Community Learning Centres
Country Profile: Kazakhstan
Kazakh and Russian
|Total expenditure on education as % of GNP|
|Access to primary education, total net intake rate (NIR)|
|Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years)|
|Adult literacy rate (15 years and over)|
|Programme Title||Community Learning Centres|
|Implementing Organization||ssociation Education For All Kazakhstan/National Observatory of Kazakhstan|
|Language of Instruction||Local languages|
|Programme Partners||UNESCO, local authorities|
|Date of Inception||2003|
Background and Context
Kazakhstan reports adult and youth literacy rates of 99.7 per cent and 99.8 per cent respectively, which are far superior to all other countries in the Central Asian region. Similarly, the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 per day is only 0.1 per cent, compared with an average of 0.5 per cent across developing countries in the Europe and Central Asia region, and Kazakhstan’s unemployment rate, at 6.6 per cent of the total workforce, is also comparatively low.
Kazakhstan’s formal education sector is generally much stronger than that of its regional neighbours. The country’s Strategy 2030 document highlights many new laws, aimed at further strengthening formal education, such as Law on Child’s Rights and Law on Education. All of this forms part of Kazakhstan’s aspirations for building a democratic, politically and economically stable society, where education plays a key role.
However, despite Kazakhstan’s educational achievements, many improvements are required to modernise education in a way that will increase its relevancy to future employment, including the development of IT skills. For example, compared with other newly independent states, Kazakhstan has the worst student-to-computer ratio, at 57-to-1. There is therefore a great demand for adult education to teach skills such as computing. Adult education remains a sector that is unfortunately financially neglected by the government. Falling outside of the serious attention of the government, adult education is largely left to international organisations and NGOs. As one of the ways to reach adult learners, Community Learning Centres (CLCs) are established and they have been providing education programs to the learners.
Community Learning Centres (CLCs)
Community Learning Centres (CLCs) are local places of learning that fall outside of the formal education system. CLCs exist in rural and urban locations, and are established and run by community members themselves, under the guidance of Association Education For all Kazakhstan and the funding of UNESCO. CLCs do not require any major infrastructural developments, since they are normally hosted by existing community premises, such as schools and local libraries.
There are currently seven UNESCO-supported CLCs in Kazakhstan; all of them lie in the Almaty and Zhambil regions. These CLCs target a wide range of community members, and develop training courses based on the individual needs of the local community. Typical areas of education programmes include foreign languages, ICT, health, sewing, carpentry, pre-professional training and community enrichment programmes for the entire community.
Not all of the programme areas are taught at each CLC since limited resources restrict each CLC to a fairly narrow range of available activities. However, the activities that are offered are selected based on close consultation with community members to be sure that they are meeting community needs. Sometimes, the CLC’s main role is as a forum for meetings and a cultural centre; this is often the case in areas with prominent communities of ethnic minorities.
Aims and Objectives
The objectives of Community Learning Centres are:
- to empower local people to be self-reliant;
- to improve citizens’ quality of life;
- to stimulate community development;
- to identify and address the various needs of the community;
- to mobilise community resources and human capital.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
Each of the seven CLCs in the Almaty and Zhambil region are separate organisations with different operational procedures; however, their organisational structures are very similar. CLCs depend on the local community for a great deal of self-organisation. Communities are essentially responsible for the establishment of their own CLC, and programmes are then based directly on local demand, which is identified through interviews and questionnaires with community members; the whole community is strongly encouraged to be a part of the decision making process. Aside from the local community, CLCs are supported by the local authorities and the NGO Association Education for All Kazakhstan, which offers advice to communities, facilitators and trainers. This support is offered through training, sharing information on success stories and encouraging networking to share knowledge and experience.
Organisation and planning is run through the CLC committee. The committee is normally headed by a representative from the local authority, and also includes representatives of district education authorities, health authorities, social protection authorities, the business community, NGOs, unions and members of the local community. The structure of each CLC’s committee is very flexible, and the source of members varies across each of the CLCs, according to who is able and willing to help in each situation. A key role of the committee is to assist the CLC with raising funds and to advise them on their institutional development.
