Delivering a lecture at the Nazarbayev University on December 7, 2010 Head of State   Nursultan Nazarbayev gave some kind of instruction to all of us: “Today’s opportunities are decisive. There will be no second chance – the world becomes more integrated and changes irreversibly. All of you are offered a unique opportunity that you should use as much as possible. We will need great spiritual integrity not to lose ourselves in such transnational world. You are the future intellectual elite of Kazakhstan. Your sacred duty is to work hard for the good of the country where you were born, grew up and live. To date your mission is to achieve good academic results. Our nation has always valued education considering it a high priority”


These words have truly determined the place and purpose of every young Kazakhstani’s life. What we have achieved in the field of education, and what we will have to learn will be, undoubtedly, given back to our Motherland with gratitude.

Having established the Bolashak International Scholarship in 1993, amid economic and financial crisis, the Head of State provided a unique opportunity to Kazakhstani youth to obtain world-class education abroad.  The President realized that the funds invested in education at that time would pay-off in spades, because the country had to build innovative economy that will require highly-qualified staff thinking in a new way.

The President set to the implementation of his plan with the scale so characteristic of him. The JSC “Center for International Programs” reviewed and analyzed all international scholarships similar to Bolashak – British, Chinese, Japanese, Singaporean etc. – and came to a conclusion that the most powerful and developed countries of the world only send such a great number of citizens abroad for studying on a government-funded basis, providing assistance in all issues – from visa support to accommodation.  Tens of thousands of highly-qualified specialists have already returned to Kazakhstan and are holding senior positions in various sectors of economy and public administration sphere. About 3 thousand young Kazakhstanis are studying to date in the most prestigious universities of the world under the Bolashak program, while more than 30 thousand ones are pursuing degrees abroad under the special scholarship schemes, private grants, programs of humanitarian educational cooperation and at their own expense.

Our youth is highly praised abroad because our Government has been implementing trilingual principle in the system of education. Speaking the English language is no more surprise today: its presence in modern educational background is a natural requirement of the time we are living in.  We, Kazakhstanis, have an evident competitive advantage – we are born bilingual and therefore the President’s idea on trinity of languages and multilingualism is quite realizable. Our second advantage is our basic secondary education that is considered to be competitive in the world. And the third advantage is that our girls and boys have more sensible approach to planning their future, since the Government consistently implements the state policy on development of intellectual nation that will lead the country to a new level of innovative development.

One can say many verbose phrases but I would like to note, without false modesty, my own example of formation as a person, as a professional that clearly demonstrates what prospects are opened to our youth. I grew up without parents in a suburb of Semey. I was brought up by my father’s parents and at the age of 13 I was sent to a boarding-school.  I had no ambitions other than to get good education and become an expert in the sphere of education. In 1994 I was admitted to the Kazakh-Turkish Lyceum having passed rigorous selection – out of 3000 applicants I was among 25 successful ones. The Lyceum opened up an excellent opportunity to receive quality education. There I developed strong language abilities and received an excellent grounding in physics, chemistry and information technologies actively participating in school olympiads. By the way, namely in Semey I saw for the first time our President Nursultan Nazarbayev whose personality made a great impression on me. In 1999 I entered the Eurasian National Gumilyov University to study International Law. In 2000 I left for the U.S.A. under an exchange program to study political science at Marshalltown College, Iowa. A remarkable stroke of luck gave me once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the U.S. political system up close by joining Al Gore’s presidential campaign. By winning grants in open competitions I attended Tokyo State University and educational institutions of Italy. I also passed training in Belgium, the U.S. and Singapore studying public administration, communication management, philosophy and languages. In other words, I gained access to the best education traditions of the world: Anglo-Saxon, classical European and Asian. The most important thing I have understood over the years of education ­is that he who always tries to find himself in the modern world should study a lot, undergo internal changes and gain experience and competence. I also realized the importance of leadership abilities, because a person with his own vision, plans for the future and inner charisma is able to change the world.

Kazakhstan has created all conditions for young people to make their own choices and develop their own trajectory of study. Moreover there are all necessary tools to achieve this goal – plenty of specialized educational companies and various testing systems. The country builds a new educational system meeting the international standards and aimed at identification and support of young talented people. These are the Presidential Intellectual Schools, the Nazarbayev University and the Bolashak Program.

Studying at the Presidential Intellectual School Kazakhstani students acquire sound knowledge and strong skills and learn languages. At the Nazarbayev University the students develop a thorough grasp of sciences in research laboratories together with the world-famous scientists and professors. As for the Bolashak Program, since 2008 Kazakhstani youth has been sent abroad for research internships to the world’s leading scientific institutions. Thus, it means that the Government exerts every effort to form intellectual human capital of Kazakhstan.  Being a member of the Independent Expert Commission on awarding the Bolashak International Scholarship in 2010 I saw that the first graduates of the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools formed a big percentage of the Scholarship winners and were viewed more favorably than other applicants. To date the alumni of the Bolashak Program form the backbone of the scientific-research staff of the Nazarbayev University; they are actively involved in public service, production and education management both in the capital city and in regions. These are the tangible results of consistent reforms in education laying the platform for further enhancement of educational and scientific potential of the country, development of which has always been in focus of the President, in his state-of-the-nation addresses and lectures given at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and the Nazarbayev University.

According to UNESCO, Kazakhstan ranks the fourth in the world among the countries with high education development index after Norway, Japan and Germany. But we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. In this rapidly changing world the graduates entering the job market are required to combine theoretical and practical knowledge. Western education is famous for its competence-based approach, therefore the graduates of Western schools and universities better adapt to the employer’s requirements. Moreover, they are keen on self-development and upgrading their qualification. That is why our President always stresses the importance of lifelong education.  The new State Program of Education Development for 2011-2020 clearly defines these priorities and focuses on creating the lifelong education system.

I would like also to note the importance of motivation and role models in self-improvement and aspiration for learning. No wonder that Western civilization was built by heroes, the people who could change themselves and their surroundings. Our young people need bright role models, because they are open-minded and receptive to new ideas and information. As for me, I consider Nursultan Nazarbayev to be a role model. Nursultan Nazarbayev always points out the necessity of self-development, the importance of being ready to live in a competitive environment. The Head of State is an example of competitive and ‘self-made’ man. In 2008, while serving as a Vice Chancellor of the Public Administration Academy under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, I attended the meeting of the President with Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, ex-personal assistant to the great reformer.     The meeting focused on establishment of a national domestic school of public policy and the future of the Nazarbayev University. During the talks President Nursultan Nazarbayev demonstrated good knowledge of the educational system of Singapore, its banking sector and the anti-crisis policy conducted in this country. The Singaporean guest was impressed by the President’s erudition. As Kishore Mahbubani noted later, “prior to this meeting I considered Lee Kuan Yew to be the only authority for me. After this meeting I will have another role model – the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan”.

Kazakhstani youth possesses huge innovative potential. As Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed in his latest Address to the Nation “Building the Future Together”, quality education must underlie industrial and innovative development of Kazakhstan. To date our country has created all necessary conditions to let the Kazakh youth and future generations have access to the world’s treasuries of knowledge and apply the experience gained abroad in building a prosperous state with a strong system of education, science and economy.


Sayasat Nurbek


JSC “Center for International Programs”

Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan