Development of Vocational Education in Azerbaijan: Analysis and Recommendations
The primary purpose of this document developed by “Uluchay” Social-Economic Innovative Center is to analyze reforms in the sphere of vocational education and training made in recent years, as well as to promote the perfect world experience by researching problems and perspectives for complex development of Vocational Schools and Centers functioning in the north-western region of our country (Sheki, Gakh, Oghuz, Zagatala, Balakan).
According to research, although the government has made specific steps toward developing vocational education and training, there is still much to do in this sphere. The story of the Strategic Road Map for the complex evolution of vocational education and training in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2016-2025 and the establishment of the State Agency for Vocational Education under the Ministry of Education as the body directly responsible for the development of this sphere is commendable. So, world globalization, global economic environment, productivity requirements, and employment – all these four global tendencies being the factor of economic productivity increase the importance of vocational education.
Because the vocational education system fully meets the interests of all stakeholders – employees, institutions, and the state.
It’s useful for institutions to provide high-quality staff, as well as uninterrupted transmission of the processing. At the same time, they have economic advantages, so they are free from such expenses as searching for employees, teaching them for years, adapting to the work process, etc.
The vocational education system is an excellent opportunity for youth to start independent life and adapt to adult life. Also, they have more options to be provided with a relevant job as soon as they graduate.
In this process, the only state derives an advantage from political and economic points of view. The vocational education system will completely solve the problem of high-quality workers' preparation for the country’s economy. On the other hand, this process plays a vital role in resolving the unemployment problem.
Researches show that recently the attitude towards vocational education establishments has changed positively by both the state and the younger generation.
To the experience of developed European countries, proper development of the vocational education system creates ample opportunities for resolving the unemployment problem of youth and providing a local labor market with qualified employees.
The most substantial development of this area requires rapid expansion of employers’ integration into the vocational education and training system, the establishment of a solid results-based financial system, the development of targeted professional development and specific sectoral programs, as well as the application of tools to foster the achievement of vocational education objectives.
It should be noted that to achieve dynamic development of vocational education and training systems and obtain sustainable results. Many processes should be developed simultaneously. Surveys revealed that a cooperative relationship between the private sector and vocational education institutions needs to be better established, with some exceptions. One of the main reasons is that small and medium businesses do not have the required level of competitiveness in the country’s economy and a small number of competitive institutions. The other reason is the lack of a proper legislative base to stimulate the development of this process. Therefore, there is a critical need to enhance an active labor market and organization flexibility in the planned activities of stakeholders to strengthen the social partnership.
The development of vocational education is one of the main requirements of real life. In this regard, one can feel the state’s interest and desire to implement vocational education reforms. This is evidenced by the state policy aimed at developing the the non-oil sector and the diversification of the economy. This sphere should have been paid much attention to long ago.
In addition to the measures taken, the urgent resolution of specific problems in the vocational education and training system, which is one of the main priorities of the educational sphere, is very significant. So, while in developed countries, 40-60 percent of graduates are enrolled exactly in vocational education institutions, in Azerbaijan, this indicator is very low, indicating that the population’s interest in this education is still tiny.
Thus, in 2017-2018 the number of graduates enrolled in various universities in Azerbaijan was 36.428. Although the forecasted number of graduates to be enrolled in vocational education and training institutions was 11.600 on state order and 9.350 on a fee-paying basis, that is in total 20.950, only 11.017 people have registered on the “Asan – Vocation” electronic entrance system and 9.196 of them enrolled in vocational education institutions (there are some misunderstanding in statistical figures, so in some sources, this number is 11.684).
This shows that only 20% of youth in Azerbaijan give preference to vocational education. Part of them are those who couldn’t succeed in entrance exams to universities, i.e. vocational education is a secondary choice for youth.
It should be emphasized that the most significant activity and responsibility for developing the vocational education system are on those responsible for local governing bodies and employees in the sphere of vocational education.
