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How Kazakhstan is making education more accessible



A classroom in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has adopted a number of reforms to improve the quality of its education system

Formal schooling is not just a right and the foundation for every individual’s further training and career growth; it is also a key aspect of the social and economic development of every country. Its importance in the modern world cannot be overstated: a lack of access to formal education increases the risk of social problems such as poverty and unemployment.

Governments around the world are increasingly recognising the importance of quality primary education for the achievement of long-term sustainable development goals and the creation of just societies. Addressing education issues has become a strategic objective for many countries. State-led efforts alone are often not enough, however; the private sector’s involvement in finding solutions to these issues, on a pro bono basis, by sharing social responsibility, can be incredibly important. Kazakhstan can serve as an example of this approach.

Kazakhstan has adopted a number of reforms to improve the quality of its education system and is increasingly applying international standards and best practices. Significant efforts have been made in recent years to upgrade school infrastructure, but, despite these efforts, a number of problems remain unresolved.

A population explosion driven by a rising birth rate and rapid urbanisation led to two problems: a lack of secondary schools and a shortage of teaching staff. The government allocates significant funds every year for the construction and modernisation of schools. In addition, the authorities have started implementing the Comfortable Schools national project, which calls for the construction of 369 new schools; over the past three years, 626 schools have opened across the country.  

Nevertheless, the pace at which new schools are opening is not keeping up with demographic and migration processes, especially in large cities. According to official data, the country has 270,000 more pupils than places for them in its schools.

In recent years, Kazakhstani businesses have been getting involved, including on a pro bono basis, in resolving problems of educational infrastructure and improving the quality of education in the country. With state support for private businesses that invest in education, the number of private schools in the country has increased over the past two years, and 558 private schools in Kazakhstan are financed through government contracts.

It is important to note, however, that businesses in Kazakhstan are investing heavily not only through public–private partnerships but also on a philanthropic basis, where schools are being built using private capital and then handed over to the state free of charge. This type of public–private arrangement made it possible to build a school in the fast-growing city of Kosshy, on the outskirts of Astana, in a year, providing a solution to the city’s education problem, whereby schools were operating three shifts a day.

The local government sought the assistance of the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation to build a school for the city.

A fully equipped three-storey school in Kosshy for 1,500 pupils was built by the Foundation in a year and then handed over to the state at no cost. The school, which now has 3,000 pupils attending classes in two shifts, opened on September 1st this year. It is the first school in Kazakhstan to meet the standards outlined in the Comfortable Schools national project. In addition to physics, chemistry and biology laboratories, the school also features workshops, computer classes and specialised furniture like transformer desks that can be adjusted based on the size of each pupil. The school building itself has been adapted for children with special needs. The new school has enabled the city to fully resolve its problem of three-shift education.    

The Bulat Utemuratov Foundation has started building two more schools in the Almaty region, each of which will cost $17.5 million. They will also be turned over to the state at no cost. The value and importance of formal schooling, which is an investment in the country’s future, is a priority for the Foundation.

At the same time, when it comes to developing education in Kazakhstan, the private sector is doing more than just building schools; businesses are also covering the costs involved in incorporating new educational programmes, including from other countries.  

Examples of such initiatives include the Haileybury schools (British private schools) in the cities of Almaty and Astana, which are social responsibility projects run by Kazakh businesspeople and philanthropists. Both of these schools are non-profit organisations, and the funds contributed are reinvested in development and scholarship programmes for gifted children. Children are given an opportunity to study tuition-free in highly qualified international A Level and International Baccalaureate programmes. Many Haileybury graduates have gone on to study at prestigious universities abroad.  

Philanthropic programmes in Kazakhstan are providing support for training personnel and improving the quality of education for schoolchildren.

There are a number of other philanthropic programmes in the country that are providing support for training personnel and improving the quality of education for schoolchildren. Notably, the Jas Leader Akademiiasy programme, implemented by the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation, supports and develops leadership qualities among schoolchildren; it is the first initiative of its kind in Kazakhstan involving the widespread, systematic incorporation of leadership development classes for schoolchildren in grades 5–11. And greenhouses have been installed at 36 public schools as part of the Green School project. The project’s creators explain that lessons taking place in greenhouses supplement the school curriculum with practical classes and are a good opportunity for teachers to conduct interesting elective lessons.    

It is important to keep in mind that the state should play a leading role in improving the education system by investing heavily in the construction of new schools and the training of teachers. The private sector cannot replace the state in finding solutions to the problems facing socially important sectors such as education, but private investment provides essential support, as it helps resolve urgent problems such as the lack of educational institutions and overcrowding in schools, and the example of Kazakhstan is proof of this.

Olivia Miller is a journalist and blogger regularly collaborating with media outlets and writing about entrepreneurship, brand authority and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

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EU awards recognize citizen science initiatives



EU awards recognize citizen science initiatives
CoAct for Mental Health won a €20,000 Digital Communities Prize

The winners of the EU 2024 Prize for Citizen Science have been announced this week. Citizen science – the general public engagement in scientific research activities – contributes to a vibrant civil society and is getting increasingly popular with Europeans.

Out of the 288 applications, three citizen science initiatives received the main prizes and 27 were recognised with honorary mentions. 

