Deep reform in education system

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at a meeting with excellent high school students on reform in education system:

While listening to the Minister, I remembered that I have known her as a principal, whereas deputy minister as vice principal and today the principal has become a minister and vice principal a deputy minister. I think it could not have been better than this at least for school students because they both come from a relatively long and intensive life in high school community with high school students, pupils, parents and teachers and do not only have a rational familiarity but also an emotional familiarity, which is very important when it comes to a reform. And the State Matura reform is a necessary reform and we think that today we can fully convinced say that we have a totally credible document to undertake such a reform and wait to see its positive effects year after year.

I asked the minister to organize this meeting with excellent high school students, because I have always had a special respect for these very young people, who in such difficult reality of ours, shine despite obstacles, despite environment that does not always automatically appreciate the shine of someone, while in general and it is a pity, an unfriendly rather than friendly environment in relation to success.

I have said these same words, I mean the essence of these words, because I might have used other words, also when Tirana Municipality has accorded the first scholarships for best high school students when I had in front of me best high school students, from pupils to State Matura students, and I would not be surprised if any of those children who have heard those words then was here today and listen to them again.  But, what I want to underline is that we need to pay more attention to merit and create much more space for competition, because by paying more attention to merit and creating space for competition, we would have more success, not only in the individual aspect, not only for those who same as many of you, despite obstacles, despite system that does not motivate them, manage to be successful and shine, but also for those who in a motivating system are closer to success than failure.

Our system today does not motivate success and hides failure. Thus, whoever obtains the highest grade does not feel the merited satisfaction not only by oneself and in his family but also in the environment where he is being appreciated, even those who fail do not get to know that have failed, do not understand.  But, not being able to understand failure, which is the basis of this entire system, causes catastrophic consequences with the passing of time, which later on affect the individual, who has missed the time of doing things that are done in school, and it later on affect the society that losses entire years and entire generation of high school students by hiding every opportunity to understand failure.

I am very grateful to you for being here, not only because you attended a meeting, but because you are part and represent a category of special people of our society, in the conditions experienced by our society and in the middle of a struggle where Albania is today in its path toward recovery, when being seriously wounded and with a lot of disabilities.

We are committed to turn State Matura into an opportunity for all, but at the same time to create a process that empowers talents, empowers strong wills and empowers merit. We are also very determined to carry out a complete reform, without forgetting – the minister made a detailed analysis – that we cannot put on high school students, who will soon pass their State Matura, the burden of a very difficult heritage. In this respect, we consider it an absurd that foreign language exam is not part of a leaving exams, but on the other side, we cannot say that since this year it will become a leaving exam as the others and penalize everyone, because – reiterating but the minister said – we cannot tell high school students you have not done your homework, when it is the Government that has not done its job for years, causing difficulties to high school students for obtaining successful results in this exam.

We will bring in improvements and novelties step by step, without rushing, but also without stopping before an obstacle and by following a plan that puts an end to a history of chaos and experiments, carried out by politicians and paid dearly by high school students and families, when at the end everything is dearly paid by society itself.

I would like to highlight an aspect that I consider very important in this reform, which has to do with the fact of putting an end to the illusion that everyone in this country will become an economist, lawyer and engineer and that everyone will get a degree and everyone would attend higher education studies. This is an illusion created for not facing a very big problem, a very deep wound which – unfortunately – because of not being taken into consideration for years has become deeper and bigger – unemployment among youth. For not dealing with youth unemployment, politicians have chosen to send everyone to university and buy time and secure tranquillity with the money that parents invest from their lifetime savings in doing maximum for their children and postponing the confrontation with the short-sighted vision to let the next one cope with this problem. Going on with the thought that as long as I am on power I would buy time and tranquillity with the money of the people, to whom I am making the propaganda that Albania is the country where everyone can go to university, everyone can become economists and lawyers and everyone can be happy with a diploma tomorrow. The fact is  – and you know it very well – that today we are facing the consequences of such short-sighted politics.

But, how can we put an end to this illusion? We will not invent anything. We will just humbly learn from the experience of others, those who are more developed than us, those who have more experience than us, those who at the end are the model that we take for Albania in the United Europe, and if you wish in our region, where there is not only one lane for high school students – a lane heading to the door of Faculty of Law, Faculty of Economy or Faculty of Engendering – but there is also another lane, which heads to the path of a profession, i.e. path toward vocational education.

We have started to open Employment Offices, which are an instrument that we believe will help in creation of a meeting point between jobseekers – and in this case the young jobseekers – and employers, concretely the enterprises which need to hire people. On one side we have registered a high unemployment rate and on the other side, what do we notice? The Tirana Employment Office has at disposal 3 thousand vacancies. How come? There is a reason. These are not vacancies for economists or lawyers. These are jobs for people with certain skills.

What else do we notice? It is a new experience and we will see it also in the future, but I am convinced that it will change, but we notice that majority of those who have benefited from the Employment Office – until today – are Albanians like you and me who have returned from emigration in Italy and Greece, who have two different characteristics compared to majority of us here: First, they do not have the illusion that can find such a job in which could earn more money by not working and sitting in coffee bars than working; second, they have a profession that meets the demands.

The other side of the medal is that all these lawyers and economists destroy the entire system that gives those who are real economists and lawyers the opportunity to be economists and lawyers in the public and private sectors, because there is one type of degree for all. Then, what times show is another thing.

The model we will introduce in this reform is ‘Matura-plus two’.

‘Matura- plus two’ is related to vocational education. Thus, one part, the most talented, those who have worked hard and are very ambitious would continue their academic journey. The other part will go on and learn a skill, in order to have a profession, as an instrument that could help them earn their living not only by being an employee somewhere but also by opening their small business with this profession and hire others thank to these skills. As it happens also in those countries that we refer and certainly where there are no illusions and lies turned into a system, there is no buying time and tranquillity while governing with the money of parents and dreams of youth.

