Dan Tam Thi Nguyen

Vietnamese American Training College, Soc Trang, Vietnam

Dealing with large classes (around 45 students per class) and the increase of drop-out students are the most urgent issues in Vietnamese educational system. In order to decrease those issues gradually, Vietnamese students should be motivated and controlled. This paper is to share some experiences about this.

Keywords: TEFL, control, motivation, Vietnamese upper secondary school

Introduction Control and motivation of students are two of the major features in the process of teaching and learning English. Malcolm et al (1982) explains that teachers often find it vital to maintain their dominant power in the classrooms. He says they need to be determined what to do in the classrooms and how to deal with students’ behaviour in every context. In contrast, Bell (cited in Ford, Alber & Heward, 1998) indentifies the three important issues in education: ‘The first one is motivation, the second one is motivation and the third is motivation’. Victor (1964: 229) reports that motivation influences effective performance. In EFL classrooms, this performance is related to linguistic performance which is considered the target of teaching a foreign language. As a result, there is no doubt about the importance of control and motivation. However, the quality of teaching and learning English in Vietnam is limited because of the loss of control and motivation in language classrooms.

Most Vietnamese high school students seem to be disinterested in English for a large variety of reasons. Firstly, English is not a core subject in the curriculum. Secondly, English textbooks in Vietnam are considerably complicated and impractical because of the length of units and unfamiliar topics mentioned in lessons, such as discussing the ideal seat on a luxurious yacht, the life under the sea or gravity (see English 10: 1999). Moreover, they are interrupted by many events during the school year which is from September to May, for example, the Vietnamese Woman’s Day, the Vietnamese Teacher’s Day, Christmas Day, the Western New Year Day, and the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Week. Besides, students postpone their study for several events of other ethnic groups such as the holidays of the Khemer and the wooden sampan racing considered a holy ceremony to wish a new productive harvest and lasting for a few days. Finally, students are organized in large classes having from forty-five to fifty students per class whereas the classes in language centres often have about twelve students.

The aim of this paper is therefore to examine the control and motivation of students in Vietnamese Secondary Schools. In the first part, important definitions will be explained. Problems arising will be discussed in the next part. The following aspect is about possible solutions. Finally, evaluations are mentioned.


1.1 Motivation

Motivation is related to several issues.According to Deborah (2001:310), motivation refers to self-confidence, enthusiasm, and the desire to understand and develop skills. In contrast, Wlodkowski (1997) confirms that motivation stimulates behaviour, gives purpose to behaviour, permits behaviour to persist and leads to the selection of a certain behaviour. For Hunter (1981), motivation can be learnt, taught and is the responsibility of educators. Because motivation can be divided into smaller concepts, it is known to be difficult to define.

Motivation is categorized into two types: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation focuses on ‘satisfactory completion of the course’ and strongly affected ‘by external rewards and pressures’ (Brown et al, 1998:16). In other words, students learn because of external reward like grades or prizes from parents. In contrast, intrinsic motivation is dependent on personal goals and interests. In this case, students want to learn because of their natural interests and satisfaction. In general, extrinsic motivation is the-need-to-learn while intrinsic motivation is the-want-to-learn.

 1.2 Control

It is generally believed that control refers to the issues of disciplines and punishment. However, according to Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2003), a ‘control’ is an act ‘to instruct or rule something or someone’s actions and behaviour’. Jenifer et al (1982:25) states that to control means ‘to direct the activities of pupils away from behaviour that was not allowed and towards the required activity of work’. Moreover, Malcolm et al (1982) reports that teachers feel it important to be dominant in the classes to cope with any situations arising.In this paper, controlling is a technique in classroom management so that teachers can manage the classes effectively in the ways that they want, especially when they are responsible with large classes.

A typical class in Vietnam:

2.1 The Preference of Core Subjects

Since English is not a core subject in secondary schools, Vietnamese students tend to neglect it. Students at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Grammar Secondary School, in Soc Trang city is an illustration. Most of them study Maths, Physics, Biology or some other natural science subjects. This is shown by the number of Maths, Physics and Biology classes which are always the double or the triple of the English classes (Department of Education and Training: 2008).

In Vietnam, if students focus on English language, this means they can only take the entrance exam to universities with Maths, Literature and English which will lead them to careers in teaching or working in social sciences. In Vietnam, there are two types of entrance exam: one for social sciences which requires Maths, Literature and English; one for natural sciences including Maths, Physics and Chemistry. According to the data of Hung Vuong University for 2009, there were 3070 candidates registered to the entrance exam of natural sciences while there were 1264 candidates interested in social sciences. As a result, English is ignored.

2.2 The Failure of Language Achievement

The complicated English textbooks contribute to the factors discouraging students from learning English. Malcolm (1982) claims that teaching materials should not be too difficult or contains the use of complicated language.However, Vietnamese textbooks contain many complex grammar points and imaginary speaking and writing tasks. For example, changing sentences from direct into indirect speech (see English 10: 1999) or writing a letter to ask a friend to help on the birthday party (see English 10: 2008).