The winners are:

  • The ‘Grand Prize’, worth €60,000, goes to the EU-funded INCREASE  project for its outstanding achievements in advancing knowledge on seed preservation through the empowerment of civil society and citizens, in particular from rural areas.
  • The Digital Communities prize, worth€20,000, is given to the Horizon 2020 project CoAct for Mental Health for its use of digital technologies to develop a personalised approach and improve the quality of life for people facing mental health problems.
  • The Diversity & Collaboration prize, worth €20,000, is given to SeaPaCS_Participatory Citizen Science against Marine Pollution for producing transformative knowledge that filled the existing cognitive and emotional gap between society and the sea.

Iliana Ivanova, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:

“I warmly congratulate the winners of this year’s EU Citizen Science Award, but would also like to commend all participants. Your initiatives address some of our most pressing challenges and showcase the transformative potential of citizen science. They improve the excellence and impact of our research, and also deepen the relationship and trust between science and our societies.”

The winners have been selected by an independent jury of five experts. Two of the three winners of the main prizes are projects funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s previous research and innovation programme (2014-2020). The third winner involves both a former and a current Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellow.

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Young filmmakers get a boost from Netflix and Polish Producers’ Alliance



Young filmmakers get a boost from Netflix and Polish Producers’ Alliance
Netflix funded scholarships enabling young filmmakers to participate in the annual Film Spring Open workshops  in Kraków | Photo: Samantha Borges

The film and television industry is not only an exciting creative journey, but can also be a fascinating choice as a professional career. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for young people that are about to enter the labor market to know how to embark on this career path.

In a recent survey conducted by the Polish Producers’ Alliance – KIPA, nearly 90% of young people indicated that lack of connections makes it difficult for them to start in the film industry. Another barrier can be the fact of living outside the main urban centers and the lack of specialized education in secondary schools. The lack of new cadres and employees entering into the Polish film industry is quickly becoming a growing challenge for those creating films and series – the number of productions in Poland is growing dynamically from year to year. According to the Olsberg SPI report prepared for KIPA, the Polish film industry already creates an equivalent of 21,000 full time jobs each year.

That’s why last year, Netflix and KIPA launched the “Film Your Future” project, addressed to young people from various regions of Poland who are thinking about a career in the film industry. During the 2-day summer workshops, 136 people aged 18-26 from seven voivodeships learned the secrets of working on a film set, what are the various professions in the industry, and also worked on their very own film production. For the most committed workshop participants, Netflix funded scholarships enabling them to participate in a week-long event – the annual Film Spring Open workshops  in Kraków.

“For me, the “Film Your Future” project was certainly an extraordinary event that changed my view of the film industry and the opportunities it offers by 180 degrees. (…) From a person who considered the film industry to be a kind of unattainable environment for me, I have reached the point where I know what doors to open and I am already taking the first steps towards it,” says Mikołaj, 20 years old, from Bochnia about his experience participating in the workshop.

The positive reception of the workshops, giving young people not only the opportunity, but also the knowledge and skills for a better start in the film industry, led Netflix to continue its partnership with the Polish Producers’ Alliance. 

This year, the streaming giant will be reopening the door to a professional career in the production of films and TV series thanks to the second edition of the “Film Your Future” program. This time, during the upcoming summer holidays, the workshops will be held in the following voivodeships: Podlaskie, Lubelskie, Podkarpackie, Świętokrzyskie, Opolskie, Lubuskie and Wielkopolskie. The program is held under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

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£125,000 in grants awarded to UK creatives to support careers in screen arts



A man filming a scene with a ginger girl indoors
Emerging creative from low socio-economic backgrounds are amongst the talent receiving bursaries.

BAFTA announced over £125,000 in grants have been awarded to 69 talented creatives to support their career development in the screen arts.  

This year, grants of up to £2,000 each have been made available to 58 emerging creatives including production assistants, costumer designers, writers, game designers, and camera and sound trainees to help them progress in their respective crafts. The grants will go towards essential costs such as driving lessons, specialist equipment, training and relocation costs that might otherwise lock talented people out of a screen arts career.  

The Prince William BAFTA Bursary scheme is named in honour of BAFTA’s President. Kickstarted with the support of film director Paul Greengrass, it is now in its fourth year.

For the first time, BAFTA is also awarding grants to individuals who have been forcibly displaced in collaboration with the Refugee Journalism Project. £30,000 in funding has been awarded to 11 recipients including journalists, editors, directors and videographers.  

The Refugee Journalism Project builds on BAFTA’s recent work with Counterpoint Arts – highlighting the importance of authentic portrayals of refugees on-screen, including recent events with BAFTA award-winning filmmaker and activist Hassan Akkad, a masterclass with BAFTA award-winning director Waad al-Kateab, and ‘Introduction to Filmmaking’ workshops with Deadbeat Films. 

Supporting the next generation of talent is an essential part of our mission. The Prince William BAFTA Bursary Fund is a fantastically effective way to kick-start careers, particularly for those who face socio and economic inequality. The bursaries are transformative for career starters, enabling them to buy an essential piece of kit, secure training, or in some cases it’s as simple as getting driving lessons so they can get to set! There is no shortage of potential in our workforce. Unfortunately, the opportunity to act on that potential is all too often limited by financial barriers. So, I’m delighted to continue The Prince William BAFTA Bursary Fund, thanks to our incredibly generous network of donors and supporters,” says Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA.

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