This separation from the past would enable us to have new perspectives in both aspects step by step and year after year. Let us not forget those who now are in the eve of their State Matura and in six months will be at the university, because we are drafting the reform in higher education, in parallel. Thus, we want these two reforms to become communicating vessels with each other, whereas process of passing from the law on reform into reform as a system in reality could start giving first results within four years and lay foundations for next 20-30 years in service of knowledge and labour market.

I can tell you – without moving to another argument and without wasting your time – about an internal report of the Public Administration Department on level of education of the administration employees or those aspiring to work in the administration. There exists a dramatic situation regarding the extraordinary flow of degrees, masters and PhDs received from all possible directions, which from one side are legally accepted, but on the other side are the most gruesome indicator of an entire system of merit and values obtained through academic work. I don’t think there is another country in the world could that compete with us for Doctor of Sciences per km/square. Without calculating the master degrees, which I am convinced we can find them every 100/m2 in populated areas, because it is hard to believe not to find someone with a master degree in 100/m2. Even if you join two 50/m2 apartments, there will certainly be someone with a master degree. Where are we heading to? We are going toward destruction. Toward a destruction with incalculable consequences.

If we have a look at the graphic of economic growth of EU countries in several decades, we can notice an extraordinary interesting thing in common showing the growth in certain periods and certain countries in an unusual increasing trend, which is related to a reform in education. Thus, a country registers an economic growth during a certain period because it started to receive the fruits of this special reform in the education system in the course of this period, which is in fact a reform aiming to invest in human capital, increase of human capital and consolidation of human capital. In the mean time, we used to talk about roads, talk about investments in stones and slabs – certainly important – and we have forgotten for years the investments in human capital, as anyone else has ever done. We talk about water resources, which are really major asset of our country, but when it comes to human resources, which should had been our greatest asset, as it happens in every small successful country, we have an unimaginable exhaustion.

Another easily verifiable data – for all those who are curious – is that in a comparison with countries of same geographical size and same number of inhabitants and more or less rich or poor, the richest people are not those who have more, richest people are those who know more. The poorest people are not those who have less, but the poorest people are those who know less, meaning the quality of human resources.

The last thing I want to say is that reform in education is in general a reform which politicians tend to postpone because it does not give quick results, translated into votes. It has often become a reform that causes big headaches, because when it comes to changing systems it means you should harm interests, cut strings and at the end break a status quo, which has become comfortable for everyone. Even in this aspect, I believe it is clear what makes the difference between a developed and undeveloped country : level of responsibility of politicians.

We believe that we have the obligation not only not to postpone this reform, but also to consider it a vital reform for ethics of our governance and relation of our governance with the truths of this country and this Government, and at the end to fulfil our main objective: We do not want to stay on power as long as possible by buying time and tranquillity at people’s expenses, but we want to make use of our stay on duty as long as people have assigned us to make the right political choices. This is the right political choice – deep reformation of our education system. Deep reformation of State Matura, deep reformation of higher education.

Level of compliance with lies has amounted to such a level where entire education system has secured a compliance with farces, such as farce of State Matura. When the minister was speaking, I saw teachers shaking their heads in sign of confirmation that State Matura is a farce. I don’t want to discuss here about concept of State Matura, which is another farce.      I mean the implementation of what was being said, how real was the testing and how real was the completion.

This is a situation of lies and public robbery – you call it copying, we call it lying, at the expense of the society and those who do not merit getting the best grades because have learned, but also to be distinguished among others. Because, at the end, what is the sense of giving best grade to those who listen and best grades to those who do not listen. Am I right? There is no sense!

I am very convinced that this reform would be absolutely successful also for another reason – because has been drafted as a very open process in the type of a very intensive dialogue held with all teachers. When I say all the teachers, I mean the system has discussed this issue, regional education directors were assigned to discuss State Matura with teachers, pupils, parents as soon as their appointment race was completed.

Following announcement of winners in Tirana competition, I, the ministry and all the directors were together and one of the things we have required was: We must reform the system. You have the task to make everyone part of the reformation process not only to listen that nothing goes right, because this is the easiest thing, but also to listen what the pupils, teachers and parents think about this reform.

We are here today for State Matura, but another reform within the Albanian education system is also the text. This is another part of the pain. They have given another name to the text calling it “altertext” and thought we would be received by Europe immediately after changing the name. In fact, the altertext quickly pushed us away from Europe and did not make us join Europe. It turned into a barbarian language, scientific, didactic and whatever mechanism.

Without forgetting at the end also the corruption, because is widely known how all those “mushrooms” are bought, selected and chosen to give it then to high school students and teachers and tell them: Choose now and find out which one is poisonous and which one is not. But, this is another part of the reform and we will broadly discuss it with high school students and teacher, as well as with all the experts and professionals, who have been contacted already and do not believe their own eyes when they hear that altertext may also die one day. When I say one day, I don’t mean tomorrow and I don’t know when. Because we do not want to put this process as an unmerited burden on anyone, not on the high school students, teachers and absolutely not parents. Even for the altertext, we will not take only one step, but several steps.

In conclusion, I would like to deeply thank you for your attention, I do not know if I merited it and if it was worth your patience to listen to what I had to say. I am sure you could listen to Lindita even longer without getting bored. I do not want to keep you here listen to me further because it seems like that as long as the one speaking is the Prime Minister and he is even 198 centimetres tall you can’t help but listen to him. Nevertheless, we must respect also those who listen, but also those who do not listen, who I do not understand how could have resisted for so long and have not left. But, I think I know why you are not listening. It is the fault of the girl on your side.

Thank you very much.