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Rector of Narxoz University on the transition to online education and obtaining a diploma from a UK University

Andrew Wachtel

61 years old, hometown — West Orange, rector of Narxoz University


Rector of Narxoz University on the transition to online education and obtaining a diploma from a UK University


About moving to Kazakhstan

I recently live in Kazakhstan, but I have been living in Central Asia for almost ten years. I moved to Central Asia in 2010 and ended up in Almaty in June 2018. I was the President of AUCA in Bishkek, and now I am the rector of Narxoz University. Almaty is a great student city, and my goal is to create here an international university that will become a great hub of talents.

All universities in the country have had to switch to online education since March 16, and we have been working in this format for more than a month. I was pleasantly surprised that our teachers and students were flexible in this case. We have always understood that online education has more disadvantages than advantages. It is easy to talk one-on-one online but is much more difficult with 15 students.

There is no discussion after lessons. Many students started to appreciate more the format of full-time education and personal contact with the teacher. There are also advantages: now you do not need to spend time on the road, and with Internet access, you can study from any corner of the country.

Last year, we switched to a seminary type of education — no lectures, students can get information from primary sources. We try to instill the ability to analyze, conduct polemics, and make presentations. If earlier universities worked on the principle of "transmit and apply", now, when information is abundant, we teach students techniques to filter and select it.

Our students' meetings with practicing professionals are very useful. Narxoz has existed since 1963, and we have about 140 thousand graduates. Some of them are successful politicians and businessmen today. We planned to organize guest lectures for students with their participation, but they are busy people. Now we have realized that meetings can also be held in an online format.

I regularly hold open meetings with students on Fridays and even now in an online format. I am grateful to my team for adapting quickly and offering a lot of ideas. We also hold online meetings with students who tell me directly about their needs. I would like to note that we can't complete all of the proposed tasks at once, but such dialogues significantly reduce the bureaucratic moment.


About the language of study and opportunities to study abroad
Our future is an education in English. It will provide an opportunity to gain experience not only in Kazakhstan but also in other countries. The main problem of applicants is a categorical choice: either I get a diploma from a foreign University and stay there, or get a Kazakh education that is in demand only here.

Graduates of Narxoz University will have a diploma quoted all over the world. This year we launch unique integrated programs in English. The student studies for the first three years at Narxoz and the last one at the chosen University in the UK or France. The double degree program also includes mandatory internships in leading companies in Europe. We want to give good knowledge in Kazakhstan, therefore everything depends on the preparation and level of English of the student.

All those who wanted to go to study abroad in 2020 are forced to stay in Kazakhstan. According to my data, American and British universities are not ready to accept foreign students until the end of 2020. There is a great alternative that we have drawn up with our partners. The double degree program will give you a good opportunity to get international education and save money. In an economic crisis, we need to think strategically and, first of all, about the safety of the children.

17 years is a young age for independent life abroad. Living away from their parents, the child can not make decisions, which will also affect the quality of education. However, as soon as they form their preferences about their future profession, they need to gain international experience, which is what we offer in the dual degree program. Besides parents will be able to use the saved budget for the master's program.

We are reviewing the curriculum, and students have become more demanding. In exams, we refuse to take multiple-choice tests. Our priority is the student's interesting reasoning rather than the correct answer. This is why we allow students to use the Internet in exams.

We are actively working on a program for the admission of students for the next academic year. We managed to hold meetings with schoolchildren in the winter, so we have a database of potential applicants. We hold an annual competition Narxoz Challenge for them, where grants and discounts on education are awarded. Grants from the state are provided for the specialties of IT and pedagogy.

We have big plans for this year and are full of energy to implement them.

The article was prepared with the support of Narxoz University.


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