Johannes Stenbaek Madsen, Head of the Cooperation Department, EU Delegation to the Republic of Kazakhstan:
The critical components of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia are sustainability and prosperity. These two pillars aim to empower people to reach their full potential and become active and informed members of society.
The basis of a sustainable society is an investment in people and a high-quality education system. To set-up such a system, there are short- and long-term goals. Long-term reforms typically concern primary education and the transition to secondary and higher education. Because much of education efforts are in the public sector, the government dominates modernisation and reform.
On the other hand, there are short-term alignments. They aim at matching skills supply and demand for the labour market. For example, when a new factory is built, experts are needed. It is necessary to train people in new skills in a short period. With it comes the need to update curricula, developing new training materials, introduce new methods of instruction, and creation of new occupations. In the end, vocational training and university education will change fundamentally.
In this context, it is remarkable that your country has recently opened a new university — the Institute of Telecommunications and Informatics. These changes fit the needs of our time.
The current EU project aims to contribute to the modernisation of the Turkmen education system. We have been informed today that much work has been done according to the Terms of Reference, agreed between the EU and the Turkmen Government. The project has a positive dynamic. Participants confirm that the project has an impact on the digitisation of education, the quality of higher education, the professional development of teachers, school management and administration, accounting standards and other relevant areas. The events take into account the needs of the beneficiaries and the demand from the labour market.
Mr Dimitris Bakolas, Project Director and President of European Profiles:
Cooperation in the field of education is an investment in the future of the country. It is a guarantee of building trust and mutual understanding. Investing in people means creating the capacity to respond appropriately to new challenges in a world that is becoming increasingly volatile, complex, uncertain and ambiguous. The faster the change, the more flexible the workforce should become. This requires not only learning but also unlearning and re-learning. It means thinking outside the box, overcoming stereotypes and challenging outdated mental models. Last but not least, education itself must embrace change, with far-reaching implications for the search for new teaching methods, learning approaches, and business models.
In this context, it is noteworthy that Turkmenistan is considering the possibility of using paid education at all levels of education. Practice shows that a private education system is often more dynamic and flexible. If there is a monopoly, it often cannot cope with new challenges. One example is the Soviet education system. The Sputnik shock of the 1960s proved that it was one of the best education systems in the world. It triggered a wave of reforms in many education systems around the globe. Unfortunately, while it has contributed to the global common good, it utterly failed to adapt to the new circumstances.
To move forward, educational institutions must have autonomy and choice. Research shows that private schools and universities have an excellent return on investment. Graduates of private educational institutions quickly find well-paid jobs on the labour market.
The EU project “Support to the Education System of Turkmenistan” operates within the framework of the Terms of Reference. The aim is to align itself with global standards that are continually evolving. The project introduces new ways of thinking and acting. Such impulses can be advantageous for ongoing reform and modernisation efforts and increase the social benefits of privatising the education system.
Lubomir Frebort, Chargé d’affaires, EU Delegation to Turkmenistan
I am pleased that the European Union’s presence in Turkmenistan has finally achieved a fully integrated character. The opening of the EU Delegation is a milestone that offers new opportunities. In particular, the agreement signed in July this year between the Government of Turkmenistan and the European Union provides a legal basis for the work of the EU Delegation in Turkmenistan. It will contribute to strengthening an effective partnership in such essential areas as ensuring peace and security at the global level and addressing global threats and challenges.
Turkmenistan is a strategic partner and now occupies key positions in the Central Asian region. Turkmenistan has a strong peacekeeping potential and is a pillar in the development of regional and interregional cooperation. The positive momentum of the development of relations between Turkmenistan and the European Community is reflected in dozens of joint projects and programmes being implemented and currently implemented, including those in the fields of education, private sector and agricultural support, environment, etc.
The sixth project steering committee of the EU project “Support to the Education System of Turkmenistan” confirms the positive momentum. The presentations of the project activities during the reporting period showed the number and variety of events taking into account innovations, beneficiaries’ preferences and international experience in modernising education systems.
Bairam Byashimov, Director of the National Institute of Education of Turkmenistan, Chair of the EU Project Steering Committee
Improving the education system is a priority for the socio-economic development of our country. The President of Turkmenistan is paying particular attention to it and stresses that the level of education must be adapted to international standards.
The contribution of the EU experts was and is important for the implementation of some of our main areas of development of the education system, in particular, the professional development of secondary and vocational teachers, quality assurance in higher education, leadership and management in education, digitalisation, the transition to international accounting standards and others. These are contributions to economic growth and the well-being of the Turkmen people.
The cooperation with the project increases the awareness of new trends, enables us to prepare ourselves better for existing challenges and, last but not least, to take advantage of new opportunities.
Е. Samarkina, USAID representative in Turkmenistan:
The presented project activities are exciting and promising. For example, a lot of work has been done to create a project website that provides detailed information on events. However, care should be taken to ensure that the site is online once the project is complete. It is, therefore, useful to consider options to ensure long-term impact. The international and national educational community will benefit, and relevance of the project’s results further enhanced.