflect on the societal role of and developments
within journalism;
2) find relevant issues and angles, given the
public and production aims of a certain medium or
different media;
3) organize and plan journalistic work;
4) gather information swiftly, using customary
newsgathering techniques and methods of research;
5) select the essential information;
6) structure information in a journalistic manner;
7) present information in appropriate language
and an effective journalistic form;
8) evaluate and account for journalistic work;
9) cooperate in a team or an editorial setting;
10) Work in a professional media organization
or as a freelancer10.
In June 2007, over 400 delegates from 45 countries
met in Singapore for the first World Journalism
Education Congress. They reached consensus on
four essential elements of journalism education11:
1. Provide a balance of theory and practice.
Delegates complained that too many universities focused
on theory, while others focused only on skills
without examining the history, ethics or societal role
of journalism.
2. Emphasize the core skills of reading, reporting
and writing.
3. Give students grounding in additional disciplines
such as law, economics, politics and science.
4. Give students experience through classroom
labs and internships12.
Journalism education in Kazakhstan is still a
long way away from meeting international standards.
The Soviet literary tradition, strict ministry
requirements for academic qualifications, a lack of
teachers with practical experience, a mandated national
curriculum, the group system, a heavy class
schedule that limits outside study, and a lack of competency-
based learning outcomes prevent universities
from providing students with the knowledge
and skills they need to work in the media industry.
A resolution from the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Central Asia
media conference on journalism education, held in
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in October 2009, urged journalism
schools to give “a high place in the curricula”
to investigative journalism to promote “democracy
and as a tool in combating corruption”13. It is a noble
goal, but under present conditions, unrealistic.
Even if students had time outside class to read,
there’s often not much useful material in the university
library. Although larger institutions have invested
in research libraries and online databases, most
regional universities lack recent books, and have few
(if any) journal subscriptions. The situation is puzzling,
given the traditional emphasis on print materials
for education and research. In its guidelines for
faculty research and “high-impact factor” academic
journals, the ministry refuses to count publications
in peer-reviewed, electronic journals as faculty research
output. Everything has to be in print.
Internet and database access has been improving,
although the number of work stations at many
universities is still insufficient, and lab hours are
often limited. The number of copyright-free, downloadable
Russian-language sources on media and
journalism has also been steadily increasing, and
several online libraries offer a wide range of resources,
including materials on economic, business,
environmental and science reporting. Many of these
are listed in the recommended and week-by-week
readings for courses in the Russian-language version
of the UNESCO Model Curricula on Journalism
Education. For students in Kazakh-language
journalism tracks, fewer print and online resources
are available. A project, supervised by KazNU and
funded by UNESCO, began in 2011 to identify and
collect available online Kazakh-language sources; a
team of Kazakh-language journalism educators and
journalists is also developing new materials. Some
Kazakh-language class assignments, developed in
workshops by the Kazakhstan Newspaper Publishers
Association, are available on the UNESCO Model
Curricula website14.
As already noted, Kazakhstan’s journalism curriculum
is organized into six traditional sequences.
This is mirrored by the division of the faculty or
факультет into several departments, each with a
заведующий (department head). The assumption is
that students will follow different career paths, and
therefore need different, medium-specific skill sets.
The rapid economic and technological convergence
of media has challenged this assumption. In Kazakhstan,
as in other countries, many media companies own several outlets, including print, broadcast
and online. Employers want college graduates with
the skills to work in all media – to shoot pictures and
video, and adapt a print or TV story for online media.
Converged news demands a converged journalism
curriculum in which students gain informationgathering,
reporting, interviewing and writing skills,
and are able to work across platforms. Although
several universities claim to offer sequences in Internet
journalism, lack of faculty expertise and inadequate
technical facilities mean that few students are
ready to work in online journalism. A few trainers
are teaching students and young journalists how to
build websites, do blogs and use social networking,
but most of this instruction is in training sessions
sponsored by donors, outside academic settings. The
2009 OSCE declaration urged governments to help
pay for IT equipment and Internet access at universities,
and called on universities to incorporate “Internet
and online tools, including Web 2.0, Twitter,
YouTube, social networking sites and other usergenerated
resources into the curriculum”15.
