Open a New School in Kazakhstan
If you are considering setting up a new school in Kazakhstan you certainly have a lot of things to consider. We have done this many times and in many unique locations.
We are here to help you along the way and have put together this quick summary to help you get started.
Kazakhstan is a country that has been focussed on transformation. It became independent from the former Soviet republic in 1991 and has since been focussed on growing its economy, decentralising political systems and creating a more independent and autonomous country that can expand and succeed in a global world. Kazakhstan has been very focussed on improving its education system including opening education to the free market. It wants international standards, connection to a global community but also a reunified nation.
Government goals as part of a 2012-2020 plan have been clear including “one in five Kazakhstani students engage in some form of study abroad by 2020, and increasing the number of international students studying at Kazakhstani universities by 20 percent each year. Improving the English language skills of students and faculty, expanding the number of programs offered in foreign languages, and promoting links with foreign universities and international organisations were also identified as objectives in the strategy.” (source)
Kazakhstan has nearly 90,000 students studying abroad according to UNESCO. Students are motivated to study overseas and the predominant destinations have been Russia and China. The United States and UK are less dominant but we expect this area to grow in coming years. In fact the recent crisis in Ukraine and Russia are creating a number of new market forces and trends in the market. We are receiving increasing levels of enquiries by investors looking to set up new schools in Kazakhstan.
Feasibility Study & Market Research for a New School in Kazakhstan
It is essential that the process of setting up a school begins with this important step. Most countries are unique and setting up a school in Kazakhstan is no different. Making assumptions can be expensive and a comprehensive study will minimise risk and also maximise your chances of success. Even if it is already clear that the school will go ahead, this research will influence many decisions in the set up process including the type of school, Vision/Mission, Financial Planning, Curriculum, Admissions and more. As Kazakhstan’s economy and middle class continues to grow there is a demand for more international schooling options as this middle and upper class expands and disposable income becomes higher and higher.
Is there a demand for a new school in Kazakhstan? Are there incentives?
The appetite for private education is increasing and is well supported by the government. In fact PM Askar Mamin announced late in 2021 that they would build 160 new private schools in Kazakhstan. (source)
The government is very focussed on improving the overall quality of education, knowing that this is an important investment for the future of Kazakhstan. It is also investing heavily in state owned education. In fact 1000 new schools are planned over the next 5 years, however a growing middle class are seeking higher levels of facilities, teachers and curriculum pathways.
Early years education is also a focus. Vice Minister of Education and Science, Sholpan Karinova said Wednesday ( June 1, 2022) that hundreds of new kindergartens are also set to open. (Source)
Supported by the National Investment Strategy of Kazakhstan, there are some generous government incentives for local entrepreneurs looking to invest in education. Capital investment support as well as student fees offset by the government are making opportunities more attractive. This also extends to boarding facilities. There are additional incentives for overseas investors also. (Source: KAZAKINVEST )
Vision and Mission – “The Voice” of a School in Kazakhstan
Although to some a school vision and mission may seem like an obligatory message on a feature wall, when you are setting up a new school these statements are invaluable. We prefer to describe this step as identifying the school’s unique “voice.” It is important that the school voice is clear and that all decisions about school design, curriculum, choice of staff and policies reflect a unique plan. Project forward to a time in 20 years when Kazakhstan and expatriate graduates return to the school and share stories of great times. How will they describe the school? What is unique about it? How will people distinguish your school from others? What are the “Signature Experiences”?
Financial Planning – The Business Plan to Open a New School in Kazakhstan
Both non-profit and for-profit schools need to have a comprehensive business plan that outlines a sound financial strategy both short and long term. We recommend a comprehensive 10-year plan with knowledge that it usually takes 3 – 5 years for a school to reach a sound financial position. Kazakhstan has unique characteristics in terms of legal authorities, governance and policy and there are risks associated with this. All these differences need to be taken into account.
Long-term planning is essential as it is easy for school leadership to become reactive and move attention away from the end goal. Schools are busy, complex and stressful places, but good management focuses on strategic planning at least 5-10 years in advance. It is also key to look in depth to the future as many new schools do not begin to make significant profit until after operational year 4.
Accreditation and Licensing
Local License: Setting up a new school in Kazakhstan, the school requires local licensing through the Ministry of Education and Science and the endorsement and support from several government departments. This can be tricky and requires thorough planning and attention to detail. Education, facilities and regulatory licenses are required.
International Curriculum: Use of an international curriculum such as UK, US, or a framework such as International Baccalaureate (IB) will also require programmes meeting standards that will be checked and monitored by a governing body. Mosts of these accreditations are best achieved by good education management principles and these begin right from the early planning stages.
School Accreditation: A school might choose to pursue external accreditation as a way to validate quality. The key forms of accreditation can include:
- Local Education Ministry License (required)
- Curriculum accreditation eg. Cambridge, Oxford, EdExcel or others
- Partner standards and accreditation eg. an overseas school brand or other form
- International accreditation eg. WASC, CIS or others (3-4 years)
Architectural Design for a School in Kazakhstan
All schools are different and the school design will reflect both local needs as well as the nature of the curriculum and the school’s vision and mission. Before you begin working with an architect, you must first engage a school operator who understands the school curriculum and the key teaching and learning priorities. Gone are the days when architects line up boxes with a corridor down the middle. You also need to consider capacity, class sizes and future needs. These are both educational as well as business decisions. An educator must be part of this process.
