AZERBAIJAN - Health & Education
Minister of Education, Azerbaijan
Mikayil Jabbarov graduated from the International Law Faculty of Baku State University in 1997, and went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Law from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in California. In 2004, he received his Master’s degree in Economics at the Azerbaijan State Economic University. He worked as a lawyer in the private sector from 1999 to 2002, and subsequently served as advisor to the Minister of Economic Development, and from 2003 to 2004 was president of the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO). He then became Deputy Minister of Economic Development before becoming Minister of Education.
In 2013, which was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan, the integration of ICT into the educational system became an integral part of the Ministry’s Action Plan. Throughout the year, the improvement of ICT logistics in educational institutions, including the provision of computers and other necessary digital equipment, was carried out as in previous years. Procurement contracts for educational institutions on the provision of ICT equipment were signed. As a result, secondary schools and other educational institutions subordinated to the Ministry of Education were provided with thousands of new devices and gadgets, including desktop and laptop computers, projectors, and smart boards. Additionally, educational institutions were provided with intranet services and access to the internet. Furthermore, a further 70 educational institutions joined the Azerbaijan Educational Network, and, in total, 1,695 educational institutions were provided with constant intranet and internet connections. In 2013, in accordance with the implementation principles of e-government, activities were implemented to create a database of diplomas and a centralized diploma-verification portal for the Ministry of Education. More than 5,000 pedagogical, administrative, and technical staff of the education system were trained in the effective use of ICT in education.
International experience demonstrates that vocational education and training (VET) is a success when based on an experience-centered approach. This approach allows vocational training facilities to provide learners with respective qualifications by offering them theoretical knowledge via flexible education programs and then putting them through real-world work experience. Analysis of existing educational programs indicates that, depending on the length of study, some 40% to 60% of academic hours in the VET schools are assigned to work experience. This is not a small figure; in fact, the main problem lies not in the quantity of academic hours assigned to the improvement of practical skills by students, but in the ineffective organization of the process in question. Along with real-world work experience, it is important to create appropriate conditions enabling students to master practical skills during the time they spend in a VET school. Thus, a student should already be equipped with certain practical skills by a VET school before advancing in the industry. With this view in mind, opportunities to master practical skills are being expanded for students through the establishment of modern training facilities and resource centers together with the employers and international organizations and with public funding under the framework of the Contemporary Azerbaijani Professionals project by the Ministry of Education. Under this project, resource centers were established at VET schools in partnership with interested foreign counterparts, both public and private. The newly established resource centers provide a platform for learning new professional skills, which are in great demand in Azerbaijan’s labor market. Preliminary results show that the conditions created in vocational education institutions attract a greater number of youth, where they obtain a real opportunity to secure employment using skills acquired in VET schools. For instance, we intend to equip several of our VET schools with agricultural machinery and vehicles. The last time vocational education institutions were provided with agricultural equipment was back in the Soviet era. A graduate will face challenges to find a job if they lack operational knowledge of modern equipment and machinery. Preparing competitive human resources by improving the material and technical basis and professional level of teaching staff will remain a priority in 2015.
As in every other sphere of life, education needs to be integrated globally in order to be efficient. A flow of students between countries establishes an efficient learning platform. International education creates an environment of cultural understanding that exposes students to new and alternative approaches to learning, thinking, and understanding. Azerbaijani students study abroad and obtain high-quality education and new skills, returning as young professionals. Since the outset of the implementation of the state program on education for Azerbaijani youth abroad 2007-2015, which was launched upon the initiative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, so far 2,612 Azerbaijani students have been granted full scholarships to pursue their higher education at leading higher education institutions around the world. They study various majors from medicine to engineering, tourism, information technology, economics and agriculture; all fields which have been identified as a priority for Azerbaijan to sustain its economic development in the mid- to long-term perspective. The government of Azerbaijan covers all of their expenses, including tuition, accommodation, insurance, visa fees, travel, and book expenses during the period of study. The only obligation upon those students is that they return to Azerbaijan and work in the field of their specialization contributing to the further development of their nation. In this manner, they enjoy a sense of joint ownership in the future of our country. This state program is one of the core initiatives inspired by the philosophy of turning black gold into human capital. It is also one of the very few such mechanisms existing in the world today where a government invests significant funds in the education of its citizens at foreign universities.
While implementing its development strategy in the field of education, Azerbaijan pays particular attention to strengthening cooperation with relevant international organizations, including UNESCO and UNICEF. Our country collaborates with these organizations on various issues, in line with our national strategy of education development, for example the use of new information and communication technologies in education, development of vocational education, child protection reforms, and the process of deinstitutionalization, as well as the implementation of joint projects on UNESCO-associated schools and the establishment of UNESCO chairs in our higher educational institutions. The vivid example of the commitment of Azerbaijan to further develop its cooperation with UNESCO, as well as its efforts to support the activities of this organization in the field of education, science, and culture worldwide, was the signing of the Framework Agreement between the government of Azerbaijan and UNESCO on cooperation in the field of education, science, culture, and communications. Along with cooperation links, the agreement stipulates the establishment of a Trust Fund to which Azerbaijan contributed $5 million with the aim of assisting UNESCO in strengthening its work in the promotion of education, cultural heritage, science, and innovation technologies worldwide. When speaking about UNESCO-Azerbaijani cooperation, it is important to focus on activities carried out by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation so ably led by the First Lady of Azerbaijan, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation plays an innovative role in reinforcing the UNESCO-Azerbaijan partnership through initiating and implementing large-scale programs in Azerbaijan and abroad.
Today, we are proud of the fact as a result of the economic reforms and the oil strategy launched in 1994-96 upon the initiative of Heydar Aliyev, the National Leader of Azerbaijan, for the last few years Azerbaijan has been consistently topping the international growth ratings composed by such institutions as the World Bank and the IMF. However, we also know from history that sometimes it is harder to sustain growth than to achieve it. To achieve this, the economy of Azerbaijan, both in the public and private sectors, needs thousands of well-educated managers and professionals, who know how modern economics functions and how global economic trends change. Their knowledge and skills will help Azerbaijan to avoid the so-called “Dutch Disease,” efficiently use the record-high revenues generated by energy resources exports to strengthen the non-oil sector, and develop industrial, agricultural, tourism, and other spheres of activity. This will secure Azerbaijan’s position in the world, and in our region particularly, as well as increase the competitiveness of our economy, and raise the living standards of our citizens. With this in mind the government of Azerbaijan is investing heavily in education, including scholarships to study abroad. We have no doubt that these investments will turn out to be the most efficient ones, helping to transform our natural capital into human capital.
The Ministry of Education does not discriminate between areas of education. Considering the fact that all areas are interrelated, a complex approach and the coherence of reforms are crucial. We cannot prioritize pre-school over general education, or promote higher education while neglecting vocational training. The Ministry plans to implement reforms in every area of education considering the key provisions of the state strategy on the development of education, which was officially approved by Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in October 2013. However, it is also important to note that at each level of education, we have to re-think existing formulae, and promote efficient new approaches that improve the quality of education. Content, educators, infrastructure, management, and financing education are major pillars of the state strategy regarding the reforms to be implemented across the different levels of the education system. The development of content assisting the education of skillful and responsible citizens, training educators to deliver content, and promoting autonomy for educational establishments, while increasing the level of accountability, improving transparency, building efficient quality assurance systems, restructuring the financing of education, and other similar actions will be the key issues promoted by the Ministry.
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