Investing in Skills to Meet the Demands of Tajikistan’s Evolving Labor Market

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The Higher Education Project (HEP) supported Tajikistan with improving the quality and labor-market relevance of higher education. In total, 3,300 university teachers and 27,500 students (11,000 of whom are women) directly benefitted from HEP. Competitive grants program (CGP) and lab and IT equipment provided by HEP enabled 77% of universities to improve their learning environment and the relevance of their education to the labor market demand. The project also facilitated the development and approval of a new Higher Education State Standard (HESS) and Higher Education Curriculum development guideline, and also helped strengthen the higher education quality assurance system.


Challenge

A considerable share of firms in Tajikistan identified an inadequately educated workforce as a significant constraint to meeting local and regional market demands. The lack of skills is mainly due to outdated learning environments in universities, including curricular, staff’s skills, equipment, and technologies. Female access to higher education is significantly lower than male access.

In 2011-12, females accounted for just 23% of full-time students. In addition, areas of study are gender-segregated, with most girls remaining in fields commonly associated with women’s traditional roles in society, such as education, health, and social services, with only a few entering scientific or technical faculties. At the same time, Tajikistan is interested in joining the Bologna Process, which seeks to bring more coherence to higher education systems across Europe and aligning with European Standard and Guidelines for quality assurance.

Approach

HEP aimed to develop mechanisms that improve and monitor the quality and labor-market relevance of higher education. HEP’s design was guided by Tajikistan’s higher education analysis and global knowledge in the higher education area. The project’s preparation was supported by an ECAPDEV Trust Fund at $0.17 million that assisted the Ministry of Education and Science of Tajikistan in identifying ways to improve the relevance of higher education in Tajikistan to current and projected workforce demands and the measures to better align the country with the expectations of the Bologna Process.

Under CGP, 49 grants—including 20 grants to support female students—totaling $8 million were provided to 24 universities. According to an independent peer review of CGP, these grants proved to be effective in achieving HEP’s objectives and addressing the challenges female students face in higher education.  Interventions at the system level, like quality assurance strengthening and revision of the HESS, ensured the sustainability of HEP’s outcomes.


We met with many girls and parents in many regions of the country to hear their concerns and raise awareness about a wide range of opportunities in engineering professions. We took the girls to companies, where they met with successful women-engineers. We created five innovation labs at the university to help students develop new skills. This work was possible with HEP support, and it yielded great results.

Beneficiary photo

Gulnora Anvarova

Faculty member at the Tajik Technical University (TTU) in Dushanbe


Results

  • Around 77% of universities in the country have improved their learning environment and the relevance of their education to the labor market demand due to CGP and lab and IT equipment, including for distance learning, provided by HEP.  CGP, inter alia, supported curriculum modernization and staff skills upgrade.
  • The higher education quality assurance system has been upgraded through the development, pilot and adoption of a new institutional accreditation system.
  • A graduate tracer survey (GTS) system has been developed, adopted and implemented, with a GTS Center established under the Ministry of Education and Science.
  • Provision of support services was improved for more than 3,822 female students, and HEP supported the entry of women and girls into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. In 2022, roughly 12% of students enrolled at the Tajik Technical University (TTU) were girls, compared to 3% in 2017-2018.
  • In total, HEP’s activities directly benefitted 3,300 university teachers and 27,500 students (11,000 of whom are women).

As we are a newly established university, the support provided by the project was of special value for us. In addition, the experience of collaborating with international partners like the University of Pavia (Italy) and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University that we received as part of the project activities was an important value added. Through this collaboration we were able to arrange study tours and exchange knowledge and experience.

Beneficiary photo

Qurbonali Mardonzoda

Assistant to the General Surgery Chair at Khatlon State Medical University (KSMU)


The World Bank Group Contribution

HEP was financed by an International Development Association (IDA) grant and credit of $15 million to increase the competitiveness of young people and equip them with knowledge and skills that rapidly growing local and regional markets demand.

Advisory services and analytics provided for higher education amounted to $0.1 million.

ECAPDEV Trust Fund provided grant to the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) at amount of $0.17 million to identify ways to improve the relevance of higher education in Tajikistan to current and projected workforce demands and the measures to better align Tajikistan with the expectations of the Bologna Process.


I would like to thank the World Bank for the support to enhance the capacity of our higher education system. The Project has launched and supported important institutional reforms in higher education sector of the country including in quality assurance. I hope that those reforms will be further supported by the World Bank and other donors.

Beneficiary photo

Lutfiya Abdukholikzoda

Tajikistan’s Deputy Minister of Education and Sciences


Partners

HEP was implemented by MoES and its subordinates in collaboration with the Agency for Supervision in the Sphere of Education and Science (ASSES) and universities. CGP was implemented by the universities-winners in partnership with foreign universities, local employers, and NGOs. Such collaboration promoted an inclusive approach in HEP-supported activities and enabled universities to accommodate both international experience and knowledge as well as local labor market demands.

Looking Ahead

HEP activities, aimed at improving curriculum revision, quality assurance, and monitoring and evaluation had a focus on institutional strengthening, which ensured the sustainability of HEP’s  outcomes. Thus, the new institutional accreditation guideline developed with HEP’s support was adopted by ASSES.

A new Unit for the Graduates Monitoring was established under the MoES and is financed from the MoES’s special funds. The higher education curriculum was modernized, approved, and introduced in the regular courses for all pedagogical specialties in the higher education institutions in the country.

Since 2021, a Guideline to develop and upgrade Tajikistan’s curriculum in line with the Bologna requirements was designed and adopted. The Government approved a new HESS that defines and provides a unified state policy and establishes a set of requirements for the field of higher education.

Now, Tajikistan along with other Central Asian countries is participating in the World Bank-supported regional higher education initiative, the deliverable of which—a regional framework to expand and establish a more productive and integrated higher education systems–relies on Tajikistan’s roadmap to join the Bologna process that was developed by HEP.

Source: World Bank