Just released! ETF 2023 annual policy and system performance monitoring report

A cross-country overview of key issues pertaining to skills for growth, based on integrated evidence from the KIESE data collection and the Torino Process, and inputs by ETF partner countries are available in the ETF's 2023 "Education, Skills and Employment: Trends for Development."

The report emphasizes lifelong learning and assesses the adaptability and equitability of learning opportunities in response to societal, political, and economic changes. It presents what education, training, and employment policies deliver to young and adult learners across countries of Central Asia, Southeastern and Eastern Europe, Türkiye, and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.

How are demographic changes impacting skills development?

In assessing projected demand for growth-related skills, the report describes a known, yet ever more critical trend across most ETF partner countries: the anticipated stagnation or decline in the share of youth in the population, which in turn necessitates a strategic pivot towards addressing the needs of an aging demographic. This demographic shift is compounded by the challenge of NEETs, whose prevalence exceeds the EU27 average in many of these countries. The rising trend of migrants in the youth population further underscores the urgency for diversified educational and training strategies to address diverse needs.

Yet, access to education and training remains uneven and highly dependent on the age of prospective learners. Many countries effectively engage their youth in learning, yet struggle to similarly involve adults, especially those who do not fall in any of the special categories such as long-term unemployed or adults with low or no education. This highlights a persistent gap in lifelong learning opportunities.

The push towards inclusive education is evident. Many countries are making commendable progress in supporting disadvantaged young people, especially through VET initiatives. However, the aspiration for universal lifelong learning, a key component in continuous development and adaptability in the workforce, still remains a distant goal. With participation rates in lifelong learning lagging and gender disparities continuing, there is a clear need for more nuanced approaches in policy and practice. These should focus not only on widening initial access to education but also on ensuring effective navigation and completion of educational pathways, thereby enhancing the development of skills crucial for individual and economic growth.

What is the quality of skills development?

What is the quality of skills they receive, and are they growth-oriented? The data we have reveals a notable disparity between the skills and competences received by youth and adults. In many countries, adults typically show higher skill levels than the youth. However, in countries with robust VET programmes, the competences of young people competencies can match or even exceed those of adults. These VET programs are particularly effective in providing foundational skills to socio-economically disadvantaged youth and first-generation migrants, often leading to better skill acquisition than the general youth population. On the other hand, adult learners, especially women and those not actively engaged in the workforce, often exhibit a gap in proficiency. This indicates a need for targeted initiatives to enhance skill development in these specific adult groups.

Does more money translate into better opportunities and better skills?

The relationship between educational investment and its outcomes shows significant variation across different countries. There is a notable difference in how much of their GDP countries allocate to education and how effectively they use these funds. In some cases, even higher levels of investment do not always lead to better learning conditions. This highlights the need for not only investing in education but also ensuring that these investments are used efficiently and effectively.

Does class size and teacher workload matter?

In the same vein, another key issue is the variation in class sizes and teacher workloads, which varies greatly between different regions and educational institutions. These differences suggest challenges in infrastructure and human resource management within the education sector. Such disparities can impact the quality of education and, consequently, the development of essential skills for economic growth. Furthermore, there is often a gap in the professional capacity of school leadership, particularly in implementing innovative teaching practices. Addressing this gap through strategic interventions could significantly improve the quality of education. Improved education quality directly contributes to better equipping students with the skills necessary for personal and economic growth.

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