Surveys show that local governments are not entirely coherent with the market economy principles and the qualification level of workers needs to be more satisfactory. Analysis conducted by the Ministry of Education of the Azerbaijan Republic among 4000 people working in vocational education institutions in our country also provides the basis for such a conclusion. Thus, in our country, employees under 30 years old work in this system 60%, and employees aged 60 40%. 2.200 of them have higher education, 1.800 of them have secondary professional education, and some of them even have only secondary education.
Indeed, although the government provides all mechanisms and required financial investment for the development of this sphere, in terms of current human resources potential, it seems impossible to achieve a new approach and sustainable results in the vocational education system.
Along with that, there are many typical problems in our country's vocational education and training system. These are lack of updated and flexible legal and regulatory framework on the first vocational education, physically and mentally outdated material and technical and educational basis, education programs meeting contemporary requirements, meeting the demand in textbooks and educational materials, the interest of an employer in funding vocational education institutions, weak cooperation between structures based on different types of properties and functioning in the sphere of vocational education, weak career guidance in public education institutions, non-compliance of graduates with the requirements of the labor market and others.
State Agency for Vocational Education
The state has paid this sphere much attention for the last two years. To support the development of this sphere legislative base has been developed, and the State Agency for Vocational Education under the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan Republic (SAVE) was established in 2017.
The SAVE’s report on its activities for 2017-2018 is remarkable in its significant efforts to eliminate the stagnation in this sphere.
So, within this period of time:
- 5 working groups on 6 priority directions of the Strategic Road Map were created.
- Monitoring activities were conducted in 109 vocational education institutions.
- For further improvement of the management of vocational education institutions, practical usage of financial means, improvement of quality indicators till 2020, a project of Action Plans on rationalization and optimization of several vocational education institutions, suspension or temporary freezing their activities, and for newly established educational institutions has been developed and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- Considering priority directions of the economy, based on different selection criteria for the selection of pilot vocational education institutions, Baku State Vocational Education Centers for Industry and Innovations, Engineering and Technologies, Marine Transportation, Vessels Building and Port issues, Lankaran, Jalilabad, Saatli, Barda Vocational Schools, Mingachevir State Vocational Center, Ganja State Vocational Education Center for Industry and Technologies and Gabala State Vocational Education Center have been assigned as pilot vocational education institutions.
- A project on “Procedure on organizing career development and education courses for older persons in vocational education institutions” has been developed and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministries of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- A new project on “State standards on the first vocational education in the Azerbaijan Republic” has been developed and placed on the website of the Ministry of Education and presented for public discussion.
- Gabala State Vocational Education Center has been developed.
- Joint agreements on cooperation have been signed with employers: “Gilan Holding,” “Gilan Agricultural Group” LLC, Azerbaijan Tourism and Management University under the Azerbaijan Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism, “MIDA” LLC under the State Agency for Housing Construction, “Norm Cement” LLC, “Zahmat-Ruzi” LLC, “Yashil chay” Farming Enterprise LLC,
- State-Private Partnership Projects in Vocational Education: “STEP IT Academy”, British Petroleum, British Council, BBF, “Junior Achievement Azerbaijan” PA, ABAD.
- Easy and objective admission to vocational education institutions has been fully provided within the “ASAN Vocational” Project implemented jointly by the Ministry of Education and “ASAN Service”.
- A new project on “State standards on the first vocational education in the Azerbaijan Republic” has been developed and placed on the website of the Ministry of Education and presented for public discussion.
- Gabala State Vocational Education Center has been developed.
- Joint agreements on cooperation have been signed with employers: “Gilan Holding,” “Gilan Agricultural Group” LLC, Azerbaijan Tourism and Management University under the Azerbaijan Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism, “MIDA” LLC under the State Agency for Housing Construction, “Norm Cement” LLC, “Zahmat-Ruzi” LLC, “Yashil chay” Farming enterprise LLC.
- State-Private Partnership Projects in Vocational Education: “STEP IT Academy”, British Petroleum,
- British Council, BBF, “Junior Achievement Azerbaijan” PA, ABAD,
- Easy and objective admission to vocational education institutions has been fully provided within the “ASAN Vocational” Project implemented jointly by the Ministry of Education and “ASAN Service.”
