Ainur Bulasheva on her ambitions as a second-generation Ph.D

Ainur Bulasheva on her ambitions as a second-generation Ph.D

Ainur Bulasheva is a second year PhD student in the School of Agriculture, Policy, and Development at the University of Reading, England. In the interview, she talks about the key person who has influenced her academic choice, the importance of tailored personnel training in agriculture and her experience of overcoming COVID-caused challenges in the research.

I was born into a family of teachers. My father played a key role in my personal development and the formation of my interest in science. My father is a scientist in the field of veterinary medicine, infectious immunology and biotechnology, doctor of veterinary sciences and professor. Despite his busy schedule, he always allocated time to help me with my studies. Having studied English in Moscow, my father first introduced me to a foreign alphabet. He passionately shared his knowledge with me as teaching English as a foreign language was not mainstream in Kazakhstan at that time. Because my dad gave me support and my mother surrounded me with love and care, I remember my childhood as a carefree and happy time despite the country was going through the rough and economically challenging post-Soviet 90s. I studied in the state secondary schools of Astana at that time, and upon graduation, I enrolled at the S. Seifullin Agricultural University to study economics. After graduation, I stayed at university to work as an academic.

Apart from the teaching, I participated in the Erasmus+ Teacher Mobility Programs, the competitions for funding the scientific and technical projects and was a member of the research groups. My active involvement in scientific projects has prompted my decision to apply for PhD programme funded by the Bolashak International Scholarship Program. I chose my field of study from the list of specialities prioritised for the growth of Kazakhstan's economy by the Bolashak program and the nature of my current work at that time.

My PhD research project aims to assess the effectiveness of training personnel based on dual training, which meets the requirements of the agro-industrial sector of the economy. Globalisation and continuous structural changes in industry and society as a general are often the leading causes of the increase in qualification requirements for graduates by employers. This partly explains the rising unemployment and employee turnover among young people at enterprises. The introduction of dual training in the educational system aims to train qualified workers based on close interaction between enterprises and educational institutions. It makes it possible to provide tailored training for personnel in accordance with the requirements of the labour market, thereby saving costs on the search, selection and training of workers. All of the factors mentioned above contribute to personnel retention and decrease their turnover, which is essential for production. 

However, despite the active promotion of dual education in our country, there are no studies to assess its effectiveness, particularly on students and involved enterprises of the agro-industrial complex. Existing Kazakhstani studies are predominantly focused on the successful cases of European countries introducing this system. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the effectiveness of the contribution to dual education, taking into account the realities of our economy and the peculiarities of educational processes, which in turn will make it possible to adequately assess investments in human capital with all its advantages and disadvantages in comparison with other forms of education.

My research's main challenge lies in difficulty researching Kazakhstan's case while physically being located in a different country. Particularly during a pandemic time when crossing the borders was quite complicated. Networking and collaborating with Kazakhstani partners to process the research have to be done remotely, taking time and resources. I am glad that the organisations I contacted have been eager to satisfy my requests. In particular, I would like to express gratitude to the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan "Atameken", whose representatives have been helpful to me. They are supportive of young scientists by providing information and assistance in research. 

Regarding my plans for the next five years, firstly, upon completing my studies, I will return to my native alma mater and work for our Motherland's development and growth. By that time, I hope to publish several articles based on the results of my PhD research and take part in conferences and symposiums organised by the European Center for the Development of Vocational Education (Cedefop). 

My work experience in education allows me to see the differences between foreign and domestic teaching practices. I am impressed by the companionate and democratic relationship between professors (supervisors) and students. From the beginning of acquaintanceship, professional and friendly relations are established, making contact for any questions and concerns without any barrier.

Moreover, I am very pleased that PhD students have access to their workplace and equipment at any time of the day and week. The building is accessed with a student card, which made it possible to work in the office during the lockdown and helped to maintain a working spirit.

Also, I would like to point out the experience of using the library facilities. I could not find the book needed for my thesis in the database of my university's library. The only place I found it on was the Internet, but it was pricey. The solution turned out to be unexpectedly easy: I only had to contact the library with a request for the book, and it was ordered for me. After only a few days, I was notified that the wanted book was waiting on the shelves of the library to be collected by me.

Academic life at my university is arranged so that all correspondence with staff and students is carried out by email. When I send a letter, I am confident that I will receive an answer to it. Even in informal correspondence, one is expected to follow professional etiquette, usually by starting an email with the standard phrase "Thank you for your email" and ending with wishes to have a good day. I noticed that I started applying the same correspondence etiquette with the Kazakhstani colleagues.   

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