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Digging deeper into the modern history of Kazakhstan

By Askar Kossybayev and Sagingaliy Kaliyev

Since implementing the IB Diploma Programme (DP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) in 2013, the school community of the Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana has become increasingly aware of the positive aspects of these unique programmes, which seek to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.

However, teachers noted that the specificity of the post-Soviet history of Kazakhstan could not be fully addressed in the mainstream subjects of the DP. It is important that students are able to study this period of Kazakh history in order to fully meet national requirements and support the development of a sense of national identity. The idea of addressing this issue by introducing a school-based syllabus (SBS) occurred to teachers after they became aware of existing SBSs catering for similar national requirements in Turkey and Brazil. Following consultation with experienced international educators, the school decided to apply to the IB to propose our own SBS, Modern History of Kazakhstan. The IB approved the development of this SBS, and teachers collaborated with IB curriculum staff to create a guide that satisfied DP curriculum and assessment requirements. The guide was published in 2017 and was first examined in 2019.

The availability of relevant and reliable resources was a challenge for teachers to overcome. The fact is that this period of the Kazakh history has not been studied extensively by national and foreign historians. The main emphasis in the existing works is on political history, while socio-economic development is studied to a lesser extent. Moreover, the existing sources on this subject lack discussion and focus on just one perspective. In addition, national history is mainly interpreted locally, so external factors and the influence of globalization need further investigation. Consequently, significant work was carried out to create a resource base in libraries and universities of Astana. Meetings and consultations were also held with national and foreign historians and experts.

A further challenge to negotiate was the language barrier which sometimes impeded our understanding of IB policies and documents that informed our approach to planning, learning and teaching, and assessment. It was necessary for teachers and students to be clear in their understanding of the IB’s approaches to teaching and learning and of the requirements of internal and external assessment, including command terms.

Despite the difficulties of introducing and teaching this subject, we were able to identify and introduce significant positive developments. First, studying the history of Kazakhstan has ceased to be a dogmatic experience for DP students, where each historical event receives only one official positive or negative assessment. Examining history from different perspectives has brought greater understanding, while also having the positive side effect of nurturing students’ interest in their own history and culture. Secondly, through the study of national history, students have a great opportunity to develop their critical thinking and research skills. Students’ critical thinking develops through the analysis and synthesis of historical sources, as well as through the construction of arguments in essays, taking into account different points of view. This is especially evident through Internal Assessment work, which sees students critically investigating a topic of their choice.

As we reflect on the first teaching cycle of Modern History of Kazakhstan we feel that our students now have a subject within their portfolio that applies the IB approaches to teaching and learning to help them effectively analyse the history of their country, while nurturing a sense of national identity.

IB educators can find out more information about the Modern History of Kazakhstan syllabus on the programme resource centre.

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