- Within the framework of the European Neighborhood Instrument of the European Union, the State Agency for Vocational Education has launched the “Technical Assistance of European Union to the Development of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Azerbaijan” project (EuropeAid / 137866 / IH / SER / AZ).
- Four granted projects of the European Union have been launched: “Support to the establishment of Regional Industrial VET Competence Centre in Ganja”; “Establishment of Regional VET Centre of Excellence in Lankaran Economic Region”; establishment of Gabala State Vocational Education Center, Gakh Vocational School, pilot “dual” VET system on four qualifications in agricultural and tourism spheres in Ismayilli Vocational Education Center; development of Barda Vocational Lyceum as a “business and social partner” and “exemplary model” for employers and other stakeholders.
- Within the technical-economic cooperation agreement framework between Azerbaijan and the government of the People’s Republic of China, 168 units of 70 types of simulators of different assignments, equipment on training systems, working tables, mechanisms, tools, and other facilities have been brought to our country.
- Reports on the “Turin Process 2016-2017” and “Benchmarking on EU 2020 indicators” prepared by Azerbaijan have been submitted to European Union.
- A “Memorandum of Understanding” between the State Agency for Vocational Education and the Korean Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET) of the Republic of Korea has been signed.
- Through the project of the Korean Economic Development and Cooperation Foundation, “Establishment of Vocational Education Center” (8 specialties – mechanics, electronics, electrical engineering, installation works in the industry, construction, IR, automobiles, automatization), all preparation works for starting the construction of specialized vocational education center on the territory of Baku State Vocational Education Center for Industry and Innovations.
- The SAVE has completed the implementation of 52%, has partially implemented 40%, and hasn’t implemented 8% of measures planned for 2017 specified by the “Strategic Road Map” on “Vocational Education and Training Development in the Republic of Azerbaijan” in 2017.
- Some amendments have been made to the “Duration of implementation of the curriculum” approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. Under article 9.8 of the Law “On vocational education,” the duration of education in vocational education institutions is defined according to the following groups:
- Groups organized for those with a general secondary education base and get the first vocational education – 1 year; groups organized for those who get technical vocational education – 2 years.
- Groups organized for those with a complete secondary education base and get the first vocational education – 6 months; groups organized for those who get technical vocational education – 1 year.
- In groups organized for those with a general secondary education base and complete secondary education as well as technical vocational education – 3 years.
- Groups organized for those with a general secondary education base and get higher technical vocational education – 4 years.
- Groups organized for those with a complete secondary education base and get higher technical vocational education – 3 years.
- For those who have completed general secondary and full secondary education and gained some theoretical and practical skills in production or other business areas, the duration of schooling on studying the same or different profession and on retraining courses at employer’s or their own expense is up to 6 months.
The “Employment Strategy of Azerbaijan Republic for 2019-2030” document has been approved during research and preparation of recommendations. Even though some following notes and suggestions are reflected in the mentioned paper, it would be reasonable to bring their implementation to the forefront to achieve more effective results.
- Although knowledge-based mechanisms include administrative information collected by instructors, their reports are not disclosed.
- Obtaining information on the results of graduates in labor market is impossible.
- Although there is a policy to introduce social partners to consultation, they have limited impact.
- There is no permanent body to involve social partners, nevertheless the valuation rules and procedures of employers are expected to increase at the regional and local levels.
- Restoration of Vocational Education Institutions activities in penitentiary institutions is of great importance in the social reintegration of prisoners.
- Support to youth in their access to the labor market is limited.
- Innovative approaches in providing employment should be given more attention.
- To create a competitive workforce, necessary amendments should be made to vocational education standards.
- Social protection of learners and young employees should be stimulated.
- The fact that the work done during the process is not of the report but of a practical character can have a more positive impact on the development of this field.
- Despite the institutional approach to coordination of measures on the development of workforce, it’s not system-based.
- It would be reasonable to manage the improvement of financial support of VET institutions and the provision of transparency from a single center. According to SAVE’s information, the documents on the “Vocational Education Development Foundation” institution to be established for the development of this sphere shortly are being processed.
