Executive summary - Adolescent and youth perspectives on quality education

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Executive Summary - Pushing Past Barriers to Post-Primary Education: Youth Perspectives on Education Quality in Kosovo, Georgia and Tajikistan

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Executive summary - Adolescent and youth perspectives on quality education

  1. 1. Executive Summary Pushing Past Barriers to Post-Primary Education: Youth Perspectives on Education Quality in Kosovo, Georgia and TajikistanDespite decades of political, economic and social instability and the devastation of armed conflicts thatdisrupted and at times destroyed formal education opportunities, youth demand for high quality basic andpost-primary education in Kosovo, Georgia and Tajikistan is uniformly strong – 86 to 93 percent of 13-24-year-olds surveyed in each country say they would like to achieve more education than they already have. Demandfor education is high even among dropouts, 72 to 87 percent of who also say they want more. At the sametime, youth say they are facing a wide range of barriers to achieving their education goals, from high educationcosts to inadequate facilities to meet special learning needs, and many are unable to complete their education.While many recognize and appreciate efforts made to improve education quality and access, they call forstepped up action to ensure all youth have opportunities to meet their learning potential. They show asophisticated understanding of the value of education and the factors that affect its quality, including theimportance of their own motivation and active involvement in education processes. Their awareness and ideasbelie any concept of youth as nefarious, apathetic and disengaged in their personal and societal development.Instead they are actively working to push past barriers to post-primary education and describe their prioritiesand the support they need in doing so.In 2010, UNICEF RO CEECIS and the UNICEF Kosovo, Georgia and Tajikistan Country Offices engaged 89 youngpeople in Kosovo, Georgia and Tajikistan as Youth Researchers to work with an International Research Teamand national implementation partners to design, test and implement nationally representative studies of youthopinions of education quality in their respective countries. The study involved 2,444 youth respondentsoverall, including 1,963 randomly sampled and surveyed 13-to-24-year-olds (517 in Kosovo, 581 in Georgia and865 Tajikistan) and another 481 youth of the same age range engaged in 61 focus group discussions. Dozensmore participated in four Youth Consultations, where youth developed survey topics and questions, and inevents to develop Youth Advocacy Statements. Key findings from this work are presented in this report,including the following highlights. Youth in Kosovo, Georgia and Tajikistan highly value formal education and want more of it.As noted above, high percentages of youth in all sub-groups say they want to achieve more education thanthey already have. Strong demand among dropouts indicates that these youth are facing barriers to reenteringthe formal education system. Youth largely give current education quality passing grades but indicate significant room for improvement.Most youth in each case rate education quality as average or a bit better – 30 to 47 percent call it “average,”and another 30 and 47 percent call it “good,” while just 10 to 16 percent say it’s “very good,” and 8 to 13percent call it “bad” or “very bad.” Given the difficulties facing education systems and learners in each setting,these ratings are impressive. Efforts to maintain and build back formal education systems are clearly meetingsome success, while most youth also feel that further, and at times serious, improvements are needed. In eachcase, younger youth between the ages of 13 and 18 tend to rate education quality a bit more highly than 19-24-year-olds. This may indicate more optimism among younger youth in general and, or more difficulteducation quality issues facing older youth in these samples. Youth in rural areas in Georgia and Tajikistan arealso a bit more enthusiastic about education quality overall than youth in urban areas, possibly indicating moredifficulties meeting student needs and expectations in urban areas. There is no difference among urban andrural youth in Kosovo. Interestingly, despite Tajikistan often being measured as bearing more “fragility” thanthe other two cases, youth in Tajikistan are more likely to rate education quality as “good” than their peers inKosovo and Georgia, who more often call it just “average.” Bearing a higher or lower level of “fragility” doesnot thus consistently correlate with better or worse youth perceptions of the state of education quality. Youth show a sophisticated understanding of the value of education and the possible consequences of poor quality education.The vast majority of youth in each case – 72 to 91 percent – fully agree with the statements that education isimportant for: “building my capacity in all aspects of life/learning is intrinsically good;” “preparing for a job or
