How data analysis can support young people as they transition from school to work: A Kyrgyzstan case study
When vocational education and training (VET) schools and colleges want to better understand how students experience the teaching and learning process and ascertain the success of graduates in the labour market, they need to collect data and analyse it to get the full picture. But what data do they need to collect, and how can they go about collecting it?
One way is to implement a tracer study or a graduate survey, as they are sometimes called. Using online questionnaires and other feedback tools, the key objective of such studies is to evaluate the effectiveness, relevance, and long-term impact of education programmes. Other objectives include improving the education and training content and study conditions, improving the transition of graduates from education to the labour market, and to better matching the supply of skills with the demand for them.
This is exactly what happened in Kyrgyzstan, when a group of schools and colleges in Bishkek, Osh and Kyzyl-Kiya, with the support of the European Training Foundation (ETF), decided to implement a tracer pilot study. However, as Eva Jansova, ETF’s Human Capital Development Expert and country liaison for the Kyrgyz Republic explains, while the benefits of such an activity can be far-reaching, there are initial obstacles to overcome.
“Firstly, tracer studies require a certain level of up-front resources, in terms of developing the questionnaires, setting-up the IT software, and training the teachers and other personnel involved in the collection and analysis of the data. Other hurdles to overcome include teacher anxiousness, as some may perceive the process to be an assessment of their individual work.”
It is therefore important during the initial information sessions to explain that the purpose of the tracer is to find out from students and graduates where the schools and colleges are performing well, and where they have scope for improvement.
It was decided to divide the Kyrgyzstan tracer into two distinct phases. The first phase, the ‘exit survey’, was aimed at final-year students and focused on the teaching and learning process and conditions, final-year practice and plans for the future. The second phase, the ‘employment survey’, took place 9–11 months after graduation and focused on issues including job seeking, the current employment situation, use of skills, and participation in further education and/or training.
“The exit survey with the final year students is often easier, given that the students are still at school, and therefore this ensures a high response rate.” However, after graduation and when the students are no longer at school, “gaining a representative response rate in the employment survey can be more challenging”, Eva adds.
The ETF supported the schools by developing a methodological handbook (in collaboration with the ILO and Cedefop) and assisting with the training of the staff involved in the study.
“Enabling the institutions to not only collect the data but also to analyse and act upon it has been very empowering for them.”
In fact, one of the tangible results of the tracer study was an increased engagement of students in their school life and greater transparency of school systems.
In November 2022, the ETF will officially launch its DARYA project, aimed at developing the quality and inclusiveness of education, training and employment systems in Central Asia to help boost skills development opportunities for young people. Tracer studies are one of the tools which can be implemented to drive improvements in the five Central Asian countries and the Kyrgyzstan tracer study will be presented as an example of best practice.
Eva believes tracer studies play an important role in ensuring education systems around the world adapt to give young people the skills they need to face the challenges of the future.
“The rapid pace of change in the labour market, much of which is driven by the digital and green transitions, presents opportunities but also challenges. Education and training institutions need to do all they can to equip young people with the skills needed to ensure a successful transition from school to work.”