In addition, because the lessons are designed to develop specific skills, they must be conducted in well-equipped classrooms. However, a large number of schools do not meet the basic standard in equipment. A survey from Department of Education and Training conducted last year shows that approximately 50% schools lack tape and CD recorders, English tapes and disks and electricity (2008). Therefore, in every part of the lessons, students usually listen to teachers’ reading aloud which results in noise from students. As a result, equipment and materials strongly influence the teaching and learning process (Stefan: 1982).


Because students are interrupted by so many events during the school year, their attitudes towards learning are even worse after having time to celebrate those events. An example of this is students from Le Loi secondary school, a school of athletic students. They have to participate in some marathon and jogging races, sports, processions and meetings. For instance, 3600 students attended 9 processions in the second semester, resulting in students missing the classes so often. As a result, the learning interest including English cannot be developed as social activities are usually preferred to attending classes every day.

2.4 Difficulties in Organizing Pair Work and Group Work

Large size classes tend to result in the failure of the implementation of pair work and group work. Stenfan et al (1982) emphasizes that the arrangement of single unit desks in the classrooms is the most suitable for most classes, but with Vietnamese students whose tables are long, and heavy find it difficult to collaborate effectively because they cannot change their seats to participate in the groups. Ke (2008) points out that large size classes challenge teachers in two main aspects: effective communication with students and successful organization in activities and exercises. Consequently, they are not eager in learning English because it is difficult for them to get correction from the teachers in the classrooms due to large size classes.

In general, students tend to be demotivated in learning English, so there is a need to find some possible solutions to deal with such problems.


One way to attempt to eliminate the difficulties in controlling and motivating students is the implementation of a new mark record. This can be designed for not only teachers to control and motivate students in learning English at the same time, but also for students to be aware of their marks and more responsible to their study (see Diagram 1, below).
3.1 What the Mark Record Is About and Its Importance

In this diagram, students’ marks will be recorded every week. They will be assessed on 8 criteria: taking oral tests, answering questions, summarizing lessons, taking good notes, making teaching aids, having good attendance, keeping notebooks clean and doing ‘running exercises’. This new assessment would work better on students because it is more comprehensive than the previous one which only has a mark for oral tests. Students have more chances to improve marks and teachers have more tasks for students to control their learning.

3.2 How It Works

The maximum mark for each criterion is 10 and the maximum bonus mark is 2. This example describes the marks of an imaginary student named Quoc.

3.2.1 Speaking Activities

It is generally believed that speaking activities are important in teaching and learning English. Jennifer et al (1982) suggests that concentrating in speaking activities is particularly useful to check students’ interests during the lessons. As a result, the first three criteria focus on speaking activities, including oral tests, answering questions and summarizing lessons.

An oral test is one of the everyday compulsory tests at the beginning of the class in Vietnam, since this is an effective way to find out whether students study or not (Malcolm et al: 1982).Each student has only one final score in the curriculum mark record. This means if Quoc gets low marks at the beginning of the term, he will have no other chances to improve his score which would most likely demotivate him during the rest of the term. Using this new form of mark record, he can have at least two more chances to improve the score because the teacher will make a total sum of all the marks he gets and records the final mark from the total sum. In the example, Quoc got two different marks in oral test on 09/9 and 15/09, 0 and 5.

Another speaking activity is giving marks for answering the questions, consideredone of the ways to get students involved in classroom activities. For Stefan et al (1982), taking answers from students is a common strategy to check students’ comprehension and attract their attention. Therefore, marking oral answers in classrooms is likely to make students more active. In the example, Quoc got 8 for this part.

The final issue is lesson summary conducted at the end of the lesson. Students can retell about any parts of the lessons such as the use of a grammatical point, the main idea of a reading text, some structures applied in a speaking lesson or the format of a formal letter in a writing lesson. In order to do such things, students are required to concentrate carefully on the lesson during the class. Therefore, giving marks for lesson summary may control and motivate students. In the example, Quoc got 9 for this part.

3.2.2 Writing Activities

It is widely agreed that writing is very important. Students should be aware of the value of writing (Bloomfield: 2004). Therefore, writing is emphasized in the next three criteria.

Taking notes is essential because Vietnamese tests are based on notes which are usually learnt by heart, and will help to memorize vital information (Mathew: 2009), so grading students’ notes can both arise their interests in study and train them the responsibility to have sufficient notes for the days they miss the lessons instead of skipping those notes. In the example, Quoc got 8 for this part.

Because of the importance of notes, marking notebooks should be applied for two reasons: the preparation for the inspection from supervisors of Education Department and the creation of the tidy habit. In the example, Quoc got 8 for this part.

