Kazakhstan’s government knew what it was getting when Yerlan Sagadiyev was appointed education minister in February 2016.
The US-educated 50 year old, an economist by training, has long been a crusader for the radical modernization of schools in Kazakhstan and, in particular, the need for all the nation’s children to learn English.
But anger is mounting, particularly among the self-described patriotic camp, over perceptions that his newfangled educational ideas are undermining the teaching of the Kazakh language, culture and history. Administrative bungling has not helped the minister’s cause either.
Sagadiyev set out his vision most explicitly in a 2013 talk at an Almaty edition of the TEDx franchise, when he spoke about what he sees as the importance of teasing apart the concepts of culture and education. “The task of modern education is to form a competitive person endowed with up-to-date theoretical knowledge and technical skills,” he said.
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Aktan Rysaliev is a pseudonym for a journalist working in Almaty, Kazakhstan.