  2. 2. profession,” “ensuring a better status in society;” “good citizenship and helping me develop this country;” and“widening my perspectives, or learning about and understanding other people’s experiences.” Very few youth– just 0.5 to 4 percent – fully agree with the notion that “education is not very important.” In Tajikistan, youthalso strongly feel that education is important for “gaining new information and skills,” with 89 percent fullyagreeing. At the same time, youth name several potential outcomes of poor quality education. Most often,they say that poor education quality is a risk factor for a weaker economy and poor development outcomes,poor health outcomes and the increased outmigration of youth, but their emphasis is somewhat different.Youth in Kosovo and Georgia most frequently see links between education and poor economic anddevelopment outcomes, with about 70 percent of youth in each case citing this issue, and youth in Tajikistanfocus most on the possibility of increased youth outmigration (which occurs principally for economic reasons),with 59 percent of youth agreeing with this. Rural youth in Kosovo and Tajikistan are more likely than urbanyouth to see youth outmigration resulting from poor quality education, while the opposite is true in Georgia. Youth do not consistently view poor quality education as a risk factor for renewed armed conflict or increased disappointment and youth grievances with government.For the vast majority of youth in Kosovo and Tajikistan, the roots of armed conflict lie distinctly outside therealm of education, while for half of Georgia’s youth, they are very much linked. Just 3 percent of youth inKosovo and 13 percent in Tajikistan feel that failure to provide good quality education increases the likelihoodof armed conflict, compared with 49 percent of youth in Georgia. Similarly, 16 percent of youth in Tajikistanand 22 percent of youth in Kosovo feel that poor quality education increases youth grievances anddisappointment with government compared with 47 percent in Georgia. Findings in Kosovo and Tajikistan donot support a conclusion that education quality has no impact on the risk of armed conflict in general but dosend a message that most youth in these areas view the relationship as very indirect or non-existent in theircontexts. Personal motivation and interest are key to educational attainment in combination with other key factors, especially parental, spousal and teacher support and financial means.Keeping young people in school is especially linked with nurturing their motivation and ensuring family,teacher and financial support. Youth name a combination of factors that most influence or influenced theirability to achieve their desired level of education, and strikingly, they most often highlight their own personalresponsibility. Youth most frequently cite their personal interest, motivation and attitude as a principal factorinfluencing their ability to reach their education goals, with 85, 79 and 71 percent of youth in Kosovo, Georgiaand Tajikistan respectively saying that this matters most. In second, third and fourth places, they alsoconsistently name the level of parental and/or spousal support they receive, financial means and support fromteachers as critical to educational attainment. Many other factors also play key roles for young people, rangingfrom the accessibility of programs to flexible course schedules. Overall, youth say that a combination ofindividual, family, community, school, systemic and other factors combine to influence young people’seducational attainment. Their responses in other areas of the study describe more about what youth sayaffects these factors, including what supports their motivation to attend school, study and complete theireducation. Despite strong youth demand for high quality education, youth reports of absenteeism are worryingly high, and dropouts are occurring.High primary enrolment rates and rising secondary education enrolment rates in each country (recent data arenot available for Kosovo) reflect young people’s strong desire for education and their dedication to reachingtheir education goals. Young people’s motivation and ability to attend school regularly are under pressure,however. Self-reported absenteeism is high, and many youth report that they have not been able to completetheir education. Thirty percent of youth in Kosovo, 47 percent in Tajikistan and 68 percent in Georgia say theyhave skipped school without authorization in the previous twelve months, in many cases 10 or more times.Males are more likely to be absent without authorization than females in each case, particularly in Kosovo.Although Program for International Student Assessment results in other countries show correspondingpoorer performance among males, gendered outcomes are not consistent; females in Georgia are more likelyto be enrolled in tertiary education, while in Tajikistan, females are less likely to be enrolled in tertiary (thetertiary enrollment rate by sex is not available for Kosovo). While absenteeism occurs more often among olderyouth sampled in Kosovo and Georgia, younger youth are more often involved in Tajikistan, where youthresponsibilities for seasonal agricultural work is a contributing factor. Given the known links between serial
