Reforming Education through Policy and Institutional Capacity Enhancements in Kazakhstan

February 11, 2015

Photo: Maxim Zolotukhin | World Bank

In 2011, the Government of Kazakhstan requested the World Bank’s advisory and technical assistance to improve the secondary education student assessment system. The Bank aligned its support with Kazakhstan’s development strategy priorities, resulting in a three-year programmatic engagement under the Joint Economic Research Program (JERP) in 2011–14 to enhance the Government’s capacity for evidence-based decision making and raise the quality of education.


The story of the education system in Kazakhstan is a mix of successes and remaining challenges in a fast growing upper-middle-income economy. Recent achievements include a rapid expansion of access to preschool education, near universal secondary education completion, and improved technical, vocational, and higher education.

However, there are significant concerns about ensuring that graduates are sufficiently competent in and adaptable to the cognitive, technical, and non-cognitive skills that are necessary to join an evolving labor market. Expenditure efficiency within a resource-constrained environment through the improved quality of education is another challenge the Government hopes to address. The State Program on Education Development for 2011–2020 calls for an improvement in the quality of education under the new socioeconomic realities.


The assistance provided by the World Bank under the JERP was a combination of timely research and advisory support to the Government during the education reform process. The objective was achieved through the application of three major policy tools for system-wide diagnosis, analysis, and policy formulation:

(i) Analysis of Kazakhstan’s results in 2009 and 2012 on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and policy recommendations for improvement;

(ii) An international policy benchmarking exercise in three critical areas of education quality: student assessments, school autonomy and accountability, and teacher policies; and

(iii) Capacity-building seminars on international and national assessments and best school inspection practices.

Photo: Gulbakyt Dyussenova | World Bank


This work led to the following results:

  1. Based on the policy analysis and recommendations, new reform processes have been initiated with the objective of: (i) improving student assessment systems (External Assessment of Learning Achievements and Unified National Test [UNT]) and teacher practices; (ii) developing an Integrated Student Assessment System for preschool and secondary education to establish a strong foundation for a classroom and national summative assessment that objectively and clearly measures learning outcomes and provides feedback to teachers, schools, parents, and policy makers on adjustments for improvement.
  2. A multiyear capacity-development plan was created in consultation with the Quality Control Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science in order to establish an objective and independent inspectorate that can evaluate and assure the quality of education in schools, teacher practices, and school autonomy and accountability.
  3. After analyzing the national assessment, an external audit of the UNT was initiated to better inform policy decisions associated with the Government’s plans to separate the UNT into two testing instruments by 2015: (i) a school leaving exam and (ii) a university entrance exam.

" The World Bank’s advisory and technical assistance has greatly supported the institutional development of a comprehensive assessment system and capacity in collecting and analyzing education data. We believe further collaboration will contribute to raising the quality of secondary education in Kazakhstan. "
Takhir Balykbayev

Takhir Balykbayev

Vice-Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan

World Bank


This work was conducted in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science’s Quality Control Committee, as well as the National Center of Education Statistics and Assessment, the National Testing Center, and the Information Analytical Center under the Ministry of Education and Science.

Moving Forward

The Government of Kazakhstan has requested another three-year engagement from 2014 to 2017, with a focus on translating the policy actions and recommendations that emerged from the first phase. The second phase will continue the assessment, but will also include improvements in school and teacher/principal evaluations.

The specific tasks requested for the next phase include: (i) developing an integrated student assessment system with qualitative preschool and secondary school indicators of learning outcomes; (ii) improving the legal framework and quality assurance inspection practices; and (iii) developing an evaluation system for teachers and principals.