Characterised by its diversity of resource-rich and resource-poor economies, Central Asia is faced with a number of challenges, including reliance on Russian economic fortunes, vacillating energy prices and demographic pressure. Unemployment, migration and informality are all areas on which policy is focusing in order to achieve growth. Vocational education and training (VET) has relatively good take up in Uzbekistan (>90%), Kazakhstan (40.5%), Kyrgyzstan (37.2%) and Turkmenistan (21.7%), while it is low in Tajikistan (6.4%, mainly boys) However, in some Central Asian countries quality has been highlighted as an issue, as well as the relevance of such training to the needs of employers. In all Central Asian countries there is a current discussion of how to strengthen education systems, reform VET and improve the interaction of VET systems with labour markets.
Education has been identified as supporting inclusion, resilience and gender equality in the region and there is renewed focus by governments on financing education to achieve these goals. All five countries are seeking to create national qualifications frameworks, a priority to foster employability, transparency and mobility. Further development of quality assurance lies also in training staff who are able to implement the new approaches foreseen by VET reform.
The Torino Process has shown active policy developments in VET in Kazakhstan, consolidation of reforms in Uzbekistan and weaknesses in policy implementation in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Key challenges lie in reforming the VET system to make it more relevant to the labour market and strengthening analysis of what the market needs, as currently, with the exception of Kazakhstan, ministries drive curriculum with little engagement of the private sector. Enterprises and social partners need to be further involved in VET policy development and implementation both at national and regional/local levels. The improvement and expansion of work-based learning opportunities also represents a priority.
The ETF focuses its activities on supporting the European Commission and the European External Action Service in designing and monitoring EU technical assistance and budget support in the Central Asian countries and on promoting regional cooperation aligned with the Central Asia Education Platform. It also continues to engage Central Asia in a system-wide policy analysis and monitoring progress exercise in VET via the Torino Process.