Kazakhstan - Country Commercial Guide
Education Services and Technologies

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-25

Capital: Nur-Sultan

Population: 19.2 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $475.2 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency:  Tenge (KZT)

Language:  Kazakh

 

UNESCO Student Mobility Number


Kazakhstan has 89,292 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

 

CIA World Factbook


39.1% of Kazakhstan’s population is under 25 years of age.

 

OVERVIEW

Education technology, boarding schools, technical and vocational education, English-language courses, and higher education are highlights for demand in this market. Per capita income of $24,380 (2020) and a large disposable income of its population make Kazakhstan an attractive market for the U.S. education sector. Unlike the rest of Central Asia, Kazakhstan’s per-capita GDP has been steadily increasing up until 2014, creating burgeoning middle- and upper-class youth eager to travel and study abroad. However, multiple currency devaluations in 2014 as well as in 2015 had a negative impact on Kazakhstani families. Nonetheless, government policy has dramatically increased English-language education nationwide over the past decade. Major multinationals regularly noted a “skills gap”, with an insufficient supply of up-to-date technicians, engineers, scientists, and professional managers, which meant an increasing demand in education for related degrees.

Kazakhstan’s population reached 19 million in 2020. 90% of the population completes secondary education or beyond and there is great importance placed on education both by the Government and the citizenry. Since Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991, Kazakh nationals have taken increasing advantage of studying overseas. Over 84,000 students study abroad annually and 1,830 studied in the United States (2020/21).

At the moment, 604,345 students are enrolled into higher education institutions in Kazakhstan. There are 124 universities nationwide. Tuition fees in Kazakhstan range from $1,000 to $15,000 per year, primarily at American-style, English-language universities. More than 93% of the students are self-funded and approximately 6.7% are on state scholarships.

The local government intends to “optimize” higher education in Kazakhstan by limiting the number of higher educational institutions to 100, down from 124 (mostly private) universities through mergers, downgrading, and closures. This reform tightens licensing regulations and qualification requirements for universities to ensure programs correspond to international standards.

Over 160,000 students graduated from high school in 2020, and the number is forecasted to rise to around 200-250,000 students that will graduate annually in the next five years. So, just as the Government of Kazakhstan reduces the number of universities, an unprecedented number of students will enter the market, creating opportunity for U.S. institutions with ties to Kazakhstan. College-aged population will expand considerably thru 2030 and this is expected to fuel continued growth in the number of outbound students.

State financing of education in 2019 was a record 19% of the national budget and 3.62% of the GDP, with the largest portion spent on secondary education, amounting to over USD 5.5 million. The government announced that by 2025, education financing will increase to USD 27 billion (7% of GDP), with a focus on building 800 new schools, training in education technology and innovation, 100% coverage with kindergartens, and increasing teachers’ salaries, among others. The State Program of Education includes construction of schools and kindergartens, modernization of vocational and technical education, e-learning education projects, and professional development systems for teachers. 

The education system in Kazakhstan is highly centralized, which allowed it to effectively implement a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with local governments moving quickly to online learning platforms. Most higher education institutions already had online infrastructure in place and secondary schools had 90% readiness. Technical and vocational colleges were less prepared for the transition. Despite 78% internet coverage across the country and access to cheap cellular data, some rural areas with no access relied on TV and radio to transmit material to students. Teacher training in cyber-pedagogy is a priority along with developing online digital learning content.  Even before the pandemic, the government has been keenly focused on increasing digital capabilities in schools in Kazakhstan, but there is much room for improvement.  

Since 2011, the Bolashak (“Future”) scholarship program has provided scholarships for Master’s and PhD programs. The most popular countries for study under the program are the UK, U.S., and Russia. Of the 208 educational institutions with Bolashak agreements, 61 are in the U.S.  An Academic Mobility Scholarship is another program introduced in 2011 that aims to support 300 students in state or national universities to complete part of their graduate degrees abroad at an institutional partner university.

Now, fewer than 10% of potential Kazakhstani applicants are studying in the United States. Out of more than 100,000 students studying overseas, 80% are self-funded. Only 1,830 students from Kazakhstan are currently studying in the U.S. with 42% studying at Bachelor’s level. Demand for education abroad is stable.

