Education differences: Kazakhstan and Germany.

Being a third-year student in Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan, I obtained a european scholarship named Erasmus Mundus and came to Germany to improve my knowledge of English linguistics and literature. I just started studying at Freie Universität Berlin but I can already tell the difference between two systems of education.





1. There is more freedom in terms of what you study and how much. Students can choose whatever they want: there is always an opportunity to take a course in politics even if the major is philologie. 1. All courses are compulsory.
2. There are no fixed groups, every student has his own schedule that he can change on his own. There is a tendency to individualism. 2. Groups are formed of 15-25 students (depending on a major) that study together all the time. There is a schedule for the whole group for the whole period of study. Groupmates spend lots of time together not only at university but also go out very often. Thus in 4 years they become good friends and keep in touch after graduating from university.
3. There is no fixed time of graduation from university. Courses can be taken as many times as needed, exams can be delaid. In my opinion it is not always good to have no restrictions at all. Sometimes student graduate from university being 30-year old. At this age they only start building their career. 3. Everyone is supposed to study 4 years (except for those who are going to become doctors). Course can be taken one more time in case of failing an exam. Exams can only be postponed in case of disease. Usually students graduate from university at the age of 22-23. Bachelor degree is enough to get a highly-paid job.
4. Professors can be argued with. The atmosphere in the classroom is too liberal: students can eat and drink in front of a professor. 4. Professors are regarded as authorities whose opinion can not be wrong. Students’ attitude to professors is very respectful.
5. Personal relationships are not involved in final assessment: when a term paper is being read professor has no idea who this work belongs to. Sometimes it happens that a professor doesn’t know names of all his students. 5. Personal relationships have a lot to do with the final assessment especially when it comes down to oral examinations. Professors and students can be very close though there is always a distance between them.
6. Most students study 4-5 days a week and have 3-4 lectures or seminars a day. Each class lasts 1,5 hour. Homework is not given. Everyone has clear understanding of what he is going to listen to on a lecture. Handouts are available couple days before the lecture, they can be printed and read before hand. 6. Everyone studies 6 days a week and has about 5-6 classes a day each of those is 50 minutes long. Homework is something thar every student is supposed to do every day. Material given on a lecture is absolutely new to students. Notetaking is compulsory.

To conclude, it can be said that though a new system of education was introduced in Kazakhstan about 5 years ago, it still looks a lot like an old soviet system (not necesserily bad one). For me it is a great chance to get to know a western system with all its freedom and innovative technologies. But there are usually two sides of the medal that I am sure I’ll face.

Posted on October 10th, 2008
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2 Comments a “Education differences: Kazakhstan and Germany.”

  1. BK says:

    I just found your site from GL’s Russian women blog. I just found this comparisons between Germany and Kazakhstan to be quite intriguing.

    I just thought that I can chime in about the American education system to add something new to this comparison. I only can speak about the school that I graduated two years ago. I majored in Biomedical Engineering at Syracuse University in Syracuse. It’s located in the northern part of New York State in United States. Like in Siberia, the winter at there is long and very harsh… endless amount of snow, lots of wind & very cold temperature. 🙂 I can speak about the engineering school because it’s the area that I’m the most familiar with. But, I think that they are mostly similar to other majors.

    1. Depending on major one wants to study in, most courses are compulsory and required especially the classes for one’s major as well as few elective courses of whatever you want to learn more about.

    2. It’s the same as Germany. But, students can make friends with other students in classes, and they can get together for study groups and helping each other with homework. Usually, it’s the people from the same major. It’s usually a group of 2 to 5 people, but it’s up to each person to decide to study with them or not.

    3. It’s somewhere in the middle between Germany and Kazakhstan. People are expected to graduate in 4 years, but it’s acceptable to delay graduation date due to extenuating circumstances like financial problems, needing to work to support yourself or etc. In fact, it took me 5 years to graduate from my college. Like Kazakhstan, exam delays are not accepted except for illness or other extenuating circumstances.

    4. It depends on professors, but it’s mostly inclined to the Germany side. Most professors encourage students to speak up what he or she truly thinks and argue to prove that the professor is wrong. It’s a way to encourage students to brush up on their critical thinking skills. Americans have been taught how to think for ourselves and questioning authority. It’s a part of the American culture. Other professors don’t let that and expect us to follow what he/she says and do the work that he/she wants us to do.

    As for food/drinks, it depends on classrooms/professors. But, it’s an unspoken rule that food is not accepted in stake for respect for others. But, people eating or drinking are usually the ones who are not serious about their education. I personally don’t eat and drink in class because class is the time to learn and study.

    5. It depends on the size of classes and/or school. Classes with huge student size tends to be similar to the Germany side where personal relationships are not factored in. It’s pretty difficult to know everybody if there are like 200 students in the lecture hall. Whereas in small classes, personal relationships are factored in like in Kazakhstan, but it’s not always the case in all classes. It mostly depends on professor and his/her philosophy of teaching.

    But, in many large universities, people tend to be treated as “numbers” with no regards for humanity. On the other side of the coin, in many small private colleges/universities, people are treated like they are humans with desires, and personal relationships are hugely factored in. My university is mid-sized, but my major is very small compared to other majors. The department that I majored in is very personal and so close-knit. I have a very wonderful personal relationships with few of my professors. At some occasions, I came over one of my professors’ house for dinner with his wife and had a very wonderful time being in their company. So, it pretty greatly depends on universities and their philosophy of education.

    6. The schedule is similar to Germany, but it depends on students & their schedules. One time I had one semester where I have no class on Fridays, one class on Mondays/Wednesdays and 3-4 classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At my old university, the class scheduling system was like this… For Tuesdays/Thursdays class, it’s 1.5 hours a day. For Mondays/Wednesdays/Friday class, it’s 55 minutes a day. For those classes that meet once per week, it’s 3 hours a day.

    As for notetaking, it really depends on professors & classes. Some classes were just like those in Germany where I could print out notes from the course website and study before next class. Other classes were just like the Kazakhstan system where new materials were introduced in classes and I had to take notes in classes.

    Personally, I find that printing notes and studying before next lecture to be much easier where I don’t have to spend too much of time writing, writing and writing where I could potentially miss some information that I heard from the professor. I can just print out the notes and bring them to classes. I can just follow the notes while listening to the professor and then adding some new notes to the existing notes to deepen my understanding for concepts.

    Finally, the main difference in American Universities is that the tuition is VERY expensive! Especially for those who aspires to become a doctor or lawyer. Medical School and Law schools are very expensive. Most medical or law students have to obtain a loan of at least $100,000 to go through all 4 years of schooling.

  2. KZBlog says:

    Found your site via your comment on Kazakhnomad. Interesting comparison. I was surprised to hear you say that in Kazakhstan professors and students can be quite close, particularly as an American. Like BK said, in the US it’s common for students to have small classes where the professor knows you quite well. Talking to Kazakhstani, I got the impression that professors really didn’t know their students at all. Some of them ask me things like, “Is it true that in US universities professors can see a student outside of class and recognize him and talk to him, as we see in the movies?”

    Of course, I am also shocked by European models of education where class is just a lecture without discussion or any personal contact. In the US this rarely happens, or if it does there are also smaller discussion sessions.

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