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Social and political priorities in attitudes of Kazakhstan student youth


The article surveys the results of the historical and comparative analyses of the key components of the political attitude of the student youth in Kazakhstan that enabled the authors to palace and conceptualize them in the context of the common values of Kazakhstan. The authors argue that students value constitute a coherent system of interconnected elements. The authors conclude that market reforms resulted in marketization of the values of the contemporary student youth with the most striking trends being prevalence of the materialist, utilitarian, individualistic values leading to comprehensive changes in the political orientations of the young people. 

Introduction. The increasing role of student youth, lifting its social and cultural status within social within social fabric of the 21st century, is widespread phenomenon all over the world that can be explained by postindustrial shift of social paradigm.

These are the conditions that alter the values, priorities and criteria of effectiveness of education and upbringing of younger generations. While the most common way of social and political education used to to give to the young ready-made knowledge and skills, the contemporary realities require from the young the ability to take independent decisions and actions in rapidly and constantly changing environment, to find and aabsorb new information; moreover, their integration into society is crucial for Kazakhstan future, and the foundation thereof are being laid today [1].

These current challenges have moulded the social values of the youth making them more independent in setting and achieving of their life priorities. The increasing demand for education, focus on career, assertiveness, independence and entrepreneurship are worth mentioning together with growing interest in ethical issues. The characteristics of the student youth today are dynamism, mobility, volatility, innovation, decisiveness, uncompromising attitudes and maximalism. These features make them strong, capable for realisation of the future and worth believing in and relying upon [2].

“Kazakhstan–2050 Strategy” determines the long-term development goals that can only be achieved when a nation possesses intellectual, educational, ethical and creative human resources of highest quality. A competitive professional, being a product of higher education, shall be able to meet the ever-increasing requirements of the new society and actively contribute into solution of the problems it faces. The values the young acquire will determine their further life trajectory.

Methods. To reveal and define the values of the student youth and to trace the changes therein the historical and comparative methods have been applied and the data collected within five-year period during the survey conducted by the KazNU Center of Social Research and Engineering, "Molodezh" Social Research Center, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and the Foundation of the First President of Kazakhstan have been examined.

Findings. Historical and comparative analysis enabled to examine the main components of the political and social values of the students as the most advanced strata of the younger generation. The results of the analysis, in turn, enabled to place the social and political priorities of the students in the context of the common Kazakhstan values amidst its political modernization. The attitudes of the students of Kazakhstan towards democracy and democratic values, currently implemented reforms and long-term strategies of Kazakhstan as well as its internal and external policies have been depicted together with their patriotism, sense of citizenship, political awareness and knowledge about political manifestos of the parties, their interest in and position on the current political ideologies.

The basic component of the study was student’s psychological and political features as the condition that forms his/her world view and life trajectory including that within the political environment. The study was based on the two key theses:

  • values and needs, similarly to the character, being formed in family and broader environment, affect students’ behavior;
  • rational understanding of social and political reality of contemporary Kazakhstan that are increasingly important as well as sharing the common goals of the development together with the attitudes of approval or disapproval of particular moves of the political leadership of the country are forming a certain kind of political consciousness and

The study findings show that the values of students are arranged into a coherent system where the following components are worth special attention: “prestigious employment”, “success”, “respect”, and “autonomy”. Similar conclusions have been made by a number of authors including Gorodetskaya, Shakurova, Kiryanova and others. Self-realization and self-actualization together with new knowledge are among the students’ key values (31,2%). This is intricately connected to their future career aspirations. (27,32%) [3].

The findings show (see Chart 1) that 78% of the respondents chose career as their key aspiration, following by education (45%) and affluence (41%). Importantly, career is the priority for the majority of the respondents and good education is seen as the crucial driver of social mobility and achievement of higher social and material status (70%; see Chart 2).