The committee identifies a CLC facilitator, who is normally a skilled, well-educated and respected member of the community. The facilitator is responsible for day-to-day management of the CLC, including the development and organisation of training programmes and activities, information campaigns about new activities within the community, mobilising volunteers from the community, and the administrative management of the CLC.
Recruitment and Training of Instructors
CLC instructors come from various backgrounds, according to the availability and willingness of people in each area, but all are experts in their respective spheres. Instructors are sought based on each CLC’s programme requirements, and normally have significant teaching experience, combining their activities in the CLC with their main jobs in high schools or institutes. These instructors are paid on a part-time basis by the social protection authorities, and assisted by community volunteers.
Mobilisation of Participants
The mobilisation of participants begins with efforts to involve all community members in the organisational decision making process of the CLCs. Facilitators and instructors seek to reach as many community members as possible, to gauge the learning interests of the community in order to establish a suitable programme.
Thereon, participants are not actively recruited, but come to the CLCs to participate in programmes and activities under their own initiative. In a survey, participants identified three main reasons for coming to CLCs:
- to receive education, or knowledge in applied discipline such as computer skills (35 per cent);
- to develop personal life skills, such as language skills or health care (33 per cent);
- to be involved in social and cultural programmes, such as environmental protection, cultural heritage or sports (32 per cent).
In the first two years of the programme, CLCs trained 665 adults and youths. 69 per cent of these people were women, and 54 per cent were unemployed, showing that CLCs were successfully targeting the groups of people who seek empowerment and the development of personal capacity.
Training-Learning Methods and Approaches
Methods and approaches vary significantly between CLCs and training programs, depending on the instructors and resources available for each programme. Typically CLCs would aim for a ratio of 5 students per 1 teacher for computer based courses, but some CLCs are also able to offer individual teaching for students with special learning needs.
Students are often grouped into classes based on their socio-economic background. For example, a class might be for unemployed women or housewives. Within these groups, abilities and ages are often very mixed.
There is no standardisation of teaching materials. In some courses such as computing and sewing courses, there is a core text book, which is complimented by the teaching materials which instructors bring with them.
On-going learning assessment is not normally practiced, or is done on an informal basis. Students typically do not receive certificates or diplomas for their participation.
Programme Impact and Challenges
Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring and evaluation is conducted internally by the CLC committee, and externally by the supporting NGO Association Education for All (EFA) Kazakhstan. Evaluations are cross checked and discussed by the council and EFA, and then recommendations are made and their implementation controlled. Subsequent evaluations pay close attention to progress in line with previous recommendations.
In addition, regular communication with local community members takes place as part of this evaluation process, and as part of the ongoing design and redesign of the CLC programmes and activities.
CLCs have not had a strong impact on a national scale, due to their limited number and location. However, CLC’s have had a markedly positive impact in filling the gap left by the absence of non-formal education in the areas where they operate, which are commonly disadvantaged areas.
Evaluations have reported positive impacts in the following areas:
- Improved personal capacities: all districts where CLCs operate have seen decreases in unemployment rates, as people use new skills to find employment of start their own businesses.
- Improved community business skills: training has helped to increase efficiency in local industries. For example, in the Amanbokter district, training in cheese-making has helped to transform a struggling rural milk industry into a profitable activity with a valuable end product that can be sold in regional markets.
- Empowerment of marginalised groups: evaluations report a rise in social and educational activity among the young unemployed, and housewives.
- Widespread use of modern technology: use of modern communication technology, such as computers and the internet, has increased, providing opportunities for remote people and communities.
- Improved knowledge on health and hygiene: including family planning, awareness of HIV and AIDs and healthy dietary lifestyles.
- Modernisation of attitudes: some CLCs have delivered programmes which have developed local people’s tolerance to other nationalities and ethnic groups, resulting in a more peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, the empowerment of many women through CLC training has led to more modern attitudes on gender equality.