- There are a lot of institutions coordinating the development of VET system.
- The Cabinet of Ministers coordinates several ministries' work on realizing the this state program. Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population, Ministry of Emergency Situations and local administration function together in developin vocational education.
Overall coordination of this field by the SAVE affords ground to overcome bureaucratic obstacles quickly. At the same time, it would be reasonable to consult with different agencies to implement works, not as a requirement, but as a recommendation.
Financial support of Vocational Education Institutions:
“Strategic Road Map” envisages the implementation of measures envisaged for the comprehensive development of the vocational education system in the Republic through the following sources:
- Government budget;
- Extra-budgetary funds;
- Funds of the National Fund for Entrepreneurship Support;
- Local budgets;
- Funds of local governing bodies, institutions and organizations regardless of property type;
- Direct external investments;
- Loans and grants of country banking system;
- Loans, technical and financial aid of international organizations and foreign countries;
- Other sources are not prohibited by legislation. To ensure effective spending of financial funds for the defined strategic goals, budgets are designed to be developed within the framework of the results-based budgeting process. A significant part of the financial funds necessary will be ensured by reorganizing current budgets and joint financing efforts of the private sector and different investors.
Strategic Road Map for the development of Vocational Education and Training in the Azerbaijan Republic supposes to invest 188 million manats in this sphere by 2020.
165 million manats of this fund is planned to be spent for the establishment of a partnership with Employers, and 23 million manats for identification of additional state, private and international funding sources to provide further development of the vocational education system. Several people benefit from this amount of funds are 372. Of them: 195 people are new specialists to be involved in the vocational education system, and 177 provide vocational education and upgrade skills for older people. The impact on real GDP due to investment planned by 2020 is 6 million manats.
To achieve defined strategic goals, 190 million 950 thousand manats are required.
Research shows that the government budget is the primary funding source based on last year’s budget. Since the mechanism for reviewing funding criteria and the access to the statistical information collected from schools is limited, initiatives to assess the efficiency of vocational education and training funding are impossible.
Significance of Dual Education System
Practice is a criterion of truth.
In Vocational Education and Training Institutions functioning in our country, theory and practice are separate. So, quality characteristics of the economy limit the required usage in global competition. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of qualified employees in the regional labor market. In most cases, eliminating the gap between theory and practice falls on institutions, and each tries to solve the problem as it knows. At its best, institutions can get qualified staff in 3-5 years.
To make the vocational education and training system efficient and high-quality, it’s advisable to rely on the experience of countries that solve this problem at a high level.
According to the International Monitoring Institute (Switzerland) assessment analyzing workforce quality, the most progressive approach to preparing high-quality staff is in Germany. Germany’s dual education system has proved itself globally and is a model for all European countries.
GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation) in Ismayilli, regarding the promotion of this system, is currently promoting awareness-raising and information campaigns for promoting this system.
Modern technology has led to the formation and development of a dual education system, which has become a tradition of “unit” in our lives. A result of close cooperation between companies and vocational education institutions has increased the number of qualified employees.
That is, learners study a theory in vocational education institutions for 1 hour and do practical training with a qualified master for 3 hours (they even get material incentives for this).
In our country, youth try to enter universities after graduating from secondary school (in most cases, at the insistence of parents). This is connected with a forgetting art learning culture.
However in Germany at least half of graduates prefer to get vocational technical education and to create some things by themselves. In this country, in compliance with the fast dynamics of economics, hundreds of arts are learned and this list is constantly growing.
The primary significance of the dual education system is that theory and practice always complement each other. Learners study 1-2 days a week in vocational schools. On other days they work in institutions. Youth, along with obtaining theoretical knowledge on a selected profession in vocational school, also study their mother tongue, mathematics, foreign language, etc., as it is in the curriculum of general education schools. And masters in institutions teach them practical knowledge and tricks of the trade.
