Future growth in the countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
(ECA) will increasingly depend on innovation. And innovation requires
skills. This makes it important, as countries plan for recovery, to
undertake reforms to reduce the skills shortages that the previous
growth episode exposed.
Education systems have a very important role to play in creating the
right skills. But education systems in the region fall short of the
demands of their economies in two major ways. The first is that despite
high levels of enrollment they do not produce enough graduates with the
right skills. Students graduate with diplomas, not with skills, because
the quality of the education for many students is poor. In large part
this is because education systems remain focused on providing an
excellent education to a few at the expense of improving the quality of
learning for the majority. Moreover, the systems are still making the
transition from teaching the basics to inculcating higher order skills
such as critical-thinking and problem solving. The second way in which
education systems fall short is that outside of a few countries in the
EU there are few opportunities for adults to retrain, or acquire new
This book argues that generating more of the right skills requires a
fundamental change of approach in the education systems in the region
so that they aim for, and deliver, higher quality education for the
vast majority of students (“not just diplomas but skills”).
To start with, education systems need to “turn the lights
on” and take seriously the measurement of what students actually
learn as opposed to measurement of the inputs into the education
process on the implicit assumption that learning follows. Policy makers
also need to move away from the focus on inputs and processes and
increase the emphasis on incentives.
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