Running exercise’, a fun activity, is of the last criterion. An exercise is given to students to finish in limited time and only few fast answers are graded. Anyone who completes the exercise on time has to run quickly to the teacher’s table to hand in the answers. Easy tasks are often organized into this to encourage students to take part in the lesson, providing them a chance to get great marks. Dornyei (2003:14) agrees that giving the right task is also a motivation in learning a target language. Therefore, this exercise would change students’ passive mood. In the example, Quoc got 10 for this part.

3.3 Other Criteria

Teaching aids make the abstract concepts become concrete, thus increasing students’ interests and motivation (Ali: 2007). Therefore, students can be asked to make teaching aids. For example, they can collect film posters, photos of actors for a unit about motion pictures (English 11, 2001:5) or draw a picture of farming to illustrate a unit about a typical day of a farmer (English 10, 2008:6). This can be used as a technique to guide students’ learning outside the classroom because when they begin to make teaching aids, they have to review what they have learnt before or prepare the lessons in advance. In the example, Quoc got 2 marks for bonus which would be added up to the total score.

The last criterion focuses on students’ low attendance and drop out from schools because it is a serious setback (France: 2009). According to the data collected in the school year 2008-2009 from Department of Education and Training in Soc Trang city, after term one, 963 students in Le Loi Secondary School left. Therefore, giving them some bonus marks for their attendance may contribute to not only the control in classrooms but also the limitation in the number of students dropping out of schools. This is of high concern because if any school has a highly considerable rate of dropout, it will miss the annual prize from the city government no matter what achievements it gains in other fields. In the example, Quoc got 1 bonus mark.

In the last step, the teacher will make a total sum of the marks Quoc received to give him the final score in the official mark record.

0+5+8+9+8+8+10= (48+2+1)/7=51/7=7.28 → 7

For instance, Quoc, in our example would get 7 in the official mark record instead of 0 which he would get from the current system.


Using the new form of this mark record has both positive and negative aspects for teachers and students.

The first advantage for teachers is its simple and easy application because nearly all of activities are targeted in it. Because of its comprehensiveness, teachers can benefit from it to vary their activities to avoid students’ boredom. In addition, a good relationship between teachers and students which, according to Malcolm (1982), can be mentioned as an encouragement, is possibly developed as well. As a result, an active learning atmosphere can be achieved which also motivates teachers themselves during the teaching process.

For students, using this form is a chance to improve scores. As a result, they can self-evaluate in learning progress. Furthermore, they are encouraged to practise English in the classrooms with obvious reasons. In addition, the more important point is that they are trained the habit to prepare lessons in advance gradually and naturally resulting in better learning attitudes. Besides, they are probably motivated by great marks since marks are important to them. Finally, the experience in finding the material to illustrate related lessons seems to be developed at the same time which is good for autonomous study. Convington et al (2001:46) confirms that ‘freedom of choice’ of exercise to ‘act autonomously’ is a great positive intrinsic motivation, so students can be interested in study.

However, the application of this new mark record has the potential to depower the image of the role of teachers because of the friendlier relationship between students and them. A stereotype in traditional teaching is that many teachers may be concerned about the tendency to lose part of their power if these traditional roles disappear. Many teachers (cited by Malcolm: 1982) believe that the main duty of a teacher is to control students. In addition, this application is likely to be time-consuming as teachers have to do many calculations when the term finishes. Finally, students may be more concerned about the marks than knowledge conveyed in the lessons.


In summary, the lack of students’ motivation and the challenge of controlling classes in TEFL are caused by the interest in natural sciences, the inappropriate content of English textbooks, the abundance of holidays in different time during the school year and the organization of large size classes. A possible solution is using the new form of mark record which comprehensively covers most of the teaching and learning activities happening in the classrooms. Students’ intrinsic motivation is awakened by the extrinsic one which gives them obvious objectives before doing some tasks instead of simply delivering several activities to force them to complete. Although this solution may break the image of a powerful teacher in Asian countries, consume a great deal of time, and concern about marks, it is simple to use, can vary teaching activities, improve teachers’ and students’ relationship,  encourage speaking English, create active learning atmosphere, and develop the study autonomy.

Although some restrictions still occur, hopefully this form can work well with the paper administrative system applied in education in Vietnam. There is a belief that in the near future Vietnamese students can benefit from a qualified education system consisting of appropriate content textbooks and smaller class sizes to attract more students in learning English. This can only be done when designing textbooks does not involve business issues, but instead a student’s ability, age and characteristics (Malcolm: 1982), and more land is saved for schools to narrow the class sizes. Therefore, Vietnamese government should manage the budget for education more carefully to be certain that public finance is spent wisely.


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Namy Yu

Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK

This article will explore how the future Comparative and International Education researchers and experienced present researchers could contribute more effectively to the development and implementation of educational policy and practice with cross-cultural perspectives. In order to examine how theories could put into practice more effectively, one international development project in education is presented: The Primary School Management Project (PRISM) in Kenya. The project will be explored with more special regards to the concept of capacity building, local ownership and partnership with cross-cultural perspectives.


