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Interview with Utkirjon Alijonov and Jalolov Anvarjon from Uzbekistan

Nick Holdsworth - November 24, 2022

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As DARYA – the European Union’s new project in Central Asia – that aims to bring people and ideas together to create new opportunities for young men and women in the region gets underway, the European Training Foundation is talking to key figures involved in education, training, the labour market and economic development to better understand what can best help develop skills, and key 21st century competences including green, digital and entrepreneurial aptitudes.

DARYA – Dialogue and Action for Resourceful Youth in Central Asia – will work with people across the public and private sectors in education and the labour market in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as organisations and peer groups in Europe during the coming five years to support self-sustaining, long-term strategies for skills and labour market development.

Utkirjon Alijonov and Jalolov Anvarjon from Uzbekistan want to hit the ground running. The two men represent the two key sectors that DARYA will be working with over the next five years: education and training, and the labour market.

Mr Alijonov, Head of Department for the Coordination and Organisation of the Education Process of Technical Vocational Education and Training at the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education, and Mr Anvarjon, Deputy Director of the Institute for Labour Market Research at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, were delegates at the DARYA launch conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, 22-23 November.

The two-day event has given them clear priorities to take forward into 2023, they say.

“The most important thing is to listen to the experience of our neighbours in TVET in Central Asia,” Alijonov says.

“We are conducting reforms in TVET and professional vocational education. The opportunity to learn from peer experience – and that of professionals from EU member states in a most unusual combination. That is something we intend to take advantage of.”

He lists the key areas he wants to concentrate on when back in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital: core competences of teachers; digital and green skills; dual education – with an emphasis on training the trainers; and improved professional development and qualifications.

Anvarjon is also enthused by the experience of meeting with colleagues from the region and European partners – there were presentations from VET specialists from Latvia and Sweden.

“The governments of Central Asia have a common core, history and traditions,” he observed. “We also have common experiences in our labour markets – principally high rates of loss of human capital. We export [through migration] our labour experience. In this situation we must adopt methods to understand the level of qualifications we have and how they compare to Europe, Asia and the region.”

Central Asia is, he noted, surrounded by “three large whales” – Russia to the north, China to the east, and Europe to the west. Geopolitics dictate the way forward, he suggests.

“These blocs already put pressure on Central Asia to work in a unified way.  That pressure affects our economic resources, the development and preparation of the workforce; the main thing is that our economies should work to be competitive as a region, not between ourselves.”

This is where DARYA is a particularly useful tool, he adds.

“DARYA works within one system of validation and qualifications. This enables our governments to work together on a united front. By adopting a common direction, giving our workers common indicators, we will really support our labour markets.”

The impact is the same for education, Alijonov observes.

“Education is closely connected to the cultural sphere – if we create one space for education that also affects culture and makes us stronger. It helps us live together in peace, and supports a wealthier, stable society. Questions between us are easier to decide when we have cooperation.”

He admits that creating a common educational space will “take a lot of time and work” – but sees “no barriers to this, politically or economically.”

Anvarjon is particularly excited by the opportunity the DARYA launch gave to establish an agreement between the four countries present (Turkmen representatives were unable to attend) for a new Central Asia Qualifications Framework.

“This is something which has already emerged from our work on DARYA – it took us just a couple of days to agree to this; I can even name the day and the time we struck the deal,” he says with a smile.

“We had ministers from four of the five countries involved in DARYA and they have already agreed to support the CAQF.”

Like his colleague, he also has targets for the new year: the introduction of digital principles and resources within the Uzbek labour market; the creation of a legislative data base; the streamlining of qualifications and standards across Central Asia; and working to ensure supply of trained people meets the demands of the labour market.

They are ambitious targets, but the sense of purpose already evident among the DARYA participants is a cause for optimism.

Asked to sum up the opportunity or challenge that now exists, Anvarjon says “It is time to pay attention to qualifications and training.”

And Alijonov adds: “It is time to pay attention to dual education in Uzbekistan. In a word human resources development.”