Public consultation with high school students on new National Youth Strategy 

A country-wide public consultation was launched with pupils and high school students to discuss a new National Youth Strategy 2022-2029, a process aimed at drafting a final working document and a set of concrete commitments for the local and national institutions in a bid to further empower Albanian youth.

 

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at meeting with Ismail Qemali high school students in Tirana:

 

Hello everyone!

It is a pleasure to be here today and after listening many of the students who took the floor here, I am really glad to come here, because it is actually the right thing to do, but also because it is a very exciting and thought- provoking discussion about many seemingly minor things, but with a significant impact on the daily life of every student.

This is a process Bora has launched in her capacity as the State Minister for Youth and Children as part of the new National Youth Strategy to draft a document, which, unlike the usual documents of this kind, reflects the aspirations and the proposals of those the strategy is actually meant for.

On the other hand, apart from the strategy, which is supposed to be a document projected to cover a long span of several years, the process will be very useful for us to figure out and address immediate issues or issues that can be addressed in a mid-term period. Of course, it would be best that the highest possible number of high school and university students involve in the process. The today’s meeting is seeing actually significantly high participation as it brings together the representatives of three high education schools in Tirana.

Bora’s plan is for every high school send its representatives in such conversations that will go on for several months, so that the process involves all high school students throughout Albania, yet it would be best that some of you here – even everyone of you though I think not everybody would be interested in joining such events – but some of you here commit yourselves in helping to further expand this consultation process by assessing the opinion of other students, who are not attending this meeting, and convey their opinions to us. Whoever of you wishes to involve in this process, it would be best for them exchanging contact info with the Minister so that they become somehow points of reference for other students at your high schools and more opinions are collected. On the other hand, for the process not to be limited into a conversation like this one today, although a very good one, yet it is insufficient since you too, once this meeting is over, will have your own reflections and there could be other aspects you were not reminded of today and can express them later.

It would be best that such a discussion is taken to a different level with students presenting their opinions in a written form and let the today’s meeting be just a initial exercise to identify and write down the main priorities for each and every one of you and if the process would further expand later it would create a much clearer sense in terms of the support numerically for a certain issue or another. Which are really the priorities identified in the interest and demands from many students and the priorities identified in the demands of a smaller number of students, even of a single individual, who might forward an idea that could turn out to be very useful for everyone and as such it should gain the support of the majority of you.

The second I would say- I don’t want to take up too much of your time, since you have been talking and discussing at this meeting for a long time now, and I would like you all for keeping staying here – is that some of the issues you discussed here seem to be very sensitive and it is necessary to address them as soon as possible, but I am glad that many of these issues have been already included in our new government program, starting with the indispensability to totally transform learning resources on IT subjects related to information technology. I fully agree with those who drew attention to the fact that the IT labs, even in the schools where they are available, they still leave much to be desired, not only in terms of granting access to the IT lab equipment for all students, but also in terms of the teaching quality.

On the other hand, it is absolutely incomprehensible that IT subject is taught theoretically, while being not practically accompanied with computer literacy at a practical level. A student can learn all the theory by heart, yet he or she is actually not taught on information technology and therefore is unable to use a computer even for his or her personal needs let alone doing more than that.

Fortunately, the technology is increasingly advancing and I am confident that the plan we have drawn to completely revitalize the information technology labs will hopefully be efficient and we will materialize it definitely starting next school year, or hopefully earlier, when we expect the entire information technology teaching network be totally transformed.

Third, what the participants noted about the laboratories is actually very important. We have largely invested in the educational infrastructure, important investments in school laboratories have been finalized, but what worries me is that everything ends there once the initial investment completes and the computers are purchased and installed in the IT labs at school.

Two or three participants noted that the chemistry labs or other laboratories are well-equipped, but they all lack the due materials to go on with the continued school practice. This is another serious problem because the textbooks you are provided, as one of the participants rightly noted, are based on a completely different learning and teaching approach compared to the textbooks provided previously. The new textbooks are closely related to the school practice program. If textbooks’ content and what is theoretically taught to students based on those textbooks is not properly combined with the school practice classes, in line with the same quality of the Cambridge and Oxford textbooks, then the problem would become really serious.