It is possible to argue that all three priorities are inextricably interconnected and reveal internalization of the market realities. The fact that they see education as an instrument for better career show them as pragmatic, aspirational and assertive in finding of their place in life. Thus, Kazakhstan youth is predominately quite pragmatic and rational. Consistent promotion of such values by the state is highly recommended during the periods of economic growth as well as the periods of economic crisis. According to the “2020 Concept of the State Youth Policy in Kazakhstan” the main attribute of the contemporary professional career should be the promotion and rise on status, professional, and hierarchical ladder that shall be only dependent on the individual’s merits. The younger generation, while moving forward, shall follow the example of those who have achieved excellence in their respective fields; the people who have succeeded because of their own talent, hard work and personal responsibility shall be the youth’s role models [1].

 Priorities of Student Youth  

Chart 1. Priorities of Student Youth 

In the period of social transformation, when ethical norms and values are being comprehensively altered it is essential to know about the instrumental values or so-called “success strategies”.

Thus, up to 70% of the respondents chose education as a necessary condition for future success. Connections and “old boy” network are vital for success according to 43% of the respondents. Hard work, money luck and personal determination are almost equally popular among the respondents making 35%, 29%, 22% and 20% respectively.

 Success Strategies

Chart 2. Success Strategies

Optimism as usual is characteristic for the young. Answering the question "How do you evaluate our individual prospects for achieving personal well-being?", 59.3% of the respondents expressed their confidence in their future while 15.1% thought that nothing would change in their lives, 8.0% did not see any long-term perspectives and 17.6% could not answer [4].

How one spends one’s free time, one’s hobbies and recreation habits are important factors of socialization and basic constituents of life for a young person. Character of leisure is crucial for self-actualization and intellectual development of a young person. The study shows that the student youth see culture predominately through the lens of entertainment and recreation. Entertainment canters are the most popular among the young. Thus, 28.8% of the respondents “often” buy books, newspapers and magazines as well as cinema and theater tickets, while 55.2% do it “seldom” and 16.0% do it “very seldom” or do “not” do it at all. 21.5% of the respondents go to the cinema and theater “regularly” or “quite often” while 47.2% do it “occasionally” or “seldom”, 31.3% go to the cinema or theater “very seldom” or “not at all” [4, p.97-98].

The leisure choices of the young are very much dependent on their level of affluence. Thus, in majority of cases, the younger people spend their free time in the manner that does not require additional expenditure such as watching TV, visiting relatives and friends, while attending cinemas, theaters, concerts, museums and galleries are not popular and are mostly beyond usual interest of the student youth.

The studies show that amidst democratization, availability of information, greater freedom of expression and action, social autonomy, the student youth influence the process of formation of the key values that, in turn, leads to a number of challenges. Importantly, alongside with new values, the older values remain in their original form or as their modifications.

The authors share the position of Gafurov, who noted that in the 21st century, the major goal of a youth policy shall be to form favorable conditions for development, self-actualization and social inclusion of the young, realization of their potential and creativity, to provide economic, social, political and legal premises for better quality of life for younger people. In this context, the goal of a youth policy shall envisage elevation of the values of younger generations because it would be impossible to for them to achieve successful self-realization and socialization without being included into the broader processes of formation of the values and ethical orientation of the entire society [5].

The study revealed that the young in Kazakhstan possess strong ethic identity and positive regard of the culture and history of their people, patriotism, tolerance towards other peoples are also characteristic. The students are increasingly pro-active and fluency in Kazakh, Russian and English is rather important component here. More and more students strive to master their techno-literacy.

The analysis of the findings of the sociological and politological surveys makes it possible to conclude that currently the majority of the student youth are not very much interested in politics, they prefer observant position and regard the political matters through the lens of their individualism.

The mass media are the major source of information about the political developments (60,3% respondents); that means they follow the news regularly. More than half of young people of Kazakhstan learn about the latest news of political character from their friends and colleagues (49,7%), while for the 21,4% of the respondents, the Internet is the major source of information. Thus, one may conclude that the young are in the know about the current affairs in Kazakhstan and abroad [6].

The other indicator of the political awareness is the frequency with which the political matters become the subject of every-day conversation. When asked whether they touch upon anything political among friends, family or colleagues, 57,1% of the respondents said that it happens “only occasionally” or “not at all” while 41,2% converse about political matters “quite often” [7].

The political parties, civic associations as well as social movements are important for direct influence on the values of the Kazakhstan youth necessary for realization of their social roles and their inclusion into the social and political life of the society. Therefore, it is crucially important to know whom the younger people may support politically [8].

