WB: Do Diplomas In Armenia Guarantee Skills To Obtain Jobs?


Nov 10 2011

The World Bank regional report on education titled “Skills, Not Just
Diplomas” addresses this question by discussing the bottlenecks of
the education systems in the countries of Europe and Central Asia
(ECA), all of which face skills gap as a result of declined education
quality and relevance over the past twenty years. To close this gap,
the report recommends, inter alia:

To focus more on measuring education outputs-whether students learn
and graduates find jobs, and use this information to improve teaching
and learning, rather than on measuring inputs into learning-such
as the number schools and teachers; To use incentives and grant
greater autonomy to institutions on curriculum and teaching methods
and increase accountability, instead of following detailed norms to
manage the education system; Increase efficiency in expenditures to
enhance learning outcomes.

The “Skills, Not Just Diplomas” report was launched in Yerevan on
October 21, 2011. The event was chaired by Sachiko Kataoka, World Bank
Education Economist. Over 60 participants from Armenia’s universities,
colleges, schools, government, donor community and NGOs attended. In
her keynote speech, Karine Harutyunyan, Deputy Minister of Education
and Science, spoke of Armenia’s reform achievements in the education
sector from independence to date, and the lingering challenges ahead.

Lars Sondergaard, World Bank Senior Economist and lead author of the
report presented the key findings. “One reason we know that the skill
gaps exist in Armenia is that firms report not being able to find
skilled workers. Specifically, when surveyed in 2008, 54% of Armenia’s
firms reported that “skills” is a constraint to their growth, and 23%
of the firms reported that it was a major or severe constraint,” said
Sondergaard speaking to journalists on the day of the report launch.

“This is based on the results of a 2008 survey conducted for more
than 10,000 firms in the countries in Eastern Europe and Central
Asia in which almost 400 firms in Armenia were surveyed about the
constraints they face.”

Like many countries in the region, Armenia faces the challenges of
shrinking workforce and student population due to demographic factors,
and firms increasingly complain about not finding workers with the
skills they need. With fewer workers, each worker needs better –
and different – skills and knowledge than what was needed in the past.

“Throughout the world, there has been an increase in the demand
for skilled labor for the global knowledge economy. The traditional
concept of “manpower” made a transition to “mind-power.” The world’s
economy has also moved from industrial to knowledge economy where
productivity gains are driven by innovation and information and
communication technology,” said Jean-Michel Happi, World Bank Armenia
Country Manager, in his opening remarks.

Questions and comments from the audience included the following: the
need to establish a sustainable and effective system of internship
and on-the-job training for beginner teachers at schools; how the
World Bank can help Armenia participate in the OECD’s Program for
International Students Assessment (PISA); whether emerging economies
need to perform and score as highly in international tests as
developed countries, given that the requirements of their job markets
and expectations of firms are different; and the acknowledgement of
the difficulty in addressing the efficiency dilemma of the country’s
small schools in remote areas.

Twenty years ago, countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union, including Armenia, prided themselves on providing high quality
and universal education. But most countries in the region have seen a
decline in quality ever since. International test results show that
many students – outside of a handful of countries – fail to acquire
more than the most basic literacy and numeracy skills. Evidence also
suggests that the rapid expansion in higher education has led to a
decline in the quality and relevance of education provided. Armenia
is one of the countries where visible quality improvement at the
general education level has been observed in recent years, but little
is known about Armenian students’ skills beyond the 8th grade.

The “Skills, Not Just Diplomas” report is ECA’s new beat on the
education system reforms in the region. It is the major regional
publication on education for the last several years, and gives us
insights about how to improve education based on the recent experience
of the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

To download the “Skills, Not Just Diplomas” report, please visit the
World Bank Armenia website at

From: A. Papazian