  3. 3. absenteeism and dropping out in other settings, more research and action are needed to address these issuesand the distinct circumstances facing sub-groups of youth.Between 5 and 7 percent of youth sampled in each case further say they have permanently dropped out ofschool before completing secondary education. Nearly all sub-groups are equally likely to report havingdropped out in the Kosovo sample. In Georgia, dropouts are more often urban, older youth and are a mix ofmales and females (note also that females in the Georgia sample overall are more educated than males, in linewith secondary source information on country trends in tertiary enrollment favoring females). In Tajikistan,dropouts sampled are more often rural, female, older and basic-educated youth (while data from 2003/2004point to females in urban and peri-urban areas as at particular risk of dropping out). Additional secondarysource data show males and females dropping out especially in upper secondary school in Tajikistan asreported in 2008, and again, particularly females. Data from 2009 indicate the richest quintile of youth inGeorgia as more likely to complete secondary education than the poorest quintiles, with similar correspondingurban and rural differences. Sources for Kosovo further show an ethnic disparity in primary enrollment in2003/2004, where Serbs and Albanians are more likely to be enrolled than other ethnic groups, including theRoma, Ashkalia and Eqyptians. Females and the poorest quintile of youth in Kosovo were less likely to beenrolled in secondary school compared with males and the richest quintile, as reported in 2008. Reasons for drop out are diverse and vary by country, but female dropouts in Tajikistan in particular lack parental support for their education.The number of dropouts in each sample is too small to generalize findings on their opinions and experiences tothe youth populations with confidence, but these groups nonetheless provide insights into who drops out andwhy in their settings. Their reasons are diverse, but dropouts most often say they left school mainly due to:Kosovo – lack of financial means/poverty and the need to work; Georgia – early marriage and lack of financialmeans; Tajikistan – lack of parental and/or spousal support and lack of interest in school. Notably, theTajikistan females sampled are 13 times more likely than males in their country to say they left school due tolack of parental and/or spousal support for their education. Again, in the Kosovo and Georgia samples, femalesand males are equally likely to say they have dropped out of school. Youth cite key barriers to getting an education, especially inadequate facilities for meeting special learning needs, the costs of private tutoring, and in Tajikistan, lack of parental support.About 48 to 60 percent of youth surveyed overall (not just dropouts or absentees) report facing one or moreparticular difficulties getting an education. In each country, these youth most often say that facilities areinadequate for meeting their special needs, including youth with disabilities. Youth in Kosovo and Georgia nextmost often name an inability to pay for private classes or tutoring outside school as a key difficulty, whileTajikistan youth cite lack of parental support second most frequently. Rural, female, older and less educatedyouth are more affected by lack of parental support than their counterparts in Tajikistan, and as noted above,it is a main reason for youth dropouts there. Difficulties with school locations, extra costs, arbitrary fees andteacher mistreatment also stand out, followed by a wide range of other issues facing smaller numbers ofyouth. Notably, most youth in Kosovo and Georgia say they have the parental support they say they rely on toreach their education goals, while many in Tajikistan don’t – especially female youth. These and other barrierspoint to the need to further investigate and take action to address the sources and impacts of educationexclusion, with a focus on societal views on disability; structural and cultural norms; gender divides;conservative religious practices; and the relationship between displacement and the location of educationprograms. Many youth feel that their own education quality has been negatively impacted by armed conflict, and even more feel that armed conflicts have negatively affected education quality in their country overall, while many others do not perceive any effects.When asked whether “war” or “military conflict” (meaning the conflicts of 1999 in Kosovo, 1991-1994 and2008 in Georgia and 1992-1997 in Tajikistan) has decreased their own education quality, youth responses aremixed. About 70 percent of youth in Kosovo agree fully or somewhat that their own education quality wasdiminished by war, as do 30 percent in Tajikistan and 20 percent in Georgia. Youth in Georgia and Tajikistanwere further asked if military conflict has negatively affected education quality in their country overall, with 58percent in Georgia and 68 percent in Tajikistan agreeing to some degree – higher proportions than felt directly