This Program is considered for three years, and learners pass exams at the end. Examination Commission consists of the representatives of schools and institutions, representatives of regional artists’ organizations, and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Learners who pass the exams get the right to work in their profession by obtaining the Chamber’s certificate.
In Germany, the main load of funds allocated for this area lies with the corporations accrues to institutions. So, institutions have to spend 40 billion euros annually on their personnel development, which is much more than the funds allocated by the state to higher education institutions. The state’s role in this education system is only funding vocational education institutions, and the rest of theexpenditures are born by institutions.
Interestingly, there was a system similar to the dual education system in the north-western region of Azerbaijan, precisely in Shaki. Looking back at the region's development dynamics, we get an interesting image. It turns out that from ancient times people living in this region have had different professional skills and have created good livelihoods, and have continuously developed, not only to provide their part but also other regions with their products.
Even though contemporary names in our language are currently being used for collaborative activities of various professionals, for example, Councils, Associations, etc., joint activities of artists were promoted at that time. Mainly, there were workshops associations or workshop organizations in the Shaki region called Asnaf.
Asnafs were divided into 3 categories:
- Craftsmen 2. Apprentices 3. Learners
These Asnafs have produced at least 18 types of products, working with thousands of skilled craftsmen: hat-makers (235), producers of silk kalaghayi and silk shawls, national applications craftsmen in different fields, leather-crafters (173), tailors (154), hairdressers, silversmiths (41), jewelers (31), takalduz makers (50), saddlers (22), decorative slipper makers (16), plaid surface decorators (50), carpenters, stone carvings (this type of art has evolved over the last years), various pickles makers, confectioners, various souvenirs masters, shabaka masters, etc.
Research shows that an increase in the number of tourists and local visitors to our region has led to the revival of many qualifications mentioned above. Thus, economic growth dynamics are observed in confection, takalduz, stone carvings, souvenir production, kalaghayi, silk shawls, and other fields. Demand in other modern professions is also growing. So, there is a need for such qualified specialists as craftsmen in the repair of foreign-made cars, machine electricians, stylish doors and windows masters, furniture masters, hotel and hostel services providers, and other professionals. According to research, in the activities of vocational training institutions functioning in the region, vital work should be done in the direction of training specialists in ancient crafts and specialties demanded by the modern labor market. , flexibility, and integration principles should be used as a basis.
In the issuance of research conducted by the “Uluchay” Social-Economic Innovation Center on five economic regions of the country, the current state and problems of vocational education and training and ways of resolution of these problems, as well as the perspectives, have been analyzed again. Thus, in addition to preserving traditions of professions in many directions in the region, tendencies of development in this sphere have been felt in recent years. Along with dozens of vocational standards in vocational education institutions, most balance comprises land properties and other assets. Moreover, they seem interested in the conduction of reforms in this field. Gakh Vocational Lyceum established close relations with GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation).
Vocational institutions in the region plan to develop this field via a partnership with the private sector. Researches show that the infrastructure of most vocational education institutions in this region, their equipment and material and technical resources, curriculum, textbooks, and study guides, as well as the level of competence of pedagogical and other staff, have yet to be adapted to modern requirements. Most of them do not fully meet the needs of today’s labor market. The management system is not flexible. The financial solvency of vocational education and training institutions is low. Access to electronic information in these vocational institutions is limited. These institutions have not created a severe image, and the promotion in this sphere is weak. Attitudes to vocational education institutions should also be changed in the region. So, their involvement in the works beyond their profile negatively impacts education quality. There is still a lack of an incentive salaries system in Vocational Education institutions functioning in the region, so professional teachers and trainers are less likely to work in these institutions. Several teachers and other employees in most Vocational Education institutions are less than the number of learners. For instance, in Gakh Vocational Lyceum, there is a staff of 93 employees responsible for the study of 376 learners. 19 of these employees are trainers, 38 teachers, and the rest (36 persons) are management and technical staff.
