The countries of Europe and Central Asia (ECA) are currently emerging from the deepest recession suffered by any developing region. Post-crisis conditions are very different from those of preceding years. Financial resources are more limited and more expensive, and export growth is restrained by potentially slower growth in destination countries. Restoring and sustaining growth in this context require reforms that boost competitiveness and increase labor productivity. Such reforms are all the more important given the shrinking of the working-age population in many countries of the region.
This book uses a range of different data sources to argue that the skills problem in the ECA region relates more to the quality and relevance of the education provided in ECA countries than to problems of access. A central argument of the book is that ministries of education are constrained in a number of ways from effectively managing their education and training sectors. The three most important and interrelated impediments to improving quality and relevance are the lack of systematic data on key skills-related performance issues (i.e., how much students are learning and whether they are finding jobs after they graduate), the legacy of central planning, and inefficient use of resources. Lack of data on student learning and employment outcomes makes it difficult for education ministries to address the legacy of central planning, which emphasizes centralized management based on inputs. Ministries of education in the region continue to micromanage the sector using detailed norms and regulations.