  4. 4. impacted themselves. At the same time, many youth disagree that war has had a negative impact on their ownor the country’s education quality, or they are not sure. A range of factors likely influence youth perceptions ofthe impact of armed conflict on education quality, from the nature and duration of the conflict and whetherand how education systems were targeted, to youth access to education services during conflict and thedevelopment, implementation and progress of post-conflict education reforms that address all learning stages. Education content should be more relevant to job prospects for youth.As noted, youth view formal education as important for preparing for employment. Their feelings on whethereducation is currently relevant to employment are mixed. Approximately 22, 13 and 20 percent of youthrespectively in Kosovo, Georgia and Tajikistan say they have jobs. Among these youth, 24 percent in Kosovo,31 percent in Georgia and 53 percent in Tajikistan say their education is relevant to their current work. About47 percent of youth in Kosovo, 55 percent in Georgia and 24 percent in Tajikistan say it’s not (the remainder ineach case say it’s “somewhat” relevant). Youth opinions on education’s links with employment in Kosovo andGeorgia are particularly influenced by high youth unemployment rates, including where youth cannot alwaysfind work in their chosen profession; mismatches between the skills learned in school and those required inthe workforce; and nepotism and discrimination in the job market (including as felt by ethnic minority RomaAshkalia Egyptian youth in Kosovo). The comparatively positive experiences of youth in Tajikistan might reflecta relatively lower youth unemployment rate, albeit still high, and the high possibility of outmigration foremployment. Many youth in all cases also express concern that limited job prospects and often low pay willnot allow them to recoup expenses for rising education costs incurred in part in order to secure work later on.Interestingly, although female youth are more likely to be unemployed in each setting than male youth (dataon female youth unemployment are unavailable for Tajikistan, but it is likely higher than male unemployment),females with jobs surveyed more often see the relevance of their education to their current work than theirmale counterparts. As outlined below, youth call for more practical learning opportunities, freedom to shapetheir course choices from expanded offerings, better access to technology in schools and libraries, languagetraining and international study, in part to enhance their job prospects. Youth emphasize that a high quality physical and social learning environment is important for sustaining their motivation for learning, ensuring success and equity in achievement and maintaining their health, safety and comfort so they can concentrate on learning.Basics matter. Many youth are very satisfied with their learning environment in each setting, while manyothers report at times serious problems with school infrastructure, maintenance and services that impedetheir learning. Youth in all three cases want modern facilities that support safe, practical learning (especially inscience) and the development of specialized skills, including to achieve higher education and professionalgoals. They too often lack and still desire functioning heating, electricity and water systems; furniture; well-equipped laboratories; computer and Internet technology; books; libraries; classroom space, including forextracurricular activities; sports facilities and equipment; cafeterias; health spots; elevators, ramps and otherfacilities for students with disabilities; and more. Of these many gaps, youth most often emphasize the needfor more, better quality, free and low-cost books in multiple languages; functioning computers and Internetservice, with skilled teachers to instruct them on their use; and heat and electricity to power the technologythey need and desire. Children and youth do not learn in environments where they do not feel safe, andfortunately, most youth report largely feeling safe in and around school. At the same time, many say thatviolence is occurring in or around school, especially between students. Urgent action is needed to stem thisviolence, and youth call for more school psychologists and social workers to address these and other social andemotional issues they are facing, especially in areas and among populations that were most directly affectedby armed conflict. Youth prioritize improvements in learning content that modernize education systems, rather than core subjects.Youth across the three countries call for surprisingly few changes to core subjects such as history, mathematicsand literature and seem to accept these subjects as suitable. Instead, they prioritize subjects and learningcontent that modernize education systems to provide them with more chances to use computers and theInternet, learn foreign languages, engage in student exchange programs and learn with engaging teachingmethods and hands on applications. Despite advances in computerizing schools and classrooms, gaps in accessto technology contribute to inequities in achievement. Students are also interested in more in- and out-of-
