Kazakh schools making switch to Latin alphabet

By Kanat Altynbayev


Pupils attend a lesson at the Bilim Innovation Lyceum for gifted girls in Astana in March. It is one of the schools that will transition to teaching Kazakh in the Latin alphabet starting in September. [Bilim-Innovatsiya website] 

ASTANA -- Five secondary schools and three vocational colleges in the Kazakh capital will start using the Latin alphabet instead of Cyrillic to teach the Kazakh language, Anuar Zhangozin, chief of the Astana municipal education department, announced at an August 23 news conference.

The move signifies the continuing loss of Russian influence in Kazakhstan, which gained its independence in 1991.

Parents and pupils have already received instructions about using the new alphabet, Zhangozin said according to the Elorda Info website.

That decision indicates city hall's support for parents who want both to emphasise the country's state language and to have Kazakh-language courses gradually supplant Russian-language ones in those schools, he said.

"According to our plans, if in first grade 70% of the study will be done in Russian and 30% in the state language [Kazakh], by the fifth grade, 100% of classes will be taught in Kazakh," Zhangozin said.

The changes follow a directive from Astana Mayor Asset Issekeshev, he added.

Transition to begin across the country

The government is planning to transition to the Latin alphabet in other schools nationwide in coming years. School parent committees in Almaty already are preparing for the switch.

"The earlier teaching in Kazakh with Latin writing starts, the better," Saule Tursunova, the mother of a pupil at School-Gymnasium No. 148 in Almaty, told Caravanserai. "We wouldn't want our children to be tortured by first mastering Kazakh in Cyrillic and then transferring to a new alphabet."

The coming generations in Kazakhstan will master foreign languages and integrate into the global community more easily if they learn Kazakh through the Latin alphabet, she said.

Last October 27, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree calling for adopting the Latin alphabet. The multi-stage transition is expected to be complete in 2025.

English already is a compulsory subject in all Kazakh schools, so the country's youth will not have trouble dealing with the Latin alphabet, Nazarbayev said on his website.

Kazakhstan has had a winding history of alphabet use. Kazakh was formerly written in an Arabic script, like the Turkish language before the reforms of former Turkish president Kemal Atatürk. Kazakhstan then used a Latin alphabet from 1929 to 1940, after which Joseph Stalin ordered the use of Cyrillic everywhere in the Soviet Union.

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It will be a disaster for education. It's not necessary to implement the ideas of that cuckoo. Everybody can see where his 30th place is dangling. All others will get the same.