Fourth, the issue of career counselling in schools is a very sharp problem and I am glad this is not just a conclusion one draws as outsider, but it is a concern that was voiced by the majority of you and of course we need to act and identify the right ways to make it as attractive as possible. It is not just about having reference points in schools that provide counselling and guide students on the career path, but it is also about making it attractive, because it is of a paramount importance for the counselling process to become one that guides students on the path to self-discovery and self-realization vis-à-vis what they come across and they are told about various potential domains of their career.

Likewise, the extracurricular programs in our schools are still very poor. It is like icing on top of the cake, it is like doing drudgery work and a significant gap in terms of educating pupils and students as decent citizens, although they could excel when it comes to learning.

In this aspect, our idea is to further strengthen the art and crafts as a subject on the school curriculum, but in a much broader sense rather than just painting, drawing, music, theatre to move really towards creating fresh opportunities – one of the participating girls noted it, I think, since girls discussed more than boys here and this is a trend, although there are still people complaining why the cabinet comprises more women than men – to develop some initial concepts and basic know-how on trades and crafts that would help everyone to develop a clearer idea about the domain of his or her future career.

In this aspect, the crafts include a wide range of domains, from things related to the land or the manufacturing. Indeed, we are currently working on a very simple project designed to restore much of the schools’ surrounding spaces, theoretically green spaces, but which are practically untapped spaces and we plan to turn them into spaces of production, micro-farms for the students interested in this domain to be taught by an agronomist about the agricultural production cycles. Some modest, yet important chains of values can be created on how the school-grown produces can be used or even sold. Of course it is not about production and sales volumes that would boost the school’s budget, but to embark on that very path, we already mentioned, of taking into consideration everything before deciding about the most attractive domain for your future career.

The same goes for sports, sports clubs, sports classes, and the overall and capillary organization of the sport events in schools. Our goal is to build a well-organized Olympic movement nucleus as the physical education has been already restored as a subject in the school’s curriculum after absurdly being eliminated as a subject for years. However, you know better than me that this is actually insufficient and it fails to offer a lot more to the talented students to engage in more sports activities.

I would like to thank each and every one of you, and I believe these are all challenges of another phase. It was until not long ago when used to discuss about classrooms with unglazed windows, we used to talk about teachers being totally uncertain of their job position and who were politically misused, teachers appointed on the party’s appetite and teachers who were appointed here and there, but that situation has totally changed today and the education system has been taken to a whole new level. We used to talk about totally useless textbooks, but the system has been taken to a whole new level in this respect too. But now with the foundations already laid, the quality teaching issues become more obvious, the problems of a change that transforms the relationship with school into a relationship of a completely different nature, and not just a school-student relationship with the latter going to school, attending the scheduled classes, receiving a grade and going back home. We want this relationship to go beyond that.

This would impact everything that is about to ensue, and I agree 100% with you on that. There is no doubt that a series of significant changes have been made at the high education level or at the primary education level, creating new foundations, on basis of which we can now talk about a lot of other needs that are increasingly becoming emergency needs of education and teaching quality, and not needs for survival, but we still lag behind when it comes the higher education system. That’s why we are doing whatever it takes to pave the way and attract as many as international universities possible to open their branches in Albania, join with our universities and gradually make possible that equal university diplomas recognized in Europe and throughout world are issued so that you no longer need to go abroad to attend an international university, but instead you find foreign public universities here. These are universities that you otherwise would have to leave your homes and spend a lot more from your family budget in order to attend them. This, too, is a process I am confident will take our education system to a whole new level, but it will take time and patience to deliver. There are a number of positive steps we are already taking, but of course this won’t be about the high school students who will graduate this year or next year, because this program will take its time to be finalized.

Again, begging, asking or instructing, you name it, whoever of you wishes to continue being part of this process and help us to collect more opinions from students in your schools, becoming somehow volunteers, since some were worried that there was nothing they could volunteer about, this is your opportunity to become volunteers for the National Youth Strategy as coordinators and volunteers of this entire chain due to be created following the series of meetings Bora and I, wherever and whenever I can, will attend throughout Albania to create by the end of it a very clear picture of all students’ opinions and prepare a report on whole this consultation process. All these coordinators, who will involve in this process, will be handed over the report – we will print it, we won’t force and I don’t grasp and I have never understood how students have been forced to print papers all the time – but we won’t ask you to print the document this time, but you will receive its copies that you will then distribute to other individuals and students who wish to join this process.

Thank you very much!