In other regions (Shaki and Balakan), this information has yet to be finalized as respective structural changes are being conducted. So, in an attempt to further improve the management of vocational education institutions and quality indicators, Shaki State Vocational Education Center has been established based on Shaki Vocational Schools No. 1, and 2 and Balakan State Vocational Education Center founded based on Balakan Vocational Schools No.1 and 2 incorporated according to the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated on November 28, 2018. Almost all learners of Vocational Education Institutions receive practical training in their institutions on the profession they chose. Still, to get more efficient results, learners' practice in workshops will lead to more effective results and quality improvements. On the other hand, to assess the knowledge and skills of learners who graduated from Vocational Education Institutions, the format and significance of examinations should be fundamentally changed. There is no information available to track the quantitative and qualitative dynamics of the deployment of personnel trained in vocational education institutions functioning in the region in the labor market. The lack of a unique mechanism for learning the need for a qualified labor force in the labor market means no database. To the labor market requirements, necessary measures should be taken to predict personnel training. Regular research should be carried out within the labor market and vocational schools to define the criteria for professional standards of employers. Relationships among vocational training institutions based on various ownership should be expanded. The essential elements are to improve the quality of the labor market by the needs of labor force development, improving the economy and competitiveness, improving the vocational education system, and to develop vocational and training standards in the labor market. So, as the improvement of vocational education makes a significant contribution to the formation of human capital and the provision of youth employment, granting the status of students to those who study in these education institutions would be a significant step in terms of image.
These institutions use the opportunities of modern technology mildly. Strengths, weaknesses, and options are not considered, and they are functioning based on tasks and instructions from the upper instances as they used to be in the Soviet period.
Researches with employers show that they (employers) are interested in cooperation rather than a bureaucratic approach. Thus, based on analysis, employers define the accordance of certain privileges (for example, tax remissions) to employers as an incentive factor for the overall improvement of this sphere, even though qualified personnel working in their institutions is a positive economic dividend for them. Therefore, social partnership, unification of employers, and application of a legal framework covering the laws on employees' authorized bodies would be reasonable. At the same time, education and awareness campaigns carried out to improve the vocational education system should also be considered by employers.
- Defining and regular updating of sequential mechanism of prestigious occupations for the region.
- Organization of education and awareness campaigns in the direction of vocational education and youth training.
- Creating database due to conducting researches on vocational needs in entrepreneurship subjects functioning in the region.
- Increasing investments made by either government bodies or institutions for strengthening the material and technical base of vocational schools and centers.
- Improvement of teachers studying theory and practice in vocational schools, strengthening works in developing knowledge and skills.
- Increasing the role of actors participating in value chain in planning system.
- Transfer of innovative ideas and development of the creation of good practices system.
- Establishment of networking system among Vocational Education and Training Institutions.
- Adaptation of electronic and internet resource usage to modern requirements.
- Strengthening the efforts time by changing stereotypes against vocational education and training can significantly contribute to reducing unemployment among young people.
- Strengthening the efforts in training qualified personnel in this field.
- Updating legal base and ensuring flexibility in vocational education and training.
- Updating material and technical base of vocational schools and centers, as well as developing curriculum, textbooks, and educational materials meeting the contemporary requirements.
- Full compliance of the current management system to the .
- Arrangement of conditions for active participation of employers in financing vocational schools by creating an appropriate legislative base.
- Increase the competence of those who work in this system.
- Intensification the promotion of vocational education in public secondary schools.
- Improvement in competence and education level for the full compliance of graduates to the labor market requirements.
- Prohibition of the use of educational institutions for other purposes.
- Establishing institutions in production, services, and other spheres in vocational schools and centers with proper facilities and conditions would be a significant step with respect concerning material support and practice.
- Lectures on the basics of Labor Legislation for students and pupils of higher, secondary special, primary vocational, and general secondary education institutions should be organized.
- Providing students with vocational education and those in need with the hostel would stimulate them.
- SMS messages should be used to promote vocational education and training systems among the youth.
- Strengthening the cooperation between State-local private sectors to increase the efficiency of vocational education.
- Accelerate and extend the application of best practices.
- Developing innovative ideas and insights by using modern technologies.
- Ease access to comprehensive information on the activities in the sphere of vocational education.