Today the most proactive and productive in terms of their work with the youth are those political parties who have well-organized and extensive regional networks and employ more advanced strategies. There is any king of a “youth wing” in in the following parties: "Nur Otan’s "Zhas Otan"; Adilet’s “Adil Zhastar; Communits’ "Communist Union of the Young" and "Rukhaniyat" [9]. The other parties have not formed their "youth wings".

The "Zhas Otan" of the “Nur Otan” is the most prominent, it has branch offices in all regions, cities and towns including Astana and Almaty. 51.1% of the respondents stated that they were aware of such organization, 26.4% (maximum number of the respondents) said that they were knowledgeable about its core manifesto and activities while 22.5% (minimum number) were those who heard and knew nothing about "Zhas Otan". Thus, the findings of the survey shows that the young are informed about political parties and movements [10].

In terms of the support for a particular parties among the young, the survey shows that the Nur Otan is the most popular. The question: "What political party in Kazakhstan do you support?", 41.2% of the younger respondents answered that they supported the Nur Otan. At the time, one third of the young people admitted that they did not support any political party in Kazakhstan, 14.5% did not know anything about the political parties in Kazakhstan and 13.9% of the respondents could not answer the question.

Deliberate work aimed at greater participation of the young in the political parties is one of the most important indicators of their inclusion into political life of the society that helps their better political socialization and reproduction of the political cadre. However, political parties shall pay more attention to the young, articulate their aspirations and convey their interests in the parliament, try to pass the laws that are beneficial for the young and monitor their observance. This is how harmonious relations between the young and the state can be built and their closer interest in politics in Kazakhstan can be achieved.

In recent years, various social movements of the youth emerged including the political ones; however, those who are genuinely grass-root and working towards realization of specific interests of the youth are still very rare. The authors share the opinion of Eshpanova who notes that the most prominent political movements have been built by the older generations with very particular political ends [11].

Young people participate in the work of such movements as “Zhasyl El” (26.3%), in the “Bolashak” and Zhas Otan alumni associations (51.1%), in the “Zhas Ulan” (50.1%), in the Students Alliance of Kazakhstan (48.6%) and in the Association of Young Entrepreneurs (46%). At the same time, 49.8% of the respondents never heard of the Union of Young Workers; similarly, the Union of Rural Youth, the Kazakhstan Headquarters of Student Labor Bridges and the Association of Young Parliament Members are unfamiliar for the young in Kazakhstan with the figures being 48.8%, 42.8%, and 42.7% respectively.

However, most organizations conduct their activities only within the frameworks of particular state programs. There are very few who tackle particular problems of the young, for example work with the disabled people, with juvenile offenders, and socially vulnerable [12].

Similarly to the participation in political parties and movements, the young have the opportunity to express and protect interests of the ethnic groups via ethic communal unions under the auspices of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan.

In sum up, the studies show that the young people are interested in politics. They shall not be regarded as “apolitical” as 65.9%, while those who do pay no or little attention are the minority comprising 39.6%.

Given that political education of the young and their civic consciousness shall start in schools and universities, several projects aimed at more effective political education and inclusion of the young have been launched in Kazakhstan. The work conducted at the Department of Political Science and Technologies of al-Farabi KazNU is worth special attention, for example that conducted in the “Politolog” Students’ Discussion Club.

Discussion. The aim of the study was to reveal the political values and beliefs of the young that affect their perception of the political developments and their views about the future of Kazakhstan. The following three aspects are significant:

  • Opinion about the state of democracy in Kazakhstan, the rights of various social groups, respect and protection thereof;
  • Ratio between individualistic and collectivistic values among the young;
  • Positioning of the student youth alone the political spectrum on the “left”, “right” or at the “center”. The above aspects enabled to describe the political values and life philosophies of the student

Thus, 23,9% of the respondents prefer to have “stability and order” rather than “political liberties and democracy”; 22,9% are supportive to the 2ideology of liberal reforms”; 11,8% of the respondents share more “socialist” views; “environmentalist and green” ideologies are shared by 10,3%; those who support “further democratization of Kazakhstan2 comprise 6,9%; all in all, the young more than any other generations are free- market oriented [6, p.100].