  5. 5. school job training and internship opportunities to enhance practical learning and job prospects. Many wouldlike more freedom to choose their courses from a wider selection of electives, allowing them to better shapetheir employment goals. Extracurricular, after school activities are also key for sustaining youth motivation tolearn, as they cater to diverse interests in non-formal learning beyond the formal curriculum. Some of theirinterests include sports training and competitions, creative arts, clubs and seminars and “events for youth”such as concerts or charity activities. Government policies on multi-lingual education are further key toinclusive learning and success after graduation. Youth from both minority and majority ethnic communities callfor more language learning opportunities that support cross-community interaction, reduce discriminationand, or expand job prospects. More research is also needed on the ways in which different groups do andwould prefer to receive information on health, nutrition, gender, sex/physical relationships and peace andtolerance, its impacts and the role of schools in its delivery. Currently, younger youth tend to rely more onschools for this learning content, and some sub-groups of youth appear to have very limited access,particularly females in Tajikistan. High quality teaching is essential to equitable access to high quality education and educational attainment for youth.Lack of support from well qualified teachers contributes to dropouts and undermines student motivation andtheir ability to learn. Youth in each country show a high level of respect for and gratitude toward their teachersand say they often use engaging and interactive methods and actively show interest in their progress. At thesame time, many are frustrated with a lack of teachers and, or those with specialized skills (especially inTajikistan); failure to fully implement education reforms, including more participatory and practical learningapproaches with adequate materials and equipment; poor communication at times between teachers, parentsand students; and ongoing corruption, including nepotism and bribery for grades and education opportunities.More than a fifth of respondents in Georgia and Tajikistan respectively somewhat or fully agree that studentsmust give money or other benefits to teachers to earn good grades. About 47 percent of youth in Kosovofurther say that attendance in private courses is necessary for earning a good grade, especially in ethnic Serbmajority areas. Many youth are further frustrated by mismatches between curricula and exam requirements,including where teachers lack specialized skills and are ill-prepared and equipped to implement new educationrequirements. All of these teaching challenges diminish education quality for youth, create barriers toeducation access and equity, demoralize students and create feelings of vulnerability and insecurity amongthem. Youth call for increased teacher salaries; regular and better training and professional developmentopportunities for teachers; smaller class sizes and one learning shift; strong parent-teacher-studentconsultation processes; better links between curricula and exams; stepped up efforts to end corruption in theeducation system; and more financial support for youth and families who need it most. Failure to fully and equitably implement education reforms fuels feelings of confusion and frustration and provides disincentives to youth to continue their education.Many youth praise and appreciate education reform achievements in their countries but also feel that muchmore needs to be done to ensure their implementation and success, especially in Kosovo. Just 19 percent ofyouth in Kosovo say a full on “yes” that reform efforts have led to improvements in education compared with44 percent in Georgia and 42 percent in Tajikistan. Youth in Kosovo are particularly frustrated with failure tofully implement reforms, including more practical learning approaches and well matched curricula and examrequirements. Many youth in Tajikistan see the benefits of equipment and infrastructure improvements butstill feel many gaps. Georgia youth are particularly highly informed about education reform but have struggledwith its rapid implementation and resulting inequities in access, including amid rising costs. Youth in all threecases also recognize that successful education reforms cost money, and most youth in Georgia and Tajikistanthink their governments should spend more on ensuring quality education (youth in Kosovo were not askedabout public expenditure on education). Overall, many youth in Kosovo and Tajikistan want to see the pace ofeducation reform picked up, while youth in Georgia caution against rapid implementation that can lead toinequities. Youth suggest that reforms be progressive, tested, in keeping with international standards butbased on and adapted to country needs and realities, well funded and rolled out equitably and with oversight,including from youth. Students immediately affected by new exam requirements also require support urgentlyto succeed and avoid missing opportunities to progress and complete their education. Strong youth awarenessof education reform progress is an indication of their interest and engagement, but some youth are distinctlyless aware, sidelining them from participating in meaningful education debate. A higher proportion of youth inTajikistan say they do not know enough about education reforms and government spending on education