- Participation in local governance: the promotion of democratic procedures, alongside the empowerment of marginalised people has resulted in higher participation rates in local governance structures and local decision making.
Furthermore, CLC trainees have reported very impressive standards of training. 99 per cent of the sample group indicated that they were satisfied with the quality and content of the programme, and there is a high rate of participant return, as satisfied programme graduates seek to learn new skills. Most programmes are highly in demand and oversubscribed; some CLCs have established waiting lists for their most popular programmes.
The most significant challenge to Community Learning Centres is financial instability. Demand for CLC training is extremely high, but financial provision is insufficient to expand programmes and activities. Poor funding has also limited the availability and reliability of communication links, which could be used for developing partnerships and securing funding sources with other regional organisations.
This financial dilemma is also compounded by nationwide confusion in the legal status of CLCs. Two of the seven CLCs in Kazakhstan are registered charities, and therefore subject to tax exemptions, whilst the remaining five are taxed as profit seeking organisations. External evaluations call for CLCs to be given a status that recognises their community development nature, and exempts them from national and regional taxation.
With regards to the efficiency of CLC organisation, the mentalities of some governmental representatives have been identified as obstructive to the management process. Some officials, who are more used to a top-down-approach, have not been very conducive to the concept of community people effectively designing their own programme.
A further challenge in the effective impact of CLC training is that programmes are not state-accredited, and programme graduates therefore remain ineligible for employment or further education that requires formal qualifications. The establishment of centres for qualification purposes has attempted to address this challenge, but given that the courses deal with basic skills and are not tailor made to the needs of specific qualifications, this challenge remains.
A key aspect of the programme that fosters sustainability is the continued involvement of community members in the CLC’s decision making and operations. The elected community leader hasresponsibility to spread the information about the CLC’s mission and its role in the community. The elected leader plays a very important role in the programme’s design since he or she is also a member of the community and will ensure that the CLC continues to be relevant to the community and its specific needs. Through engaging the grassroots community in decision making, the programme is being run through those who have a clear interest in the functional operation of the centre.
However, the financial sustainability of the CLC programmes remains in the balance. One important limitation for this is the absence of criteria for measuring effectiveness. Trends have been observed, and these have allowed the identification of positive impacts of the programme, however these trends are not backed up with quantitative data that proves the effectiveness of the programme, and without such evidence it would be very difficult to secure additional funding from donors.
The effectiveness of the CLC programme is dependent on the following factors:
- the identification of the community’s priority needs; and
- the definition of a clear mission, and direction for the CLC.
Furthermore, the following key lessons have been identified:
- The use of quantitative criteria to measure effectiveness is an important aspect of self-evaluation, which in itself is an essential method of redesigning programmes, and encouraging sponsors and partners to engage with the programme.
- CLCs are a powerful mechanism for empowering communities, right through from the decision making process and operations of the centre, to the skill acquisition and subsequent application of enhanced capacity.
- The long term impact of the post-soviet mentality should not be underestimated. It is sometimes difficult to break the tradition of circumspectly looking back to the authorities, and to encourage grassroots organisation, developed from the bottom-up. The local authorities should therefore be actively engaged at all stages, in a supportive role.
- When developing CLCs in the future, it is very worthwhile to draw on the extensive experience of local and national NGOs, who may in some areas be more involved in community development issues that local authorities.
Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan (2004) National Report on Community Learning Centres in Kazakhstan
UNESCO Bangkok (2011) Sustainability of Community Learning Centres: Community Ownership and Support. Accessed online at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002146/214655e.pdf
Haddad (2008) Community Learning Centres: Country reports from Asia, UNESCO, Bangkok.
UNESCO Kazakhstan Website: http://www.unesco.kz/new/en/education/news/897/
National Observatory of Kazakhstan (NOB)
Room 210, Zhambil str., 25
Tel: 810-3272- 914402
Fax: 810-3272- 930032
E-mail: User: shaizada
Host: (at) nursat.kz
Last update: 24 January 2014