Those who share the liberal values and the idea of personal responsibility and focused on their individual aspirations and families may be attributed as the “right” while those who correlate their life trajectories with the state support as a necessary condition for realization of their goals may be attributed as the “left”; these people are more inclined towards “soviet” values, primarily collectivism. There are 35,8% of the “right” among the young and 46,4% are the “left”, while 17,8% occupy the center of the political spectrum.

The answers to the question: "What are the most acute problems relevant for you?" reveal the level of dissatisfaction with the current state of our society. The most popular answer was "high prices on food" (49,8%); the second was "growing utilities bills" (30.7%); further were "unemployment" (34.4%) and "housing " (31.7%); followed by "high prices on goods and services" (25.7%), "poor quality of healthcare" (24.1%), "crime" (23.9%) and "corruption " (16.5%); and finally, it was “poor quality of education" (15.4%) [4, p.104-105].

The above data makes it possible to conclude the following:

  • students are more concerned about those negative factors that directly impact their well-being;
  • material concerns prevail over those related to the sphere of culture, ethic and

Thus, the hypothesis stipulating that individualism as a key value of the young in Kazakhstan is increasing has been confirmed: the younger generation rely mostly on themselves. However, the young respondents are predominately patriotic, share strong Kazakhstan identity and disapprove change of the citizenship and migration. Therefore, a new identity is being formed.

Conclusions. Generally, the values shared by the young in Kazakhstan are positive ones and correlated with the progressive development of Kazakhstan as a coherent social system that presupposes realization of innovative potential, which, in turn, prompts formation of new values within Kazakhstan culture that differ from the existing one.

The most characteristic features are the following:

  • values of the contemporary students are related to the marker reforms;
  • in the value system of the contemporary students pragmatism, individualism, and material well-being coexist with such universal values as education, health, family;
  • the priority is good education;
  • political values and preferences among students are related to the interest in political, social and economic developments and law level of detailed

However, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in the “Kazakhstan–2050 Strategy” rightly stated that such features of our ancestors as love for the native land and people, fairness, honestly, dignity, industry and determination are relevant forever and shall be shared by the contemporary youth.



  1. Concept of State Youth Policy 2020 "Kazakhstan 2020: The Path to the Future" // adilet.zan.kzИПС Əділетdocs/P1300000191 (дата обращения: 11.01.2018)
  2. The main needs and problems of student youth: the education concept of students http://www.semgu.kz
  3. Igibaeva K. Value orientations of student youth in modern conditions (on the example of universities of Kazakhstan).International Journal of Experimental Education . 2013. №4. P.162.
  4. Mukhamedzhanov G., Zhussupova A. Kazakhstan in the assessments of residents and experts. - Almaty: Public Foundation "Fund of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan", 2011. P.94.
  5. Gafurov Improvement of the state’s youth policy in Kazakhstan http://www.rusnauka.com(дата обращения: 11.01.2018)
  6. Social activity of the youth of Kazakhstan in the modern socio-political realities. Collective monograph / Editor Z.K. Shaukenova. Almaty: Institute for Philosophy and Political Science Committee of Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2014. P.96-97
  7. The Molotov Anatomy of Kazakhstani youth. - Almaty, Alliance of Analytical Organizations, The Konrad- Adenauer-Stiftung, 2014. P.109-110.
  8. Shoykin The participation of Kazakhstani Youth in political parties activities // Kazakhstan-Spectrum. 2004.№3. - P. 60-66.
  9. Baimanov A.       Evolution      of       electoral      activity      of       Kazakhstan's      Youth       //       old.group- global.org/ru/storage_manage/download_file/19124
  10. Eshpanova D. Socio-political orientations of Kazakhstani youth // Institute of parliamentarism. 2013. №. 1 (19).P. 78-87.
  11. Eshpanova D.D. Socio-political orientations of Kazakhstani youth // Analytical Almaty: Institute for Philosophy and Political Science Committee of Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2013.P. 19.
  12. Analytical report  on the implementation        of the state’s youth policy// edu.gov.kz/fileadmin/user_upload/.../OTCHET_o_GMP.docx (дата обращения: 11.01.2018)

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