Keywords: Cross-cultural perspective, uncritical transfer, educational policy, international development, context matters, partnership, local ownership


Education (one of our most contrived activities) depends more on cultural inheritance and the opportunities and needs of present circumstance than almost everything else that we do. That dependence on inheritance and circumstance is the justification for a new comparative investigation of education.

(King, E.J. 2000:267)

Advantages of Comparative and International Education (CIE)

Comparative and International Education (CIE) could help not only its researchers but also politicians and practitioners to have more broad perspectives in this rapidly changing globalised world with its multidisciplinary foundations, its long-established concern with international agencies’ policies and its sensitivity towards culture and context (Crossley, 2000; Crossley & Watson, 2003). It is especially pertinent with the current international trends with knowledge based aid (King & Mcgrath, 2002; Mcgrath, 2002) that often intentionally or unintentionally lead to uncritical transfer of educational policy and practice (Crossley, 1984; Crossley, 2000; Crossley & Watson, 2003).

Thus, as a CIE researcher, it is necessary to be aware of what is going on globally and locally (Cowen, 2000) with cross-cultural perspectives. It is important to note that ‘common problems’may prevail in different countries, but ‘common model’ cannot be applied because every country has different culture/context (Crossley & Watson, 2003: 39). And the different ‘context matters’ (Crossley & Jarvis, 2001) when designing research and applying theory. Unfortunately, influential international agendas are often put into practice conflicting with local agendas (Crossley & Watson, 2003). That is the time when CIE researchers are needed the most as a medium to bridge theories, policies and practices (Crossley, 2000) with both global and local minds. In this article I will explore how the future CIE researchers and experienced present researchers could contribute more effectively to the development and implementation of educational policy and practice with cross-cultural perspectives.

In the light of cross-cultural perspectives, researchers should look more closely to examine perspectives of ‘others’ as well. The prominence of Western literature and perspective in the field has been frequently criticised (Cowen, 2000; Crossley, 2000; Crossley & Watson, 2003; Crossley & Tikly, 2004; Elliott & Gringorenko, 2007). And more equitable bridging between the North, South, East and West are required to build successful partnership and local ownership for more sustainable development and capacity building (Samnoff, 1998; Crossley, 2000; Crossley & Watson, 2003). In order to examine how theories could put into practice more effectively, one international development project in education is presented: The Primary School Management Project (PRISM) in Kenya, which was externally funded by United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). The project will be explored with more special regards to the concept of capacity building, local ownership and partnership with cross-cultural perspectives.

Primary School Management Project (PRISM)

A Rationale for the Case Study

PRISM was started in 1996 and completed in 2000 with the purpose of mainly providing management and leadership training for primary school headteachers and deputy heads (Herriot et al, 2000; Crossley et al, 2005; Kamunde, 2010). It is regarded to be one of DFID’s successful sub-Saharan African projects (Crossley et al, 2005). PRISM was supported by the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), internally, and DFID, externally. The Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) managed the project jointly with the MOEST. And also the project was carefully planned and implemented through collaboration between Kenyatta University (Kenya) and the University of Bristol, Graduate School of Education (UK) (Crossley et al., 2005). The collaborative partnership facilitated local ownership by empowering local capacity, which will be discussed as an important policy.

Not long after the project has completed, Free Primary Education (FPE) policy has introduced to Kenya in 2003 with both local and global pressure. By studying PRISM’s research approach towards practice and policy and its strengths and weaknesses, we could learn how theory, practice and policy are closely related to the global and the local context. Moreover, studying the relationship between three concepts could give ideas to researchers how the field could contribute more effectively in international development in education. Especially, with the belief that we could learn more from the weaknesses than strengths, I would like to focus on the limitations of the project to gain valuable insights and lessons later on for future research.
Global Context

Since the World Conference on Education for All was held in Jomtien in 1990, educational development as a way of capacity building has been globally prioritised (Crossely & Watson 2003; UNESCO, 2009). World Bank’s Knowledge for Development report (World Bank, 1998) justified this international educational policy and practice with the notion that knowledge development would accelerate sustained economic growth (McGrath, 2002). In the pursuit of disseminating knowledge, the movement of finding effective schools in Western countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, has been reignited. This global pressure was also reflected in PRISM (Crossley et al, 2005). To build the sustainable capacity in education, it is important to strengthen the capacity of leadership. In school effectiveness theory, the most influential figure in education is often considered to be headteachers (Sammons et al, 1995; Sammons, 2007). By focusing on headteachers’ management and leadership training, PRISM pursued an effective way to sustain and develop quality of education to keep up with the global standard.

Another global pressure which affected PRISM was the issue of decentralisation. Globalisation accelerated decentralisation and local autonomy, which gives more reasons for local cultural identities (Giddens, 1999). Sadly, poor countries might not be able to exert the local autonomy nor cope with decentralisation without external funding. Thus, it is essential for multilateral/bilateral agencies to design the research to be sustainable even after the funding phase. In the light of decentralisation, PRISM was designed to encourage schools and communities to be more responsible by empowering local ownership.

