“AlmaLaurea? A good idea for other countries”
Implementing knowledge and exchange tools to guide the educational policies of a country towards the road to development. This is the suggestion of Adriana Jaramillo, Senior Education Specialist and Human Development Coordinator at the Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration and World Bank, who participated in the Conference “After the higher education degree: paths of study and work-based learning in Italy and in the international context”. On the occasion of the presentation of AlmaLaurea’s 14th Survey on the Graduates’ Employment Conditions, Jaramillo highlighted the importance of monitoring and assessment tools in order to improve the higher education systems. “One of the critical elements of higher education systems, not just in the Middle East and North African regions but also in other places, – said Jaramillo – is the lack of objective indicators” which are capable of guiding the educational policies by setting the goals and the assessment criteria for the projects”. Alongside these, also the implementation of a network of exchange between businesses and those who have completed their studies and are seeking a job may contribute to the welfare of a country: “In Italy – Jaramillo observed – the students who use AlmaLaurea find a job in a shorter period of time: exporting such tools would be beneficial to other countries, too”. After the experience of cooperation with Morocco, also Tunisia is approaching AlmaLaurea through a pilot project: “If this concept, this methodology are positively accepted by the Tunisian institutions and, above all, by the public – concluded Jaramillo –, I think we may extend them to a larger number of countries”.
Access of graduates to the job market and employment opportunities has become increasingly difficult. Do you think that systems like AlmaLaurea’s can be effective in matching the demand and supply of human capital?
“I think initiatives like AlmaLaurea - which aim precisely at bringing demand and supply together at one point – are very important. As we can see from the results of AlmaLaurea, the Italian students that are using this tool have better chances of finding jobs in a shorter period of time. I think in other countries it would definitely be a good idea”.
Also in the light of the successful AlmaLaurea cooperation with Morocco, how do you rate the possibility of extending this experience to other countries of the Mediterranean area and, in particular, those of the Southern shore? Which countries are, in your opinion, most suitable for the implementation of such a system?
“After the experience with Morocco, we are now discussing with Tunisia. They are actually very interested and are going to start with a pilot project in a few universities. If this methodology is positively accepted by the Tunisian institutions, I think we will be able to extend it to a larger number of countries”.
Do you think that the establishment of comprehensive national monitoring and assessment systems based on objective data as well as on quantitative and qualitative indicators in countries that lack such tools can help the upgrading of higher education systems and contribute to the development of more effective systems of governance?
“Yes, the answer to this question is definitively yes. One of the critical elements of higher education systems, not just in the Middle East and North African regions but also in other places, is the lack of objective indicators. First, there is a lack of definition of what are the results that the system intends to obtain. Once those results are defined, it is important to define indicators and monitor them over time. This is very critical for improvement, first of all to know whether you are meeting the results that you intend to meet or, if you are not able to reach them, to understand the reasons why and introduce changes into policies. Having monitoring systems and criteria as well as making the information available widely to people is a very important element in improving the quality of services”.
Access rates to education in the third sector are high in the Middle East and North Africa if compared to other countries with the same development level, yet it seems that the quantitative increase in human capital is not yielding any widespread economic or social benefits. What are, in your opinion, the main reasons underlying this phenomenon?
“I must say that the causes are multiple ones and have to do with issues relating both to the demand and supply side. Concerning demand, unfortunately the economies of the Middle East and North Africa have neither grown enough nor fast enough to take in the graduates who leave university. Another reason – closely linked to the first one – is that development in the private sector has so far been weak. This certainly does not help create new jobs, new services and new products. It is a bit like a vicious circle. If we consider the issues on the supply side, i.e. in the education system, there are several things which could be different. Concerning entry rates, for example, we see that 35% of enrolments are in the areas of humanities and social sciences: maybe there is a mismatch between what the students decide to study, the study opportunities that the governments offer them and what the economy and the stage of development in those countries actually require. It is indeed a complex phenomenon”.