Parents International was contacted by the young public association Senimen Bolashaq in July 2022 to start developing a cooperation between the two organisations. They invited us to visit them in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Our Director, Eszter Salamon could only spend three days there between 15-17 August due to our already busy schedule, but this short time was enough to learn about the amazing work the organisation has done in a little over a year of its existence, to plant seeds of active cooperation, and also to meet national and municipal policy makers.
As part of the visit, the leaders of Senimen Bolashaq and Parents International met the representatives of the German Embassy that can be instrumental in arranging Schengen visas for people representing the association as entry can be a major obstacle of study visits or even project meetings. A meeting with the Representation of the European Union in Kazakhstan offered a good opportunity to explore the EU-funding opportunities for projects carried out in Kazakhstan, using the European expertise and experience of Parents International.
An especially fruitful visit was at the Minister of Science and Higher Education, Sayasat Nurbek. Kazakhstan is facing a shortage of teachers and schools due to their baby-boom, and we have discussed ways we could cooperate in developing initial teacher training curricula that ensures quality training for about 100.000 new teachers in the very near future. We have offered our help in developing specific modules on parental engagement, and also in education leadership with special focus on learning leadership, parental engagement and child participation. Another main challenge in the country is to raise science literacy levels. We have introduced the Minister the PHERECLOS approach and tools, and he immediately decided to incentivise universities to pursue their third, societal mission.
There was a meeting held with the Municipality of Nur-Sultan, where we have learnt about the strong relationship between the city and the local branch of the organisation.
Before the visit, we had jointly reviewed our existing programmes, tools and projects, and picked out a few with exploitation potential. On the last day of the visit, Senimen Bolashaq hosted a conference with over 600 people working with parents all over the country focusing on conscious parenting. We had the opportunity to present and explore the local implementation potential in-
- Parent’R’Us to help build a system of parent-to-parent support based on this successful mentoring model,
- ParENTrepreneurs as a means to support parents in their everyday practice as well as in developing their own skills for 21st century parenting,
- ELPIDA, Parenting Together and the upcoming SILENT to cater for the extra empowerment needs of parent of children with disabilities,
- SAILS as raising children in the digital age is also a major concern in Kazakhstan – while the acknowledgement of child agency seems to be at a higher level than in most Western countries -, thus our unique risk mitigation approach has been very well received,
- PHERECLOS that offers tools for raising science engagement and literacy, and with regards to that our Advocacy “Adventure Book” for educators was specifically highlighted
to teachers, school leaders, psychologists and parent leaders.
During the discussions, the need for at least Russian versions of the tools and publications has arisen (as Kazakh people generally speak Russian, too). This can be relatively easily achieved as the AI translation tool used by Parents International includes Russian and Senimen Bolashaq has the capacity to do the necessary editing work.
We also had the opportunity to understand how each organisation operates, with Senimen Bolashaq being based on funding from the for-profit sector (mainly a handful of generous businessmen who understood that investing in parents and through them children ensures the future of their companies, too) and being built in a top-down way. We hope to soon have the opportunity for another visit and seeing more of their work outside of the capital.
Last but not least, the conference offered an opportunity to learn about some local and regional approaches that we have found amazing. While the work of Shalva A. Amonashvili on Humane Pedagogy, or Abaj Kunanbajuli, whose philosophy is the groundwork for thinking in Kazakhstan may be less known in the West, their messages about child agency, the need for parents to respect the child, the harm done by punishment, and the need to base parenting on love resonate with what Western thinkers and experts have said. It was amazing to hear nearly exactly the same words that Alison Gopnik has written about the gardener and the carpenter parent – but from the writings of a Georgian scholar with a totally different, oriental starting point. We hope the collaboration between Senimen Bolashaq and Parents International will support mutual learning of educators in Central Asia and other parts of the world. Senimen Bolashaq is joining our Parent Summit in Amsterdam and hopefully also join us by then as a member. The Memorandum of Understanding signed during the visit gives a good starting point for this.