With the concept of ownership, ‘new’ strengthened partnership has been emphasised in the international co-operation arena (Bray, 2000; Higgins & Rwanyange, 2005; Crossley et al., 2005). Bray (2000: 32) highlights the joined power of donor agencies, governments and communities with more cultural sensitive perspective. PRISM’s collaborative partnership was also in the line of this international justification for more sustainable development. The question is how this globally theorised and pursued policies—capacity building, ownership and partnership—affected national context of Kenya.

Kenya’s Experience of Ownership and Partnership through PRISM

The current international trend of prioritising primary education was not the only motivation of PRISM. The urgent need for improved primary school management and leadership training was sought out within the Kenyan government (Crossley et al., 2005). Reflecting global school effectiveness theory and decentralisation, more professional headteachers with leadership and management capacity were demanded. To ensure the sustainability of the project, in-service training was recommended with Headteachers Support Groups (HTSGs) (Herriot et al., 2002; Crossley et al., 2005).

HGSGs are clusters of headteachers, local trainers and community members formed to train headteachers and to establish a network of potential ‘pockets of excellence’ (Herriot et al., 2002; 510). It is designed to impact and empower locals and community, who will eventually support headteachers efficiently. Theoretically, the pattern seems to create the circle of leadership that ultimately begets local ownership. The theory was put into practice with a strengthened cascade system in training model.

A cascade system was applied before in Kenya with The Strengthening of Primary Education (SPRED) project from 1991 to 1996 assisted by DFID (DFID, 1998). However, according to DFID (DFID, 1998), the training model was reported to dilute the quality of information with top-down system and to under-utilise local capacity. The PRISM team reinforced the training model and designed it to be more bottom-up in the hope for grass-roots level changes. By strengthening the existing model, the PRISM team showed the importance of ‘continuity’ (Crossley & Jarvis, 2000) of practice.

Herriot et al. (2002) claims HTSGs brought rippling effects of grass-roots level changes in learning process with an involvement of community and parents with their constructive feedback. The ripple effect also encouraged the concept of a learning organisation through self-help, which was considered to be valuable for sustainability in decentralised administration (Herriot et al. 2002). This decentralised system of HTSGs (Herriot et al., 2002: 514) reflects Kenyan’s efforts to keep up with global context. Kenyan communities tried to cope with this world trend, decentralisation, by enhancing local capacity coupled with headteachers’ leadership. The local experience of planning for educational change (Higgins & Rwanyange, 2005: 10) empowered local ownership with local voices. The locally grounded experience suggests the powerful effect of grass-roots level of changes.

Despite the collaborative efforts, continuing dominancy of one-way communication problem between headteachers and other stakeholders was frequently reported (Crossley et al., 2005: 82). The culture of respecting elders in Africa could have caused this problem. CIE researchers often come across this kind of sensitive culture-related issues. And handling the situation with more broad perspective is necessary not pushing the situation in the way the donor agency wants. Otherwise, the concept of partnership would be faded into less than rhetoric legitimacy with ‘dependency syndrome’ (Herriot et al., 2002: 515) threatening sustainability in education.

To avoid the ‘dependency syndrome’, constructing more insider perspective in the project is pertinent. The participatory nature of PRISM is designed to give local ownership and partnership through contribution of both insiders and outsiders. The diversity of participants means a diverse team of perspectives, which makes it possible to interpret findings of research in cross-cultural perspectives. Smith (2000) emphasises that it is necessary to involve recipient’s perspective to avoid pitfalls of depending on donor’s perspective. Smith goes on to say that the various perspectives are especially needed when we evaluate projects. Whether projects were effective or not should be weighed in both perspectives of aid agencies and beneficiaries. Thus, building research and evaluation capacity in Kenya with cross-cultural perspective became inevitable to achieve true ownership and genuine partnership. 

 Through the direct participation of MOEST in the process of research design, the PRISM team developed the research and evaluation capacity within the MOEST and Kenyatta University. Crossley et al (2005:70) argues that the participatory research brought an increase in the involvement of MOEST/PRISM personnel in the design, conduct and writing-up of many studies. Through this direct involvement of administration, practitioners could realise potential problems in practice by direct feedback and could handle them more flexibly. It also made administrative workers be aware of implementation issues (Crossley et al., 2005:70). The practical and direct collaboration between the government and Kenyatta University shows the possible notion for relationship between government bodies and local universities (Crossley et al., 2005). The balanced relationship between two bodies could promote research and evaluation capacity for the future researches. Thus, it could be argued that strengthening local research and evaluation capacity not only helps in practical level, such as writing reports, but also empower local ownership by bridging communities and practitioners.