It is difficult for universities to bring in working
journalists to teach practical courses because of
academic credentials and poor pay. Media organizations
in Kazakhstan complain about theory-dominated
curricula and claim that journalism graduates
lack basic skills in reporting, writing and media production.
However, few media organizations have invested
resources in universities or training for their
staff – either in-house or through professional media
associations. At an August 2010 forum on journalism
education at Barnaul near Pavlodar, participants
called for reform of the curriculum and for better collaboration
with the media industry. In a declaration
forwarded to the Ministries of Education and Science
and Communication and Information, universities,
mass media and international organizations,
they stated that journalism “should become a service
component of the media industry, able to respond to
its real needs”. They called for “an open discussion
about state education standards”, the right of universities
to design their own curricula, and improved
cooperation between universities, employers and
media NGOs. Specifically, they called on the Ministry
of Education to base curriculum on the UNESCO
Model Curricula for Journalism Education, and the
Ministry of Communication and Information to use
indicators adopted by UNESCO’s International Programme
for the Development of Communication to
monitor and assess media development. They asked
universities to include media practitioners and NGO
representatives on advisory councils, and to make
pay scales for part-time teaching high enough to attract
professionals. Major reforms were needed to
address “the colossal gap between theory and practice,
journalism education and the realities of the
media industry”16.
Journalism students gain some experience
through practical work and internships in media,
mostly during the summer break. After local media
complained in a meeting with the rector of Kostanai
State University that “for many students, work
practice is becoming a mere formality, recorded in
the reports”, the university started a program where
students spend one day a week at a local media outlet;
the model shows promise because it gives the
students ongoing experience while still adhering to
ministry requirements17. However, the criteria for
placement, the work assigned to students and the
level of faculty supervision and involvement vary
widely. Few faculty have time to improve their own
professional skills with summer internships because
they are under pressure to do research and often
need income from summer classes.
Some practical training needs in Kazakhstan
are met by media NGOs, such as MediaNet in Almaty
and Decenta in Pavlodar, and by workshops
funded by donors including UNESCO, UNDP, the
Soros Foundation, the International Center for Journalists
(ICFJ), Deutsche Welle and others. Most are
intended for working journalists, but in recent times
some university teachers have had access to training.
The most ambitious and long-term project is
by Decenta, which in 2008 received a 250,000 euro
grant from the European Commission to expand
the range of courses taught to journalism students.
Decenta, working with MediaNet and eight media
NGOs, designed courses on topics that are not in the
national curriculum, including reporting on business,
investigative reporting, journalists’ rights protection
and new media, and planned to pilot them at
eight universities. For now, they can only be elective
courses because they have not been adopted into the
national curriculum.
Given the lack of professional media experience
of teachers, student media could offer a potential (if
partial) solution to help students build their skill sets.
However, there is no tradition of independent student
media in Central Asia. Journalism departments
publish occasional magazines, newspapers and
newsletters (almost always print versions) with stories
by students, but there is almost no serious news
reporting. Some of these are student-oriented, featuring
profiles of student leaders, music and movie
reviews and interviews with talent contest winners;
others are simply PR vehicles for the university or
department. The publications are financially supported
by the university and editorially supervised
by faculty members. In the hierarchical management
system (at both state and private institutions) they
are careful to avoid any stories that would not reflect
well on the institution. Students lack both editorial
freedom and financial control. Student media do notgive them the opportunity to explore political, social
and economic issues–and certainly not institutional
policies and budgets–or gain experience in managing
a media business. While KIMEP was wracked
by a budget crisis, the revocation of its license by
the ministry (later overturned by a court ruling) and
a series of financial and sexual harassment scandals,
the KIMEP Times was cheerily delivering upbeat
messages from the university president and interviewing
the winner of the Miss KIMEP competition
about her plans for a modeling career. To be fair,
journalism students had no part in the sorry venture;
in 2010, editorial management of the KIMEP Times
was transferred from the Department of Journalism
and Mass Communication to the College of Business.


