Since its independence in 1991, the Republic of Moldova has faced ever-growing emigration that continues to shape its economic and social development to a large extent.
In 2015 the National Bureau of Statistics estimated that 25.71% of the economically active population was employed or looking for jobs abroad. This number has almost tripled since 2000, when it was 8.36% of the country’s labour force engaged in international migration for work purposes.
Moreover, according to the Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016, published by the World Bank, Moldova ranks the fifth in the Top Remittance-Receiving Countries, measured as percentage of the gross domestic product. For instance, in 2014 remittances accounted for 26.2% of its GDP.
Nevertheless, despite the continuously increasing impact of migration, the existing policies still fail to fully integrate this phenomenon in their content and to create mechanisms that would promote both the integration of migrants abroad and facilitate the reintegration of returnees. Specifically, it is necessary to consider not only the pool of skills that might be acquired or needed in-country, but also in destination countries and to adjust education policies accordingly.
The effects of labour migration on education
Migration has produced some clearly controversial effects on education in Moldova.
On one hand, labour migration has a recognized positive impact on the access to higher education, as about two thirds of students/graduates have had the possibility to study at a university due to received remittances.
On the other hand, better access to higher education does not always translate into quality. In addition, the mismatch between educational offer and job market demand, among other factors, often results in poor employment prospects that, in turn, drive emigration. Indeed, the findings of the most recent studies show that more than half of the students in the last year of university tend to go abroad to seek work.
In any case, migration affects not only higher education. According to the data presented in the Extended Migration Profile of the Republic of Moldova published by the IOM, in over 35% of school non-attendance, the reported causes relate to migration of parents, and in migrant families, the dropout of young persons from school in view of emigration is almost twice as high. Besides these immediately migration-related facts, a general decrease of the mandatory school enrolment rates, especially in rural areas, is simultaneously observed with an overall school-age population decline.
Furthermore, the deterioration of human capital, being partly a consequence of emigration phenomenon, leads to the diminishing professional qualifications of the teaching staff and negatively affects the quality of education at all levels.
Review of the existent education policy framework through the lens of migration phenomenon
The Education Development Strategy for years 2014–2020 “Education-2020” is the main policy document in the field of education in Moldova. It sets middle-term objectives and defines priority directions of development.
The Strategy makes reference to the migration phenomenon, especially by acknowledging the need to recognize the qualifications and skills obtained by migrants abroad, as currently no such mechanisms exist, except for those obtained in academic settings.
Professional training and re-qualification courses for the unemployed face the same relevancy problems as formal education. Despite the shortage in qualified labour force, there are no mechanisms of recognizing skills, experience and qualifications obtained through learning in non-formal and informal context. The qualifications of migrants, other than those academic, are not recognized.
A set of priority actions meant to tackle the above defined issue are listed under the objective 1.5 of the Strategy, and particularly:
Developing the instruments of recognizing the qualifications obtained in non-formal and informal context within life-learning programs and implementing the mechanism of transferable education credits.
However, as mentioned in the Activity Report of the Ministry of Education for year 2015, the “Regulation regarding the certification of knowledge and skills acquired through non-formal and informal education” is still at the drafting stage.
At the same time, the Strategy only briefly addresses the phenomenon of school dropout in relation to migration. It makes reference to the migration of children for family reintegration purposes, but fails to tackle the problem of school non-attendance by the children left-behind.
The main causes of reduction in enrolment rates in primary and secondary education are especially determined by the inequality in access between urban an rural areas and depend on the income category, inclusion of children with special educational needs and the migration of children for family reintegration.
It is indisputable that labour migration has a significant and controversial effect on the education in the Republic of Moldova.
Although the impact of migration was partially recognized in the main education policy document of the country, proper mechanisms have not been yet put in place, while other issues such as school non-attendance by the children left-behind have not been sufficiently addressed in the policy framework.
Therefore, first of all, migration should be mainstreamed into education policies. For instance, such policies need to focus more on the recognition of non-formal and informal skills, in line with international and EU principles and standards. Aforesaid actions would lead to the creation of better employment opportunities, on one hand and would facilitate the return of migrants by recognizing and capitalizing skills and practices acquired abroad, on the other hand.
Concurrently, measures meant to enhance the quality of education and those ensuring a match between educational offer and job market demand are required in order to address the causes leading to labour migration in the first place.