"BOLASHAK" translates from Kazakh to English as "FUTURE"
Reformation of the educational system by opening it up to the world knowledge and experience, scientific and technological achievements by training highly qualified professionals with the best managerial skills always helps to transform the society into a progressive and democratic one. The post World War II Japan, Turkey, Hong Kong are just some of the convincing historical examples of building economically and politically viable states through pursuing an active policy of learning and benefiting from the most advanced educational systems in the world.
That was well realized by the leadership of the newly formed Republic of Kazakhstan back in 1991 when it was faced with economic turmoil, social inefficiency, and a legacy of environmental disasters, left by the Soviet Union. With a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons in its possession, the leadership of Kazakhstan had a choice: empowerment through force and dictatorship, or prosperity through disarmament and democracy. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev chose the latter, and today Kazakhstan is emerging as a new player in the global economy, and a substantial element of regional and world stability.
Kazakhstan was the first Central Asian country to launch in 1993 a presidential scholarship program "Bolashak" for study abroad. "Bolashak", which means "The Future" in Kazakh, best describes Kazakhstan's recognition of importance of educating its most talented youth at the best universities of the world thus enabling them to acquire necessary skills to lead the country into its prosperous future. The Decree of President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev of November 9, 1993 says that "In Kazakhstan's transition toward a market economy and the expansion of international contacts, there is an acute need for cadres with advanced western education, and so, it is now necessary to send the most qualified youth to study in leading educational institutions in foreign countries".
The program is designed to train future leaders in business, international relations, law, science, engineering, and other key fields. Upon completion of their programs, scholarship recipients return to Kazakhstan to perform government service for a period of five years.
The rigorous criteria for selection of Bolashak scholars and the highly competitive nature of the selection process assure that only the best students, who represent Kazakhstan's most promising young leaders, are named Bolashak Scholars. There are over 100 nationalities living in Kazakhstan and exceptionally talented and ableyoung people of different ethnicity and from different regions of Kazakhstan become recipients of the scholarship. The Bolashak program is fully funded by the Government of Kazakhstan and overseen by the Ministry of Education and Science.
This program being a top priority of President Nazarbayev' s plan to develop and modernize the society is one of many Kazakhstan bold educational reforms oriented to foster sprouts of democracy. That is why it is not accidentally that most of Kazakhstan students are sent to be trained in the United States. "We are learning from the positive example of American democracy", President Nazarbayev says, and the government of Kazakhstan wants them to come back and implant into the Kazakh soil not only the updated professional knowledge obtained at the best US universities but also seeds of democracy and civic education. There was a clear understanding that the Kazakhstan nascent democracy would not be sustained without updated education, skills and fostering intellectual elite. Currently, 50 "Bolashak" Scholars are successfully studying at leading US universities and have shown to advantage as top students of these universities and proved to be excellent representatives of Kazakhstan.
Since 1994, hundreds of Kazakhstan students have successfully completed their Bachelor's and Master's degrees under the Bolashak Scholarship program at the best Western universities, more than 400 students are graduates of the leading U.S. universities, such as Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Indiana University, Vanderbilt and many other. Upon graduation, the "Bolashak" Scholars are working in different Kazakhstan government structures, international organizations and are proud to make a difference and contribute to democratic transformation of their country. This is what a "Bolashak" scholar, Rustam Nabirov who was one of the top MBA students who graduated from the Emory University Goizueta Business School and created the Bolashak web site in the Internet, says:
"The Bolashak Scholarship Program provided me with an extremely valuable and unforgettable experience and a great exposure in the intense atmosphere of a top-notch business school. It not only gave me an opportunity to obtain that high-quality business education but also influenced my life. "Being a Bolashak" will always be my most precious asset and I will always be proud to call myself a "Bolashak Scholar".
In his recent speech addressed to the participants of the Eurasia Economic Summit 2000 held in April in Almaty, President Nazarbayev extrapolated his idea of improving the educational system to the entire Central Asian region: "Our common agenda must begin with education. First and foremost, we must transform our population which is already educated and motivated into a work force for the future: 21st century training for the 21st century jobs The battle for the future will be determined not by armies but by education, not by tanks but by technology, not by cannons but by computers. It is vital that we insure that Central Asia is on the right side of history in all respects politically, economically and technologically". In this respect, the Kazakhstan Presidential "Bolashak" Scholarship Program is one of the major tools to implement this goal into practice and has been essential to maintaining peace and stability in the region.