  6. 6. compared with youth in Kosovo and Georgia. Females in Tajikistan are particularly unaware, while females inKosovo and Georgia are more informed than males. Youth show substantial confidence in their education authorities to deliver better education. At the same time, more youth express disappointment with education authorities than they do with education quality overall. Many youth also note ongoing politicization of education that impedes learning.Relatively few youth in Kosovo and Georgia say that they feel education authorities are “doing a great job”providing good quality education at all levels to all students – just 10 percent in Kosovo and 19 percent inGeorgia – compared with 37 percent in Tajikistan. Youth in each case, however, indicate a substantial amountof trust that government can do a better job – 71 percent of youth in Kosovo feel this way, as do 51 percent inGeorgia and 42 percent in Tajikistan. At the same time, 18 percent of youth in Kosovo, 26 percent in Georgiaand 22 percent in Tajikistan say that education authorities are not prioritizing education or that they are flatout not representing their interests. In each case, this lack of trust in education authorities to deliver betterservices felt by a fifth to a quarter of youth outpaces the proportion of youth who rate the quality of educationoverall as below average – just 8 to 13 percent, as noted above. Such findings show that youth confidence inthe willingness and, or ability of education authorities to provide better services can begin to flag even beforeyouth perceive education quality overall as sub-par. Education authorities in each case thus have anopportunity to work rapidly to improve education quality for youth while youth have a substantial amount ofconfidence in them to deliver better services. At the same time, some youth cite ongoing politicization ofeducation as impeding learning processes and creating inequities. Youth in Kosovo cite political partyinterference in education, and Georgia youth cite politics in general as creating disruptions, including throughpolitical manipulation of education administration and management. A quarter of youth in Tajikistan feel statemilitary training should be dropped from the curriculum, but its inclusion is defended by more than half.Education policy that reflects political controversies also at times excludes youth from education opportunitiessuch as some females in Tajikistan who do not attend school due to their inability to wear a hijab. (Youth inTajikistan are split on whether hijabs should be allowed in school, with 45 percent fully disagreeing and 33percent fully agreeing on allowing them). The degrees to which youth are able to participate in the classroom, in extracurricular activities and in education decision-making processes are key measures of education quality for many youth.There is wide room for expanding youth involvement in learning processes and education decision-making,and many youth are hungry for more opportunities. Less than a third of respondents in any of the countriesfeels that there are enough opportunities for youth involvement in education decision-making. They name awide range of barriers to making their voices heard and that hinder progress in addressing education inequitieson many levels. Youth are at times frustrated with their own complacency, stemming in part from fear ofreprisal, and at times with their efforts at participation being ignored and disrespected within educationstructures. At least half of youth in Kosovo and Georgia say that student councils and governments are activein their schools and universities, while only about 33 percent of youth say they are functioning in Tajikistan.Where student governments function, youth report that they are fairly effective, but they often do not takefull advantage of their formal decision-making power and influence. Only about 7 percent of youth in eachcountry say they are involved a group or organization, ranging from sports groups to student governments andnon-governmental organizations. The they are involved in tend to be affiliated with schools in Georgia andTajikistan, while far fewer are school-affiliated in Kosovo. Since most young people are not involved in groupsand organizations, work to expand opportunities for youth participation in various aspects of life, includingtheir education, must consider approaches that go beyond this model such as online networking and activismand creative endeavors. As also noted above, many youth also call for more spaces and opportunities forextracurricular activities in and out of schools, including at youth centers, for non-formal learning, recreationand socializing. Gaps in education quality support inequities in education access and achievement for youth. Youth identify some efforts to address inequity as having positive effects.Nearly all of the issues youth describe pose challenges to equity of access and achievement in formaleducation that appear to affect many youth and some more than others. A number of examples have beennoted: inadequate facilities and societal views and norms on disability are at times keeping youth withdisabilities from accessing formal education and attaining their education goals; overcrowded classrooms thatshrink the amount of time teachers can devote to students’ individual learning needs decreases the teacher