Limitations and Discussions

Approach towards the Research Model: Defining the Concept

Even though PRISM project team tried hard to reflect local context with careful planning, the approach towards the role of the headteacher in education was originated from Western school effectiveness assumptions (Crossley et al., 2005). Despite the fact that headteachers’ leadership and management skills have been proved to be essential worldwide, there is a potential danger of ‘uncritical transfer’ of school effectiveness to African countries (Harber & Davies, 1997). Harber and Davies further on questions what constitutes ‘effective’ headteachers in African context.  Africa is such a diverse and vast continent with many different languages co-existing even in one country. The geographic and cultural differences should be considered into the rationale of research design. In the light of this complicated context, PRISM project’s long-term sustainability could be at stake (Crossley et al., 2005).

How we define the ‘effectiveness’ could affect research design, practice and its result: success or failure. However, judging the success of a project could be related to the power game between international agencies and national governments. As mentioned earlier in this paper, Smith (2000) stressed the necessity of putting recipient’s perspective in the research design and evaluation for genuine partnership. He suggests that:

There is a need to involve other stakeholders more fully in identifying project success criteria. Although donors have made moves towards including representatives of the recipient government or host institution in project evaluation teams, the terms of reference for the evaluation may well still be those of the donor.  (Smith, 2000: 217)

Thus, it is pertinent to ask what effectiveness means in the country with cross-cultural perspectives: are we talking about cost effectiveness; effective research design; how it affects international test result; getting more help from aid countries; getting the outcome that donor agencies want; how to develop human resources; how much it contributes to well-being of citizens? It is also crucial to think about ‘whose’ effectiveness we should consider. Holmes and Crossley (2004:204) critically highlight the unfairness of decisions from outsiders to define the parameters of research design. Hence, it is crucial as a researcher to look beyond the global standard of effectiveness and success. Otherwise, the ‘genuine’ partnership that we always emphasise would remain rather rhetoric.

Timing & Continuity

It takes a long time to set up true partnerships between researchers, policy-makers and practitioners (Crossley et al., 2005). However, tight budget and timetable from external agency could make cultural trust and understanding difficult to be established. The diversity of team members in PRISM project was one of great strengths, but it also required more time to build research and evaluation capacity (Crossley et al., 2005). Without the trust and bond, it could be hard to establish a genuine partnership between donor agencies and recipients.

Not long after the project was completed, Kenyan government introduced FPE policy.  Even though, the government praised PRISM and wanted to apply the project in the new policy, the impact of PRISM could not be fully shown (Kamunde, 2010). For the better judgment of success of the project, it needed more time to evaluate. It is not, of course, the fault of the project itself. However, when new policy and practice meets the old one, the latter could be easily forgotten. In the light of continuity, future researchers in Kenya could consider altering and applying PRISM in the new policy with reconceptualisation. Hence, interaction between researchers is highly recommended to bridge an old project and a new one.

Continuing Financial Problem

The financial problem in Kenyan primary schools has always been a big realistic hindrance to sustainable practice and policy, especially in the poor region (Crossley et al., 2005). One of the goals of PRISM was to create the sustainable project which could continue even after the funding period. The growing importance of decentralisation has affected the design of PRISM with cost-sharing framework. By sharing cost in education, PRISM attempted to make more independent schools and communities (Herriot et al., 2002) to be prepared in the decentralised world. Consequently, this had put more burden on parents and communities in poorer regions (Crossley et al. 2005). The financial problem in developing countries is and will be a big obstacle which everybody involved in international development must tackle. Thus, researchers should be more careful with the interpretation of a concept or a theory which could affect results of policy in unintended way by applying universal policy uncritically. Paradoxically, this shows it is important for researchers to acknowledge the national context more seriously and keep pursuing the sustainable project that could maximize local capacity to manage cost efficiently.

Constant Monitoring and Evaluation of International Projects

While researching the evaluation and lessons from PRISM, I came across a few documents related to PRISM.  Since it is regarded as a role model to other international projects, several documents complemented PRISM with its accomplishments and its inspirational influence on other projects (Herrioet et al., 2002; Higgins & Rwanyange, 2005; Crossley et al., 2005; Kamunde, 2010). However, there was little criticism towards the project. Considering the fact that PRISM was a very successful project, it might not be surprising to find little literature of criticism. On the other hand, for local and international researchers, especially the new and inexperienced ones like me, critical evaluation from leading scholars could provide valuable insights and lessons. Constant monitoring and evaluation of international projects could enlighten future students and researchers who are interested in the international development arena.

Case Study Conclusion

The PRISM study has shown that how well planned theories could contribute to practice and policy by empowering local researchers and strengthening research and evaluation capacity.  To keep up with globalisation, it is essential to build local capacity for sustainable development (Crossley et al. 2005). More involvement of local researchers and ministries in the research created local ownership and showed possible new partnership between not only local researchers and government officers but also North and South. The broad cultural sensitive perspectives that have been flourished through collaborative partnership justified the importance of empowering local ownership.

In terms of continuity, PRISM team linked existing training cascade model to updated and more flexible one. The strengthened cascade system facilitated grass-roots level changes. And it gave more justification of local ownership. However, the lack of information and research in African effective school model was criticised. In the light of continuity, it’s pertinent to research the meaning of effective school reflected in African history and reconceptualise the historical context to modern African and global context.


