30 years, 30+ stories: "Investing in education pays off."

30 years, 30+ stories: "Investing in education pays off." The history of ETF cooperation with Armenia

The European Training Foundation has been working with Armenia since 1994 to support education reforms and improve labour market opportunities. A look at three decades of shared goals and perspectives.

Armenia has recently faced numerous socio-political and economic upheavals, including the 2018 Velvet Revolution, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 conflict with Azerbaijan. Military tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2023 resulted in the displacement of more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians, prompting crisis response measures. Even before that, Armenia had one of the highest emigration rates in the world, with around 30% of the population living outside the country (OECD data from 2017).

Despite these challenges, Armenia has made advance on its reform agenda, prioritising evidence-based policy and strategic planning. Education plays a key role in achieving sustainable development, in line with the broader objectives of the Armenian Transformation Strategy 2050.

In recent years, Armenia has made significant progress in improving access to education. The gross enrolment rates in primary and secondary education were 91.24% and 87.25% respectively in 2020, according to UNESCO data for the Sustainable Development Goals in 2021.

Since 2010, Armenia has been an active participant in the ETF's Torino Process, which analyses education and training systems to inform policy reforms. In 2023, the ETF launched a new round of the initiative, focusing on lifelong learning perspectives and reviewing national policies, particularly on the accessibility and attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET). Preliminary results were discussed in Yerevan in November 2023.

Cristiana Burzio, ETF human capital development expert and country liaison for Armenia, highlights the important role of the Torino Process in informing national reform agendas, with findings and recommendations being integrated into policy reforms.

"Looking ahead, it's clear that Armenia is keen to continue supporting learners' participation in society and the labour market," says Burzio.

"Participation in the Torino Process provides an opportunity for all policy makers and social partners in VET to regularly review sector policies and monitor the effectiveness of implemented programmes for the benefit of learners and their employability in the labour market," says Tatevik Gasparyan, Director at the National Centre for Vocational Education and Training Development. "One of the successful projects with the ETF was the development of the concept of work-based learning, which was later adopted by the National Council for VET Development. Although the dual education system had been piloted in Armenia for several years, there was no comprehensive approach to cooperation between education and business. The provisions of the concept are reflected in the draft of the new Law on Vocational Education and Training.”

Over the last decade, Armenia has seen a significant decrease in the percentage of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) in the 15–24 age group, from 44.5% in 2010 to 20.3% in 2021 (Key policy developments in education). Despite this positive trend, challenges remain, particularly in terms of gender inequalities, which disproportionately affect young women. At the same time, half of VET graduates aged 15–29 were NEETs in 2019, highlighting the difficult transition from school to work that young people face, in addition to the significant mismatch between labour demand and supply in the Armenian market (Youth transition and skills mismatch in the Eastern Partnership).
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