The ETF to implement the first-ever EU regional education programme in Eastern Partnership countries

The European Training Foundation is to implement the first-ever EU regional education programme in five countries of the 27-member bloc’s Eastern Partnership countries.

The €2.5 million, three-year, Education Reforms and Skills in Eastern Partnership programme, is due to be launched in January 2024.

Designed by the European Commission’s DGNEAR – which has chosen the ETF as its implementation agency – the new programme will be formally launched at an international conference in April 2024 at the ETF’s Turin headquarters.

The programme – which aims to support educational reform and build capacity in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – will pivot around an evidence-based ‘Rapid Education Diagnosis’ methodology, where partner countries will work with DGNEAR, national EU Delegations and the ETF, to analyse key challenges and develop their education systems across all levels, from pre-school to post-graduate.

Christophe Masson, a team leader at DGNEAR, said the programme was part of the EU’s strategic focus on the Eastern Partnership region.

“We are focusing more on challenges in this region due to the war of aggression of Russia on Ukraine, but not only that – the best way to prepare society for future generations is to invest in education to improve educational systems.”

The countries involved in the programme were geopolitically important; Russia and Turkey both had a major presence in the region, and the EU understood that, if it were to promote its values, it also needed a strong presence in the region, he noted.

Speaking Tuesday (October 3, 2023) at a preparatory event in Turin for representatives from the countries involved in the progamme, ETF Director, Dr Pilvi Torsti, said she welcomed involvement in a project looked at all levels of a country’s education system – and not only the traditional ETF focus of vocational education and training.

“We see ourselves as the platform and facilitator to enable good strategies and inspiring reforms,” she said.

“We aim to find the best practices that fit best in this new regional education programme; an evidence-based approach has never failed as a strategy.”

Results from the programme’s ‘rapid educational diagnosis’ – which would be the focus of its first 12 months – would feed into reforms in each country, and peer learning within the region would strengthen longer term sustainability, she added.

“The ETF needs to stay relevant throughout the process and to ensure we and the participating countries make best possible use of the programme,” she added.

Delegates from the participating countries, present in Turin and via online links, welcomed the new programme.

“This event today can be a step to a better understanding of polices and where we need to go; if we speak about different issues, we can collaborate together in order to make things better,” said Galina Rusu, State Secretary, at the Ministry of Education and Research, Moldova.

Timo Kuusela, a Senior Human Capital Development Expert at the ETF, said that in the countries involved in the programme, there was “an awareness that it is important to invest in education.”

He added: “There are reforms going ahead and, of course there are issues and problems. This is what we try to see in this new program – how we can look deeper and see the issues in [the] countries, what works and what does not.”

*The ETF and DGNEAR are due to sign a contract on implementing the programme in November 2023, with initial activities planned in the five countries from January 2024. The programme will run through 2026.

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