When setting up a school in Kazakhstan, how to stand out from the crowd? To match what the other schools in the market are doing is one thing, however it’s worth considering strategies to excel or be unique in a particular area that no other school has adopted. One of these recommendations could be a unique STEM/STEAM LAB that could be placed on a platform and showcased as best practice to the consumer.
Like anywhere Kazakhstan, has its different construction standards, costs and processes and this needs to be adhered to when setting up a school in Kazakhstan. This specialist field requires experts to closely monitor. If construction costs blow out or there are time delays, it will cost you dearly. Employ a very good project manager with an attention to detail. Micro manage and follow project timeframes carefully.
There are important design considerations when decisions are being made about internal facilities, materials and resources. Upfront costs are a factor as well as maintenance and function. This is a chance for the educator and the architects to be creative and exploit different characteristics of a building. For example at a GSE school in Malaysia, Primary classrooms were 120m2+, incorporating a mezzanine floor and a slide.
Branding and Marketing
Schools, and what they offer are a very different “product/service” than you might expect. A parent and child is joining a community. You are not selling a car. How you brand and communicate your key messages must reflect a deep understanding of education and what families value, all within the local context. Study carefully and seek out expertise. It will make a big difference. We advocate strongly in the use of social media; the modern day “word of mouth.”
Building a strong brand image in Kazakhstan includes aspects such as:
- A well regarded education management brand
- Overseas brands, pathways and study programmes
- A quality Principal with an excellent profile
- High quality native speaking English teachers
- Partnerships within the local community
Student Recruitment Strategies for a School in Kazakhstan
Setting up a new school in Kazakhstan may require different strategies than another country or city. How about taking a glance at our other blog here. But we need to note that Kazakhstan is different and a more in depth dive is required and can be found during a GSE Feasibility Study.
Expensive upfront and expensive to maintain. Get an expert involved. It will save you money by making good decisions right from the start.
Determining what you need and when you need can be very difficult. Be careful also about the difference of opinion that may exist between your key staff. These decisions about what is needed and what is best use of money can be quite subjective. We suggest starting with a core list of resources and then expanding it based on need.
Any research will tell you that school management is the number one factor that will determine success in a school. It is essential that your leadership is underpinned by education expertise. Put in place a quality management team.
Admissions processes must be clear and have an educational rationale for placement. Your goals should be to accept children “whose needs you can satisfy.” Create admissions tests that are credible and use these as benchmarks for determining grade placement.
Your staffing plan will be determined when you create your financial plan as part of setting up a school in Kazakhstan. The ratios of staff to students as well as your support and administration staff must be calculated carefully. As the school grows these ratios will become more efficient so seek good advice in your planning process. There are many ways to recruit with varying costs but, as always, you will often get what you pay for. The best teachers work through the best channels. Also, be aware that as a new school you are marketing yourself to new staff also, not just students. Build a great website and promote yourself well to this audience also.
Check our blog on how to retain and keep staff along with how to attract the best teachers for a school in Kazakhstan. Setting up a school in Kazakhstan can be a very attractive to young and ambitious teachers.
In this initial planning phase you will not create a detailed curriculum but you must begin outlining the general curriculum plan. This will be different depending on your key priorities for pedagogy (how you teach) as well as your curriculum choice; be it British, American, Australian, IB or any other.
School Policies for a School in Kazakhstan
Standard school handbooks containing school policies can range from 20 pages to 100+. This comprehensive handbook takes time to produce but also must reflect local laws and government policies as well as the standards set by accreditations you have or are seeking.
School Review Processes and Action Plans
To be the very best, a school must have review processes and internal standards by which it is measuring itself. A 10-year strategic plan must be broken down into an annual plan, term plans and, sometimes, weekly action plans to achieve key priorities. When a school owner does not have a strong education background, engaging an education management team will be important.
Training and Development
Employ great teachers but then train them. Respond to internal school review processes, academic data and feedback by adjusting practice. The most valuable resource within a school is its Human Resources and investment in this is important.
Timelines for Setting Up a New School in Kazakhstan
A tough question! Setting up a school in Kazakhstan can be difficult. Many and most of the above will happen concurrently. The accreditations may depend on each other as well as your recruitment of a strong team. The building process may take anywhere from 6 months to a year depending on the size and location of the construction and the length of time it takes to complete additional approval processes. If you are using an existing facility or refurbishing one, then that might be easier for you, but just like any renovation, you can run into problems. Plan for the process to take longer than you expect as you are depending on factors out of your control, such as government approvals or the weather.
If you want to learn more about the steps required to set up a school or an international school franchise check out some of our other articles:
GSE set up schools in all areas of the world
CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these discipline.
Global Services in Education set up and operate schools in all parts of the world. Governed by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion to help shape international education and student achievement through inspiration and collaboration.
Our goal is to meet the highest objectives of every school, teacher, student and parent, with an unwavering dedication to quality education, shared ideals and intercultural perspectives.
– School Management
– Strategic Planning
– Feasibility Studies
– Architectural Conceptual Design
– Interior Design
– ICT Planning
– Staffing & Recruitment
– Curriculum Design
– School Policies
– School Audits & Action Plans
– Training & Development
– Accreditation & Licensing