TheCIE researcher’s role as a mediator is apposite to the present timing, when the United Nations (UN) Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has taken place in New York in September 2010. In its action agendas, One of MDGs, achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE) is highlighted with the importance of building capacity and partnership. Education cannot be decontextualised from its local culture (Crossley & Watson, 2003). And the education policy should reflect its own national perspective with modified global perspective. The one-size-can-fit-all policy should be carefully revised with more cultural sensitive ‘context matters’ attitude. Even when we evaluate successful project like PRISM, it needs extra caution not to be transferred directly to other countries.

One of the main concerns regarding effective practice should be how to define the term, “effectiveness”. Interpreting the term with the question of ‘what constitutes effectiveness’ also should be accompanied with the questions of ‘whose’ effectiveness’. As presented in this paper, fundamental theory of PRISM project lies in Western school effectiveness. The simple transfer of Western management theory to developing countries could bring out unintended issues related to sustainability (Harber & Davies, 1997). Furthermore, historical studies regarding school effectiveness in African context and other developing countries’ context should be investigated for future studies. After all, education is ‘about tomorrow, although all its established systems were developed for a world that no longer exists.’ (King, E.J. 2000:267).

Empowering locals is emphasised for sustainability and genuine partnership between North and South. The PRISM study shows how strengthening local research capacity could bring local ownership.  Bridging between insider and outsider researchers in Kenya’s case proves the advantage of cross-cultural perspective. With both inside and outside collaborators, their cultural-sensitive interpretation could expand. Through the article, I emphasised the importance of interpretation of the concept. Research design and outcome could be affected by how we interpret effective contribution. Thus, reconceptualising research and evaluation capacity through others’ perspective is necessary. This mutual and powerful interpretation is pertinent not to fall into the pitfalls of ‘uncritical transfer of education’ (Crossley, 1984; Crossley, 2000; Crossley & Watson, 2003). In order to keep up with the rapid pace of globalisation, international agencies focus on capacity building. But what they mean by capacity building is not always explicit. Often, intentionally or unintentionally researches are designed in favour of donor agencies with their own interpretation of capacity building. Hence, their mutual interpretation could benefit CIE, suggesting possible bridges between the global and the local; theory, policy and practice (Crossley, 2000) through reconceptualisation.

For the optimised development result, international agencies and CIE researchers need to cooperate more to put theories into practice. I have come across some concerns while I was reading and analysing discourses: Will all these wonderful theories and voices of researchers ever be carried out as a policy by donor agencies; how could a future researchers like me could contribute to carry out the theories? The gaps between theory, practice and policy do exist. And quite often the powerful and influential external agencies press educational research to be too applied and too direct for policy and practice in their convenience (Crossley, 2000: 328). However, as a medium between them, researchers should constantly ask how to bridge those gaps and whose effectiveness they should care to achieve quality education through partnerships between researchers and practitioners; government bodies and local researchers; international agencies and local governments.


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Kundyz Mukatayeva

Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK

This article aims to discuss education and effectiveness of higher education in Kazakhstan in the changing world. The idea that education of high quality can provide stability in the economy and social life of a country is presented.  The effectiveness of higher educational institutions can be evaluated by the ability to educate high qualified specialists. Therefore, it addresses the role of tertiary education and some problems with the teaching profession in Kazakhstan.

Keywords: Kazakhstan higher education, effectiveness of higher education, teaching profession

Introduction In the new global world, education has become a central issue for discussion. The Asian Development Bank’s policy and strategies paper (2002: 1) states that education is a ‘prerequisite for development’. The Republic of Kazakhstan also shares the idea that education of high quality can provide stability in the economy and social life of a country by helping to advance ‘human potential’ (MDG 2007: 23) and improving its competitiveness. Education is a long process that provides basic skills and is essential in shaping our future lives, as Dewey (2004: 2) clearly points out: ‘education is the means of social continuity of life’. To be highly qualified means to have completed higher education, however, an important question is what kind of educational organisation an individual has graduated from.

In the previous paragraph attention has been drawn to a set of opinions about education and what education means in our society. At this point, consideration will be made in more detail of how the points of view above relate to the subject of this paper, namely what quality of higher education institutions means, as quality is the key point in the effectiveness of higher education institutions. After that, the role of tertiary education and problems with the teaching profession in Kazakhstan will be discussed. Finally, a conclusion on the topic will be presented. 

Quality of higher education institutions Quality and efficiency are perceived as the level and volume of educational product provided according to expectations of the market and society at a certain stage of development and with the real capability of a graduate to compete both within the country and abroad (MDG 2007: 26). 

In the World Conference Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century: vision and action, the following main mission of higher education is stated: 

… to educate highly qualified graduates and responsible citizens able to meet the needs of all sectors of human activity, by offering relevant qualifications, including professional training, which combine high-level knowledge and skills, using courses and content continually tailored to the present and future needs of society (UNESCO 1998: 21).   

