Interest in the vocational education system in Azerbaijan is low. While 40 to 60% of graduates from developed countries enter primary vocational education institutions after general secondary education, in Azerbaijan the number falls to 11%. There are 116 public and two private vocational schools and colleges, employing more than 5,500 members of staff. In total they have more than 23,800 students on their books studying over 150 different subjects and specialties.

The primary vocational education system in Azerbaijan faces many challenges. Vocational schools and colleges often overlap offering the same education specialties, and many education institutions are mostly occupied with refugees and displaced families. Their facilities have substantial wear and tear, and there are inadequate financing mechanisms from the state budget. Textbooks and curriculums used in schools and colleges often fail to comply with modern requirements.

Other issues include a lack of appropriate financing mechanisms and related legal framework, lack of advanced monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of performance of institutions and an inadequate level of training for employees. In many cases there are weak links between enterprises of different ownership types and vocational education institutions, a lack of targeted career guidance in general education institutions and a lack of responding to labor market needs.

These issues go beyond the remit of the Ministry of Education. Other government and non-governmental institutions are needed to help reorganise the vocational education system. 

A comprehensive analysis of the problems faced by primary public and private vocational education institutions in Azerbaijan shows the need for major changes in the system. In order to respond to the rapidly changing labour market needs, Azerbaijan must follow the practices of leading countries with successful, economically viable and sustainable vocational education systems.

In our view Azerbaijan needs to create a new and more attractive image of the primary vocational education system to respond quickly to labour market requirements. Currently, there is a big gap between the quantity and quality of graduates and labour market requirements. This will help modernise the country and improve its international competitiveness. This must include the development of new technologies and the introductions of innovations that accelerate economic and social changes needed due to technological and environmental requirements of production including energy saving, alternative energy and green technology.

More engineering teachers must be trained with the necessary skills and knowledge to modernize the education process. The public vocational education system must be rationalised in order to eliminate inefficiency, and support given to private sector development. 

Modernisation should be carried out through an improved legal framework in line with modern requirements, an improved training of vocational education personnel, financial support and upgrade of logistics and improved management structures.

The improved legal framework must prepare and adopt the Vocational Education Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan; developing a long-term government programme on vocational education. This must include the approval of a National Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning of the Republic of Azerbaijan; preparing and approving the new classification of specialties in the primary vocational education in line with the labour market requirements. 

A legal framework is needed, aimed at encouraging private vocational education institutions; preparing regulations to ensure transition to the module-based vocational education system.

Institutions must prepare result-oriented curricula based on skills (competencies) in line with the new vocational education standards, in conjunction with government and non-government institutions and employers. They must prepare text-books using new technologies; along with formal education (that gives state certificates and diplomas on education) develop methodology to recognise skills acquired informally (through self-education) and non-formally (through various courses, individual lessons without issue of the state certificate/diploma on education). There is a need to develop graduation documents recognised by international organisations and to establish career guidance for students and their parents within general education sector.

There is a need for improved training, retraining and professional advancement of personnel in the primary vocational education system, better material motivation and the creation of graded and competitive pay-scales for engineering teachers through their performance evaluation.

Another key area in the transformation of the vocational education system is financial support and the upgrade of logistics. We must apply multi-source financing schemes and encourage extra-budgetary revenues through self-financing of education institutions, gradually upgrading logistics base in the primary vocational education institutions through efficient use of relevant government funds and international support programs.

A pivotal move would be establishment of a State Agency on Vocational Education at the Ministry of Education to conduct government policy and improve management of the primary vocational education system. This will optimise the network of primary vocational education institutions that provide overlapping education in same specialties and in the same regions. It would also help rationalise the network of primary vocational education institutions through more efficient use of existing funds, logistics and engineering teaching capacity taking into account regional, social and economic development prospects.

The ultimate ambition is an improved legal, economic and information framework of primary vocational education, transforming the image of the sector in Azerbaijan. This would involve a management system based on public-private partnership, a rationalised network of vocational schools and colleges and the financing of primary vocational education system based on a new economic model. With better trained engineering teachers, a well trained workforce for Azerbaijan would emerge to help with the labour market and economic needs of the country.