Malena Mard: Support to education is a priority area for future EU support to Azerbaijan

Over 19 million euros to be made available to support government to reform universities and bring them closer to European standards

Baku. 7 September. REPORT.AZ/ The academic year will start soon and we, parents, realise that the future success of our children will to a large degree depend on the quality of the education they receive. What is true for our children also holds for society as a whole: education is undoubtedly a prerequisite for prosperity, innovation and wealth creation.

Report was stated by the head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Malena Mard.

The EU is proud to be a key partner with the Ministry of Education as well as other stakeholders in modernising and reforming the education system in Azerbaijan. In this we will support bringing the education system closer to EU standards and, more generally, to allow it to better supply the required skills for the effective functioning of the economy. We hope to contribute and co-operate with Azerbaijani partners sharing our experiences within the EU. Through this we hope to contribute to create a robust, sustainable and diversified economic growth.

The Ismayilli Vocational Education Centre is the physical incarnation of a cooperation endeavour initiated by the EU and Azerbaijan over 7 years ago to develop Vocational Education Training (VET) in Azerbaijan. Ismayilli was selected as a pilot region to implement a modern vocational education and training system in the tourism sector. The EU allocated over 2.5M EUR for technical assistance to assist the Ministry in capacity building of its staff, develop a modern VET strategy through consultations with all key stakeholders, including local industry, curricula and training. The EU project supplied the school with all relevant kitchen and hotel equipment to provide European level vocational training in tourism. A comprehensive Labour Market Survey was held in the region, modern curriculum for tourism was developed, including courses in cooking, waiting, bartending; tourism agents, local guides and hotel receptionists and young motivated teachers were trained. The VET school regularly consults with local entrepreneurs for gap analysis in human resources and develops its admission plan accordingly leading to students who easily find their way in the labour market.

Support to education is a priority area for future EU support to Azerbaijan. In the coming years over €19 million of funding will be made available to support the government to reform universities and vocational education schools and bring them closer to European standards and practices. Modernised universities and vocational education schools could provide better learning opportunities, knowledge and qualifications to meet the growing needs of the labour market. The programme will also fund civil society to increase its capacity and participation in the education sector, where it can build a dialogue between civil society, education authorities, business and social partners.

This support will further complement and build on other EU initiatives in the education sector. For instance, the European Commission’s eTwinning network encouraged 100,000 schools in 35 European countries to talk to each other via the internet and in 2013 it extended to schools in Azerbaijan as well. It enabled schools in Azerbaijan to join a virtual classroom in which pupils and teachers can take part in interactive projects focused on language learning or maths, for instance. Selected teachers from cities and rayons have an opportunity to implement joint educational projects in their classrooms, cooperating with teachers from Europe. The students benefit from collaboration and team work, learn about other cultures. The most active teachers are invited to annual conferences and workshops. In 2013, 24 schools and 75 teachers with innovative and technical skills were involved in 71 projects. In 2014-2015 80 new schools and 164 teachers are involved in 109 projects.

Another well-known example is Erasmus Mundus that fosters co-operation between universities of the EU and third-countries through individual mobility of students and academic staff.

In short, we hope that all this activity will help to improve the attractiveness and soundness of the education system; as well as the national and international recognition of qualifications, teaching and research in Azerbaijan. More generally, we hope that the results we have been able to obtain in the transformation of the Ismayili VET School some years ago can be replicated on a wider scale bringing in more regions and sectors, and ultimately increased prosperity for the country.

As many pupils are today looking forward to starting another school year also I am looking forward to co-operating with Azerbaijani colleagues in support of the education reforms in Azerbaijan.

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