Becoming a Bolashak scholar is now not easy at all

It is not at all easy to become a Bolashak scholar now, but it is undoubtedly worth it, reports.

Contribution to the country’s economy

Thousands of Kazakhstani children dream of studying abroad, and the unique program initiated by the First President Nursultan Nazarbayev for many of them is the only hope of getting a prestigious education.

In turn, the Bolashakites fully justify the funds invested in them by the state. Out of almost 11 thousand graduates, 52% have already grown to middle and top managers, including 10% today are owners of their own enterprises.

Since November last year, a study has been conducted on the effectiveness of the contribution of graduates of the program to the country’s economy, Bolashaq Impact Report. It says: “The program’s fellows have become leaders in the field of qualitative changes in the economy: in health care, human capital development, public administration, the introduction of innovations and optimization of business processes, the promotion of culture and art, as well as the implementation of public initiatives.”

According to the document, 90% of employers highly value not only professional skills, but also especially note the leadership, moral and communicative qualities of Bolashak residents.

The authors of the study even calculated that during 2019 alone, program graduates performed 213,000 medical operations, trained 145,000 schoolchildren and students, published more than 1,000 scientific papers, organized and took part in 5,000 concerts and events, as well as acted as mentors for 90 thousand wards.

In early September, the international scholarship “Bolashak” was awarded to 196 more Kazakhstanis who will be trained in magistracy, doctoral studies, residency, and will also be sent to internships in scientific and industrial centers of the world. The lucky ones will have to study at leading universities in 16 countries, including the USA (Harvard and Columbia Universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Canada (University of Toronto), Great Britain (London School of Economics and Political Science, Imperial College London, King’s College London), Japan (Tokyo university).

And the specialties within the educational program are the most in demand: distance learning methods, strategic management and leadership in higher education, university management, inclusive education; medical genetics, virology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, biotechnology, biomedicine; innovation management, digital economy, artificial intelligence, oil and gas engineering, aviation and aerospace engineering, nuclear industry, IT.

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In total, 1,055 scholarships were allocated for training under the Bolashak program in 2021. Of these, 555 were assigned to master’s, residency, doctoral, and internship programs, the rest – to the new category of internships “Scientists”.

On behalf of the President of the country, annually 500 Kazakh scientists will be able to undergo training at the expense of the state, gain new knowledge and conduct joint research. This year, our researchers will be able to undergo academic training in 80 specialties and internships in 137 specialties. Candidates must have three years of work experience, including the last year in their chosen field of specialization.

Under the new rules

There are many innovations in this area. In May last year, by a government decree, the Rules for the selection of applicants for the Bolashak international scholarship were approved. The agreement took a whole nine months, three of which were pandemic.

The President of the Center for International Programs JSC Ainur Karbozova in her post on Facebook called the Rules the most important document adopted during the 2 years of her leadership of the organization. And she told in detail what now to prepare for applicants for free education abroad.

The main change is equal opportunities for all, now there are no quota categories. Preliminary language training has been canceled, which will allow the budget to save 1.3 billion tenge annually.

Since 2020, only those who have already received an invitation from foreign universities can participate in the scholarship competition. This, however, does not apply to applicants from rural areas.

The number of competitive rounds has been reduced from six to three, the assessment of motivation and recommendation letters, tours for knowledge of the state and foreign languages ​​have been abolished.

– Applicants will have to independently pass tests and, when submitting documents, provide certificates of knowledge of the state language. Applicants from rural settlements must additionally provide certificates of knowledge of a foreign language, explains Ainur Karbozova.

The first two rounds – a comprehensive test and a personal interview with members of the Independent Expert Commission – are conducted online in an automated system using audio and video recording. Experts, now at least five of them, evaluate applicants electronically, independently of each other, after the interview, the average score is automatically calculated. The third round is considered to be a meeting of the Republican Commission on Personnel Training Abroad.

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Preliminary language training is preserved only for villagers: they were given the opportunity to study English for six months, but in Kazakhstan.

The list of universities in 2020 includes 138 leading universities in the world in accordance with international academic rankings. And in 2021 it was expanded to 207 universities from 27 countries with the condition of entering the top 250 of these ratings.

Comprehensive support

A lot of work was required during the pandemic. Last year, almost all universities, where Bolashak students study, switched to a distance format. In this regard, it was possible to achieve a reduction in the cost of training, as a result, the budget saved 506 million tenge.

– In the midst of the pandemic, more than 180 fellows returned to Kazakhstan, but most of the students decided to stay in their countries of study. Our center provided comprehensive assistance in their return, – says Ainur Karbozova.

A single chat was created for all scholars in Telegram – Bolashaq Students Support. Those who were forced to stay abroad due to the closure of borders were paid scholarships regardless of full-time or distance learning, and covered the costs of extending student visas. And those who returned unscheduled were paid for the flight.

Fellows who were at home, but continued their education in a distance format, received a scholarship according to the Kazakhstani norm.

“These measures became possible with the support of the State Commission for the Restoration of Economic Growth under the President of Kazakhstan,” emphasizes the head of the Center for International Programs.

Here they continue to monitor their wards even after graduation. As Ainur Karbozova emphasized, the main task of working with graduates is the transition from the perception of a working inspector to the status of an accompanying person who helps with employment.

– During this period, the number of our partner-employers has grown to 286, hundreds of graduates have been employed. For the convenience of employers, the center’s website contains data of graduates in the areas of study.

In November 2019, in order to form a base of research works, as well as graduates’ dissertations, I initiated the Bolashaq kitaphanasy project, ” she shared.

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Since January 2020, a new project Bolashaq Talks Pikirtalas alańy has been launched. On this platform, graduates discuss topical issues of Kazakhstan’s development, share their experience and knowledge. In the most difficult summer months of last year, the Bolashaq COVID-19 Help Line was launched, in which medical graduates took an active part.

Large vocational guidance project “Askende kim bolasyk?” in the first half of this year, it covered 10 thousand high school students of Nur-Sultan from 82 public schools. 112 mentors – graduates of the “Bolashak” program met with them. In September, the project continues in the Turkestan region.

During a pandemic, graduates do not stop holding webinars about their experience of choosing a profession and training within the framework of Bolashak. To unite and form expert communities, a club system for the interaction of alumni has been created. There are already 19 clubs that differ from each other in the areas of training specialists.

Bolashak residents are preparing a book Success Stories for the 30th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. In the office of the center, the Bolashak Museum has been created with history, important milestones, portraits of program graduates and their life motto to inspire visitors.

The center is not going to stop at what has been achieved. A new strategy for the implementation of the Bolashak program until 2025 is being developed. The issue of increasing scholarships for the PhD doctoral program is being resolved. Decision making mechanisms are being optimized.

Work is underway on the normative inclusion of bachelor’s degree in the “Bolashak” program for gifted children from among the winners of international Olympiads and in bachelor’s degree specialties, for which Nazarbayev University does not conduct training. It is planned to strengthen work with rural and regional schools, this category has an advantage in case of equal points.

– I see the improvement of the image of the Bolashak program through the prism of complete automation of processes and as a result of minimizing all corruption-related risks, communicating the achievements of the program graduates to society. It is necessary to constantly improve communications with both applicants and fellows and alumni, – believes Ainur Karbozova.


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