By achieving the above mentioned expectations higher education institutions can become effective organisations, as the quality of education is evaluated to the degree of an education organisation’s ability to achieve the main goals of a changing world.

It is widely known that the effectiveness of higher education institutions include their quality, for it is considered to be the main factor of economic and social development of a society. However, as Bloom and Rosovsky (2001) point out the quality of tertiary education has not classically been the main area for many international agendas, and the World Bank is not an exception. There is an increase in concern that some areas of education, like pre-primary, secondary and tertiary are being disadvantaged as all international agendas concentrate on the improvement of primary education. ‘Countries need primary, secondary and tertiary education. All three are vital to human, social, and economic development and all three are in the public interest’ (Bloom and Rosovsky 2001: 253-254). Therefore, higher education institutions also need to be prioritised as they are the basic social institutions of a society. Hansen and Lehmann (2006) make similarly point that there is a strong link between quality in primary, secondary and higher education systems:

Universities educate decision-makers of tomorrow in both public and private sectors. To do this they are dependent on a bottom up supply of students and the national primary and secondary education systems must be maintained and tuned accordingly (p. 822).

The Republic of Kazakhstan made steps towards decentralisation its existing control mechanisms and gave academic freedom to higher education institutions to improve the quality of higher education (OECD 2007). It is believed that above mentioned steps will help to advance the country`s higher education institutions towards the developed world`s level:

Without adequate higher education and research institutions providing a critical mass of skilled and educated people, no country can ensure genuine endogenous and sustainable development (Stephens 2009: 16).

It can be seen that quality and effectiveness of higher education institutions are important issues in a global world. The effectiveness of higher educational institutions can be evaluated by the ability to educate high qualified specialists; therefore, the next section will now discuss the role of tertiary education and problems with the teaching profession in Kazakhstan.      

The role of tertiary education and problems with the teaching profession in Kazakhstan It has been argued that by looking at the quality of teaching the power of a country`s educational system can be seen (Thomson and Crossley 2000). Preparation of teachers for future profession is a special topic affecting economic, demographic and political problems (Porter 1996). It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the importance of higher education in the preparation of teachers. Unlike the UK, in Kazakhstan the right to prepare teachers is the responsibility of higher education.

One of the main aims of higher education is to educate competent teachers, with great subject knowledge, an ability to think critically, open to activities and flexible to changes in the world. 

In a world undergoing rapid changes, there is a perceived need for a new vision and paradigm of higher education, which should be student-oriented, calling in most countries for in-depth reforms and an open access policy so as to cater for ever more diversified categories of people, and of its contents, methods, practices and means of delivery, based on new types of links and partnerships with the community and with the broadest sectors of society (UNESCO 1998: 24).

The role of an educational organisation with its active methods of teaching is the important one, as the efficiency in formation of professional competence of teachers mostly depends on an educational context, pedagogical approaches and conditions of educational process of higher education organisations. For the aim of achievement of educating competent teachers educational institutions should organise an educational environment that will supply transition from cognitive types of activities to professional ones.

Countries can benefit by providing high quality education to their citizens. In this process the role of teachers is an important. Kazakhstan faces some potential labour shortages in teaching, especially at school level, so the Ministry of Education and Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan (MoES) has made an effort to provide more government scholarships to teaching professions. However, students going to the teaching profession choose it not because of eagerness to become a competent teacher, but just to get free higher education, as the competitiveness in the teaching profession is lower. In other words, there is a greater chance to get higher education free of charge. Consequently, the country tends to end up with graduate teachers, who are not willing to teach.

Chapman et al. (2005: 523) argue that in Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan included, ‘the inadequate level of teacher compensation is recognized by educators and government’.  They further claim that individuals with high ability are discouraged from entering or remaining in the field as teachers because of low salary.  This is still the main discouragement factor from becoming a teacher in Kazakhstan. 

In order to reduce the problem the Government has made major emphasis on the status of teachers. In 2010 the MoES constructed a new State Education Development Programme for 2011-2020 (MoES 2010) where the increase in prestige of the teachers’ profession is targeted. The key aims are to provide the country with high quality specialists and to improve the state support for the work of pedagogical staff. As in the UK (School Teachers’ Pay and Condition Document 2003), in Kazakhstan teachers are paid according to their numbers of years in profession (UNESCO 2008). The new programme (MoES 2010) states that a new model of payment will be introduced. It is believed that the realisation of these aims can improve the effectiveness of the HE system and to improve its quality. 

Conclusion To conclude, it is important to stress that analysing effective educational organisations is a complex issue. Higher education should be able to respond to the needs of individuals and whole societies, and today`s globalised world demands educational institutions to be flexible to all chances. Effective educational organisations should be managed from where new teachers with intent to work as a teacher will graduate. By reducing workload and paperwork, raising teaching salaries by making it more competitive with private sectors salaries and providing better carrier opportunities it can be possible to make teaching profession prestigious as stated in the new state development programme.


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