1 См.: Abazov R. Kazakhstan : Only the Nimble
Survive // Transitions Online. 25 February 2009 ; Об
итогах деятельности Министерства образования и
науки в 2011 году и задачах на 2012 год в свете реали-
зации ежегодного Послания Главы государства народу
Казахстана. URL: http://www.edu.gov.kz/ru/ob-itogahdeyatelnosti-
godu-i-zadachah-na-2012-god-v-svete (дата обращения:
2 См.: Bartlett P. Academic Free Hand for Nazarbayev
University // Eurasianet.org. 15 October 2010. URL:
http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62159 (дата обращения:
3 Freedman E. After the Tulip Revolution : journalism
education in Kyrgyzstan // Asia Pacific Media Educator.
Iss. 18 (December 2007). P. 171–184. URL: http://ro.uow.
edu.au/apme/vol1/iss18/15 (дата обращения: 17.05.2014).
4 См.: Sci-Bytes: What’s New in Research. URL: http://
sciencewatch.com/dr/sci (дата обращения: 19.05.2014).
5 См.: Nemecek M., Ketterer S., Los S., Ibrayeva G. Journalism
Education in Kazakhstan: The Soviet Legacy and the
Contemporary Challenge // Freedman E., Shafer R.
(eds.) After the Czars and Commissars : Journalism in
Authoritarian Post-Soviet Central Asia. East Lansing :
Michigan State University Press, 2011. P. 42.
6 Shafer R., Freedman E. Obstacles to the Professionalization
of Mass Media in Post-Soviet Central Asia : a case study
of Uzbekistan // Journalism Studies. 2003. Vol. 4. P. 91.
7 Nemecek M., Ketterer S., Los S., Ibrayeva G. Op.cit. P. 43.
8 Speech by Education Minister Zhanseit Tuymebaev,
Kazakh National University, Almaty, 5 February 2009.
URL: http://edu.gov.kz/ru/doklad-zh-tuymebaeva-na-temuceli-
(дата обращения: 27.05.2014).
9 Ibid.
10 См.: European Journalism Training Association, The Tartu
Declaration. URL: http://www.ejta.eu/index.php/website/
projects (дата обращения: 26.05.2014).
11 См.: World Journalism Education Council (WJEC). URL:
http://wjec.ou.edu. Members of 28 journalism education
associations identified 11 principles “to serve as a standard
for journalism education worldwide”. URL: http://wjec.
ou.edu/principles.html (дата обращения: 25.05.2014).
12 См.: At the Congress, UNESCO launched the English version
of its “Model Curricula for Journalism Education” (http://
UNESCO, 2007). It defines three main areas of studyprofessional
practice (40 per cent of program of study),
the role of journalism in society (10 per cent), and arts
and science courses that expand knowledge of the world
(50 per cent). The curricula outline programs of study
for a three-year bachelor’s degree, a four-year bachelor’s
degree, a two-year master’s program (with options for
students with or without journalism experience) and
a two-year diploma program. The curricula have been
translated into Russian, and Russian-language sources
have been identified through a peer-review process (still
under way). A project was launched in May 2011 to add
Kazakh-language sources (see www.modelcurricula.org).
The UNESCO curricula outline four main goals and a
detailed list of competencies:
An ability to think critically, incorporating skills in analysis,
synthesis and evaluation of unfamiliar research materials,
and a basic understanding of evidence and research
An ability to write clearly and coherently, using narrative,
descriptive, and analytical methods;
A knowledge of national and international political,
economic, cultural, religious, and social institutions;
A knowledge of current affairs and issues, and a general
knowledge of history and geography.
13 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,
The Representative on Freedom of the Media, Declaration
of the 11th Central Asia Media Conference, “Journalism
education – improvement of the quality of education
and new technologies,” Bishkek, 15-16 October 2009.
URL: http://www.osce.org/fom/41100 (дата обращения:
14 См.: Model Curricula for Journalism Education. URL:
pdf (дата обращения: 11.12.2013).
15 Declaration of the 11th Central Asia Media Conference.
URL: http://www.osce.org/fom/41100 (дата обращения:
16 Кунгурова О. Роль медийных НПО в решении проблем
журналистского образования // Байтурсыновские чте-
ния : материалы Междунар. науч.-практ. конф. Коста-
най, 2011. С. 73.
17 Ibid.