Second Grader Sues Ministry of Education
According to Zakon.kz, a boy in second grade is suing the Ministry of Education for psychological damage because his textbook on road safety contains many grammatical and spelling mistakes as well as useless or confusing information. Alikhan Zhumanov of Astana has filed a suit for 100 million tenge for moral and mental damage. The father, Nariman Yesimbekov initiated the suit on his son’s behalf after watching Alikhan and his friends try to figure out the meaning of the textbook, Rules of the Road for 1-2nd Year Students. The suit reads in part:
After reading this book, I had a sense of confusion and psychological distress due to my attempts to understand this tutorial. Because the book is not written well, with a large number of mistakes and colloquial expressions, which themselves contain stylistic and grammatical errors, it is impossible to understand … This textbook, affecting my mind and causing confusion in my brain, directly distorts and disfigures the expression of my thoughts, which are transmitted to the understanding of society through the expression of my words. It forces me to be presented in front of society as an idiot who cannot express his thoughts beautifully, reasonably and culturedly.translation mine
While the lawsuit may seem frivolous and the sum of money obviously extreme, it does draw attention to some serious problems in Kazakhstan education. Zakon.kz lists many of the grammatical and spelling errors [RU] and there are quite a few. Obviously those don’t translate well so I won’t reprint them here.
But some of the material is clearly inappropriate for young students too. From page 25 of the textbook: “If the wound is visible then you should try to apply first aid yourself.” Shouldn’t first and second graders be taught to always get an adult if they are hurt, rather than try to evaluate the seriousness of an injury themselves? From page 24, “First, you must ascertain which vein or artery is bleeding.” Not that you should figure out where the blood is coming from, but you must memorize the names of all blood vessels and decide which one the blood is coming from? First? Before, say applying pressure to the wound? Or checking to see if you arm is broken? Another gem describes a traffic police officer’s baton and whistle as “weapons of his work”. That is preceded by the Zen riddle: “The traffic controller is the controller of traffic police”
I would say that this points to a larger problem: Why is traffic safety being taught to small children with a textbook at all? It seems to me that this is an area in which theory plays absolutely no role and children would learn better by seeing videos or having teachers demonstrate dangers on the board. Have kids memorize, “Look left and right before you cross” and monitor them when they come to school to make sure they follow these rules. Generally the emphasis on theoretical education and ‘objective’ measurements of knowledge in Kazakhstan fails to prepare students for real life. And traffic safety is a perfect example of an area where students need real life knowledge and no theory at all.
So hopefully this suit, which will surely be thrown out of court for lack of evidence, will shame the Ministry enough that they review their textbook writing procedures and look at what is actually being taught in schools.