Let’s Talk
Interview series
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29.06.2017

Let’s Talk with Jessica Leonard

Jessica Leonard, Regional Director of American Councils for International Education

Jessica Leonard, Regional Director of American Councils for International Education, talks about the development of trends in higher education in English, abroad and in Kazakhstan, as well as the benefits of receiving higher education in English. Today, KIMEP student — Mukash Khanym, Master Student of Business Administration program of Bang College of Business at KIMEP University speaks with Ms. Leonard. They also discuss the privileges and prospects for career growth for English-speaking graduates in their home countries and abroad.

Jessica Leonard, Regional Director of American Councils for International Education, talks about the development of trends in higher education in English, abroad and in Kazakhstan, as well as the benefits of receiving higher education in English. She also discusses the privileges and prospects for career growth for English-speaking graduates in their home countries and abroad.

1. A few years ago there was a trend in Kazakhstan when students went abroad or tried to get education in English. Does this trend still exist now?

Yes, this trend remains in place now. Our experience shows that it is still popular nowadays. Part of our work involves Almaty’s KIMEP University , and we support students who are interested in studying in the United States. And there is a continuing vast interest among Kazakh students in studying in the US. As the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev noted, by 2018 training in some subjects and courses at all schools in Kazakhstan will be conducted in English. He supports this idea because he believes that English is a global language. This gives students many opportunities to expand their knowledge and find more information on the Internet in English rather than in Kazakh or Russian, and it’s useful especially for those who study in Kazakhstan.

2. How and why do you think this is happening? What is the explanation for this?

When we compare education systems in Kazakhstan and, for instance, in the US, we can see that the quality of US education is much higher. Firstly, because it’s a developed country and it has many very good universities which had been established hundreds of years ago. Students and their parents understand that obtaining higher education at leading universities leads to good jobs at senior positions and helps graduates become fit for these jobs. As we know well enough, Kazakhstan has many investors and foreign multinational corporations operating in the country, and job today indicate that English is one of the basic requirements for employees. Job seekers’ knowledge of Kazakh, Russian and English should be at an advanced level. Employers nowadays require candidates to speak English fluently. For this reason, you can consider it as a skill. This means  fluency in English offers you great opportunities and can open many doors in the future.

3. What is the main advantage of higher education in English compared to education received in a native language?

I think that when you are studying engineering or other technical specializations, like biotechnology, then yes, you can find information in Kazakh, but it will take really a lot of time to translate everything into Russian or Kazakh. If you know English, you will have a big advantage to find more information for yourself.

4. Students of what specializations more actively seek education in English?

According to our statistics, most popular specializations among students are computer science and IT, various fields of engineering, biology, physics, math and business areas like MBA programs and undergraduate business education and degrees in law.

5. What specific privileges do English-language universities offer to graduates?

They have more options to find a job compared to those who don’t speak English. Also those students can continue education abroad, for instance. The main privileges of graduates from universities modelled on the North American style of education are that they can continue their education in other countries and can have more advantages in terms of career growth. It is not just about education but also when you travel and go abroad you can easily communicate with others because English is a global language, and many people around the world know and speak it to some extent.

6. What career opportunities do English-speaking graduates benefit from?

As I have said, English is considered as a skill, like knowledge of any other foreign language. It gives you rich experience no matter what language you speak, you can interact with many people, communicate and learn new skills. And, for example, those who study in the US for master or PhD programs stay for an internship after their studies and get work experience in American companies.

7. There are several universities in Kazakhstan which teach in English. How successful is local education in English for a person who is interested in receiving higher education?

It is a very good opportunity for a person who wants to study in English but cannot go abroad, and these alternatives in Kazakhstan are the best options for them. I know that KIMEP University’s curriculum is based mostly on the North American style of education. It is easier to transfer and continue their education in the US for students who study in English. I can also note and repeat that English-speaking graduates in Kazakhstan have advantages compare to other graduates from national universities. A large percentage of students are very active and intelligent.

8. How could local universities with such an education system attract students?

One of the privileges is that all of the courses are taught in English and, secondly, their education system is similar to that of North America which has many exchange programs and support for students, as well as internship opportunities at international firms and career center at universities. They create all the conditions for the development of students.

9. What do you think of local university applicants’ interest in English-language education in Kazakhstan?

There is an individual question of the paying ability of students. If people have big enough budgets for education, firstly, they will choose to go abroad and study in other countries. As we know, KIMEP University has foreign instructors and teachers and train and teach only in English, and that is obligatory for all students to know English very well. As an alternative they can study at national, local universities which provide training especially in English because every person wants to get a good job, develop professionally and personally and to be competitive in the dynamic job market.


10. What are the career opportunities for English-speaking graduates in Kazakhstan, for example, graduates from the KIMEP University and so on?

There are a lot of national and foreign companies in Kazakhstan, and employees and workers know English and speak other foreign languages. Having such skills, you can be promoted to higher positions and can develop your career further. It serves as a tool, an instrument for a person, for example like driving a car, and it gives you many opportunities. I also observed that in Kazakhstan young people are very clever and hard-working. They always need to be flexible in such competitive environment to get jobs and have good positions. English knowledge or studying abroad alone will not surprise anyone, and you should always bear in mind that you always need to be better, learn new skills, foreign languages or other abilities for your future.

DID YOU LIKE THE
LOCAL CUISINE?
I LIKE LAGMAN (LAUGHTER). I THINK ANY AMERICAN WHO COMES TO KAZAKHSTAN WILL NOTICE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES.
ARE THERE PLACES IN ALMATY WHERE YOU LIKE TO GO TO?
THERE ARE MANY PLACES IN ALMATY WHERE YOU CAN WALK AROUND. ALSO PARKS ARE VERY NICE IN ALMATY.
HOBBY
I LIKE SKIING AND SWIMMING. IN ORDER TO BE FIT, I DO SPORTS. AND I LIKE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF KAZAKHSTAN?
FIRST IMPRESSIONS WERE POSITIVE, OF COURSE. IN ALMATY YOU HAVE A VERY BEAUTIFUL NATURE, MOUNTAINS.
HOW MUCH DID YOU KNOW ABOUT KAZAKHSTAN BEFORE COMING HERE, DID THE REALITY LIVE UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
I LIKE LAGMAN (LAUGHTER). I THINK ANY AMERICAN WHO COMES TO KAZAKHSTAN WILL NOTICE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES.
HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT TO YOU MOVING TO KAZAKHSTAN?
MY PARENTS WERE OK. BEFORE I CAME TO KAZAKHSTAN I LIVED IN RUSSIA. I ALSO HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL FAMILY AS MY MOTHER HAD WORKED FOR MANY YEARS IN TURKEY AND BROTHER HAS LIVED IN KOREA. AND IT IS NORMAL FOR US.
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