  7. 7. support youth say is essential to their success and fuels corruption and extra learning costs that theeconomically poorest of youth in particular cannot afford; lack of opportunities for multi-lingual education inschool and for books in multiple languages, creating disadvantages for ethnic minority youth and for all youthaiming to participate fully in their society and the global economy; inadequate access to information ongender, health and other learning content for girls in Tajikistan; and more. While youth cite these and otherinequities in education and their impacts, they also point to progress in addressing them, including successful,if not universally so, efforts to root out corruption in Georgia’s schools, and affirmative action to increasinglyensure tertiary education access to females in Tajikistan. Youth call for more efforts to identify and respond toinequities, including with financial support to the economically poorest youth and families; increased teachersalaries; improved monitoring and oversight of education systems and programs; policies of inclusion for youthwith disabilities; and sensitization programs and other incentives to families to increase youth educationenrolment and completion, especially of ethnic minority youth, including RAE youth in Kosovo, and of femaleyouth in Tajikistan.Assumptions about the relative advantage and disadvantage of sub-groups of youth should also be furtherresearched and addressed on a case-by-case basis. Despite poverty being concentrated in rural areas, whereenrollment rates are reportedly lower across the region, in Georgia and Tajikistan, youth in urban areas oftenregister more dissatisfaction with education quality than youth in rural areas, while there are few differencesamong urban and rural youth in Kosovo. Some of the difference in Georgia and Tajikistan might stem from theconcentration of higher education institutions in urban areas, where tertiary-educated youth often voicestronger concerns, but this correlation does not explain it all. More research is needed on the distincteducation quality challenges facing youth in both rural and urban areas, including issues facing the urban poorand the influence of religious and other conservatism, politics and other factors in urban areas. Genderdifferences further play out differently in each case, where for example, female youth in Georgia are morelikely to reach tertiary education but are far less likely than males to do so in Tajikistan. The differentexperiences of sub-groups of youth in distinct country contexts must be understood well in order to pursuerelevant education quality improvements that address inequities. Youth priorities for improving education quality are diverse, but they most often prioritize issues relating to learning processes and systems and their physical and social learning environment as key areas for action.The top 10 most frequently cited priorities for improving education quality in each case amount to justbetween 47 and 64 percent of the respective responses, indicating that obstacles to accessing high qualityeducation are at times very individual and that youth have a rich range of ideas for change. Most issues centeron learning environment and learning processes and systems concerns, emphasizing the importance of thesedomains to young people’s learning experiences. Youth in Georgia and Tajikistan cite learning processes andsystems priorities most often, while Kosovo youth most often prioritize learning environment issues. Youthmake clear, however, that all of the education quality domains they outline are intertwined and interact toproduce the high quality education they desire. The top three most frequently named priorities in each caseinclude: Kosovo: 1. More classes with practical applications; 2. More laboratories for practical applications; 2. Improved teacher qualifications (tied for second place). Georgia: 1. Reduced education costs; 2. Youth are qualified for chosen vocations; 3. Improved school and university conditions. Tajikistan: 1. Youth study, behave well and complete school; 2. Improved teacher qualifications and training (specialists provided); 3. Improved and modernized conditions of schools and universities (furniture, electricity, heating, water, libraries, sports facilities, laboratories, food, renovations)Overall, young people are pushing for modern education systems that meet or exceed international standards,where all youth have access and the supports they need to form and reach their learning goals. Access to
  8. 8. computers and the Internet and increases in teacher salaries are strong priorities, and in general, youth wantlearning content and approaches that support stable, inclusive societies that are very much part of the widerglobal community. Youth also often movingly emphasize their own roles in making high quality education areality in their setting. A key measure of youth satisfaction with education quality in these countries, and likelymany others, is undoubtedly the extent to which they feel supported in taking individual initiative andresponsibility for confronting obstacles to post-primary education and successfully completing their educationgoals. Support must in part help youth confront at times deep cultural and religious barriers to youtheducation, in addition to addressing the many other diverse, interacting issues youth describe, from educationfunding to teacher training. They call on governments at all levels; school, university and other educationauthorities; teachers; parents; international actors; their peers; and others to work together and deepenefforts to address the concerns they outline. Many of these are described in more detail in the following pagesand in individual case reports, including a range of recommendations for action.

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