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Putting innovation at the heart of education across Central Asia

Last month, the European Union approved the first disbursement of a €27million grant to Kyrgyzstan to help improve and develop the country’s education sector. Following a challenging period, where the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on many education systems across Central Asia, this grant will help improve educational quality and promote better standards. With its wide variety of programmes for education and training, including Erasmus+ and the European Education Area, the EU has worked extensively to support education and youth development in this part of the world, writes Yerkin Tatishev, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Almaty Management University and chairman of Kusto Group.

Along with the second European Union Education Fair, recently held in Uzbekistan, the EU aims to become an indispensable partner, helping transform the region’s education systems. Within this regional context, the rapid growth of our education landscape and quality of teaching in Kazakhstan should serve as an encouraging example. Like others, we have benefited from policies that encourage international exchanges, research collaboration and mobility programmes, and from international support from the EU and US. However, our transformation also requires leadership from the private sector, which I believe should continue to play a strong role in helping better prepare the next generation.

As the chairman and founder of Kusto Group, a diversified international holding, I have sought to use my position to create new models of education in Kazakhstan. Earlier this year, I was honoured to become the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Almaty Management University, the first business school in the country. The university has played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s educational landscape – as evidenced by hosting the recent CEEMAN conference – and I aim to further enhance its academic programmes, open new doors for international collaborations, and promote entrepreneurship among its students.

Faced with a dynamic and complex set of local and international challenges, our schools must provide a cutting-edge educational experience, that empowers students, and teaches the skills necessary for success in a globalized economy. In that respect, High Tech Academy in Almaty – a school I am proud to have founded – has made cooperation, team work, skills building and a focus on real-world issues a central element its mission.

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Started in 2017 with the goal of transforming the learning experience, High Tech Academy is the first innovative Project Based Learning (PBL) school in Kazakhstan. The academy blends innovative US, Finnish and Kazakh teaching methods, creating a global community which can prepare students for our increasingly inter-connected world. Today, the school leads the way with its commitment to new technologies and learning methods, to ensure that the next generation is ready to make an impact.

At the core of the High Tech Academy’s approach is “Project Based Learning”, a dedicated teaching methodology in which students learn by addressing and solving complex, real-life problems and issues. Combined with a focus on technology and entrepreneurship, this method allows each student to develop their capacity for critical and creative thinking while remaining immersed in the technologies and issues that are defining our world.

In just 6 years, the High Tech Academy has already garnered attention from global leaders in public policy and education, such as Ben Nelson, the visionary behind Minerva University, who visited our school last month. During a tour of the academy, Mr Nelson described it as the “best school in the world” and revelled in its commitment to the future.

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He isn’t alone in seeing High Tech Academy’s potential and achievements. But as countries around the world look to adapt their education systems to meet the needs of tomorrow, we need more support to grow the model. As such, while I applaud the EU’s recent investment in Central Asia, we must all take ownership of these critically important efforts, especially those in the private sector who have the power to shape these changes.

I hope that our experience in Kazakhstan, and the contribution that the business community has already made to the rapid modernization and expansion of our education landscape, will serve as an example to others, and provide a pathway across Central Asia to participate in securing a more prosperous future for all.

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