Azerbaijan Ambassador delivers interesting overview to EDU Secretary-General
In continuation of his recent theme of strengthening involvement in the Caucasus Region of Eurasia, H.E. Irving Le-Vance, the Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Organization EDU, was received by renowned Azerbaijan diplomat His Excellency Altai Efendiev.
The pleasant meeting covered a wide range of educational, economic and investment related issues relevant to the country and the zone.
Ambassador Altai Efendiev heads the Azerbaijan Embassy in Madrid, Spain. He has been heavily involved in diplomacy and development including a tour as Deputy Secretary-General of the Permanent International Secretariat of the intergovernmental Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC PERMIS).
Prior to that appointment Ambassador Efendiev had an economic background and before he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 1992, worked as academic researcher as well as lectured in universities in Baku, Azerbaijan.
During 1994-2000 he served as Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of Azerbaijan to the UK covering also Denmark, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.
From 2000 until May 2004 he served as Head of Department of Economic Cooperation and Development and Economic Adviser to Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He is well familiar with the Organisation of the BSEC and has been actively involved in its activities as a member of the Committee of Senior Officials of the BSEC, as well as National Director representing Azerbaijan at the influential think-tank International Centre for Black Sea Studies – ICBSS.
Growth of Education
Turning to education matters, Ambassador Efendiev explained that Azerbaijan still faces challenges in its transition from the former Soviet system, based on ideology.
There has been rapid growth due to policies to build a modern, flexible, dynamic education system to cope with rapidly changing demands.
There is a big demand for qualified specialists such as Engineers and that high demand is not yet being met by local institutions.
The Government of Azerbaijan has implemented a state program to send students abroad to study which began in 2007 and will run until 2015 when its efficacy is re-assessed. More than 1000 students have participated in this program which features generous scholarships which cover travel and living costs as well as tuition fees. This program is run parallel to a domestic program modernizing the national education system.
The main need has been identified as being for specialized education – not necessarily higher education but specialised to fit what the economy and job market requires.
Primary and secondary education is compulsory, while tertiary education is optional.
Quality of Education
A number of private universities have been established in the last decade and while largely successful, not all have met the standards expected.
In all probability, the number of private universities will reduce as tougher standards are enforced by stricter oversight. This is a move which is thoroughly supported by EDU.
In the Soviet era, Azerbaijan provided education programs to students from developing countries in the oil, engineering and medical disciplines. There are moves to regain this status as an education exporter, which will provide an aspect of diversification to an economy largely based around hydrocarbons.
This effort is being led by the program to attract international student to the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy where the programs are taught in English.
As a keen advocate of the educational qualities of sport, the Secretary-General was impressed with an initiative earlier this year by the new Realmadrid Foundation to establish a social football school in Azerbaijan.
It will be located in the city of Baku and will benefit 100 boys and girls who are at risk of social exclusion.
The Realmadrid Foundation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a collaboration agreement in April. The ceremony, which was held in the Santiago Bernabéu stadium’s Salón Real, was presided over by Enrique Sánchez, the Executive Vice-President of the Realmadrid Foundation; Ismayil Ismayilov, the Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan; and of course was attended by Ambassador Altai Efendiev.
According to Enrique Sánchez, executive vice-president of the Realmadrid Foundation:
The Ambassador ended his overview with the observation that Azerbaijan is a majority Muslim but nonetheless Secular country and is proud of the fact that is a model demonstrating the move of a multi-ethnic, post-Soviet society moving from a centralized to a to a market economy.
The Secretary-General thanked the Ambassador for an enlightening overview of current and future developments of the Azerbaijan Education system and agreed to study possible areas for cooperation.
His Excellency Altai Efendiev, interview with media 'El Economista'. (spanish language)