 

SUB-SECTORS

Higher Education: Government reforms tighten licensing regulations and qualification requirements of local universities to improve education quality offer opportunities for U.S. higher educational institutions to attract students from Kazakhstan.  Now, fewer than 5% of potential Kazakhstani students overseas are studying in the U.S., and out of 80,000 students studying overseas, 80% are self-funded. Higher educational attainment offers protection against unemployment in Kazakhstan.

Community Colleges: Vocational education is underdeveloped since many vocational colleges and technical training schools were closed or transferred to other uses in the 1990s.  Vocational schools offer professional training for students who are not able or do not wish to pursue higher education.  Community colleges offering associate degrees in the U.S. could be a good fit for this specific category of students. 

Undergraduate: 794 students from Kazakhstan were enrolled in undergraduate programs in the United States in 2020/21.

Graduate Education: 645 students from Kazakhstan were enrolled in graduate programs in the United States in 2020/21 and over 343 students were on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Secondary Education: Kazakhstan citizens have been able to obtain 10-year tourism/business visas since 2016, and since then demand for secondary education in the United States has seen an increase. This made the U.S. seem accessible and parents see secondary education as an easier pathway towards higher education in the United States.

Online Programs: The Fall 2020 secondary education was conducted online at over 7,000 schools. The lack of curated digital learning material, despite good connectivity, was named as one of the biggest concerns, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 350,000 teachers currently receive training in IT and ‘cyber-pedagogy’. There is an increased participation of students across different age ranges in online programs, particularly following Coursera’s partnership agreements with the Government of Kazakhstan as part of a workforce development project. The Asian Development Bank is supporting a program to build the capacity of Kazakhstan civil servants across central ministries undergoing digital transformation.

Research and Development: Starting in 2021, up to 500 scientists from Kazakhstan will receive a scholarship, within the framework of the Bolashak program, to undergo training in leading scientific centers of the world.

Professional Training Services: Training services offered by consulting companies have become more sophisticated and new areas, such as management consulting, audits to IAS, GAAP and National standards, HR- and IT-consulting, manufacturing consulting, strategic planning, and other professional services have appeared, reflecting the market developments and emerging needs of local businesses. Many international consulting industry giants and small businesses have entered the market which offers an opportunity for more U.S. companies to penetrate the market with their services. Some of the popular individual training service topics are data science, digital marketing, and software programming, among others.

International consulting companies, Booz-Allen and Hamilton, Deloitte & Touche, EY, KPMG, McKinsey, PwC are represented in Kazakhstan and some offer corporate trainings or conduct their activities on a project-by-project basis with fully established offices in Astana and Almaty. Franklin Covey opened their office in 2010 on a license.

Education Technology: The government will continue to seek digital learning content from sources abroad to be adapted to local standards with over 7,000 schools operating online in 2020. Lack of learning devices was cited as a key issue, especially in rural areas; lack of technical skills and cyber-pedagogy is a potential opportunity for U.S. education training providers.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Tightening government restrictions on higher educational institutions in Kazakhstan presents an opportunity for U.S. higher educational institutions to attract students from Kazakhstan. Additionally, due to underdeveloped vocational programs in Kazakhstan, U.S. community colleges could successfully attract students seeking an associate’s degree.

There are also opportunities in professional training services. The most demanded training services include management soft skills, English language skills, as well as technical training for the oil and banking sectors (e.g., international accounting standards, reservoir engineers). Specialists note growing demand for training services and HR management skills development for mid-level managers. This market potential is also estimated as prospective and is associated with the development of small and medium-size companies engaged in the B2B sector.

 

DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES

All webinars, education fairs and promotion events have shifted into virtual spaces, but face-to-face communication is still essential to developing partnerships in Kazakhstan.  Local agents are open to speaking with institutional representatives online.  Skype and Zoom are the most-used platforms for communication, while Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are the best choices for promotional purposes and are widely used for promotion of overseas education. LinkedIn and Headhunter are widely used for job opportunities.

Networks are key resources to successfully enter the country and recruit effectively. These include education agents and institutional alliances that cooperate with school guidance counselors. This market is an agent-driven market and there are several qualified educational agencies that operate on the territory of Kazakhstan. A proper due diligence is recommended before establishing partnership relations.

An important segment of the market to target are parents. Marketing materials need to be created to speak to parents. Internet and social networks are rapidly growing in Kazakhstan. The number of national users is approaching 10 million people.

 

EVENTS

 

RESOURCES

 

U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACT

Aliya Shaikhina, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Phone: 7 727 250 7612, ext. 6491

Email: Aliya.Shaikhina@trade.gov