Students And Policy Makers Face Each Other At Central Asian education forum

Dagmar Ouzoun, ETF country manager for Tajikistan with students,  Aziza Islamova (l) and Farsona Alimova (r) at the Central Asian Regional Forum on School Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 25 September.

Photo: Dagmar Ouzoun, ETF country manager for Tajikistan with students,  Aziza Islamova (l) and Farsona Alimova (r) at the Central Asian Regional Forum on School Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 25 September.

The ETF opened the Central Asian Regional Forum on School Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 25 September.

This three-day long conference with discussions and workshops gathers managers of vocational education institutions, practitioners, policy makers, teachers, and education experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the European Union.

Two teenage students from Dushanbe’s Railway Machinist Lyceum reminded delegates at the conferencewhat vocational education is all about.

“As a child you dream of what you will become,” 17-year-old Farsona Alimova told teachers, policymakers and educationalists at a regional forum on school development for lifelong learning in Central Asia.

“Girls dream of being seamstresses or doctors; of taking care of people. Boys of becoming famous sportsmen.”

Those dreams may change, the first year student of accountancy said, but a vision of the future remains.

Policy makers must listen to young people

Fellow student Aziza Islamova, encouraged by Vincent McBride, the ETF’s senior human capital development specialist, to “be open – you are among friends here,” told of her wish that policymakers and college heads could understand and take into account the needs of young people.

The students’ contribution – rarely heard at international events focused on vocational education and training – came on the first day of the conference that brings together the coordinators of the ETF’s innovative Communities of Practice (CoPs) programme from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Introduced two years ago, CoPs is a system that facilitates regular informal meetings of VET colleagues to discuss and review their professional and institutional practices and see how they can improve them.

By focusing discussions on partnerships, school planning, analysis of local conditions, training of trainers, school leadership and teaching and learning, it is hoped that management reforms can be made more effective.

Five year of ETF work on school devlopment in Central Asia

The scheme, part of a capacity building and policy dialogue initiative in VET and lifelong learning launched in 2009, also includes dialogue with policymakers.

Emin Sanginov, first deputy minister at Tajikistan’s Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment, acknowledged the need to continue to improve quality in a VET landscape still recovering from years of post-Soviet neglect.

Recent research showed that 80 percent of Tajikistan secondary school leavers go straight onto the labour market without following any further or higher education.

The need to address the lack of skills in adult workers has prompted a drive to expand provision for lifelong learning and private sector incentives to encourage employer involvement in social partnerships with educational institutions, he said.

Improving VET key to economic wellbeing

“Improving quality in vocational education and training is key to Tajikistan’s social and economic wellbeing,” Sanginov said.

His comments were echoed by Istvan Nitrai, acting head of the EU delegation to Tajikistan, who said that, “the ETF’s commitment to education is fundamental to our work across Central Asia.”

In a region where “the majority of the population is under 30,” it was an EU priority to support the improvement of educational services, he added.

The CoPs programme seems to be helping in that: delegates at a preliminary session on 24 September said that sharing in informal professional groups was marked by “enthusiasm and openness.”

One remarked: “I felt that by doing this exercise it brought us closer together; these groups could be described as small families.”